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W. V. Harris, Karl-Joachim Hölkeskamp: Libera Res Publica. Die politische Kultur des antiken Rom – Positionen und Perspektiven. Hendrik Mouritsen: Politics in the Roman Republic. in:

Gnomon, page 524 - 535

GNO, Volume 91 (2019), Issue 6, ISSN: 0017-1417, ISSN online: 0017-1417, https://doi.org/10.17104/0017-1417-2019-6-524

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C.H.BECK, München
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H. Hauben: Baltrusch et al. (Hrsgg.), Seemacht, Seeherrschaft und die Antike 524 p. 166: what exactly has the installation of the short-lived corvus (‘boarding bridge’, on which see also L. Casson, ‘Ships and Seamanship in the Ancient World’, Baltimore, MD – London 19952, p. 121 and Fig. 111) to do with the presence on board of forcibly recruited crews? Polybius I 22–23 does not give an answer to that question. Linden – Lubbeek Hans Hauben * Karl-Joachim Hölkeskamp: Libera Res Publica. Die politische Kultur des antiken Rom – Positionen und Perspektiven. Stuttgart: Steiner 2017. 400 S. 30 Abb. Hendrik Mouritsen: Politics in the Roman Republic. Cambridge: Cambridge UP 2017. XII, 202 S. (Key Themes in Ancient History.). K.-J. Hölkeskamp and H. Mouritsen have both for some years been among the most thought-provoking current writers about Roman Republican politics, and the simultaneous publication of their new books provides an opportunity to compare the viability of their views. Viability will mean here the explanatory power of a given theory, or set of theories, with regard to the Republic’s durability, material success, and eventual demise. H.’s new volume, the successor of his ‘Senatus Populusque Romanus. Die politische Kultur der Republik: Dimensionen und Deutungen’ (Stuttgart, 2004) and ‘Reconstructing the Roman Republic’ (Princeton, 2010), among other books, comprises nine articles selected from a considerably larger number published between 2005 and 2016 (all these edited and brought up to date), plus one more that was still in the press. After long essays about Mommsen and F. Münzer, H. concentrates on searching for the best ways of conceptualizing Republican politics, with the concept ‘political culture’ always to the fore, as in his previous works; the ideas of consensus and competition are also given plenty of space, as are some concepts I prefer to leave in German, ‘Stadtstaatlichkeit’ and ‘Intermedialität’, in the frank hope of discouraging the use of their English equivalents. (‘Performativität’ has probably come to stay, and I grudgingly admit that ‘citystateness’ might be a useful term). Chapter 3 is H.’s primary exposition of his doctrine about political culture. Chapter 4, ‘‹Prominenzrollen› und ‹Karrierefelder› – oder: neue Begriffe braucht das Fach’, tells us what, in H.’s view, a Roman historian of nowadays can still learn from Luhmann, Bourdieu and (to go back sharply in time) Georg Simmel. ‘Konsens und Konkurrenz’ is the subject of Chapter 5; in effect this is an earlier version of Chapter 3. Public meetings, contiones, and the rhetoric that was used in contiones, are the subject of Chapter 6. Next, in Chapter 7, come processions of all kinds and their political impact. How politicians used monuments and coin-types is the subject of Chapters 8 and 9, and a final chapter tells us how H. sees the Republic’s terminal crisis. We begin with Mommsen and Münzer, who appear to be the ghosts that H. most wishes to exorcize – which in itself is a little strange if you consider how much and how often these scholars have already been critiqued. Their ideas about the nature of Roman politics (as set out, in Mommsen’s case, in the ‘Staatsrecht’, not in his ‘Römische Geschichte’) are reviewed here at some length. GNOMON 6/91/2019 W. Harris: Hölkeskamp, Libera Res Publica / Mouritsen, Politics 525 H. has a deep knowledge of the past germanophone and anglophone scholarship about Roman Republican politics, but the excitement level in this section is naturally not very high. What might have been interesting, given H.’s expertise, would have been some intellectual biography explaining how Mommsen became the Mommsen of the ‘Staatsrecht’ and Münzer became the Münzer of ‘Römische Adelsparteien’;1 this would of course have required some informed speculation, but there is a mountain of source material. Whether H. is quite fair to Mommsen is in my view open to question. We were, many of us, brought up to regard the ‘Staatsrecht’ as a foundational text but also as an excessively static account of the distribution of political power at Rome. I for one noticed only later that, in addition to differentiating ‘Staatsrecht’ from ‘Geschichte’ (preface to the first edition of the first volume), Mommsen takes it for granted that the (Roman) state was «ein organisches Ganze» (preface to the second edition); it was alive, it developed. Yet the structure of the work tends to give a static impression – and in this respect H. is more Mommsenian than he perhaps realizes. H.’s complaint about the great book is not in fact that it is too static or that it gives too much importance to public law. Rather, if I have succeeded in disentangling it from his somewhat convoluted prose, his complaint is conceptual: Mommsen should not have written of Rome’s ‘Verfassung’ or of its political ‘System’, for these terms give too modern an impression. That could be debated. System is certainly a very innocuous term. We are in any case asked at the end of the Mommsen paper (41) to accept the following formulation:2 ‘The actual power of the Senate thus resulted on the one hand from the fact that its political, strategic and ‘personal-political’ control-functions (Lenkungsfunktionen), its role as arbitration-court (Schiedsinstanz) in concrete conflicts, and its (to be defined less concretely, but generally accepted) collective authority as guardian and guarantor of the prevailing norm- and value-system were inseparably related to each other. On the other hand, the Senate was the only ‘decision-centre’ that could fill these combined roles – and precisely above all because it brought together (former) magistrates and priests, generals, and patrons of whole cities and peoples throughout the imperium’. This characteristic passage is simultaneously too much and too little. Too much because too much is compressed into the first of these sentences, too little because we are given no hint of what was in the end fragile about those ‘controlfunctions’ and that ‘collective authority’.3 But to return to exposition. Chapter 3, since it is H.’s latest account of the Roman Republic’s political culture, is clearly crucial, along with Chapter 10, which puts his theoretical framework to a practical test.4 At the end of the chapter we read (104): ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– 1 On the latter topic one may now read the papers of W. Nippel and M. Heil in M. Haake and A.-C. Harders (eds.), ‘Politische Kultur und soziale Struktur der Römischen Republik’ (Stuttgart, 2017). 2 I hope that the author will excuse me for translating this and the following quotation. 3 The constant over-use of quotation-marks in this book cannot escape comment. It frequently gives the impression, as in this case, that the author is afraid to commit himself to his own terminology. Umberto Eco somewhere satirizes those who protect their unadventurous metaphors in this fashion. 4 This chapter has since appeared in Haake and Harders, o.c. GNOMON 6/91/2019 W. Harris: Hölkeskamp, Libera Res Publica / Mouritsen, Politics 526 ‘It was simply not enough (or quite impossible) to want to exercise influence and power through machinations and manoeuvres behind the scenes by means of networks in little circles such as factions or ‘coteries’. In this culture ‘power’ first becomes real, generally speaking, if it is exercised visibly and publicly, precisely on the above-mentioned great stage of open-air-culture… ‘Power’ and dominance (Herrschaft) come into being through performative execution, and their exercise consists of a ritually structured interaction of actors, addressees and the citizenry as the ‘co-present’ public, which understands the dramaturgy, that is to say the ‘text’ of this performance, its ‘grammar’ and its ‘vocabulary’, in the same way as the actors do’.1 In other chapters H. fills out this set of claims, first with an account of the contiones. His view of them, already written up on other occasions going back to 1995, is broadly speaking that they merely reinforced the existing hierarchies and were by no means an instrument in the hands of the masses. Chapter 7, pursuing the idea that performance was everything in Republican politics, deals with the pompa funebris, the pompa triumphalis and the pompa circensis. H. is at his best when he is describing these rituals; he pays too little attention to how they evolved between the fourth century and the first, but he knows the relevant sources and the topography.2 What is strange, given H.’s interest in the construction of consensus, is that nothing at all is said about how the Roman electorate, or the citizen-body more generally, was actually influenced by these public performances. He tells us at length that all these performances had a sort of «Supra- Syntax» (227) which contributed to a sense of unity shared by the whole citizen body under the dominance of the political class. A typical sentence from the conclusion to this chapter will give the reader a taste of the whole: «Und vor allem besteht die Funktion des populus Romanus und der römischen Bürger in allen anderen Kontexten der Kommunikation und Interaktion zwischen den Repräsentanten der politischen Klasse in der Gestalt der Magistrate, Imperiumsträger und Feldherren, in den Institutionen wie Comitien und Contionen, in Verfahren wie den Wahlen, der Gesetzgebung und den Prozessen vor den Volksgerichten ebenso wie etwa bei den Aushebungen ja in einer Art ‘passiver Partizipation’, die zwar strukturell unverzichtbarer Bestandteil des System ist, aber keinerlei aktive Gestaltung oder gar autonome Initiativen erlaubt oder auch nur theoretisch bereithält» (234). Chapters 8 (‘Im Gewebe der Geschichte(n): Memoria, Monumente und ihre mythhistorische Vernetzung’) and 9 (‘Memoria, Monumente und Moneten. Medien aristokratischer Selbstdarstellung – das Beispiel der Caecilii Metelli’) rehearse at length the methods by which members of the political class employed monuments and coin-types to commemorate themselves. Once again, H. is good at describing a physical reality – in this case the forum or a coin-type. In his view (257), the central problem is whether we should take the historical, often pseudohistorical, allusions to be found in the monuments and coin-types of the late Republic as evidence of widespread knowledge among the Roman plebs. H. ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– 1 Once again, the quotation marks are intrusive. 