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PARNASSUS

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CLASSICAL JOURNAL

VOLUME I · MMXIII

COLLEGE OF THE HOLY CROSS


Journal Staff

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Editor-in-Chief Anne Salloom

Associate Editors Melissa Luttmann

Kathleen O’Connor

Board of Article Editors Matthew Angiolillo

Thomas Arralde

Nikolas Churik

Vannak Khin

Melissa Luttmann

Kathleen O’Connor

Michael Roberts

Michael Russo

Anne Salloom

Business Editor Camille Santrach

Publicity Editors Miranda Hernandez

Vannak Khin

Deborah Sokolowski

Correspondence Editors Andrew Boudon

Angela Yu

Design Editors Allessandra Arduini

Steven Merola

Faculty Advisors Timothy Joseph, Ph.D.

Aaron Seider, Ph.D.

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Cover art by Allessandra Arduini

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Contents

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● Editor’s Note

Anne Salloom

● S.O.V.

By Michael Dunbar, 2015

● A View of Law in Ancient Babylon: A Description

of the Stele of Hammurabi

By Michael Tinney, 2014

● Plato’s Legacy: Whether the Republic or the

Timaeus Reigns Supreme

By Thomas Arralde, 2013

● Euripides’ Bacchae in Aeneid Book VIII

By Christine Roughan, 2014

● Transference of Rage from Juno to Aeneas

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2

4

12

32

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By Debbie Chu, 2012

● Folklore and Superstition in Petronius’ Satyricon

By Deborah Sokolowski, 2014

● The Complexities of Surviving Under a Bad

Emperor: The Many Meanings of Virtus in

Tacitus’s Agricola

By Anne Salloom, 2014

● Disordering Freedom: The Relation between

Disorder and Libertas in Tacitus

By Nikolas Churik, 2015

● A Note on a Virgilian Allusion in Silius Italicus

By Matthew Angiolillo, 2013

● Greece and Rome on the French Stage: Classical

Adaptation in the Theatre of Jean Racine

By Michael Roberts, 2013

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70

88

110

128

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Editor’s Note

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Parnassus’s mission is to share the passion of Holy

Cross students from all majors for the ancient world. This

journal provides students with a way to share work from

courses, research, and other projects with a wide audience.

All pieces aim to be generally understandable, allowing the

field to be more accessible to non-specialists in the

community.

Parnassus is a mountain in central Greece, known as

the home of the Muses in some mythological traditions. As

such, Parnassus is associated with literature, poetry, and

learning. The mythological allusion applies particularly

well to Holy Cross, situated on Mt. St. James. While our

journal does not attempt to imitate the work of the Muses,

our inaugural issue has tried to present polished and

engaging pieces to appeal to a wide audience about classics

and its afterlife. We hope that you enjoy reading our

journal, and we look forward to continuing to share our

work in subsequent years.

Anne Salloom

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Editor-in-Chief

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Treasury of the Athenians at Delphi

Photo by Christine Roughan

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S.O.V.

Michael Dunbar, 2015

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Preface

This is a poem about language. Language, of course, is an

important part of classical studies. The title, S.O.V., refers

to one of the most common sentence structures in Latin:

subject-object-verb. English speakers have less freedom in

regard to word placement. This poem mimics the Latin

form in English. This is also a poem about the fallibility of

language. The act of speaking requires the speaker to put

abstract thoughts to language. Much is lost in translation.

Just as we must often make do with corrupted classical

texts, each of us must develop the skill of understanding

each other.

S.O.V.

Every mind a monk,

Drowsy, and full of drink,

Counting declensions on his fingers, is.

“I you see,

atque,

I you love, loved, have been loving.”

Each mind, with all its rough literalism, misses

The pint, and often a word or two.

“You beautiful am, are, is, was, were, had been.”

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(We bound by more than syntax am, are, were being.)

Every word a corrupt translation,

Of a language without vocabulary, sine,

Singed at the edges, or forgotten

Under a wine vat, is.

(Well-meaning nor Wheelock will help you now.)

“Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man;

but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a

man,”

is an old favorite of jotting scribes.

But the words aren’t the problem-only that they cometh

out.

Words to the opening of the great dripping cave arrive

Where in white marble is carved:

"Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate"

(“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”)

Which they may hurriedly read before being jettisoned,

And immediately upon meeting air beginning to

decompose

As all things exposed to light and oxygen will.

Here is your subject,

Here is your object;

Now, do.

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A View of Law in Ancient Babylon:

A Description of the Stele of Hammurabi

Michael Tinney, 2014

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The Stele of Hammurabi is a stunning eight-foot-

tall basalt artifact that illustrates the power of Babylonian

law. Located in the renowned Louvre museum in Paris,

France, and dated to around 1780 B.C., this stele is so

visually stunning that it fittingly holds the words of the

divinely chosen King Hammurabi of Babylon. Not only

does it provide a comprehensive law code dealing with

civic and criminal violations, but it is also one of the

earliest renditions of political and religious propaganda,

showing the omnipotent and omnipresent power of visual

depictions. As a result, the Stele of Hammurabi is a

testament to the sophisticated society of Babylon.

At the top of the looming eight-foot-tall stele

resides a low relief sculpture designed as a form of

propaganda. In it Shamash, the god of justice, sits upon a

throne with his back rigidly straight, his robe falling in neat

folds, and his feet resting upon a footstool, a symbol of the

heavens. Yet the standing figure of King Hammurabi is

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arely the same height as the sitting Shamash, who

resonates his sheer dominance. Hammurabi’s robes even

seem more askew when compared to Shamash’s, perhaps

hinting at human imperfection. However, the sun god does

not shun the miniscule human king, but instead seems to

counsel him; the king’s left arm is raised to his chin as if

stroking it in silent contemplation of the god’s words. At

the same time, Shamash offers Hammurabi a rod with his

right hand and ring with his left, symbols of Shamash’s

favor and the King’s royal right to rule, respectively. As

such, the stele emanates to the viewer the divine will of

Shamash in appointing Hammurabi as his vassal on earth,

stressing the complexity of Babylonian religion.

Below the low relief carving are sixteen columns of

archaic cuneiform that promulgate laws of order, stability,

and continuity throughout Hammurabi’s domain. Although

the writing on the stele may simply seem to be intended to

instruct citizens in the ways of the laws, the fact that its

archaic cuneiform is highly stylistic and outdated means

that even the literate may have had trouble reading it. 1 As

such, this may point to the fact that it was designed to be

more of a visual form of propaganda than an indication of

1 William Harper, Ernest Burton, and Shailer Mathews, The Stele of

Hammurabi, vol. 5 of The Biblical World (New York: University of

Chicago Press, 1904), 468-472.

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the rule of law. The indecipherable quality of the

cuneiform, especially to the illiterate, would give the stele

an almost mystic quality; this quality may have made it

seem like the incomprehensible will of the gods.

Furthermore, scholars seem to believe that judges during

this time period did not use the Code of Hammurabi for

their legal decisions, but instead relied on their own sense

of judgment. This seems to suggest that the stele was

primarily made as a form of propaganda and not as an

actual code of law. Perhaps it was designed for rare,

isolated cases that had no judicial precedent already set. 2

Either way, the stele shows a sophisticated form of

propaganda and alludes to the rule of law.

The stele also devotes much of its limited space not

to law, but to the praise of Hammurabi. In the first four and

a half columns of archaic script, otherwise known as the

prologue, the stele talks of Hammurabi’s divine

appointment and duties. It declares, “the lofty Anu, king of

the Anunaki gods, and Enlil lord of heaven and

earth...named me, Hammurabi, the exalted prince…to

cause justice to prevail in the land, to destroy the wicked

and the evil, to prevent the strong from oppressing the

2 William H. Stiebing Jr., Ancient Near Eastern History and Culture,

2 nd ed. (New York: University of New Orleans, 2009), 104.

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weak.” 3 The prologue then continues to elaborate how

Hammurabi provided for the welfare of his people, rebuilt

religious sanctuaries, and brought the four corners of the

earth order and unity. The epilogue, which is contained in

the last five columns of the stele, continues praising

Hammurabi for his wisdom, which will earn his people the

favor of the gods. As such, the prologue and epilogue seem

to suggest that the stele is not just a promulgation of the

king’s law, but a marker meant to raise religious and

political support for the king.

Furthermore, the stele provides 282 comprehensive

laws on topics such as murder and wage regulations,

highlighting an intricate society. Perhaps one of the most

insightful sets of laws that Hammurabi proclaims are those

dealing with trade regulations and loans. When dealing

with loans and interest, if merchants lent grain they could

charge 33.5 percent interest, and if they lent silver they

could charge 20 percent interest. Hammurabi also provides

laws for fair trade, within which merchants were obligated

to provide receipts to the purchasers. However, if they were

suspected of cheating their buyers or the buyers of cheating

them, they were liable to investigation. These laws

3 Nels M. Baikley and Richard Lim, Readings in Ancient History, 7 th

ed. (Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 1996), 27-34.

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exemplify the complex nature of Babylonian society.

However, many of these laws could also seem brutal and

unfair. For example, if a male citizen had a debt he could

not pay, he was allowed to sell his children and wife into

slavery for a period of three years. 4 Even with such

harshness, these laws still illustrate a society with extensive

commerce.

The Code of Hammurabi also protects the right to

property. Individuals who believed that they had been

robbed were allowed to bring accusations against the

robber, resulting in a trial. If these accusations proved true,

the robber was sentenced to death, but if they proved false

the accuser was sentenced to death. 5 These harsh property

laws illustrate the severity of Babylon, but also support the

idea of its complex commercial economy.

A few of the more interesting laws on the stele are

those dealing with wine sales. These laws seem to imply

that only priestesses belonging to convents were allowed to

sell wine. However, these laws also deprived the priestess

of the right to accept money; instead, they needed to accept

grain as payment or face the penalty of death. The

priestesses were also held responsible for the conduct of the

4 Baikley and Lim (1996) 27-34.

5 Baikley and Lim (1996) 28-29.

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people around their wine shops. As a result, if a priestess

did not report intoxicated buyers to authorities, she was

sentenced to death. 6 Perhaps the economic deprivation and

strict punishment of priestesses relate to the level of respect

and influence they received from the people; this influence

could have lead Hammurabi to fear their power, thereby

leading him to limit it through harsh regulations. If so, this

situation shows a tense relationship between the religious

class and state in Babylon.

The Stele of Hammurabi is evidence of the rule of

law, proof of a thriving international economy, and a

restriction on the power of the religious class. This artifact

from the ancient world continues to enthrall modern

viewers with its early emphasis on law and order. For

societies throughout the world dependent on the rule of

law, the stele recalls the success of one of the earliest

quests for stability in social organization. As such, the Stele

of Hammurabi remains an important indication of both

ancient Babylonian law and the general ideal of law still

familiar to so many today.

6 Baikley and Lim (1996) 28-29.

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Bibliography

Baikley, Nels M., and Richard Lim. Readings in Ancient

History. 7 th ed. Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage

Learning, 1996.

Harper, William, Ernest Burton, and Shailer Mathews. The

Stele of Hammurabi. Vol. 5 of The Biblical World.

54 vols. New York: University of Chicago Press,

1893-1920.

Stiebing Jr., William H. Ancient Near Eastern History and

Culture. 2 nd ed. New York: University of New

Orleans, 2009.

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Epheseus Terrace House

Photo by Christine Roughan

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Plato’s Legacy:

Whether the Republic or the Timaeus Reigns Supreme

Thomas Arralde, 2013

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The Republic, considered by many to be Plato’s

magnum opus, is “Plato’s most comprehensive dialogue.” 1

In its ten books, Plato goes through questions of justice, the

good life, what is intelligible, and even what is truly real.

Central to the work as a whole is the theory of metaphysics,

delivered brilliantly in Book VII through the illustrious

“Allegory of the Cave.” Eva Brann asks rhetorically, “Who

has spent a lifetime reading Plato’s writings and does not

regard the Republic as his central work?” 2 This, however, is

the exact assumption I set out to explore: was the Republic

indeed Plato’s central work, or did his opinions change

about his most important theories with time?

In Raphael’s fresco The School of Athens, we see

the two titans of Greek Philosophy at the center,

conversing, each holding one of his own philosophic

1

Kenneth Dorter, The Transformation of Plato’s Republic (New York:

Lexington Books, 2006), ix.

2

Eva Brann, The Music of the Republic (Philadelphia: Paul Dry Books,

2004), xiii.

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works. Aristotle is holding the Nichomachean Ethics, but

Plato is not holding his magnus opus, the Republic. Instead

he holds the Timaeus. Raphael’s philosophic opinions of

Plato are irrelevant, but his choice does underline an

important debate over the relationship between the theories

proposed in the Republic and the Timaeus. Does the

Timaeus supersede the Republic as the defining work of

Platonic metaphysics? And if the central doctrine of the

Republic is called into question, what does that mean for

the rest of its teachings?

To begin any discussion on the relationship between

the Republic and the Timaeus one must inevitably consider

when the two works were produced, or at least what order

the two were written in. If one is to make the claim that the

Timaeus is in some way a completion or emendation of the

Republic, the Republic must precede the Timaeus. For a

classical source of the order of Plato’s dialogues we can

turn to Diogenes Laertius’ Lives of Eminent Philosophers.

He divides Plato’s dialogues into nine tetralogies

(τετραλογίαι), if the Republic and Laws are each counted

as a single dialogue (3.56-61). The eighth of these

tetralogies contains the Clitophon, the Republic, the

Timaeus, and the Critias. This ordering is convenient for

the interpretation that the Timaeus surpasses the Republic,

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as it not only comes after the Republic, but directly after, as

if Plato, upon completion of the Republic, was wholly

unsatisfied and decided to write the Timaeus to compensate

for the Republic’s inadequacies. Diogenes tells us that,

even in his day, the ordering of the dialogues was not

settled, and that there were many different orderings. He

tells us that Aristophanes the Grammarian and others

grouped Plato’s dialogues into trilogies, claiming the first

to contain the Republic, the Timaeus, and the Critias (3.61-

2), a different order, but the Timaeus was still directly after

the Republic.

The problem of this chronology has by no means

been settled, as scholars today continue to debate the

ordering of Plato’s dialogues. To give an exhaustive

account of all the various chronologies and the reasons for

said chronologies would be a paper in itself, so I will

instead suffice to give only the opinions of A. E. Taylor,

who asserts that the Timaeus followed the Republic, and

Gilbert Ryle, who asserts that the Timaeus anteceded the

Republic. For this debate, the account Socrates gives at the

beginning of the Timaeus begins with a recap of the

discussion Socrates and his interlocutors had the day

before. What Socrates proceeds to recount is the material

contained in books II-V of the Republic, ending right

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efore the heart of the Republic begins. Not only does

Socrates end here, but he even asks Timaeus if he forgot

anything, to which Timaeus assures Socrates that he

successfully remembered everything from the day before

(19a-b). If the discussion of the day before were indeed the

Republic, why would all its most important parts be

omitted? If it wasn’t, then what could Socrates be recalling

that is so similar to it?

Taylor argues that the summary of part of the

Republic points to the Timaeus coming after the Republic. 3

He does, however, consent to the possibility that the

absence of important doctrines in the Republic could mean

that there were additions to the Republic after the

completion of the Timaeus, although he regards this theory

as “groundless speculations.” 4 Nevertheless, such a

possibility does not deter Taylor from his assertion of the

relative orders, as he puts more faith in the style of the

Timaeus for its relative date than references to previous

works. 5 He places in one group the Sophist, Politicus,

Timaeus, Philebus, and Laws because of their stylistic

divergence from other dialogues, giving four examples.