2 Some interesting details fail to appear, however, such as the presence – from an uncertain date – of the temple of Fortuna Respiciens along the triumphal route (see L. Anselmino, L. Ferrua and M.J. Strazzulla, ‘Il frontone di via di S. Gregorio ed il tempio della Fortuna respiciens sul Palatino’, Rend.Pont.Acc. 63 (1990–91), 193–262, summarized in LTUR II). In general H. fails to make the most of what the ‘abstract’ deities of the Middle Republic tell us about Roman mentalities. GNOMON 6/91/2019 W. Harris: Hölkeskamp, Libera Res Publica / Mouritsen, Politics 527 seems receptive to such opinions, without offering a serious justification. The problematic concept ‘collective memory’ is evoked but not analysed; he proposes (262) the concept «memoria ‘zweiter Ordnung’». We learn that the centre of laterepublican Rome was an Erinnerungslandschaft. Chapter 9 is similarly frustrating: we learn in detail about the ways in which the Caecilii Metelli used buildings, coin-types and other visible means to advertise themselves, but deeper questions – such as, in particular, the actual effects of such methods – are not raised let alone answered. Nowhere in these chapters do we encounter any response to those many scholars who doubt that anyone other than the moneyers and possibly a few politicians ever paid careful attention to coin-types.1 H. begins his brief climactic chapter, his account of the end of the Republic, with a page and a half of comments on Erich Gruen’s ‘Last Generation of the Roman Republic’ of 1974, which may seem surprising but is in fact the logical consequence of H.’s own static model. If the Roman aristocracy, well supplied with ‘symbolic capital’ – not to mention the other kind –, ruled the Roman state by consensus with no major upheavals until the very end, what did go wrong? Should we suppose that Gruen’s central thesis was right after all? When it comes to explaining the final crisis, H. makes life more difficult for himself by presupposing that the answer must, once again, be a matter of ‘political culture’ (313). He lists eight factors – not a bad list in itself. H. does not explain how they played out in detail during the hundred-year crisis, but the real problem is that nothing here tells us what fatally weakened the consensus that in H.’s interpretation had prevailed for so long. At the root of H.’s difficulties is I suspect the strange idea of power expressed in the second of my long quotations. Space forbids me to analyse the second half of that quotation in detail, but even if we allow that H. is speaking exclusively of political power and ignoring social and economic power, it makes little sense to assert that the exercise of power ‘consists of a ritually structured interaction of actors’, unless you want to reduce all human actions to rituals (and there are of course scholars who tend in that direction). When the senior magistrates prevail on the Senate (whose proceedings were confidential until 59 BC) to act in a certain way, or a senatorial landowner prevails on his tenants to vote in a certain way, that was power, but not in any reasonable sense a performance. The leading idea of H.’s studies of the Roman Republic, hammered home over many years, is of course that the Republic’s lengthy stability is best explained by a shared ‘political culture’. I may be marginally responsible here, since as H. points out I seem to have been the first to use this concept in a Roman context, in 1990. But its explanatory power needs to be rigorously and explicitly examined.2 It is clearly vital to ask which elements in a given population share, in some sense or other, in its political culture, and some consider that the term masks more than it unmasks the distribution of power within a given state. H. could have ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– 1 For a terse expression of such a view in a work that H. lists in his bibliography see M. Crawford, ‘Reconstructing what Roman Republic?’, BICS 54 (2011), 105–14: 113. This issue continues to be debated. 2 In ‘Roman Power: a Thousand Years of Empire’ (Cambridge, 2016) I intentionally avoided the term. GNOMON 6/91/2019 W. Harris: Hölkeskamp, Libera Res Publica / Mouritsen, Politics 528 strengthened his position by facing up to the critiques that have been directed, since at least the 1970s, against the value of this concept.1 The essential problem for H. is I think twofold. In the first place, we need to know what it is that the particular nature of Roman political culture is meant to explain. That the members of the senatorial elite managed to preserve their domination over several centuries by sharing the spoils and observing certain restraints is a banality (and many other historical oligarchies have done this). What needs explanation, and is of course explained in different ways by different historians, is Rome’s material success, in other words its dramatic rise to pan- Mediterranean power and unprecedented wealth. Attitudes to warfare and towards non-Romans thus become crucial. And since Rome’s military expansion depended on the citizens’ effective military service it is also crucial to know to what degree the mass of the citizen body shared the assumptions of the so-called ‘political class’ or classe dirigeante, all the more so when we come to the Republic’s final crisis.2 In other words, we need to know how much ordinary Romans believed in and acted on the norms that were favoured by the senatorial elite (and even when they nominally shared the same ideals, libertas most conspicuously, they may have understood them in very different ways). Or to formulate the problem in yet another way, a discourse about political culture that cannot explain, or at least attempt to explain, what Sulla’s soldiers thought they were fighting for when they invaded Italy in 833 (a major turning point) has little to offer us. One of the strangest aspects of H.’s book is that he repeatedly (77, 313, etc.) treats political culture as a novel concept. Its fiftieth birthday is far in the past (as in his most recent paper he indeed recognizes, 74). It may be, as he says, that «das Fach» is in need of new concepts – but there is little evidence to support this notion as far as political history is concerned. H. astonishes when he tells the reader (84) that this concept has untapped potential for understanding republican Rome. This book is laborious reading. H. Mouritsen once referred in this journal to H.’s ‘rather cumbersome academic style’. But this book’s principal flaw is that it leaves out too much. The very large gaps in this account might be explained by its being a collection of essays, but Chapters 3 and 10 in particular are too ambitious to make such a defence possible. What is most of all missing is any account of those Romans who were outside what the author calls the «political class». And even that class receives a one-sided treatment: the equites are strangely absent. It is remarkable that a book that constantly focusses on consensus leaves the populus Romanus so undifferentiated, even after 90 BC when its composition changed so dramatically. ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– 1 Among numerous critiques it is particularly worth mentioning D. J. Elkins and R. E. B. Simeon, ‘A Cause in Search of Its Effect, or What Does Political Culture Explain?’, ‘Comparative Politics’ 11 (1979), 127–45, and R. P. Formisano, ‘The Concept of Political Culture’, Journal of Interdisciplinary History 31 (3) (2001), 393–426. 2 Cf. Crawford, o.c. 114. 3 This issue is discussed anew by S. Zoumbaki, in T. Ñaco del Hoyo and F. López Sánchez (ed.), ‘Wars, Warlords, and Interstate Relations in the Ancient Mediterranean’ (Leiden, 2018), 354–7. It will be recalled that only one of Sulla’s senior officers stayed with him (Appian, BC 1.57.253). GNOMON 6/91/2019 W. Harris: Hölkeskamp, Libera Res Publica / Mouritsen, Politics 529 There are in fact four large lacunae here: warfare, Hellenization, Italians, and money. No one would guess from this book that the attitudes of the midrepublican aristocrats were deeply and demonstrably influenced by the many years of active warfare they all experienced – which meant physical danger, giving orders, encounters with foreigners (allies as well as enemies), the glorification of the military virtues, and material gain. As for money, no one would guess from this book that as a consequence of the spectacular enrichment of the upper class, especially after 202 BC, money impinged more and more on Roman politics, as witness in particular all the laws about ambitus. All that H. has to say is that the middle-republican aristocrats (I take it that they are the people he is referring to) did not pursue riches as a «Selbstzweck» (137), which takes us back to the simplistic formulations of fifty years ago.1 Both Hölkeskamp and Mouritsen are intensely aware that they are taking part in a current debate and they are well-informed about what the other participants have been saying – no trivial feat, given the number of recent contributions. Fate inevitably punished them for this by ensuring that at least two highly relevant books of considerable importance came out a few minutes after their own went to press; I am thinking especially of James Tan’s ‘Power and Public Finance at Rome, 264–49 BCE’ (Oxford, 2017),2 where the emphasis is on fiscality, a topic that H. and M. both ignore; and of Cristina Rosillo-López’s ‘Public Opinion and Politics in the Late Roman Republic’ (Cambridge, 2017). A very useful collective volume has also appeared in the meantime: H. van der Blom, C. Gray and C. Steel (eds.), ‘Institutions and Ideology in Republican Rome: Speech, Audience and Decision’ (Cambridge, 2018).3 Mouritsen’s purpose, in his new book – the successor of his ‘Plebs and Politics in the Late Roman Republic’ (2001) –, is to describe not the political history of the Republic but its political structures, and this he does in clear and uncluttered prose. The book’s three chapters are ‘Senatus Populusque Romanus: Institutions and Practices’, ‘Leaders and Masses in the Roman Republic’, and ‘Consensus and Competition’. Beginning cleverly with three incidents that show how even in the chaotic years 49–43 the political leaders, some of them anyway, were greatly concerned about the technical legitimacy of their power, M. offers us one of the most rulecentred books about republican politics since Mommsen. Where that approach leads we shall shortly see. But the book’s exceptional merits must in any case be recognized. M. knows the public law of the Roman Republic extremely well, he is concrete, and he is not afraid to maintain a thesis, which he thinks is now out of favour (and he is probably right), namely that Roman politics were never, not even in the Republic’s last decades, about actual political issues as distinct from the career and power struggles of the state’s leaders. «The central question is… ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– 1 Of course someone might say that I am prejudiced by having lived most of my life in the most materialistic of all first-world nations. 