3 A. E. Taylor, A Commentary on Plato’s Timaeus (Oxford: Clarendon

Press, 1928), 3.

4 Taylor (1928) 3-4.

5 Taylor (1928) 4.

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The first is that these dialogues are far less dramatic. The

second is that, aside from the Philebus, Socrates is not the

main speaker (or is not present at all as in the Laws). The

third is that these dialogues take place in more of a

“lecture” format where the lecturer has a definite goal, and

the fourth example is that Plato uses a distinct “periodic”

style, which he owed to Isocrates. 6

All this evidence seems to suggest that these five

dialogues were all written together, but it does not prove

that these dialogues came after the Republic. To come to

this conclusion Taylor makes two assumptions: that the

Laws was the last dialogue of this group and that it was

published later than Plato’s other dialogues. The first

assumption he defends by claiming that the four stylistic

eccentricities mentioned above are most prevalent in the

Laws. The second he defends by claiming that the Laws

makes references to Plato’s old age, and he relies upon

ancient sources which attest to its publication after Plato’s

death.

Gilbert Ryle unequivocally rejects this

interpretation, saying very succinctly, “This is an error.” 7

Ryle’s conclusion is what Taylor referred to as “groundless

6 Taylor (1928) 4.

7 Gilbert Ryle, Plato’s Progress (Cambridge: Cambridge University

Press, 1966), 230.

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speculations” (i.e. that the summary given by Plato of the

day before was not the Republic as we have it, but an

“earlier version of one section of it,” 8 what he calls “The

Ideal State or the Proto-Republic” 9 ). To prove his case Ryle

gives five reasons for why the discussion, which took place

the day before the Timaeus, could not have been the

Republic. 10 His first piece of evidence is that none of the

characters of the Republic (with the exception of Socrates)

are present during the Timaeus, and none of the characters

of the Timaeus (again excepting Socrates) are present

during the Republic. 11 Next he claims that it is “pretty

clear” that Socrates gave a monologue the day before the

Timaeus, whereas the Republic was a dialogue, but no

passages are mentioned to support this. Thirdly he argues

that the Republic as we know it could not have been

8 Ryle (1966) 230.

9 Ryle (1966) 231.

10 Ryle (1966) 230-1.

11 Dorter deals with this argument pointing out that the Republic is “a

monologue without a dramatic frame” (Dorter, The Transformation of

Plato’s Republic, 352). Because of this, the Republic could have been

narrated to Timaeus, Critias, and Hermocrates, or anyone for that

matter. This argues against the following point Ryle makes as well, as

Dorter asserts that the Republic is a monologue, whereas Ryle claims it

is a dialogue. Finally Ryle’s fourth point is called into question, since

there would be no need for the instructions to Timaeus and the others to

be incorporated into the Republic, as it was merely a lecture and not the

discourse between Socrates and his guests. N.B. Dorter subscribes to

Taylor’s view that the Timaeus follows the Republic.

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presented in “one session of a few hours,” but the doctrines

from books II-V (which is all Socrates mentions in his

summary) could have been given in such a span of time.

His penultimate argument is that Timaeus, Critias, and

Hermocrates were instructed by Socrates the previous day

to repay him for his lecture, instructions which are never

issued in the Republic. Lastly Ryle makes the point that

Socrates, had he presented the Republic the day before,

could not help but discuss justice, the main argument of the

Republic, not to mention that Homer and the other poets

are never mentioned. 12 Ryle also claims that the Timaeus

cannot be proven as a late work through stylistic similarity

to the Laws, since he denies that the Laws was a late

dialogue at all. In his chronology, the Laws had already

been written eight or nine years before Plato’s death, and it

was merely going through revision when Plato died. 13

For those who accept the Timaeus as following the

Republic, the question of Socrates’ summary in the

Timaeus becomes problematic. If Plato had completed the

Republic as we know it today, why would he so clearly

reference it, yet leave out the most important of its

12 While Ryle’s reasoning is in and of itself wholly unconvincing, he

continues from here to argue that the Critias in fact preceded the

Timaeus, which makes me regard his theories with even more

suspicion.

13 Ryle (1966) 256-7.

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teachings? Here I will not restrict myself, and will give all

the major opinions and reasoning I can find for why Plato

would start the Timaeus in such an odd fashion.

I will begin with the views of W. K. C. Guthrie.

Guthrie finds it particularly odd that Socrates should want

to see his state in action, 14 when he quite clearly says the

day before that he need not prove such a state could exist

(Republic 5.472c-e). Socrates later even claims that it

doesn’t matter whether this state ever exists, and that it is

merely a model for men to follow (Republic 9.592a-b). The

image of Socrates in the Timaeus as an “impractical

theorist” 15 also seems to undermine completely the goal of

the Republic. To Guthrie this shows that later in his career

Plato became more pragmatic and “veered from an

idealistic view of society towards practical policy.” 16

Far stranger than Plato’s seeming pragmatism,

however, is the complete absence of any Platonic doctrines

on metaphysics, the most important part of the Republic.

While Ryle, because of this fact, refused to believe that the

Republic could have preceded the Timaeus, many others

14 W. K. C. Guthrie, A History of Greek Philosophy Volume V: The

Later Plato and the Academy (Cambridge: Cambridge University

Press, 1978), 245.

15 Guthrie (1978) 245.

16 Guthrie (1978) 245.

19


have labored to see if there is some message Plato was

trying to get across. This absence, provided that the

Timaeus was indeed written after the Republic, cannot have

been a mistake on Plato’s part, and it is far too jarring for

anyone who has read the Republic for Plato to think it

would escape the notice of the reader. It cannot be a matter

of disagreement that this blatant omission means

something, but what this hidden message is has not been

settled. A break-through theory on Plato’s metaphysics was

proposed by Henry Jackson, who, in a series of articles

entitled Plato’s Later Theory of Ideas, proposed that Plato’s

theory of metaphysics changed in his later dialogues (the

Parmenides, Philebus, Theaetetus, Sophist, Politicus, and

Timaeus). 17 For his argument he divided Plato’s works into

five categories. For simplicity’s sake, I will only discuss

the third and fourth, the third containing the Republic,

Phaedo, and Cratylus, the fourth the later dialogues just

mentioned. Jackson saw the fourth group as a process in

which Plato deconstructed his earlier theory through the

Parmenides and Philebus, and laid the groundwork for a

new theory through the Timaeus, the last work of this

group.

17 Leo Sweeney, “Henry Jackson’s Interpretation of Plato,” Journal of

the History of Philosophy 13, no. 2 (1975): 189-90.

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According to Jackson, when the Timaeus was

written Plato no longer believed in “other Ideas, the

metaphysical, mathematical, moral and aesthetic Ideas”

such as he had proposed in earlier dialogues. 18 In this later

theory Jackson claims that only the Forms “of animal types

and of the four elements were recognized,” 19 and not the

Forms of “objects of science, of negations, of perishable

things and so on.” 20 In the third group of dialogues, the

Forms did exist in a “rudimentary” way, but it embraced

everything that had “plurality.” 21 Plato maintains the

fundamentals of his argument, still believing in the Forms

as “eternal, immutable, perfect, which really exist, and are

objects of knowledge,” 22 but he prunes these Forms from

being of everything to only being of some things. Jackson

further claims that in his earlier writings, Plato puts forth

the doctrine that manifestations of the Forms “partake” in

their respective Forms, but this doctrine is called into

question in the Parmenides and is never mentioned in the

Timaeus. 23 Jackson’s explanation is that this doctrine is

replaced in the fourth group of dialogues by Plato’s new

18

Sweeney (1975) 192, quoted from Jackson.

19

Sweeney (1975) 192, quoted from Jackson.

20

Sweeney (1975) 192.

21

Sweeney (1975) 194.

22

Sweeney (1975) 194, quoted from Jackson.

23 Taylor (1928) 27-8.

21


theory. In this new metaphysical doctrine, things with

becoming do not “partake” of, but rather “imitate” the

Forms while remaining separate. 24

While some, such as R. D. Archer-Hind,

enthusiastically took up this theory, not everyone was

convinced. Paul Shorey confronts the views of Archer-

Hind’s introduction to the Timaeus and raises two

objections on Plato’s supposed new theory. The first is

quite simply that Plato did not change his mind, but rather

expounded more fully upon a doctrine that never changed. 25

Shorey also does not view Plato from a purely

metaphysical perspective, which is what he accuses Archer-

Hind of doing. 26 While he admits that metaphysics is an

important aspect to Platonic philosophy, a “sounder

interpretation” is found instead in looking at Plato through

his psychology, his literary style, his historical setting, and

his opinions on society, morality, and religion. 27 Archer-

Hind, because of his neglect of these fields of study, is

accused of a too “rigid” view on Plato’s metaphysics,

24 Taylor (1928) 28.

25 Paul Shorey, “Recent Platonism in England,” The American Journal

of Philology 9, no. 3 (1888) : 276, http://0www.jstor.org.library.holycross.edu/stable/287629?seq=1.

26 Shorey (1888) 278.

27 Shorey (1888) 278.

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which is preoccupied merely with proving that Plato never

contradicts himself. 28

To refute Jackson’s (and subsequently Archer-

Hind’s) theory Shorey calls into question Jackson’s

interpretation of the Philebus, as a great deal of Jackson’s

theory lies upon the interpretation of the Philebus more as a

work on metaphysics than on ethics. 29 Shorey rejects this

view and instead argues that the Philebus is meant to make

logic as independent from metaphysics as possible. 30 He

further accuses Jackson and Archer-Hind, in asking for

“complete metaphysical consistency,” of asking Plato for

the impossible. 31 Another important dialogue for Jackson’s

view is the Parmenides, which Jackson sees as a refutation

of Plato’s old theory and the introduction of the idea of the

Forms as models, which is not subject to Parmenides’

challenge. 32 Shorey remains unconvinced, and retorts that

this is not at all supported by the text. Socrates does not

reject the idea of partnership in the form; he merely says it

would be a difficult task to prove it (Parmenides 129d-e).

Shorey also denies that the dialogue comes to a definite

28 Shorey (1888) 279.

29 Shorey (1888) 280.

30 Shorey (1888) 280.

31 Shorey (1888) 281.

32 Shorey (1888) 286.

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conclusion on the questions raised, as Jackson sees in a

new theory. 33

Taylor as well rejects Jackson’s theory, agreeing

with Shorey that the theory of imitation was only a

proposition and was not meant to replace an old theory of

participation. Taylor also points out that the Academy

continued to use the vocabulary of participation “down to

the very last age of Greek Neo-Platonism.” 34 This,

however, does not mean that Taylor subscribed to a

constant Platonic doctrine of metaphysics throughout the

course of Plato’s dialogues. In fact, Taylor claims that Plato

never wrote his own views on metaphysics, but only

delivered them in lecture at the Academy. 35 The

metaphysics proposed in the Republic and Phaedo Taylor

ascribes to Socrates and denies them as uniquely Platonic. 36

Nor does Taylor see much difference between the

metaphysics of the Timaeus and the Phaedo, only the

strictly verbal difference of participation and imitation. 37

Taylor offers a possible explanation for the

infamous omissions of the introduction to the Timaeus in

33 Shorey (1888) 286.

34 Taylor (1928) 30.

35 Taylor (1928) 32.

36 Taylor (1928) 32.

37 Taylor (1928) 33.

24


that the scientific doctrines of the Republic were no longer

sufficient and needed to be amended. 38 To Taylor, a large

portion of the Timaeus is a work on mathematical physics

instead of metaphysics. 39 But if one, disappointed at the

absence of Platonic metaphysics, wishes to be enlightened

on Platonic scientific doctrines, then he is twice fooled, as

Taylor relegates the Timaeus to a mere restatement of 5 th

century Pythagorean teachings. 40 Taylor’s personal opinion

of the recapitulation is that it has nothing to do with the

Timaeus at all. Rather, it is an introduction to the Critias,

and all that was necessary as an introduction to the ancient

Athenians’ defeat of the Atlanteans was the Republic up to

Book V, which is the level of civilization the Athenians at

that time had reached. 41

Cornford, the last scholar I will discuss, goes

against Taylor’s view of the Timaeus’ Pythagoreanism. He

points out that Timaeus, in his discourse, never appeals to

any authorities, and while undoubtedly he draws from

Pythagoras, he draws from all the note-worthy pre-

38 Taylor (1928) 33.

39 Taylor (1928) 33.

40 Taylor (1928) 11.

41 Taylor (1928) 33-4.

25


Socratics as well as contemporaries. 42 He also denies that

the Timaeus is in any way connected to the Republic. Just

as with Ryle, 43 Cornford is convinced that the omission of

so many key points from the Republic must mean that the

discussion the day before the Timaeus was not the

Republic. 44 To Cornford, if Plato had wanted the Republic

to take place the day before the Timaeus, there would have

been no need for a summary, and the stage for the

encounter would have been set in the Republic, not the

Timaeus. 45 Cornford also claims that two days before the

Timaeus could not have been the feast of Bendis, which is

the dramatic date of the Republic. 46 Cornford’s view is that

Socrates could have discussed his state on multiple

occasions, and that the day before the Timaeus was one

such occasion, although a good deal had been left unsaid. 47

The conclusion Cornford comes to is that dramatically the

Republic and Timaeus do not take place in the span of two

days, and the Timaeus was not supposed to replace or

42 Francis Macdonald Cornford, Plato’s Cosmology (London:

Routledge & Kegan Paul Limited, 1948), 3.

43 Unlike Ryle, however, Cornford does place the Timaeus

chronologically after the Republic, and places the Timaeus among

Plato’s later dialogues. Cornford also rejects Ryle’s idea of a Proto-

Republic. Cornford, 1, 5

44 Cornford (1948) 4.

45 Cornford (1948) 4.

46 Cornford (1948) 4-5.

47 Cornford (1948) 4.

26


correct anything in the Republic. 48 The introduction, while

not a summary of the Republic, was meant to invoke the

memory of the Republic, in order to “link the morality

externalized in the ideal society to the organization of the

world.” 49 Therefore the Timaeus, while not affecting or

being affected by the Republic, is merely supposed to be

seen in the same light as the Republic. The Republic

focused on the “structural analogy between the state and

the individual soul,” whereas the Timaeus demonstrates

both of these as coming from the order of the cosmos. 50

Having spent so much time and effort discussing the

views of others on the question of the Republic and

Timaeus, I feel compelled to give my own views. I must

first, however, confess that I am hardly an unbiased judge.

Plato’s earlier dialogues have profoundly impacted both my

beliefs and my personal conduct, so I will of course

respond in a hostile manner to any attempt to undermine

their authority. That being said, I generally subscribe to the

view that the truth is found between extremes. I see this

disposition as a good way to consider the difficult question

48 Cornford (1948) 5.

49 Cornford (1948) 6.

50 Cornford (1948) 6.

27


at hand. In the case at hand the two extremes would be

Jackson’s theory that the Republic and Timaeus propose

two distinct ideas of metaphysics, and Cornford’s theory

that the two dialogues have nothing to do with one another.

Therefore I would align myself more with Shorey, since his

view allows for a more consistent interpretation of Plato’s

philosophy, but at the same time allows for the natural

development of ideas over time.