2 I should declare an apparent interest here, since I supervised Tan’s Ph.D. dissertation; but its intellectual inspiration came much more from the late Charles Tilly than from me. Tan’s articles on the contiones do not receive adequate refutations in H.’s book. 3 An essay by C. Rosillo-López in this book provides a novel and stimulating view of what political participation may have meant in the late Republic. GNOMON 6/91/2019 W. Harris: Hölkeskamp, Libera Res Publica / Mouritsen, Politics 530 the location of power and the long-debated issue of the influence of the people» (4). Since his book is intended for students and teachers, M. quite reasonably devotes his first long chapter to an exposition of the Republic’s political institutions (6–53), but in the nature of things this cannot be done in a neutral fashion. M. evidently considers that in order to convince his readers that there was never anything democratic about the Roman Republic he must virtually eliminate Polybius – which quickly leads to one of the weakest sections of the book. M. gives a good account of Polybius’ theory of the ‘mixed constitution’, but he does not see that Polybius is on his side, since the latter considered that the Roman political system was ‘aristocratic’ (6.51.6–8, 23.14.1–2: it is mystifying that these passages are so much neglected). This attempt to discount the testimony of the one highly intelligent and deeply experienced contemporary observer whose opinions we know has the unfortunate effect of making M. seem to be far from dispassionate. But there are points of considerable interest in this chapter: it gives a brief but convincing account of the reform of the comitia centuriata between 241 and 221 (42–44) (it was not in any sense a democratic reform), and he rightly argues that there was indeed a religious element in the influence of the centuria praerogativa (45–50). ‘Leaders and Masses’ (54–104) puts forward the author’s central argument. His questions are: ‘how many people took part [in politics], who were they, why had they turned up, and how did they vote?’ (55). In line with most recent thinking, he considers that ‘only a tiny proportion of the citizen population could ever be present on these occasions’ (57), i.e. at legislative assemblies (which are his main concern) or elections. As for who attended and why, he proposes what many scholars will regard as an extreme theory – and one that certainly makes it hard for him to write the history of late-republican politics: the attendees were members of the political elite. Attendance ‘was considered a natural part of the lifestyle of the Roman gentlemen [sic] who frequented the Forum on a regular basis’ (72). No lower orders therefore. Ordinary citizens were on his view not only powerless but largely absent. In line with the ideas of Hölkeskamp and E. Flaig, he interprets such apparently democratic elements as existed in the political institutions of the Middle Republic as ‘Konsensorgane’ (58–61). Much of this chapter unsurprisingly concerns the contiones. On this reading, as on Hölkeskamp’s, they were never channels for genuine expressions of popular opinion but rituals that functioned on a mainly symbolic level (79). There was no plebs contionalis because the plebs had to work for a living (!): once again it was the gentlemen of leisure who did politics. The only evidence he can adduce to support this view is Pro Flacco section 57, which – it should be said at once – will not bear such weight. And such a theory, while it may hold water for pre- Gracchan times, obviously makes the history of the late Republic very hard to understand. M. eventually faces the problem and tells us that ‘small, dedicated crowds… capture[d] the political process’ (92). They were able to do this because «many of those who mattered politically became unable to attend public meetings, either because they resided outside the capital, for instance the municipal elites, or had temporarily retreated to country estates, served in the provinces or were away on business» (90). GNOMON 6/91/2019 W. Harris: Hölkeskamp, Libera Res Publica / Mouritsen, Politics 531 «At no point», in consequence, «do we hear of crowds calling for social and political change» (91). As for the Republic’s ‘political culture’, the element most worthy of note is that a family’s continued membership of the upper elite depended on office-holding and thus on electoral success. This meant that the elite was «not just deferential to the abstract concept of the populus Romanus but also seem[s] to have displayed a remarkable degree of restraint in their direct dealings with social inferiors» (97–98). In the best tradition of ancient historians, M. bases this claim on an anecdote in Valerius Maximus – one which can be read quite differently.1 This elite «espoused» «a meritocratic ethos» (104). On pages 99–103 we come somewhat abruptly to the fact that while all this was going on Rome built a huge empire by dint of almost continuous warmaking. This is too much of an appendage: we learn too late that ordinary citizens, for much of the Republic, lived highly militarized lives; and even here the effects of the enrichment of the elite are neglected. ‘Consensus and Competition’ (105–172) amounts to an expert reconsideration of the workings of the ‘oligarchic republic’, culminating in M.’s view of what caused its ultimate collapse. Conjuring up a «Livian image of a united elite presiding over a smoothly running [mid-republican] system of aristocratic powersharing» (111), and questioning this image, M. attempts to diminish the tribunate of Ti. Gracchus as a turning point. He has a tendency to set up straw men, and in what follows he does so with a vengeance, claiming without any references to recent scholarship that we are prisoners of a populares versus optimates model of late-republican politics in which there were two ‘parties’ (no informed scholar has written of populares and optimates as ‘parties’ for at least fifty years: J. Hellegouarc’h may have been the last2 – but see below). His intention is to oppose what he sees as a trend that has taken hold since the 1990s towards an ‘ideological’ reading of late-republican politics (I would rather say a ‘classconflict reading’). M. makes a startling claim here, which I confess that I cannot understand: «in the entire ancient record only one text lends itself directly to a binary understanding of Roman politics» (120), namely the Pro Sestio. Are not Cicero’s political speeches shot through with such language? I open the Pro Milone and I read of what Milo had experienced quia semper pro bonis contra improbos senserat (5; cf. sections 12, 95). I open De Re Publica and I read mors Tiberii Gracchi et iam totius illius ratio tribunatus divisit populum unum in duas partis (1.31). An anthology of such texts would go on for pages. M. cannot mean what he says here. There follows, however, a relatively lengthy discussion of the tribunate (136–47) which seems designed to show that it had no firmly radical tradition behind it, which is certainly a defensible point of view. Yet this claim scarcely does any- ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– 1 7.5.2. This is the famous tale about P. Cornelius Scipio Nasica ‘Serapio’, who offended some rustic electors by asking one of them whether his hands were rough because he walked on them, and consequently failed to get elected aedile. Valerius Maximus refers this to the consul of 111, but scholars have rightly suspected that it originally concerned his father, the consul of 138, who was known for his arrogance (cf. Val. Max. 3.7.3, a passage which M. violently mis-interprets, 163). Whichever Serapio was involved, he was subsequently elected consul – but perhaps the tale was a fiction. 2 ‘Le vocabulaire latin des relations et des partis politiques sous la République’ (Paris, 1963). GNOMON 6/91/2019 W. Harris: Hölkeskamp, Libera Res Publica / Mouritsen, Politics 532 thing to lessen the significance of the fact that the tribunate was sometimes and increasingly used for radical purposes from 151 BC onwards. The author’s explanation of the fall of the Republic (164–72) is brief and coherent but complex. The lex agraria of 133 threatened vital interests of the ‘ruling class’ (vital material interests of which we have scarcely heard before), leading to a reaction that disrupted the aristocratic consensus. Thus the ‘unwritten code of conduct’ that governed politics for centuries began to lose its hold. «A major consequence was that the assemblies acquired a new role, becoming instruments of government, controlled by annual office holders rather by the elite collectively. This development in turn paved the way for unlimited influence accruing in the hands of individuals» (167). «Characteristic of the late republic is less the widening of ideological divides often envisaged, as much as the exponential rise in ‘rule-breaking’ among members of the elite» (ibid.). Violence was a ‘natural corollary’ of this trend. The influx of new wealth increased the cost of politics and hence fractured the elite. Ordinary Romans, meanwhile, suffered from ‘general impoverishment’ (we first hear of this two pages from the end of the book); and the new Italian citizens enfranchised after the Social War (these too we now hear of for the first time as an important factor) «added another degree of volatility» (172). This is an expert account, but it seems to me to be quite problematic. It probably does not matter very much that M. cannot make up his mind as to whether the Roman republic was ever a state. He first asserts that «the Romans had no ‘state’ in a modern sense» (3). If he means by this simply that the res publica had very few civil servants and imposed very few regulations, that would be an acceptable banality, but later (24) he repeats the idea in absolute terms. Yet elsewhere (96 e.g.) he speaks of the Roman ‘state’ as a matter of course. There are other more important issues, however. M. has a curious way with the sources. As already noted, he does his best to push Polybius’ account of the Roman politeia out of the way. He claims that Polybius’ analysis did not arise from his own observation (12), a thoroughly implausible way of explaining the grave weaknesses in his description.1 Later (166) he tells us that the historian was wrong to think that he could explain Rome’s success as a result of its politeia, because it was not the formal constitution that mattered. But what politeia means is of course ‘system of government’ (Walbank) or something like that. M.’s Cicero is also unconvincing, or rather all too convincing: M. believes everything, or almost everything, that the resentful consular has to say about Clodius (86–87). On the other hand it was probably no more than a slip that M. refers to the surviving «fragments» of the Twelve Tables as «contemporary evidence» for the fifth century BC (31). M.’s treatment of the Pro Flacco passage already mentioned and of the crucial section of the Pro Sestio reveals the weakness of his case as far as the late Republic is concerned. The point of the Pro Flacco passage is to contrast the riotous nature of the forum crowd with the even more riotous crowd that – according to ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– 1 See further G. Clemente, ‘Democracy without the People: the Impossible Dream of the Roman Oligarchs (and of some Modern Scholars)’, Quaderni di storia 87 (2018), 87– 119: 93. The best evidence of Polybius’ intimate knowledge of Rome’s internal politics is in my view to be found in the passages where he revises his opinions: 18.35, 32.11. GNOMON 6/91/2019 W. Harris: Hölkeskamp, Libera Res Publica / Mouritsen, Politics 533 Cicero – you would have encountered in a Greek city such as Tralles. He does not by any means claim that the political crowds were made up of ‘gentlemen’. Others have repeatedly pointed out that Cicero’s more direct description of the forum crowd is always in line with what he calls