I also feel I should at least propose my own idea for

Plato’s unsettling opening to the Timaeus. I find Cornford’s

point that the natural order of the Timaeus is the basis for

both the individual and the state expounded upon in the

Republic. For this reason, I see the Timaeus as though it

were a new beginning to the Republic, a prequel rather than

a sequel. The main points of the Republic could not be

mentioned in the Timaeus, as they naturally come after the

subject of the Timaeus (i.e. the creation of the world). It is

not until the world has been established that we can

contemplate the things that follow from it, which are the

subjects of the Republic. These are, of course, merely the

opinions of one who knows far less about Plato than any of

the scholars mentioned prior and are pure conjecture.

Nonetheless, I hope that this paper gives a good preview to

28


the various interpretations of the Republic and Timaeus for

any who wish to contemplate this question themselves.

29


Bibliography

Brann, Eva. The Music of the Republic. Philadelphia: Paul

Dry Books, 2004.

Cornford, Francis Macdonald. Plato’s Cosmology. London:

Routledge & Kegan Paul Limited, 1948.

Dorter, Kenneth. The Transformation of Plato’s Republic.

New York: Lexington Books, 2006.

Guthrie, W. K. C. A History of Greek Philosophy Volume

V: The Later Plato and the Academy. Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press, 1978.

Ryle, Gilbert. Plato’s Progress. Cambridge: Cambridge

University Press, 1966.

Shorey, Paul. “Recent Platonism in England.” The

American Journal of Philology 9, no. 3 (1888): 274-

309, http://0www.jstor.org.library.holycross.edu/stable/287629?

seq=1.

Sweeney, Leo. “Henry Jackson’s Interpretation of Plato,”

Journal of the History of Philosophy 13, no. 2

(1975) : 189-204,

http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/journal_of_the_history

_of_philosophy/toc/hph13.2.html.

Taylor, A. E. A Commentary on Plato’s Timaeus. Oxford:

Clarendon Press, 1928.

30


Philippion at Olympia

Photo by Christine Roughan

32


Euripides’s Bacchae in Aeneid Book VII

Christine Roughan, 2014

________________________________________________

In the first century B.C. Vergil crafted the Aeneid, a

national epic which followed the journeys and struggles of

Aeneas, the mythical ancestor of the Roman people. Vergil

told his story in twelve books – the first half recounted

Aeneas’s wandering after he escaped from the destruction

of Troy, and the latter half the conflict he faced once he

arrived in Italy. Aeneas’s quest was to find a new home for

himself and the other Trojan survivors, and fate directed

him to Italy, a land already inhabited by the native Italians.

Although the Trojans and Italians were destined to become

one people, the animosity of one goddess, Juno, sowed

conflict between them instead. An oracle had declared that

the king of the Italians should give his daughter, Lavinia, in

marriage to Aeneas. Juno responded by sending the Fury

Allecto to Queen Amata; the Fury inspired the queen to

oppose this marriage and steal Lavinia away. The

maddened Amata then stirred up her fellow Italians against

the Trojans, and this – along with several other troubles

caused by Allecto – triggered war between the two peoples.

33


While it is epic in its form and scope, Vergil’s

Aeneid owes a debt not only to the earlier epic poets,

Homer and Ennius, but also to Greek tragedy. Allusions

appear throughout the epic to various ancient plays; all of

Aeneid Book IV in particular, for instance, has long been

read as drama. 1 Therefore, it is not out of place that after

Allecto’s release in Book VII, Vergil pauses to focus on

Queen Amata and the Latin women in a passage

reminiscent of a well-known work by Euripides: the

Bacchae.

The Bacchae by Euripides dates from the fifth

century B.C. and recounts how Dionysus came to Thebes,

angry that the city and King Pentheus were refusing to

acknowledge him as a deity. Many of the major characters

in the play are actually related: Dionysus’s mother was the

mortal Semele, accidentally killed when she asked to see

her lover Zeus in his full glory. Her sisters were Agave,

Ino, and Autonoë; Agave is the mother of Pentheus.

Semele’s sisters, however, believed that she lied about

Zeus, and so Dionysus’s mortal family and home refused to

worship him. The young god responded by driving the

sisters and other Theban women mad, and he tricked

1 Herbert H. Yeames, “The Tragedy of Dido: Part I,” The Classical

Journal 8, no. 4 (1913): 143.

34


Pentheus into going out alone to spy on the women. This

had dire consequences: the crazed women did not recognize

their king and, upon catching him, tore him to pieces.

Pentheus’s own aunts and mother took part in the bloody

act. Dionysus did not lift their madness until after his

revenge was completed.

Thus in the Aeneid, Vergil alludes to the Bacchae in

lines 7.385-405 in order to foreshadow the conflict to

come, both by allowing his reader to recall the horrifying

end of the tragedy itself and by reminding him of earlier

comparisons in Book IV of the Aeneid to maddened

bacchantes. Where he diverges from the Bacchae, Vergil

suggests instead that the Trojan and Italian conflict will be

even more destructive than the tragedy’s conclusion and the

Aeneid’s first half.

“I, Dionysus the child of Zeus, have come to the

land of the Thebans,” (ἥκω Διὸς παῖς τήνδε Θηβαίων χθόνα

/ Διόνυσος, 1-2) Dionysus declares at the start of

Euripides’s Bacchae, asserting his immortal identity. He

summarizes his wanderings and then explains the reason

for his ire: the defamation of his mother by her sisters. The

god tells the audience how he has begun to punish them:

Therefore I have goaded [Agave, Ino, and Autonoë]

from their houses

35


in madness, and they dwell in the mountain frenzied

in mind:

and I compelled them to wear the attire of my secret

rites.

τοιγάρ νιν αὐτὰς ἐκ δόµων ᾤστρησ᾽ ἐγὼ

µανίαις, ὄρος δ᾽ οἰκοῦσι παράκοποι φρενῶν:

σκευήν τ᾽ ἔχειν ἠνάγκασ᾽ ὀργίων ἐµῶν (32-34).

Almost four hundred years later, Vergil brings in a deity to

drive one of his own royal figures to Bacchanal madness.

Queen Amata is the focus of lines 7.385-405: in the first

line she rushes into the woods “with the divine will of

Bacchus simulated” (simulato numine Bacchi, 7.385); in

the last line Vergil frames the entire passage and reiterates

that “Allecto drives the queen from all sides with the goads

of Bacchus” (reginam Allecto stimulis agit undique Bacchi,

7.405). So the Fury Allecto targets Amata as she sows the

seeds of war between Italians and Trojans. The madness

she inflicts on the queen, earlier described as “frenzied”

(lymphata, 7.377), eventually becomes the raving of a

bacchante. Vergil does not leave Amata in “forests”

(silvas, 7.385) but a few lines later specifically mentions

her in “leafy mountains” (frondosis montibus, 7.387), just

as Agave and her sisters inhabit “thick-shaded mountains”

(δασκίοις / ὄρεσι, 218-19). There Amata hails Bacchus

36


with the “traditionally Dionysiac” 2 cry “Euhoe” in line

7.389, which has its Greek parallel in Bacchae 141 with

“εὐοἷ.”

More significantly, Vergil does not leave Amata

alone in her Bacchanal frenzy. In the Bacchae, Dionysus

strikes a further blow against Thebes when he targets the

women of the city:

And all the female seed of Thebes,

how many are women, I have driven mad from the

houses:

and they, mixed together with the children of

Cadmus,

sit under green trees on roofless rocks.

καὶ πᾶν τὸ θῆλυ σπέρµα Καδµείων,

ὅσαι γυναῖκες ἦσαν, ἐξέµηνα δωµάτων:

ὁµοῦ δὲ Κάδµου παισὶν ἀναµεµειγµέναι

χλωραῖς ὑπ᾽ ἐλάταις ἀνορόφοις ἧνται πέτραις (35-

38).

In the Aeneid, Vergil does not mention Allecto herself

driving the Latin women, but rather writes that “rumor

flies” (fama volat, 7.392). If fama is read as the personified

Fama who appears in line 4.173 and following, a divinity is

2 Nicholas Horsfall, Virgil, Aeneid 7: A Commentary (Leiden: Brill,

2000), 269.

37


at least partly responsible for the departure of the Latin

women just as Dionysus is responsible for that of the

Theban women. The fact that “a burning drives the

mothers” (matres… / …ardor agit, 7.392-93) is significant.

Even if a particular god is not named as responsible for the

Latin women’s departure, and even if what exactly drives

them is left simply as a vague “burning,” nevertheless the

women themselves are the objects in this line. They are

being driven. Only after they are “inflamed with fury”

(furiisque accensas, 7.392) do they become the subjects

who “desert” (deseruere, 7.394) their homes, “give” (dant,

7.394) their hair and necks to the wind, “fill” (complent,

7.395) the air with their cries, and “carry” (gerunt, 7.396)

Bacchanal staffs called thyrsoi. The inclusion of these

women is also important in another way. By incorporating

them, Vergil unquestionably alludes to Euripides’s notable

tragedy which does the same with the Theban woman. He

could have simply focused on Amata and compared her to a

bacchante to emphasize the extent of her insanity, but he

instead also writes of the Latin women and crafts a direct

parallel to the Bacchae.

Further similarities appear between the Aeneid

passage and the Bacchae. The women in the epic carry

“thyrsoi” (thyrsos, 7.390); a mention is later made of “ivy-

38


covered spears” (pampineas… hastas, 7.396). These words

directly echo the description the thyrsus first receives when

it appears in the tragedy: “missile of ivy” (κίσσινον βέλος,

25). The phrasing “ivy-covered spears” to describe the

thyrsoi not only suggests the shift from the pastoral to the

martial apparent throughout Book VII, but also calls to

mind how the women wielded their thyrsoi in Euripides’s

tragedy. There, as the messenger relates,

Those women sending forth the thyrsoi

from their hands wounded the men turned in flight.

κεῖναι δὲ θύρσους ἐξανιεῖσαι χερῶν

ἐτραυµάτιζον κἀπενώτιζον φυγῇ

γυναῖκες ἄνδρας (762-64).

Later, the messenger returns with dire news after the

bacchantes have killed Pentheus, “fixing the miserable head

at the top of the thyrsus” (κρᾶτα δ᾽ ἄθλιον, / ... / πήξασ᾽ ἐπ᾽

ἄκρον θύρσον, 1139-41). So the mention of “ivy-covered

spears” in the Aeneid threatens that the thyrsoi might be

wielded in the epic as they were in the tragedy.

The Bacchae concerns itself with a single family,

the house of Cadmus. He is the father of Agave, Ino, and

Autonoë and the grandfather of Pentheus, all of whom

suffer in one way or another by the play’s conclusion.

Dionysus, technically the nephew of the three sisters and

39


the cousin of Pentheus, goads these four characters to

madness so as to bring them to ruin. Similarly, conflict in

the Aeneid concerns the destruction caused by an intended

marriage, a union of families. This devastation extends

beyond Aeneas’s and Latinus’s immediate families. It takes

the form of a war between the Italians and the Trojans.

These people, however, are destined to become one in the

Roman race, giving the conflict between the two overtones

of a civil war. The senseless war between Italians and

Trojans thus becomes comparable to the mad strife within

Cadmus’s family, and it is fitting that Allecto, who is able

“to arm like-minded brothers in battle and to overturn

houses with hate” (unanimos armare in proelia frateres /

atque odiis versare domos, 7.335-36), is the one to cause it.

Interestingly, in Amata’s appeal to the Latin

women, “If kindness remains in your dutiful spirits for

unhappy Amata, if a care gnaws for maternal rights” (Si

qua piis animis manet infelicis / Amatae gratia, si iuris

materni cura remordet, 7.401-2), there is the suggestion of

Amata being a mother wronged. Here she might be linked

with Semele, the mother of Dionysus who was ill-treated

by what her sisters claimed about her death. In this case it

seems that Amata tries to cast herself as Semele, the

woman whose unjust treatment will be avenged by a god:

40


the queen herself, after all, is the one speaking in lines 401-

2. This is foreboding for the Trojans. In striving to align

herself with Semele, Amata is calling for vengeance

because Aeneas’s impending marriage has wronged her.

Divine vengeance would be aimed at Aeneas and the

Trojans. Of course, as Books VIII through XII reveal, this

hardly comes to pass: Amata is unsuccessful in gaining the

sympathy of the gods. Fate is against both her and Juno,

the one deity who would happily have shattered Aeneas’s

marriage. Meanwhile, Allecto is not particular about where

she wreaks havoc. Ultimately, Amata fits the role not of

the innocent Semele, but instead of the possessed noble

sisters.

What might Vergil intend by reminding his readers

of this Greek tragedy? As mentioned before, if he wanted

to simply stress the extent of Amata’s own madness, he

could have inflicted her alone with a Bacchanal frenzy.

Earlier in the poem, for example, he uses the verb “rave

like a bacchante” (bacchatur, 4.301; 4.666; 6.78) for the

actions of Dido, Rumor, and the Sibyl respectively; he is

not alluding to the Bacchae every time he compares

someone to a bacchante. But by imitating the setup of

Euripides’s tragedy in this passage of Book VII, Vergil

crafts an ominous start for the conflict between the Italians

41


and Trojans. Just as the Bacchae opens with this setup, so

the start of the second half of the Aeneid includes it as well.

Book VII is, after all, a new beginning, complete with an

invocation to the muse starting at line 37 and Vergil’s own

declaration that “a greater arrangement of things is

produced by me; I move a greater work” (maior rerum mihi

nascitur ordo, maius opus moveo, 7.44-45). The first half

of the epic and Aeneas’s lengthy journey are over: Book

VII begins the second half which focuses on events in Italy.

So alluding to the Bacchae’s beginning in this fresh start

bodes ill, since it is a tragedy striking for the unintentional

familial strife that ensues. Driven by Dionysus, the Theban

women and Pentheus’s mother and aunts ultimately tear

Pentheus apart – Agave, Ino, and Autonoë are so crazed

they do not even realize what they are doing. By making

the unintentional strife between Italians and Trojans

comparable to this familial strife, Vergil foreshadows the

violence that is to come in the second half of the Aeneid.

The reference to Euripides’s tragedy is ominous not

only because of the Bacchae’s own horrifying ending, but

also because it recalls earlier mentions of maddened

bacchantes in the Aeneid: namely, those in Book IV. Hints

of Pentheus’s story do appear interwoven in Dido’s fall:

she “raves like a bacchante” (bacchatur, 4.301) through the

42


city like a “follower of Bacchus” (Thyias, 4.302) shouting

to Bacchus and Cithaeron, the mountain where Pentheus

was killed (Bacchae 1142). She is even compared to the

doomed Pentheus himself when he sees “both twin suns

and doubled Thebes laid out” (et solem geminum et duplicis

se ostendere Thebas, 4.470). This vision is exactly what

Pentheus hallucinates in the Bacchae: “truly I think I see

two suns and doubled Thebes, the city of the seven gates”

(καὶ µὴν ὁρᾶν µοι δύο µὲν ἡλίους δοκῶ, / δισσὰς δὲ Θήβας

καὶ πόλισµ᾽ ἑπτάστοµον, 918-19). The connection between

lines 7.385-405 and Book IV is strengthened with the

comment “rumor flies,” which recalls Rumor’s introduction

in the earlier book. The two books are especially linked

when the Latin queen refers to herself as “unhappy Amata”

(infelicis Amatae, 7.401), taking for herself Dido’s famous

epithet.