it in Ad Atticum 1.16.11 – illa contionalis hirudo aerari, misera ac ieiuna plebecula. M.’s attempt to eliminate the contrast between the optimates and populares that is famously set out in the Pro Sestio is bold but desperate. He blames this text for having introduced into historians’ minds the notion that the political struggle in the late Republic was between two ‘parties’, but Cicero does not speak of parties in any modern sense (some real progress might be made, however, by a closer examination of some of his terminology, secta and natio for example). And Roman political authors did of course sometimes use the language of partes: H. Strasburger set out the evidence in RE (s.v. ‘optimates’) in 1939.1 As to the real issues that were at stake between optimates and populares in the 50s, they are reasonably clear (see below) – even in Cicero’s blustering speech (or rather, pamphlet). M.’s handling of the vitally important testimony of Sallust is also unconvincing. He makes much of the fact that Sallust does not use the terms optimates and populares to describe the contending politicians of the late Republic, but the reason for that is obvious enough: Sallust did not think that the optimates were the best people or that the populares genuinely represented the populus Romanus. At the same time he leaves no doubt that the nobilitas and the populus were deeply at odds with each other: ita omnia in duas partis abstracta sunt, res publica, quae media fuerat, dilacerata (Bell. Iug. 41.5; cf. Hist. 1.12M, etc.). This political conflict leads to the question of social class, which is both a conceptual problem and a material problem of historical fact. M. knows that there were class divisions (98), but he is opposed to any binary division between those he variously refers to as the «working class» (in quotes, 70) or the lower class (91) and the «leisured classes» (74) or the «propertied class» (90) on the other hand. Yet there was very little if anything in the way of a middle class (78–79), a proposition that is particularly hard to sustain now in the face of the steadily expanding Italian archaeological evidence. It is enough to go to Pompeii.2 This book shares with Hölkeskamp’s the serious weakness that it is much too squeamish about money and economic power. In M.’s case this tendency manifests itself in various ways. The most serious effect of all is that he constantly tells us that republican politics were not about issues, in spite of the very obvious fact that they were very often about land and in the late Republic about debt and about grain-rations. He ignores the fact that the aristocrats were all landowners and landlords and as such exercised broad social control. And as soon as we put land back into the equation it becomes obvious that those numerous Romans who thought that the civil wars began in 133 had ample reasons (there were divergent opinions of course). ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– 1 See further Hellegouarc’h, o.c. 110–15. 2 Which strangely enough M. knows very well. See most recently his useful paper ‘Status and Social Hierarchies: the Case of Pompeii’, in A. B. Kuhn (ed.), ‘Social Status and Prestige in the Graeco-Roman World’ (Stuttgart, 2015), 87–113. GNOMON 6/91/2019 W. Harris: Hölkeskamp, Libera Res Publica / Mouritsen, Politics 534 Another characteristic of this book that it shares with Hölkeskamp’s is its cursory, and ultimately I think misleading, treatment of the Italians and Latins, surprising for an author who wrote his first book about the Roman unification of Italy. The Italians only come in at the very end when all the topics the author thinks important have already been dealt with. Thus the young reader has no chance to learn that Rome’s rulers showed enormous political skill in making use of Italian land to satisfy the desires of Roman citizens, in partially absorbing local elites, and in making use of non-citizen soldiers. Did Italians matter in late-republican elections, as Pro Murena 42 and In Pisonem 4, among other texts, might lead one to expect (Taylor, Wiseman, Clemente and others have discussed this matter)? The question does not even arise. Yet it is obvious that the unification of Italy – a violent and destructive as well as a political process – was indispensable to Rome’s ability to withstand the strains of the change from republican oligarchy to court-based monarchy. There is too much rhetoric in M.’s presentation. He cites as evidence that there were no radical politics even in the late Republic the claim that «the republic never saw any concrete attempts to change the nature of Roman society or shift the balance of power» (60), which amounts to saying that there is no radicalism without revolution or at least socialism, and that neither Catiline nor Caesar nor Clodius meant any harm to the aristocratic supremacy – which is not what the optimates thought. M.’s argument that Caesar was never a champion of the plebs, a fairly widespread opinion, is I think characteristic. He does not waste time speculating about the man’s inner motives, but his approach is again too rhetorical: «Caesar’s pursuit of popular favour was noted by all ancient commentators… but it was essentially a style… Whether it had much impact on the lives of the poor is a different matter» (128). It depends what you mean by impact. In a sense nothing that a Roman legislator could do could make a radically positive difference to the poor in general, even the citizen poor. But Caesar promised, and for a time delivered: two agrarian laws in 59, the second one at any rate, marked a sharp development from the failed agrarian laws of 63 and 60. Nor was it simply a matter of style to facilitate Clodius’ transitio ad plebem. Whoever was meant to benefit most from the dictator’s debt-reduction and colonization measures, the cancellation of rents (Suetonius, DJ 38, Dio 42.51; cf. Cicero, De off. 2.83) speaks clearly enough. He reined in his more radical supporters, but that is beside the point. To conclude. Both these books are in part convincing (middle-republican Rome was much more oligarchical, or rather aristocratic, than democratic) but also disappointing. Disappointing because neither provides a good theoretical basis for discussing the Roman oligarchy’s power. Disappointing, more importantly, because they fail to do justice to the choices made by ordinary Romans, but much more fundamentally for two reasons. They fail, in spite of some good ideas, to offer a viable model of Rome’s changing social structure – and this in a period of ‘economic revolution’ (to use Philip Kay’s possibly rather overheated phrase), and they fail to see, or at any rate to make clear to their readers, that the late Republic was radically different. When the pontifex GNOMON 6/91/2019 W. Harris: Hölkeskamp, Libera Res Publica / Mouritsen, Politics 535 maximus led senators to kill a tribune of the people and his supporters in 133, politics were beginning to change. New York W. V. Harris * Oren Tal, Zeev Weiss (Edd.): Expressions of Cult in the Southern Levant in the Greco- Roman Period. Manifestations in Text and Material Culture. Turnhout: Brepols 2017. XXIII, 288 S. zahlr. Abb. 4o (Contextualizing the Sacred. 6.) 120 €. Der zu besprechende Band veröffentlicht die Ergebnisse interdisziplinärer Forschungen von internationalen Wissenschaftlern, die im akademischen Jahr 2013/14 am Israel Institute of Advanced Studies der Hebrew University in Jerusalem zusammengearbeitet haben. Wie der Untertitel der Publikation zu erkennen gibt, rekrutierte sich die Gruppe aus Vertretern der philologischen und archäologischen Teildisziplinen der Klassischen Altertumswissenschaften. Die beiden Herausgeber O. Tal und Z. Weiss erläutern in der Einleitung (S. XVII–XXIII) die Fragestellungen, welche die Koexistenz unterschiedlicher Kulte im geographischen Raum Palästinas in griechisch-römischer Zeit betreffen. Aus ihnen ergibt sich eine Untergliederung des Bandes in fünf Themenschwerpunkte (Parts I–V): 1. ‘Kulte im jeweiligen Kontext’, 2. ‘Kulte und Kultorte im städtischen Raum’, 3. ‘Kultpraktiken außerhalb von Heiligtümern’, 4. ‘Münzen als Zeugnisse für Kulte’ und 5. ‘Kultbezogene Probleme im Judentum’. Zur Orientierung bieten die Herausgeber dem Leser jeweils Zusammenfassungen der Einzelbeiträge zu einem jeden dieser übergeordneten Problemfelder. Der Themenschwerpunkt ‘Cult in Context’ (Part I) umfasst vier Beiträge: N. Belayche überprüft in ihrem Aufsatz über ‘Cults in Context in the Hellenistic and Roman Southern Levant: The Challenge of Cult Places’ (S. 3–21) die hermeneutischen und methodischen Ansätze bei der Erforschung von Kulten im fraglichen Raum aus der chronologischen Perspektive einer longue durée von 300 v. Chr. bis 300 n. Chr. Es geht der Autorin hierbei um eine synoptische Quellenkritik für die während dieser Zeit teilweise synchron nebeneinander praktizierten paganen, jüdischen und christlichen Religionen. Als zweiter Beitrag folgt ein sprachlich wie inhaltlich sehr klarer Aufsatz von Z. Weiss (‘Cult and Culture: Amusing the Crowds under the Auspices of Gods and Caesars’, S. 23– 35). Der Autor untersucht die Bezüge zwischen städtischen Anlagen für Massenunterhaltung und kultischen Handlungen, die insbesondere durch die rabbinischen Schriften für das jüdisch geprägte Palästina im reichsweiten Vergleich eine Sonderstellung einnehmen. Die Zusammenhänge zu den häufig in der unmittelbaren Nachbarschaft gelegenen Heiligtümern sind nicht immer nachvollziehbar. Dramaturgische Aufführungen religiösen Charakters fanden in der Regel in den Heiligtümern selbst statt. Die mit Sitztreppen ausgestatteten Portiken der gepflasterten Vorhöfe südsyrisch-arabischer Stammesheiligtümer wie etwa jene in Sî’ und Sahr machen diese Funktion durch den für sie überlieferten Terminus ‘théatron’ deutlich. Es sollte auch genau darauf geachtet werden, dass die kleineren Theater in den Städten des Untersuchungsraumes die Funktion von überdachten Odeia/Buleutéria (so etwa epigraphisch belegt für das ‘northern theatre’ in Gerasa oder das ‘Theater’ in Canatha) wahrnahmen. Sie dienten somit der quasi- GNOMON 6/91/2019

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Abstract

As a critical journal for all classical studies, the GNOMON fosters the links between the distinct classical disciplines. It has thus an exceptional position among the classical review journals and allows familiarization with research and publications in neighbouring disciplines. The reviews address an international readership from all fields in classical studies. The GNOMON publishes reviews in German, English, French, Italian and Latin.

The GNOMON is published in eight issues a year.

Zusammenfassung

Der GNOMON pflegt als kritische Zeitschrift für die gesamte Altertumswissenschaft die Verbindung zwischen den verschiedenen Disziplinen der Altertumswissenschaft. Er nimmt dadurch eine Sonderstellung unter den Rezensionsorganen ein und bietet die Möglichkeit, sich über wichtige Forschungen und Publikationen auch in den Nachbarbereichen des eigenen Faches zu orientieren. Die Rezensionen im GNOMON wenden sich an ein internationales Publikum, das aus allen Teilgebieten der Altertumswissenschaft kommt. Die Publikationssprachen im GNOMON sind: Deutsch, Englisch, Französisch, Italienisch und Lateinisch.

Der GNOMON erscheint acht Mal im Jahr.