As a result, the allusion to this Euripidean tragedy

in Book VII becomes portentous in a second way: it brings

to mind Book IV and the fall of a noble character. It

further serves as an escalation of events in the first half of

the Aeneid. Dido, compared at first to a dangerous

bacchante, ultimately resolves to die and is compared

instead to Pentheus, the doomed king. 3 In acting alone, she

3 Lee Fratantuono, Madness Unchained: A Reading of Virgil’s Aeneid

43


etter fits the role of Pentheus, who for a time was even

disguised as a bacchant (Bacchae 917). Amata, in contrast,

appears in the role of the three daughters of Cadmus, and

she is supported by the Latin women. Where before Dido

was the only mortal raving like a bacchante, the passage in

Book VII more closely echoes the Bacchae when the Latin

women follow Amata into the forest, and it has the

potential to reach the same horrific conclusion that the

tragedy did.

Yet in many ways, Vergil does depart from

Euripides’s work. Bacchus himself never appears, neither

in this passage nor throughout the rest of the poem. Amata

is described “with the divine will of Bacchus simulated”

(simulato numine Bacchi, 7.385). She cries out to him,

“Euhoe Bacchus!” (Euhoe Bacche, 7.389), and Allecto

drives her “with the goads of Bacchus” (stimulis... Bacchi,

7.405), even though Bacchus is absent. Elsewhere, his

name refers to wine (1.215, 3.354, 5.77, 7.725, 11.737) or

is connected with his bacchantes (4.302, 7.580). At the end

of Book I, in line 734, Dido asks that he and Juno smile

upon the feast. In an epic where numerous other gods

appear, ranging from Olympians to minor deities, it is

striking that Bacchus does not, even when bacchantes

(Lanham: Lexington Books, 2007), 118.

44


appear and call on him. Juno does not enlist his aid, though

earlier she had bargained with Aeolus and unleashed

Allecto; instead, Allecto is the one to drive the queen’s

madness.

Likewise, the word simulatus (meaning “simulated”

or “imitated”) in line 385 is significant. Vergil explicitly

writes that the “divine will of Bacchus” (numen Bacchi,

7.385) is being simulated, copied, or represented: it is not

actually present. This would suggest that “Amata’s

madness is not authentically Bacchic.” 4 Other evidence in

the passage supports this idea. The queen first cries out to

Bacchus and promises Lavinia to him alone (7.389-91).

Several lines later Vergil describes how Amata “herself

burning in the middle raises up a flaming pine branch and

sings the weddings songs of her daughter and Turnus” (ipsa

inter medias flagrantem fervida pinum / sustinet ac natae

Turnique canit hymenaeos, 7.397-98), Bacchus apparently

forgotten. When Amata appeals to the Italian women, she

makes no mention of the god except indirectly when she

invites them to join her in the “Bacchic rites” (orgia,

7.403). What the queen is doing is not about Bacchus: it is

about Lavinia’s marriage. Interestingly, what Pentheus

wrongfully accuses Dionysus’s worshippers of in the

4 Horsfall (2007) 266.

45


Bacchae might actually have some truth in the Aeneid: the

Theban king claims that they are acting only on the “pretext

[they are] bacchantes worshipping” (πρόφασιν µὲν ὡς δὴ

µαινάδας θυοσκόους, 224). If simulato is read to mean that

Amata is not actually experiencing Bacchanal madness,

then she is guilty of what Pentheus claimed in Euripides’s

tragedy.

In the Bacchae, Dionysus wreaks terrible

destruction, but destruction is not his only art. He is

capable of terrible things, but he is also the god of wine,

known to be the one who banishes grief and brings joy.

Allecto, however, is one of the Furies and described as one

“to whose heart there are sad wars and insidious anger and

harmful judgments” (cui tristia bella / iraeque insidiaeque

et crimina noxia cordi, 7.325-6). Her name comes from the

Greek “ἄλληκτος” and means “unceasing anger.” 5 When

Juno releases Allecto, she specifically mentions her ability

to cause interfamilial strife (7.335-37). Thus, Amata is not

driven by Bacchus, or even by another regular god: rather,

she is poisoned by the Fury Allecto with her “one thousand

arts for causing harm” (mille nocendi artes, 7.337), a figure

particularly suited for igniting the war that fills the latter

books of the Aeneid.

5 Liddell & Scott's Greek-English Lexicon, 7th ed., s.v. “ἄλληκτος.”

46


As a result, Allecto’s involvement promises to

result in consequences beyond those seen in the Bacchae.

Where Euripides had Dionysus concentrate his wrath for

the most part on the individuals who had provoked him,

Vergil instead has Juno give Allecto free reign to inflame

war between the Trojans and Italians. What was a family

conflict in the Bacchae becomes a war reminiscent of civil

war in the Aeneid. With this understanding, the line “with

the divine will of Bacchus simulated” (simulato numine

Bacchi 7.385) and the line immediately after it,

“approaching a greater crime and beginning a greater fury”

(maius adorta nefas maioremque orsa furorem, 7.386),

make sense. Amata’s wicked deed is greater and

foreshadows worse things because of the different gods

involved and their different goals. Dionysus seeks

something that he can certainly achieve in a matter of time:

penalty for maligning Semele’s name and

acknowledgement for himself as a god. Allecto, however,

only causes destruction; Juno, who released her, is

prevented by fate from achieving her desire and instead

settles for prolonging warfare. There is no end

immediately in sight, and Allecto and Juno do not even

limit their wrath to the Trojans alone.

47


Vergil sets lines 385-405 in Book VII off from

other passages in the book, framing it with similar

comments about how Amata runs into the woods and how

Allecto drives her there. These lines are quite distinct from

what comes before – the whirling top simile – and what

follows – Allecto’s trip to Turnus. The Latin of these 21

lines contains a concentrated reference to the Bacchae,

paralleling the events that open the tragedy. With this

passage, Vergil looks both forwards and backwards: he

makes use of a tragedy written almost four hundred years in

his own past and alludes to events that happened in the

mythic past, even earlier than the mythic past his own

poem is set in. He also looks backward through

connections this passage has with Book IV, reminding his

reader of events that already happened in the epic.

Ultimately, however, Book VII’s lines 385-405 look

forward to the events which occur in the latter books of the

Aeneid. They set up a beginning that promises enormous

conflict. Where Vergil makes changes in how he shapes

this Bacchae reference, the differences emphasize that the

passage looks ahead to events even more calamitous than

either of the past tragedies it recalls. Such “greater fury”

(maiorem… furorem, 7.386) suits the last six books of the

48


Aeneid: Vergil himself called the second half the “greater

arrangement of things” (maior rerum… ordo, 7.44).

49


Bibliography

DeWitt, Norman W. “The Dido Episode as a Tragedy.” The

Classical Journal 2, no. 7 (1907): 283-288.

Fratantuono, Lee. Madness Unchained: A Reading of

Virgil’s Aeneid. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2007.

Horsfall, Nicholas. Virgil, Aeneid 7: A Commentary.

Leiden: Brill, 2000.

Virgil. Aeneid I-VI. Edited by R. Deryck Williams.

London: Bristol Classical Press, 1996.

Virgil. Aeneid VII-XII. Edited by R. Deryck Williams.

London: Bristol Classical Press, 1996.

Yeames, Herbert H. “The Tragedy of Dido: Part I.” The

Classical Journal 8, no. 4 (1913): 139-150.

50


Transference of Rage from Juno to Aeneas

Debbie Chu, 2012

________________________________________________

Rage, which is an overarching theme in Vergil’s

Aeneid, is a worthy topic for readers to scrutinize.

Throughout the epic poem, we notice the recurring theme

of rage among characters, such as Juno, Dido, Turnus, and

Aeneas. The anger of Juno and Aeneas, however,

encompasses the Aeneid. Book 1 introduces us to the divine

wrath of Juno, and Book 12 concludes with the mortal

wrath of Aeneas. Their fury serves not only as bookends of

the poem, but it also insinuates the transference of rage

from Juno to Aeneas. Juno rages in the beginning and her

anger subsides at the end. Aeneas, on the other hand, is a

victim of Juno’s wrath at the outset, but once the goddess

quells her fury, he rages at the end. There is a subtle

suggestion that the initial wrath of Juno has been passed on

to Aeneas.

In the Aeneid, Juno is considered to be a partisan of

the Greeks. Her favoritism of the Greeks stems from the

judgment of Paris where her beauty was scorned. During

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this event, Paris, son of the Trojan king, decided which of

the three goddesses, namely Venus, Minerva, and Juno,

were the fairest. Each goddess bribed him with gifts in

hopes of being selected. Paris chose Venus, who in turn

offered to help him kidnap the most beautiful woman,

Helen, so he could marry her. Juno, severely offended by

Paris’ decision, became hostile towards the Trojans and

vowed to support their opponents, the Greeks, in the Trojan

War. Her hostility, though, did not end with the destruction

of Troy. She even tormented Aeneas, the son of Venus, and

his Trojan companions as they fled Troy to establish Rome.

As a result of Juno’s enmity, Aeneas and his fellow Trojans

underwent a protracted, laborious voyage to reach their

destination.

Book 1 of the Aeneid begins with the image of a

wrathful Juno: “The poem opens with her anger seething

and ready to erupt in dreadful violence.”

1 Her irritation originates from the aforementioned

judgment of Paris, her husband’s abduction of Ganymede, a

Trojan prince, for a homosexual affair, 2 and her

acknowledgment that the Trojan descendants are destined

1 Lee Fratantuono, Madness Unchained: A Reading Of Virgil’s Aeneid

(Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2007), 3.

2 Fratantuono (2007) 3.

52


to pillage her most cherished city, Carthage. These three

things perturb her immensely: “The causes of her anger and

cruel pains had not yet even perished from her mind: [the

judgment of Paris and Jupiter’s affair with Ganymede]

remain deep in her mind” (necdum etiam causae irarum

saevique dolores exciderant animo: manet alta mente,

1.25-26). Though these events happened a while ago, Juno

still dwells on them, as indicated in the words necdum

etiam exciderant. The present tense of manet suggests that

she is mentally clinging onto the past, while the placement

of alta in between manet and mente may show that her

anger is embedded deeply in her mind. She has a vivid

memory of all the Trojans’ offenses, which causes her

anger to flare up against them. In addition to the past, she

also fears for the future sack of Carthage by the Trojan

descendants. “Enraged by [the thought of Paris’ judgment,

Ganymede’s abduction, and future sack of Carthage]” (his

accensa super, 1. 29), she “kept the Trojans, who have

been buffeted on the entire sea, far off from Latium”

(iactatos aequore toto Troas… arcebat longe Latio, 1.29-

31). Bearing these three reasons in mind, she takes out her

anger on Aeneas. He then becomes a victim of her wrath

and suffers “on account of the mindful anger of cruel Juno”

(saevae memorem Iunonis ob iram, 1.4).

53


Juno enlists the help of Aeolus, god of the winds, to

help her execute her plan of assailing Aeneas and his

comrades by stirring up a storm at sea. She visits Aeolus:

“The goddess, pondering such things in her inflamed heart

with herself, came to Aeolia, the country of storms, a place

teeming with raging south winds” (Talia flammato secum

dea corde volutans nimborum in patriam, loca feta

furentibus Austris, Aeoliam venit, 1.50-52). She explains to

him that the Trojans are an “inimical race to [her]” (gens

inimica mihi, 1. 67). Her wish is to delay the Trojans from

establishing a city in Latium and to cause them to suffer

numerous hardships. Therefore, she demands Aeolus to

attack Aeneas and his men at sea: “Strike the power into

the winds and crush their sunken ships, or drive them

scattered and disperse the bodies in the sea” (incute vim

ventis summersasque obrue puppis, aut age diversos et

disice corpora ponto 1.69-70). The use of imperatives

incute, obrue, age, and disice demonstrates the forcefulness

of Juno’s voice as she commands Aeolus to torture the

Trojans in the storm. We perceive the wrath of Juno from

this scene. She is a livid goddess, whose ultimate goal is to

wreak havoc on the Trojans.

Aeneas, on the other hand, does not rage in the

beginning of the Aeneid. Instead, he is the victim of Juno’s

54


fury. He is “exiled by fate” (fato profugus, 1.2) and “tossed

much by the lands and by the sea” (multum ille et terris

iactatus et alto, 1.3). He “also suffered many things in war”

(multa quoque et bello passus, 1.5). The words multum and

multa imply that he has suffered many calamities. These

descriptions of Aeneas are the destructive effects of Juno’s

anger. They evoke our sympathy for the wretched hero.

Juno appears to be extremely cruel because she tortures a

“man distinguished with loyalty” (insignem pietate virum,

1.10) as she “[drives Aeneas] to undergo so many

misfortunes and to encounter so many hardships” (tot

volvere casus insignem pietate virum, tot adire

labores impulerit, 1. 9-10). Tot, similar to multum and

multa, emphasizes that Aeneas has endured plentiful

mishaps. Juno acts as the puppeteer of Aeneas and

manipulates him in whatever way she finds pleasing. Her

malice towards Aeneas elicits our utmost pity for him.

Vergil depicts Aeneas as fearful and weak in

Aeolus’ storm. The storm “[threatens] instant death for

men” (praesentemque viris intentant…mortem, 1.91), and

Aeneas’ “limbs are immediately loosened with a chill”

(extemplo Aeneae solvuntur frigore membra, 1.92). The

image of his limbs proves his sudden panic. He also

“groans and [stretches] both of his hands to the stars”

55


(ingemit et duplicis tendens ad sidera palmas, 1.93). We

have a vivid picture in our minds that Aeneas has been

defeated by the storm. Extending both his hands towards

the stars may also exemplify that he is a suppliant, begging

for mercy from the gods. Even after Neptune calms the sea,

Aeneas is still distressed. He is “sick with huge cares”

(curisque ingentibus aeger, 1.208) and “feigns hope in his

face and presses the deep pain in his heart” (spem vultu

simulat, premit altum corde dolorem, 1.209). The use of the

words spem simulat suggests that he himself is not even

certain what the future would bring. He is petrified, but as

the leader of the Trojans, he needs to remain optimistic for

his fellow companions. This is the reason that he “feigns

hope.” The storm scene is the effect of Juno’s spiteful plan

of destroying the Trojans. It is her unrelenting wrath that

causes Aeneas and his men to be shipwrecked.

Book 1 of the Aeneid exhibits “a clear enough

contrast between the pious Aeneas and the wrathful Juno.” 3

In fact, throughout the first six books of the epic poem,

Aeneas takes a passive role, as he “is unwilling to leave

Troy, suffering destiny as it comes.” 4 We realize that

3 Fratantuono (2007) 3.

4 Michael C.J. Putnam, Virgil’s Aeneid: Interpretation and Influence

(Chapel Hill, North Carolina: The University of North Carolina Press,

1995), 152.

56


Aeneas takes an active role in the last six books of the

Aeneid when he fights “those who oppose his fated

domination of Italy and, at the conclusion of the epic,

killing Turnus, their leader.” 5

It is important to keep in mind, though, that Aeneas

has not always been without rage in the first half of the

Aeneid. When he tells the story of the sack of Troy to Dido

in Book 2, he mentions that he almost killed Helen. Aeneas

refers to Helen as a “hated thing” (invisa, 2.574) because he

believes that she is the cause of the Trojan War. Aeneas

describes that “the flames blazed in his spirit; anger rose to

avenge his falling country” (exarsere ignes animo; subit ira

cadentem ulcisci patriam, 2.575-576). His “mind is

enraged” (furiata mente, 2.588). But his mother Venus

prevents him from killing Helen, reminding him that his

destiny lies somewhere else. There is a presence of rage in

Aeneas during the sack of Troy, but once he leaves his

fatherland, he becomes the victim of Juno’s wrath. Aeneas’

rage, however, reaches its climax at the end of the last book

of the Aeneid when he picks up Juno’s rage. Lee

Fratantuono states: “Aeneas will suffer the delusions of

madness in the first half of the poem. Juno will remain

prone to anger throughout the epic until near the end of the

5 Putnam (1995) 152.

57


last book, when her rage will be handed over to the man

who here is so sympathetically introduced at the poem’s

outset.” 6 He also writes: “The madness Aeneas exhibits in

the very last lines of the poem is parallel to the wrath of

Juno at the poem’s outset.” 7

Scholars believe that the first six books of the

Aeneid resemble Homer’s Odyssey because they discuss

Aeneas’ journey at sea, similar to Odysseus’ expedition to

return home. The last six books of the Aeneid, on the other

hand, mirror Homer’s Iliad, since they describe the war in

Italy, just as the Iliad talks about the Trojan War. For this

reason, there are two proems, or introductions, in the

Aeneid, with the first one in Book 1 and the second one in

Book 7. The Muse is invoked in Book 1 and is once again

invoked in Book 7 to commence the so-called “war books.”

In Book 7 of the Aeneid, Aeneas and his companions have

arrived at their destined land, Latium. It is Aeneas’ fate to

establish the new city for the Trojans in Latium as well as

to marry Lavinia, daughter of King Latinus, who is the king

of the Latins. Juno’s rage towards the Trojans is not yet

extinguished at this point. She knows that she cannot defeat

the fate of Trojans and Latins being united. Since she

6 Fratantuono (2007) 4.

7 Fratantuono (2007) xvii.

58


cannot tolerate the idea of the two groups living together in

harmony, she delays the Trojans from establishing their

city by instigating a war between the Trojans and Latins.

Book 7, paralleling Book 1, shows a wrathful Juno

seeking help from an individual to wreak chaos among the

Trojans. While Juno requests Aeolus’ help in Book 1 to stir

up a storm, this time she summons Allecto, one of the

Furies, to stir up a war between the Trojans and Latins. As

the “cruel wife of Jove” (saeva Iovis coniunx, 7.287), Juno

demands Allecto to “strike together her fertile breast, break

up the orderly peace, and sow the accusations of war”

(fecundum concute pectus, disice compositam pacem, sere

crimina belli, 7.338-339). The imperatives concute, disice,

and sere remind us of the commands which she gave to

Aeolus earlier. Once again, she is forceful in her speech, as

she desires to see the Trojans suffer.

Allecto sets off to incite Queen Amata, King

Latinus’ wife, to defy Aeneas and Lavinia’s impending

marriage. Allecto then provokes Turnus, who is Lavinia’s

Latin suitor, with the notion of Lavinia taking the hand of a

Trojan foreigner, Aeneas, in matrimony. Turnus is

exacerbated by Allecto’s instigation and prepares his army

to expel the Trojans from Latium. During this war, Turnus

kills one of Aeneas’ allies, Pallas, in Book 10. Aeneas,

59


aging over Pallas’ death, hunts for Turnus in the midst of

the Latin armies: “Seeking you, Turnus, proud of your

fresh slaughter, [Aeneas] mows down the nearest ones with

a sword and burning, drives a wide path through the army

with the sword” (proxima quaeque metit gladio latumque

per agmen ardens limitem agit ferro, te, Turne, superbum

caede nova quaerens, 10.513-515). Aeneas slaughters the

Latin soldiers as he tries to find Turnus. Verbs with the

connotation of anger, such as “rages” (desaevit, 10.569),

“raging” (furens, 10.604), and “rages” (furit, 10.802), are

used to describe Aeneas’ wrath. Aeneas appears to be an

extremely merciless man as he kills any Latin solider

whom he encounters in the battle.

Book 7 and Book 10 show that both Juno and

Aeneas are raging together at the same time. In a sense,

Juno’s rage provokes Aeneas’ rage. If the war (a result of

Juno’s anger) had never occurred, then Pallas would not

have died and Aeneas would not have raged. Their

simultaneous wrath will ultimately lead to the transference

of rage from Juno to Aeneas.

Juno’s rage is officially handed over to Aeneas in Book 12

of the Aeneid. Before the transference, we realize that Juno

understands that there is a limit to her rage. She knows that

her wrath is in vain because the Trojans are destined to

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establish a city in Latium. Nothing she plans will hinder

them from founding their city. She now turns her attention

to save Turnus’ life because she is afraid that Aeneas will

kill him. She tells Juturna, sister of Turnus, to help her

brother: “If you dare to do anything for your brother in

person, go on” (tu pro germano si quid praesentius audes,

perge, 12.152-153). The use of tu… si …audes implies that

Juno leaves Juturna to decide on her own if she should

rescue her brother. By allowing Juturna to choose on her

own, Juno shrewdly removes herself from the scene. She,

however, sounds more stringent when she uses imperatives

at the end of her conversation with Juturna: “Hasten and, if

there is a way, snatch your brother from death; or stir up

wars and reject the treaty, which they have taken up”

(accelera et fratrem, si quis modus, eripe morti; aut tu

bella cie conceptumque excute foedus, 12.157-158). The

imperatives remind us of Juno’s usual demanding self, but

this time, she uses a conditional statement si quis modus,

which she had never done when addressing Aeolus and

Allecto. Her conditional statement may suggest her

uncertainty of her own commands. Though she knows that

Turnus is fated to die at the hands of Aeneas, she still wants

to find a way to save him, that is, if it is possible. But, we,

as readers, know her plans are futile because “she can do no

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more.” 8 Her acknowledgment of her incompetence to do

anything more foreshadows her eventual detachment from

rage.

Juno rids herself of wrath at the end of her

conversation with Jupiter. The two speak of the Trojans’

future. Jupiter forbids Juno to meddle in the Trojans’

destiny and demands her to allow him to handle things

from this point forward. Towards the beginning of her

response to Jupiter, she says that she “unwilling, left

Turnus and the earth” (Turnum et terras invita reliqui,

12.809). She then states, “Now indeed I yield and I, hating,

leave the battles” (nunc cedo equidem pugnasque exosa

relinquo, 12.818). The verbs reliqui and relinquo are both

in first person, which imply that Juno is the subject as she

is actively leaving the scene on her own. However, she is

still “unwilling” (invita, 12. 809) and “hating” (exosa, 12.

818). Regardless, she is leaving and refraining from

causing more trouble among the Latins and Trojans. The

reluctance and hatred are still present, but she realizes that

she must relinquish because it is Jupiter’s “wish” (voluntas,

12.808) for her to disentangle herself from the war. When

she claims that she “indeed yields” (cedo equidem, 12.818),

“[she] freely admits defeat; she could be down on the

8 Fratantuono (2007) 372.

62


attlefield, fighting on behalf of Turnus and his Rutilians,

but instead she is only a spectator, watching the contest

from a cloudy perch.” 9 Juno proceeds to strike a deal with

Jupiter. She wants the Latins to keep their ancient name,

language, and clothing. Jupiter grants Juno her wish, and

she “agreed to these things, and rejoicing, she changed her

mind” (adnuit his Iuno et mentem laetata retorsit, 12.841).

Vergil also tells us that “she departs from the sky and

leaves the cloud” (excedit caelo nubemque relinquit,

12.842). The two aforementioned reliqui and relinquo are

accompanied by invita and exosa, but this final relinquit is

linked with laetata. Before, Juno was unwilling and hating.

Now, she is happy as she leaves. Relinquit, being the last

word of the sentence, provides us with an image that she

has evidently abandoned the war. This moment marks the

end of her rage as D.C. Feeney writes: “…[This is the]

definitive transformation of Juno, as she abandons her

enmity once and for all, committing herself wholeheartedly

to the Roman cause.” 10 She will no longer interfere with the

war.

9 Fratantuono (2007) 388.

10 D.C. Feeney, “The Reconciliations of Juno,” Classical Quarterly 34,

no. 1 (1984): 179.

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As soon as Juno rids herself of rage, Aeneas’ rage

rises towards its peak when he kills Turnus. Juno’s wrath

has been transferred over to Aeneas. Right after Juno

leaves, Aeneas “presses on” (instat, 12.867) with a “raging

heart” (saevo…pectore, 12.888). Saevo, which often

describes Juno (cf. saevae memorem Iunonis ob iram in 1.4

and saeva Iovis coniunx in 7.287), is now used to represent

Aeneas. Juno is now laetata while Aeneas rages. There is

also a huge contrast between relinquit and instat. Juno

leaves and now Aeneas presses on. Instat suggests that

Aeneas is actively pursuing Turnus, and it accentuates the

Trojan hero’s determination to kill him. Careful scrutiny of

the words relinquit, instat, and saevo allows us to detect the

transference of Juno’s rage to Aeneas.

Aeneas continues to rage throughout the end of the

Aeneid. He “stood, fierce in his arms” (stetit acer in armis,

12.938) before Turnus. When he notices Pallas’ sword-belt

on Turnus’ shoulder, he is “inflamed by furies and terrible

in his anger” (furiis accensus et ira terribilis, 12.946-947).

At last, he “burning, buries his sword under the opposite

chest” (ferrum adverso sub pectore condit fervidus, 12.950-

951) and kills Turnus. Acer, furiis accensus, ira terribilis,

and fervidus all refer to the wrath of Aeneas. Putnam also

makes an interesting point when he believes that the “verb

64


of Aeneas’ final question, eripiare (‘Are you to be snatched

from me,’ 12.948), furthers the impression of madness.” 11

Aeneas’ burning wrath makes him want to be the sole killer

of Turnus. His anger has risen to the point that he cannot

afford to let Turnus escape from death.

Aeneas’ hatred towards Turnus urges him to kill his enemy.

Turnus begs of Aeneas, “Don’t extend with hatred farther”

(ulterius ne tende odiis, 12.938). According to Galinsky,

Turnus’ plea “insinuates that Aeneas is acting out of

odiis.” 12 It is a valid idea because Aeneas has every reason

to despise Turnus for killing Pallas. Thus, Aeneas reveals

his hatred when he slays Turnus. Aeneas’ abhorrence may

direct our attention towards Juno’s abomination in Book 1.

She tells Aeolus of her enmity towards the Trojan race, “a

hateful race to me” (gens inimica mihi, 1.67). It is

animosity that causes Juno to rage and to wreak havoc upon

the Trojans. Aeneas’ malice, likewise, triggers him to rage

and to murder Turnus. Juno’s hatred, as the initial cause of

rage, has been passed on to Aeneas.

The phrase furiis accensus, which describes Aeneas

when he sees Pallas’ sword-belt on Turnus’ shoulder, is

also used to depict the Latin women in Book 7. Allecto

11 Putnam (1995) 159.

12 G.K. Galinsky, “The Anger of Aeneas,” The American Journal of

Philology 109, no. 3 (1988): 334.

65


infuriates Queen Amata and impels her to rage about the

future marriage of her daughter, Lavina, to Aeneas. All the

Latin mothers, after being informed by rumor, react

similarly. They are “inflamed by furies in their heart”

(furiisque accensas pectore, 7.392). It is not coincidental

that the Latin women in Book 7 and Aeneas in Book 12 are

described with furiisque accensas and furiis accensus,

respectively. There is a connection of these Latin women to

the wrathful goddess. Juno, whose rage is still at its peak in

Book 7, drives Queen Amata and the Latin women to be in

a state of frenzy and to oppose the marriage of Lavinia to

Aeneas. In other words, the Latin women are furiisque

accensas because of Juno’s wrath. Juno’s rage, once again,

has been handed over to Aeneas. The feminine accensas,

which once belonged to Juno, is now transferred over to the

masculine accensus to speak of Aeneas’s rage in Book 12.

In a broader sense, the gradual transference of rage

from Juno to Aeneas can be viewed in terms of a storm. In

Book 1, raging Juno demands Aeolus to stir up a storm to

wreak the Trojans. Aeolus listens to her and brings forth a

storm at sea: “Winds, just as a battle line has been made,

rush upon and blow over the earth…and thick with storms,

they rush upon…and they roll over the vast waves to the

shore,” (venti, velut agmine facto…ruunt et terras turbine

66


perflant…ruunt creberque procellis…et vastos volvunt ad

litora fluctus, 1.82-86). This storm is the result of Juno’s

wrath, and it is transferred to Aeneas in Book 12. Vergil

uses a storm simile to depict Aeneas’ behavior in war: “Just

as when a rain-storm…goes to the lands…it will give ruins

to the trees and slaughter to the crops, it will ruin

everything far and wide…” (qualis ubi ad terras…nimbus

it…dabit ille ruinas arboribus stragemque satis, ruet omnia

late…, 12.451-455). Aeneas picks up the storm (and thus

Juno’s anger) from Book 1 and he himself becomes the

storm in Book 12. He, like the violent storm, will bring

ruinas as well as stragem to his enemies. He “will ruin

everything far and wide” (ruet omnia late, 12.455). He, as

the raging storm, searches for Turnus to fight with him. It is

important, though, to observe that Aeneas’ storm simile

takes place before Juno’s abandonment of rage. Therefore,

in lines 451-455 of Book 12, Juno has not yet completely

given up her fury. It is in 12. 842 (excedit caelo nubemque

relinquit) when the transference of rage occurs.

The theme of rage frames the Aeneid. The epic

poem begins with the divine wrath of Juno and ends with

the mortal wrath of Aeneas. At the beginning, Aeneas is the

victim of Juno’s fury. As Juno rids herself of her rage in

Book 12, Aeneas picks up her rage and rages himself.

67


Juno’s anger becomes Aeneas’ anger. We are left with the

image of a wrathful Aeneas as we finish the poem. Being

the last one to rage in the Aeneid, Aeneas’ wrath creates a

lasting impression for his readers, making his rage more

memorable. By concluding with fury, Vergil sets the tone

of what the future would be like for Rome. It is hostility

that establishes Rome and it is this hostility that will stir up

civil wars in Rome. After all, Roman governance was not

always known as the Pax Romana.

68


Bibliography

Feeney, D.C. “The Reconciliations of Juno.”

Classical Quarterly 34, no. 1 (1984): 179-194.

Fratantuono, Lee. Madness Unchained: A Reading

Of Virgil’s Aeneid. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington

Books, 2007.

Galinsky, G.K. “The Anger of Aeneas.” The

American Journal of Philology 109, no. 3

(1988): 321-348.

Putnam, Michael C.J. Virgil’s Aeneid: Interpretation

and Influence. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: The

University of North Carolina Press, 1995.

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Parthenon

Photo by Christine Roughan

70


Folklore and Superstition in Petronius’ Satyricon

Deborah Sokolowski, 2014

_____________________________________________

Written during the 1st century A.D., the Satyricon is

often referred to as the first Roman novel. Most scholars

agree that the language and structure of the novel are

constant with writing of the second half of the first century

A.D. and thus attribute it to Petronius Arbiter, possibly the

arbiter elegentiae of the Emperor Nero’s court. The novel

has only survived for us in fragments, and for this reason it

is impossible for the modern reader to reconstruct its plot

completely. However, the Satyricon serves as an invaluable

source of information about the daily life and language of

the Roman populace. Petronius deliberately reproduces

plebeian language and slang, offering a rare insight into

everyday Roman life, which polished and refined works

leave absent.

One particular section of the novel, referred to as

the Cena Trimalchionis, describes an elaborate dinner party

hosted by Trimalchio, an immigrant businessman who

gained riches in Rome without gaining any elegance or

71


education fit for a true aristocrat. Since this section has

been preserved more completely than the other fragmentary

chapters of the novel, its recurring themes and motifs are

able to develop more fully and be more closely understood

as Petronius had originally intended. Scholars have

interpreted different chapters and scenes of the Cena as

highlighting the vast social gap between Rome’s crass

liberti, or freed slaves, and the well-educated scholastici

whom they desperately sought to mimic. Although this

theme appears consistently throughout the Cena’s entirety,

it is particularly evident in the bizarre superstitions of

Trimalchio and his belief in folklore. P.G. Walsh concludes

from his study of the novel that “Petronius had doubtless

observed how large a part these tendencies play in the lives

of many self-made men [like Trimalchio].” 1 In order to

fully understand and appreciate Petronius’ satire in these

instances, one must first have some grasp on their

significance in antiquity.

Trimalchio’s words and actions throughout the

cena, or dinner, scene evince his inability to understand

superstition. This becomes clear to the reader before

Agamemnon’s party even enters the dining room. Before

1. P.G. Walsh, The Roman Novel (London: Cambridge University

Press, 1970), 132.

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crossing over the threshold, “one of [Trimalchio’s] slaves,

who was stationed there for this duty, shouted ‘Right foot

first!’” (exclamavit unus ex pueris, qui super hoc officium

erat positus “dextro pede,” 30.5). The taboo that it was

unlucky to begin a journey or step with the left foot first

was one generally accepted by lower class citizens as well

as Rome’s leading men; Augustus himself was said to have

considered it ill-omened to put on his left shoe before the

right (Suetonius, De vita Caesarum II.92.1). However,

Trimalchio, in his typical ostentatious fashion, takes

precaution against superstition to a ridiculous extent. He

seeks to avert any possibility of ill-omen not only for

himself but for his dinner guests. Trimalchio gives one of

his slaves the officium of barking admonitions to those

about to cross the threshold. Petronius’ word choice of

officium mocks Trimalchio’s dramatic fear of superstition.

The word, literally meaning “duty,” was a crucial and

serious aspect of the mos maiorum for citizens to fulfill

their political and religious duties. A citizen was bound and

obliged by the mos maiorum, or customs of his ancestors,

to carry out his officium for the sake of the Roman state.

Petronius employs the word ironically in this context, using

officium to describe a trivial duty. Petronius uses

Trimalchio’s vulgarity and inability to learn an

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understanding of such a common superstition to scoff at the

ignorance of Rome’s freedmen.

Another example of Trimalchio’s misunderstanding

of superstition comes just a few chapters later. His

histrionic entrance into the dining room is as ridiculous as

the rest of his words and actions. The sight of Trimlachio

being carried on a litter among little pillows “squeezed out

laughter from his unsuspecting guests” (expressit

imprudentibus risum, 32.2). Agamemnon, Encolpius, and

Ascyltos claim repeatedly that free dining and

entertainment is their only reason for attending the banquet

and putting up with Trimalchio’s excessive behavior.

Throughout the cena they tolerate his ridiculous tricks and

antics. Many of the guests laugh at their host as well.

Trimalchio is described as “with a shaven head protruding

from a scarlet dressing-gown, and round his neck draped

with a muffler he had thrust a napkin with a broad purple

stripe and fringes dangling from it all round” (pallio enim

coccineo adrasum excluserat caput circaque oneratas veste

cervices laticlaviam immiserat mappam fimbriis hinc atque

illinc pendentibus, 32.2). His appearance and dress would

seem odd even to modern readers. Not only does

Agamemnon’s party sneer at Trimalchio’s appearance, but

the freedmen at the table take notice. His vulgarity is

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evident to even the most imprudent guests. Among other

jewelry, Trimalchio is shown wearing two gold rings: one

“massive gilt ring” (grandem sublauratum, 32.4), the other

“inlaid with iron bits, as if they were stars” (ferreis velut

stellis ferruminatum, 32.4). The etching of stars on a piece

of jewelry was commonly found on Roman amulets to

ward off the evil eye. 2 According to Pliny, the right to wear

a gold ring was mainly confined to free-born equestrians

(Naturalis Historia 33.32). Trimalchio not only

acknowledges this, but actually celebrates his rise to riches

as a former slave. By wearing a ring that denotes an

equestrian heritage, Trimalchio shows yet again his

ignorance of social propriety.

The ghost stories which Niceros, one of

Trimalchio’s dinner guests, and Trimalchio tell at the

dinner table are the most extensive and revealing examples

of their understandings of superstition. Prior to their

fabulae, or stories, the dinner conversation consists mostly

of the freedmen guests discussing mundane, personal topics

and issues affecting their class in Rome. Each topic

addressed reflects its speaker’s personal interests in life and

their subsequent secondary role in society. The liberti begin

2. F.H. Marshall, Catalogue of the Finger Rings, Greek, Etruscan and

Roman, in the Department of Antiquities, British Museum (London:

Oxford University Press, 1907), xxiii.

75


y telling stories about local acquaintances and friends,

who they know or have known personally. The

conversation develops a more serious tone when

Ganymedes reproaches corrupt magistrates in the city and

his personal afflictions from steeply increasing bread

prices. Echion reverts back to mundane topics, commenting

on an upcoming gladiatorial contest and games. So far,

their comments seem to be little more than gossip and small

talk common at social gatherings. Grecisms, slang, and

proverbial phrases are rampant throughout. This sort of

vulgar Latin spoken by the freedmen further demonstrates

the social gap between themselves and their audience of

scholastici.

Later in the scene the same Echion, a lowly

centonarius, or rag-merchant, scorns Agammenon, saying,

“You're not of our stock and so you laugh at poor men's

conversation” (non es notrae fasciae et ideo pauperorum

verba derides, 46.1). Clearly, Agammemnon’s facial

expressions throughout the conversation have shown such

noticeable disgust that Echion confronts him. The tension

between the guests evolves and is acknowledged explicitly

from this point. Agamemnon, Ascyltos, and Encolpius

reach the point at which they are no longer able to restrain

their sneers at the vulgarity of their company. Ascyltos in

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particular laughs “to the point of tears” (ad lacrimas, 57.1),

enraging Echion so much that he berates the scholastici as a

rude and snobbish class. His tireless defense of his role in

society as a freedman proves that Echion acknowledges the

intellectual disparity between men of both classes.

Petronius’ placement of the two ghost stories

immediately after rather than before these conversations

offers insight to his reason for including them in his work

at all. Their significance to the novel must also be to

contribute to Petronius’ contrast between liberti and

scholastici. These two tales, though brief in length, are two

of the few fully preserved from Roman folklore that

survive today. Difficulties in understanding their meaning

arise from a scarcity of information about folklore and the

role it played in Roman daily life. These stories or others

similar were surely familiar to Petronius’ audience, since

even two freedmen were able to recite them from memory.

The inclusion of such common tales would have helped his

readers easily identify his irony. However, many of these

jokes and puns are lost on the modern reader. To discern

Petronius’ intended ironies and mockery in these short

fabulae, the origins of Roman folklore must first be

examined for a better understanding.

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“The conservative character of agricultural customs

has made them the richest field of superstitions in modern

Folklore. This rule holds good for antiquity also.” 3 Rome’s

agricultural origins from its foundation explain why both of

Petronius’ fabulae take place in pastoral settings: the

werewolf of Niceros’ tale devours a flock of sheep, while

Trimalchio claims to have witnessed the witches he

describes while a slave on his master’s country estate.

Rustic qualities found in ancient folklore would have

appealed greatly to the freedmen as described earlier in the

Cena, most of whose duties were working on large estates.

Trimalchio describes his vast estate with “four dining-

rooms, twenty bed-rooms, two marble colonnades, a store-

room upstairs, a bed-room where I sleep myself, a sitting-

room for this viper, a very good room for the porter, a

guest-chamber for visitors” (quattuor cenationes, cubicula

viginti, porticus marmoratos duos, susum cenationem,

cubiculum in quo ipse dormio, viperae huius sessorium,

ostiarii cellam perbonam, hospitium hospites capit, 77.4).

He claims to raise his own livestock and grow his own

crops, including a vineyard. It can be assumed that an estate

of such magnitude could not possibly fit inside the bustling,

3. Ernst Riess, "On Ancient Superstition," Transactions of the

American Philological Association 26 (1895): 40-55.

78


crowded city of Rome. Furthermore, since he inherited his

estate from his former master (76.2), Trimalchio would

have spent his slave life tending to the fields. Thus, the

ghost stories which serve as entertainment for city-dwellers

would have seemed much more real to Trimalchio and

Niceros, a former slave as well. This may also explain why

tales so obviously mythical to the upper classes would have

seemed real to slaves and former slaves.

Another possibility of why freedmen were more

prone to believing these tales could be their Greek roots.

Pliny dedicates an entire chapter of his Natural History to

the origin of the werewolf tale. He relates Greek folklore

and superstitions about werewolves popularly still retold by

his peers. However, Pliny prefaces those, which he is about

to relate, with this warning:

“That men have been turned into wolves, and again

restored to their original form, we must confidently look

upon as untrue, unless, indeed, we are ready to believe all

the tales, which, for so many ages, have been found to be

fabulous” (Nat. 34.2-3).

After narrating several superstitions and tales, Pliny

slanders Greek veracity, dryly remarking, “It is really

wonderful to what a length the credulity of the Greeks will

go! There is no falsehood, if ever so barefaced, to which

79


some of them cannot be found to bear testimony” (Nat.

34.8). His aspersion on the Greek people can be applied to

the Greco-loving Niceros and especially Trimalchio. Both

freedmen pause several times during their narrations to

reaffirm to their guests the truth and honesty of their words.

Niceros’ preface to his werewolf story diminishes its

credibility before he even begins. He acknowledges his fear

of being ridiculed when he says, “I’m afraid that those

well-educated men will laugh at me” (timeo istos

scholasticos ne me ridant, 61.4). When Trimalchio

implores Niceros to tell the tale about the experience he

had, the reader can infer that Niceros has recited this tale

many times previously. Perhaps someone of his past

audiences has mocked him or debunked his story. It also

proves that not all Romans believed in these types of

folklore, or at least that some were wary in believing. When

he finally agrees and is narrating the story, Niceros

interrupts himself to again assure his doubtful listeners’

faith, saying, “Don't think that I'm joking: I would not tell a

lie for even a great inheritance” (Nolite me iocari putare: ut

mentiar nullius patrimonium tanti facio, 62.5). One can

infer that the faces of Agamemnon, Ascyltos, and

Encolpius must be wearing mistrusting expressions after

Niceros finishes his bizarre tale with the words. He

80


concludes that “others can see what they want to take out

from this story. If I am lying, I will have to face your angry

geniuses” (viderint alii quid de hoc exopinissent. Ego si

mentior, genios vestros iratos habeam, 62.14). Niceros,

whose name itself echoes Greek origin, displays the same

deceitful quality that Pliny attributes to the Greeks.

However, this does not necessarily mean that

Niceros knowingly tells his audience a fabrication. Instead

it is more likely that he is rustic who truly believes it to be

the truth. His naivety protrudes through his description of

his relationship with Melissa, a woman in his story who he

tries to woo. Niceros claims that his attraction was not

physical or sexual, but rather for her good nature (61.7).

This may be Petronius making an ironic jab at his

foolishness, especially when Niceros insists that any money

he gave to Melissa she returned back to him. Her scolding

of him for arriving too late to save her flock also reveals

her dominance of Niceros. Therefore Niceros, the ignorant

libertus, foolishly believes this folktale to all degrees.

Petronius uses this tale to convey the feeble-mindedness

and gullibility of Rome’s lower classes.

Following Niceros’ example, Trimalchio’s witch

tale shares many similar qualities. In his preface,

Trimalchio reaffirms the validity of not only his own story

81


ut vouches for Niceros as well. He implores his audience

to believe their tales and take them in good faith (63.1). His

exaggerated description of the Cappadocian brute who

“was able to lift a bull” (poterat boven tollere, 63.5)

diminishes Trimalchio’s credibility as a reliable storyteller.

The line resounds the godlike strength of heroes from

Greek mythology, about whom Trimlachio has already

proven to be ignorant. Nevertheless, the witches of

Trimalchio’s tale were believed to be real by many Romans

at the time.

Countless examples of witches still survive in other

works of Latin literature. Even Apuelius dedicates three

substantial scenes to them in his novel, Asinus Aureus.

Although written sometime in the mid-2nd century A.D.,

Apuelius’ witches hold little in common with those in

Trimalchio’s tale. The witches described by Apuelius hold

“love as their primary concern, as usual with the witches of

Latin tradition. Witches’ magical powers, whatever their

sort, are employed primarily in the service of love.” 4 All

three of his scenes involving witches follow the same basic

pattern: man meets witch, though at the time unaware of

her magical powers; then, because of some type of slander,

4. Daniel Ogden, Magic, Witchcraft, and Ghosts in the Greek and

Roman Worlds: a Sourcebook (Oxford: Oxford University Press,

2002), 135-136.

82


she punishes him with either a spell or death. This is in

stark contrast with Trimalchio’s witches, who appear for

only a brief moment in time before vanishing. They appear

undisguised and in their natural form. Even his story’s end,

the witches’ reason for abducting the body of a dead boy

from his wake and turning it into a bundle of straw (63.4-8)

still remains unknown. The witches in Trimalchio’s tale

have no dialogue with any humans. Moreover, their only

interaction with the living at all comes when the

Cappadocian brute pierces one of the women through with

his sword (63.6). Witches were also thought to possess the

ability to shape-shift, resonant of the etymology of the

word strix, which probably derived from another ill-

omened word, strix, strigis, meaning “a screech owl

supposed to suck the blood of children in the cradle.” 5

Trimalchio’s exclamation that, “women have too

much knowledge, are nocturnal, and flip things upside

down” (sunt mulieres plussciae, sunt nocturnae, et quod

sursum est, deorsum faciunt, 63.9) is one that many

Romans may have truly feared. Men of higher rank would

have constantly feared their power being threatened by the

oppressed in society: women, freedmen, and slaves.

5. R.P. Leverett, Lexicon of the Latin Language, an Etymological Index

(Philadelphia: J.B. Lippinscott Company, 1889), 850.

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Although these resentful groups could never form an

uprising great enough to overthrow them militarily, stories

about witches’ superhuman powers would have offered

them an easier, more subtle, way to rebel against authority.

For this reason, many powerful men in Rome would have

cowered at the possible existence of the powers of the

witches that Trimalchio tells. Trimalchio’s own fearful

comment represents the notion that women wielding power

over men was unsettling to the Roman culture. Thus, a

witch was feared as a real threat because she possessed a

power superior to even an emperor. Pliny reaffirms this

idea, stating that “there is no one who is not afraid of

spells” (Nat. 28.4). However, Trimalchio’s version of a

witch tale does not comply with the common themes of all

other surviving examples in Latin literature. Therefore,

though belief in witchcraft was more widely accepted than

that in werewolves, Trimalchio jumbles his facts as usual

and his story turns into a mockery.

Continuing to botch the rituals associated with

common Roman superstitions, Trimalchio’s obsession with

superstition grows more evident as the Cena unfolds. When

a cock crows (gallus gallinaceus cantavit, 73.6), he

responds to the ill-omen with more excessively cautionary

measures. According to Pliny, if a cock’s crow portended a

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fire, water was poured under the table (Nat. 28.26).

Petronius continues his mockery of Trimalchio’s vulgarity

as a liberti through his ostentatious order that “wine must

be poured under the table” (vinum sub mesa…effundi,

74.1). He turns the universal precaution that Rome’s elite

would have deemed appropriate into a ridiculous blunder.

As his fellow freedmen at the table are astonished by his

show of wealth in his pouring wine, the scholastici see

through Trimalchio and his poor attempt to imitate social

decorum of the upper class. His superstitiousness is

emphasized so greatly by his elaborate and morbid

planning of his funeral that the dinner guests cannot bear to

endure it any longer. No free meal is worth tolerating

Trimalchio’s ridiculous antics.

Encolpius’, Ascyltos’, and Giton’s escape from the

Cena affirms the social rift between Rome’s liberti and

scholastici. They stand in stark contrast to Trimalchio and

his other guests, composed of mostly freedmen. Petronius

begins his novel with speeches in Agamemnon’s oratory

school about the decline of knowledge and morality in

Rome. Through Agamemnon’s speech, Petronius blames

the deterioration of oratory on ambitious parents who

behave much like Trimalchio. He says that they “push their

children into the forum and into eloquence” (in forum

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pellunt et eloquentiam, 4.1). Trimalchio also believes that

eloquence is the ultimate goal for being successful and

polite. However, as seen in his ridiculous interpretations of

superstition, Trimalchio proves that wealth does not buy

social etiquette. Instead, it must be diligently studied and

learned by freedmen and slaves who were never introduced

to such proper behavior. Petronius elaborates on

Agamemnon’s argument throughout the entirety of his

Cena Trimalchionis chapters. By juxtaposing the educated

characters of Agamemnon’s party with socially ignorant

freedmen like Trimalchio and the rest of his guests,

Petronius mocks the absurd behavior of what must have

been common for former slaves who suddenly acquire

wealth. One may gain all the treasures in the world,

Petronius argues, but no amount of sesterces could ever be

sufficient to buy social decorum. Roman superstition, in

moderation, was socially appropriate and even necessary to

appease the gods. In his novel, Petronius mocks, among

many other aspects of Roman life, the ignorance of

freedmen and their vulgar attempt to assimilate into high

society.

86


Bibliography

Leverett, R.P. Lexicon of the Latin Language, an

Etymological Index. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippinscott

Company, 1889.

Marshall, F.H. Catalogue of the Finger Rings, Greek,

Etruscan and Roman, in the Department of

Antiquities, British Museum. London: Oxford

University Press, 1907.

Ogden, Daniel. Magic, Witchcraft, and Ghosts in the Greek

and Roman Worlds: a Sourcebook. Oxford: Oxford

University Press, 2002.

Petronius. The Satyricon. Translated by Patrick Gerard. Ox

ford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Plinius Secundus. The Natural Histories of Pliny the Elder.

Translated by P. L. Chambers. Norman: University

of Oklahoma, 2000.

Riess, Ernst. "On Ancient Superstition." Transactions of

the American Philological Association 26 (1895):

40-55.

Suetonius. The Lives of the Twelve Caesars. Translated by

Joseph Gavorse. New York: Modern Library, 1931.

Walsh, P.G. The Roman Novel. London: Cambridge

University Press, 1970.

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Pella Agora

Photo by Christine Roughan

89


The Complexities of Surviving Under a Bad Emperor:

The Many Meanings of Virtus in Tacitus’s Agricola

Anne Salloom, 2014

________________________________________________

In Agricola, Tacitus narrates a laudatory biography

of his father-in-law’s life and service to the Roman state.

He describes Agricola’s early life and political and military

career, cumulating in his governorship and conquest of

Britain, which he achieved through military victories and

by bringing Roman civilization to the natives. Following

his recall by the malicious and jealous emperor Domitian,

as Tacitus characterizes him, Agricola dies young, at the

age of 53 in A.D. 93. In the opening to his work, Tacitus

clearly states the theme of his biography as the preservation

of “excellence,” “virtue,” or virtus. 1 He uses the word four

times in the introduction alone, and the word occurs a total

of 27 times in the entire work. However, despite the

frequency of the word’s use, the precise definition of virtus

1 Throughout this paper, I have chosen to translate the Latin word virtus

as “virtue.” In English, the word virtue can take on many different

meanings. Since the Latin word has multiple meanings, and it is often

futile to try to pin down Tacitus’s use of virtus to one definition, as I

will demonstrate, I have used “virtue” to avoiding implying that virtus

has only one, clear definition in my translations.

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emains unclear. While the word often indicates traditional

values, Tacitus frequently uses virtus to connote non-

traditional principles of behavior. Further, the word

sometimes takes on not just a single meaning, but several at

once. In Agricola, virtus indicates several different and

sometimes contradictory meanings, according to the

context it is used in. While there is no one way to define the

word, the ambiguity of its meaning echoes the confused

state of virtus that Tacitus perceived in his time. Yet,

despite the difficulty of comprehending Tacitus’s use of

virtus, the word remains a key to understanding Agricola’s

character and the work as a whole. In this paper, I will

explore the understanding of the word virtus in scholarship

and apply these understandings to Tacitus’s specific use of

the word in Agricola. I will demonstrate how Tacitus’s use

of the word presents the reader with several different,

contradictory definitions, and explore the implications of

this confused understanding of virtus for the work as a

whole.

I. Virtus in Scholarship

While the Oxford Latin Dictionary gives insight

into how classical authors generally used virtus, it does not

always help the reader to understand the specific

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connotations of the word in a particular context. The

Oxford Latin Dictionary gives three definitions of virtus

that are relevant to the word’s use in Agricola. The first

definition entry defines virtus as “the qualities typical of a

true man, manly spirit, resolution, valor, steadfastness, or

similar” and these qualities “especially as displayed in war

and other contests” (OLD 1, 1b). This entry aligns with the

traditional meaning of virtus, as other scholars define the

word in its Republican sense and usage. 2 For example,

Donald Earl explains that “virtus, for the Republican noble,

consisted in the winning of personal preeminence and glory

by the commission of great deeds in the service of the

Roman state.” 3 Likewise, Myles McDonnell stresses that

“physical prowess or courage, especially as displayed in

war, remained that central element of manliness [virtus]

throughout the Republican period and into the Empire. This

both corresponds to the highly militaristic nature of Roman

2 A good example of virtus used in this Republican sense in another

author is in Caesar’s Gallic War: “A part of the military men, after the

enemy had withdrawn because of their virtue, arrived in camp

unharmed” (Militum pars horum virtute summotis hostibus praeter

spem incolumis in castra pervenit, 6.40.8). For other examples of virtus

used in this sense, see Caesar, Gallic War 2.27.2; Sallust, The

Catilinarian Conspiracy 20.9; and Cicero, Against Verres 5.1.

3 Donald Earl, The Moral and Political Tradition of Rome (Ithaca:

Cornell University Press, 1967), 21.

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Republican society and is supported by usage.” 4 A recent

Roman history textbook, A History of the Roman People,

also emphasizes that “the need for every able-bodied armed

man to fight in the army produced a warrior ethos that

made military valor particularly salient in the Roman

concept of virtue.” 5 Based on these four definitions,

traditional, Republican virtus consisted of great deeds done

for the state, especially in war. Notably, this definition

concretely enumerates the specific qualities that virtus

encompasses. Other entries define virtus as “excellence of

character or mind, worth, merit, ability, etc.” (OLD 2) and

“moral excellence, virtue, goodness” (OLD 3). These

entries do not define the specific qualities that the word

encompasses. They instead use the abstract word

“excellence” to avoid a more specific definition of the

word, which would explain the precise ways in which a

man can be excellent, as the Republican definition does.

Thus, when virtus is not used in its traditional sense,

4 Myles McDonnell, “Roman Men and Greek Virtue,” in Andreia:

Studies in Manliness and Courage in Classical Antiquity, ed. Ralph M.

Rosen and Ineke Sluiter (Boston: Brill, 2003), 236.

5 Allen M. Ward, Fritz M. Heichelheim, and Cedric M. Yeo, A History

of the Roman People, 5 th ed. (Boston: Prentice Hall, 2010), 53.

93


denoting Republican values, it becomes difficult to define

the specific values or qualities that it encompasses.

Accordingly, because of the difficulty in

enumerating the specific qualities inherent in virtus, many

modern authors have presented varied definitions of the

word in Tacitus. Ronald Syme writes that “‘Virtus’, though

watered down by some moralists, retained for the Romans

its primary meaning of courage and energy,” 6 presenting a

meaning of the word basically synonymous with its

Republican meaning. However, Ronald Martin states that

Tacitus uses the word with more diversity in meaning. He

writes that “though many of the societal values that the

Republic had cultivated had necessarily been modified or

downgraded under the Principate, the idea of public service

publically recognized, which is inherent in the concept of

virtus, persisted,” 7 accounting for different meanings that

the word had taken on, while still stressing the concept of

public service done for the state. Finally, A.R. Birley

directly acknowledges the many different meanings that

virtus takes on throughout the work, pointing out that the

6

Ronald Syme, Tacitus, vol. 2 (London: Oxford University Press,

1958), 526.

7

Ronald Martin, Tacitus (Berkeley: University of California Press,

1981), 41.

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word sometimes takes on a military sense, and sometimes

describes character traits:

Various virtutes are specified throughout the work.

Near its end, referring to the time, some five years

after Agricola had retired, when there was a series

of military disasters, Tacitus writes that ‘everyone

was comparing his energy, steadfastness and spirit

schooled in warfare with the inaction and timidity

of others’ (41.2). Then very different qualities are

emphasized: ‘moderation,’ moderatio, and ‘good

sense,’ prudentia, and, in the ‘outburst’ already

quoted, obsequium and modestia are praised-

provided that they are combined with industria and

vigor (42.4). 8

Instead of attempting to lump the many meanings of virtus

under one definition and forcing this reading onto all uses

of the word, Birley notes that different definitions occur in

different contexts. Moreover, while he does not explicitly

state the separation, he has drawn an important distinction

8 A.R. Birley, “The Agricola,” In The Cambridge Companion to

Tacitus, ed. A.J. Woodman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,

2009), 49-50.

95


etween the different uses of virtus: its use in a military

sense, and its use in other senses.

II. The Usage of Virtus in Agricola

This division of the word’s function provides a

helpful framework for looking at how virtus takes on

different meanings depending on its specific, contextual

usage. Dividing the uses of virtus into instances where

Tacitus employs the word in a primarily military sense and

a primarily non-military sense broadly accounts for all of

the different meanings that the word can take on. The word

has a primarily military definition in 11.5, 15.5, 17.3, 23.1,

27.1, 27.3, 29.4, 31.4, 32.1, 33.2, 33.4, 37.3, and 39.3. All

of these uses of the word occur in the middle sections of the

work, either during or in reference to Agricola’s

governorship of Britain. In these instances, virtus takes on

the traditional, Republican meaning of the word, since in

this context virtus refers to military exploits and skill,

ideally executed and accomplished for the state. For

example, when Tacitus writes about the Britons, he reports

that “the Gauls were prosperous in war; soon sloth entered

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with peace, when military excellence [virtus] was lost

equally with liberty” (Nam Gallos quoque in bellis floruis;

mox segnitia cum otio intravit, amissa virtute pariter ac

libertate, 11.5). Also, when discussing the conquest of

Britain, Tacitus writes that “Julius Frontinus… subjugated

the strong and warlike race of the Silures with arms, when

he overcame the military excellence [virtus] of the enemies,

and the difficulties of the land” (Iulius Frontinus…

validamque et pugnacem Silurum gentem armis subegit,

super virtutem hostium locorum quoque difficultates

eluctatus, 17.3). In these cases, the word virtus clearly

means something close to “military excellence”; the

sentence does not make sense with another meaning of the

word. However, the word has a primarily non-military

meaning in the rest of its uses in the work, specifically at

1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 4.1, 8.2, 8.3, 9.4, 9.5, 40.4, 41.1, 44.3, and

46.1, when it is not used in the context of Britain. In these

sections, virtus does not primarily refer to Republican

values, but it rather takes on new, non-traditional meanings.

The opening sentence of Agricola illustrates the

complex nature of the word virtus in this work. Tacitus

writes that even in his present age, writers compose

histories “as often as some great and noble virtue has

conquered and has overcome a fault common to small and

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great states, ignorance of what is right and envy”

(…quotiens magna aliqua ac nobilis virtus vicit ac

supergressa est vitium parvis magnisque civitatibus

commune, ignorantiam recti et invidiam, 1.1). Here,

Tacitus suggests that virtue is something that can overcome

various faults, specifically ignorance of right and envy.

However, Tacitus does not clarify exactly which qualities

virtus encompasses or how he defines the word. In this

instance the word could take on a whole host of meanings;

the author does not specify any particular qualities that can

conquer these vague faults. Likewise, the other uses of the

virtus in the introductory paragraph contain ambiguous

definitions of the word (1.2, 1.3, 1.4). While the context of

the word in later passages does help to define it more

specifically, Tacitus’s vague use of virtus in the first

sentence of the work fittingly characterizes his employment

of the word throughout Agricola, presenting the reader with

many, sometimes contradictory, uses of the word.

To begin with, Tacitus uses virtus in a more easily

definable manner in chapter eight, employing the word in a

primarily non-military sense, although it still has

undertones of its Republican definition. While describing

Agricola’s talents in war, he writes that Agricola “by his

virtue in following, by his modesty in proclaiming, was

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eyond hatred, but not beyond glory” (Ita virtute in

obsequendo, verecundia in praedicando extra invidiam nec

extra gloriam erat, 8.3). Although this section occurs in the

context of discussing Agricola’s military talents, Agricola’s

qualities are not associated with the traditional military

skills of Republican virtue. Rather, Tacitus states that

Agricola achieved glory through obedience and modesty.

However, since this passage does occur in the context of

military life, the word virtus still reminds the reader of its

traditional connotations, especially because the reader

knows that Agricola also possessed great military skill. 9

Likewise, when Tacitus says in the same section that in

Britain, under the leadership of Petilius Cerialis, Agricola’s

“virtues had a space of display” (habuerunt virtutes

spatium exemplorum, 8.2), it is unclear exactly what virtues

Tacitus refers to. He could be referencing Agricola’s

military ability or his talents in appropriately obeying

authority and confining himself to modesty. Thus, Tacitus

suggests two definitions of virtus here, primarily redefining

the word as obedience and modesty, while it still has

undertones of its traditional meaning.

9 Agricola’s skill in war is the subject of sections 18-28. Any reader of

the work would realize that Agricola was a competent military leader.

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Likewise, Tacitus uses the word virtus in a similar

way later in the work, when discussing Agricola’s behavior

after Domitian recalled him from Britain. Following his

recall, “to dilute his [Agricola’s] military name, unpopular

among civilians, with other virtues, he drank leisure deeply,

he was modest in his dress, he was easy in his speech, he

was joined by one or two of his friends…(Ceterum uti

militare nomen, grave inter otiosos, aliis virtutibus

temperaret tranquillitatem atque otium penitus hausit, cultu

modicus, sermone facilis, uno aut altero amicorum

comitatus….40.4). Here, Tacitus clearly presents multiple

definitions for the word virtus. Yet, he includes military

success as one of Agricola’s virtues. Tacitus’s use of the

word “other” (alius) indicates that he considers military

skill to be only one of the many virtues that Agricola

possesses. Tacitus also lists modesty and adherence to the

norm, by avoiding activities that might be hostile to the

emperor, as virtues that Agricola has. Once again, Tacitus

presents a complex definition of virtus, giving the word

several different meanings.

Similarly, Tacitus presents a complicated definition

of virtus in relation to Agricola’s character in section nine.

However, in this passage, Tacitus presents the primary

meaning of virtus as one that contradicts the Republican

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ideal, rather than one that has undertones of it. Tacitus

discusses Agricola’s character in office, writing that “to

mention integrity and moderation in such a man would be

an insult of his virtues. He did not even seek fame, which

often even good men give way to, by displaying virtue or

through skill” (Integritatem atque abstinentiam in tanto

viro referre iniuria virtutum fuerit. Ne famam quidem, cui

saepe etiam boni indulgent, ostentanda virtute aut per

artem quaesivit, 9.4-5). Tacitus here implies that integrity

and moderation are inherent in virtus; therefore, such a

great man obviously possesses these qualities. Additionally,

Tacitus implies that virtus does not need to be publicly

displayed, but rather that openly boasting about one’s

virtues diminishes their excellence. However, in its

traditional sense of great deeds done for the state, virtus

required public recognition. 10 Thus, Tacitus here seems to

present a definition of virtus that contradicts and condemns

its Republican ideal, rather than having undertones of this

traditional meaning.

Tacitus also makes an important statement about

how men are able to be “great” (magnos, 42.5), which

helps to present an alternate definition of virtus. Although

10 Earl (1967) 20-3.

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Tacitus does not use the word virtus in this section, he

clearly presents his opinions on how men are able to

achieve excellence, regardless of the political situation.

Magnus in this sense means, “great in attainment or

achievement, distinguished, skilled” (OLD 13), and thus

implies excellence, as virtus does. He writes, “Those whose

habit it is to admire what is forbidden ought to know that

there can be great men even under bad emperors, and that

duty and discretion, if coupled with energy and a career of

action, will bring a man to no less glorious summits than

are attained by perilous paths and ostentatious deaths that

do not benefit the Commonwealth” (trans. A.R. Birley)

(Sciant, quibus moris est inlicita mirari, posse etiam sub

malis principibus magnos viros esse, obsequiumque ac

modestiam, si industria ac vigor adsint, eo laudis excedere,

quo plerique per abrupta, sed in nullum rei publicae usum

ambitiosa morte inclaruerunt, 42.5). Here, Tacitus presents

a clear definition of what does and does not make a man

great. He states that obedience and modesty, joined with

industry, make a man magnus, but an ambitious death is

useless, since it does no good to the state. Given that during

the Republic, a man achieved virtus through public service

to the Roman state, 11 Tacitus seems to make a striking

11 Earl (1967) 21.

102


statement about the nature of virtus here. He states that

obedience and modesty, combined with activeness,

constitute virtus, by achieving the most good for the state.

However, dramatic deaths, which theoretically imitate

Republican values, are not virtuous at all, since they

ultimately do not help the state. As Tacitus asserts, many

were accustomed to judge greatness by appearance and

ambition (40.4), and so would estimate virtue only through

dramatic public efforts that aligned directly with the

Republican ideal of virtus. Yet death helps no one; these

men who seemed virtuous in their dramatic, public actions

had actually accomplished nothing. Thus, with this

statement, Tacitus seems to redefine virtus in a way that

contradicts the Republican definition, explaining service to

the state as obedience and modesty, rather than an

ostentatious recognition of deeds performed to enhance a

person’s reputation.

Finally, Tacitus presents a similarly condemning

view of traditional virtus when describing Agricola’s

father. He writes that “his father was Julius Graecinus, of

the senatorial class, known for his study of eloquence and

philosophy, and with these virtues themselves he earned the

anger of Gaius Caesar: for he ordered that he accuse

Marcus Silanus and, because he refused, he was killed”

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(Pater illi Iulius Graecinus senatorii ordinis, studio

eloquentiae sapientiaeque notus, iisque ipsis virtutibus

iram Gai Caesaris meritus: namque Marcum Silanum

accusare iussus et, quia abnuerat, interfectus est, 4.1). In

this section, Tacitus equates virtus with a “study of

eloquence and philosophy,” but these virtues, which cause

Agricola’s father to deny the request of an emperor,

eventually get him killed. As Tacitus states in 42.5, he

considers such deaths to be unnecessary and of no use to

the state. Rather, under a bad emperor, moderation and

obedience are more advisable forms of virtus. It seems that

Tacitus has rather enumerated “anti-virtues” here with his

use of the word, as engaging in lawless activities that lead

to death. Thus, while Tacitus uses this instance to

propagate an understanding of virtus that contradicts the

Republican ideal, the meaning of the word itself here refers

to something that Tacitus in fact does not find virtuous,

further complicating the ways in which he uses the word.

III. The Many Meanings of Virtus

Given the many and sometimes contradictory ways

that Tacitus employs the word virtus in the work, it is

difficult to understand how the word functions in Agricola.

On the one hand, when discussing Agricola’s governorship

104


in Britain, Tacitus’s use of virtus aligns with the traditional,

Republican definition of the word, without such complex or

contradictory undertones. In these cases, no other definition

needs to be understood in conjunction with the traditional

meaning for the word to make sense in the context of the

sentence. But on the other hand, the ways in which Tacitus

uses the word virtus are more complex and even

contradictory in some places; some of its usages suggest

the traditional definition of the word as one of its meanings,

while some usages of the word contradict this traditional

definition. While a basic definition of virtus, used in its

non-military sense could equate to something like

“moderation, obedience,” it is impossible to come up with a

meaning of the word that applies to all of its non-military

uses. This difficulty in defining virtus reflects the

complexity of Tacitus’s writing and of what exactly defines

virtus when living under a bad emperor, such as Domitian.

While military exploits still remained an important service

to the state, the difficulties of living under a bad emperor

had also made this type of virtus problematic. For example,

Domitian maintains that “virtue of the good leader was for

the emperor” (ducis boni imperatoriam virtutem esse,

39.3), and thus feels threatened by Agricola’s success in

Britain. Tacitus seems to say that sometimes moderation is

105


ultimately of more help to the state, since it does not result

in a useless death. Thus, this confused definition of virtus

seems to reflect an awareness that societal values must

change with historical circumstance, although traditional

values continue to resonate and hold importance.

Moreover, Tacitus reflects this reality, that

traditional virtus is problematic under a bad emperor,

through his depiction of virtus in Britain. Katherine Clarke

shows that Tacitus presents Britain as a haven of traditional

Roman virtus, and as an appropriate place for Agricola to

display his military talents, away from Rome itself, where

traditional virtus can no longer exist. 12 This conception of

Britain aligns with Tacitus’s use of the word virtus. It takes

on its traditional, Republican definition in relation to

Agricola’s governorship of Britain. The word used only

with its traditional, Republican sense cannot occur in

Rome, where the meaning of virtus has changed so much,

and has no clear meaning. Rather, Agricola can only

achieve traditional Roman virtus in a place that is not

hostile to its existence, as Domitianic Rome is.

Nevertheless, some of the uses of virtus outside of Britain

12 Katherine Clarke, “An Island Nation: Re-Reading Tacitus’

‘Agricola,’” The Journal of Roman Studies 91 (2001): 106-109.

106


still carry this Republican meaning as one of their

definitions. Therefore, although Tacitus draws a distinction

between the meaning of virtus inside and outside of Rome,

he still allows for the possibility of traditional virtus to exist

in Rome. One can still possess traditional virtus in the city,

although it must be tempered with some other qualities of

virtus, like moderation (40.4). At the same time, however,

Tacitus suggests that this traditional military excellence,

which Agricola displayed in Britain, may have eventually

led to his death. Domitian fears him because of his military

exploits (39.3), and Tacitus implies that he plots Agricola’s

death because of these successes (43); ultimately,

traditional virtus leads to Agricola’s end. Thus, Tacitus

seems to say that while traditional virtus can still exist in

Rome under a bad emperor, it is unwise to obtain this type

of virtus. Traditional virtus ultimately contradicts the new

qualities of virtus which allow great men to survive, even

under bad emperors, by demanding public recognition for

deeds done for the state. Domitian believes that this honor

belongs only to the emperor, and public recognition for his

deeds, although unwanted by Agricola (39-42), ultimately

causes his death. Thus, Tacitus seems to suggest that, while

the concept of traditional virtus can exist in places outside

107


of Rome, and even in Rome itself, it is inadvisable for a

man to possess traditional virtus under a bad emperor.

In light of the many, contradictory meanings that

virtus can take on, how can a reader understand the word in

contexts which give no real clue to the specific qualities of

virtus which Tacitus is referring to? For example, in the

opening, Tacitus writes that “virtues are thus judged best in

their own time, in which they are born most easily” (adeo

virtutes isdem temporibus optime aestimantur, quibus

facillime gignuntur, 1.3) and that “the times are so savage

and hostile to virtues” (tam saeva et infesta virtutibus

tempora, 1.4). In these instances, the context does not allow

the reader to infer which specific qualities virtus refers to.

Thus, it is important to keep in mind the many different

ways that Tacitus uses the word in the entire work. In these

cases, the word virtus can reference the whole spectrum of

meaning that the word takes on in Agricola, depending on

how the reader interprets its usage. Likewise, in the

conclusion to the work, Tacitus asks, “may you [Agricola]

call us and your house from weak desire and womanly

laments to the contemplation of your virtues, which it is not

right to mourn or lament” (…nosque domum tuam ab

infirmo desiderio et muliebribus lamentis ad

contemplationem virtutum tuarum voces, quas neque lugeri

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neque plangi fas est, 46.1). In this instance again, it is

unclear exactly which virtues of Agricola the word is

referring to, since he possesses both traditional virtus and

non-traditional virtus, and this non-traditional virtus takes

on many meanings throughout the work. In these instances,

there is no reason to impose one definition of the word onto

virtus. Rather, the text takes on more meaning, and better

reflects the complexities of Tacitus’s writing, when the

reader keeps the many different definitions of the word in

mind.

Finally, in this exhortation, Tacitus bridges the gap

between the historical biography that he has composed and

the reader. The first person plural verb form refers to all

subsequent readers ensuring that “through reading the

Agricola, the living continuation of the dead man’s virtues,

that Agricola’s family, and subsequent readers who did not

know him personally, will contemplate and show the

proper response to his greatness.” 13 The importance of this

work, the values that it demonstrates, and the

contemplation that it inspires, remain relevant even today.

13 Stephen Harrison, “From Man to Book: The Close of Tacitus’

Agricola,” in Classical Constructions: Papers in Memory of Don

Fowler, Classicist and Epicurean, ed. S.J. Heyworth (New York:

Oxford University Press, 2007), 315.

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Continued reflection on Tacitus’s work ensures not only

that “Agricola, narrated and handed down to posterity will

survive” (Agricola posteritati narratus et traditus superstes

erit, 46.4), but also that every individual reader will enrich

his own life with an understanding of the work.

Bibliography

Birley, A.R. “The Agricola.” In The Cambridge

Companion to Tacitus, edited by A.J. Woodman,

47-58. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,

2009.

Clarke, Katherine. “An Island Nation: Re-Reading Tacitus’

‘Agricola.’” The Journal of Roman Studies 91

(2001): 94-112.

Earl, Donald. The Moral and Political Tradition of Rome.

Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1967.

Harrrison, Stephen. “From Man to Book: The Close of

Tacitus’ Agricola.” In Classical Constructions:

Papers in Memory of Don Fowler, Classicist and

Epicurean, edited by S.J. Heyworth, 310-319. New

York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Oxford Latin Dictionary, 1 st ed, s.v. “magnus.”

110


Martin, Ronald. Tacitus. Berkeley: University of California

Press, 1981.

McDonnell, Myles. “Roman Men and Greek Virtue.” In

Andreia: Studies in Manliness and Courage in

Classical Antiquity, edited by Ralph M. Rosen and

Ineke Sluiter, 232-262. Boston: Brill, 2003.

Syme, Ronald. Tacitus. Vol. 2. London: Oxford University

Press, 1958.

Tacitus, Cornelius. Agricola and Germany. Translated by

A.R. Birley. New York: Oxford University Press,

1999.

Ward, Allen M., Fritz M. Heichelheim, and Cedric M. Yeo.

A History of the Roman People. 5 th ed. Boston:

Prentice Hall, 2010.

111


Disordering Freedom:

The Relation between Disorder and Libertas in Tacitus

Nikolas Churik, 2015

________________________________________________

In the Annals, Tacitus refers to Arminius, a

Germanic chieftain of fame from the Teutoburg forest, as

both “the disrupter of Germania” (turbator Germaniae,

I.55.2) and “doubtless the liberator of Germania” (liberator

haud dubie Germaniae, II.88.2). By giving Arminius both

of these appellations, Tacitus has created a link between

two seemingly dissimilar words. Far from being totally

distinct, these concepts are closely related: without

disorder, there cannot be freedom. In particular, this is

freedom of speech, as was understood during the Roman

Republic. This relation has been previously illustrated in

the Dialogus de Oratoribus (Dialogue on Orators), an

earlier work, which pre-dates the Annals. That work

presents a discussion on the decline of oratory and some of

its possible causes. Though interpretations vary, one strain

of thought considers the Dialogus to be a critique of certain

112


aspects of rule under the Empire. 1 This connection between

civil disorder and libertas 2 continues as a theme in the

Annals and is demonstrated in the interactions between

Segestes and Arminius, two chiefs of the Germani.

Through a consideration of the greater debate concerning

the demise of oratory during the early Principate in the

Dialogus and, then, an examination of the speeches by

Arminius and Segestes, this connection will be made

explicit. By applying the understanding of the association

between civic order and quality of speech to the words of

the Germanic chiefs, one can see the analogous relationship

between civic order and the ability to speak.

For freedom, especially freedom of speech, to exist,

there needs to be a certain level of disorder. In a sense,

there needs to be things about which to speak. With a single

leader, there is no room for disagreement, so there is, then,

no room for free speech and its result, eloquence. The

discussion of the decline of eloquence and of its causes

provides the topic for the Dialogus de Oratoribus. The

peace of the Principate appears as a source not only of the

1 Roland Mayer, introduction to Dialogus de Oratoribus, ed. Roland

Mayer (Cambridge: University Press, 2001), 5.

2 For a greater discussion of libertas as free speech, see Chaim

Wirszubski, Libertas as a political idea at Rome during the

late Republic and early Principate (Cambridge: University Press,

1950).

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decline of eloquence, but also of freedom as a whole. The

course followed by the Dialogus suggests, as Roland

Mayer asserts, that “Tacitus accepts, along with Fabius,

that oratory of the present day is inferior to that of the late

Republic.” 3 The question of how this decline in oratory

relates to freedom under the Principate is now posed. The

discussion of the Dialogus begins after Maternus has, by

performing his Cato, insulted the minds of powerful men

because, within the work, he presented only the views of

Cato Uticensis, a Stoic senator and the exemplar of

Republican virtues. 4 It seems, then, that the Dialogus is

about more than just eloquence under the Principate; it is

also about freedom because “conflict is the lifeblood of

eloquence and the symptom of liberty." 5 The two are linked

as cause and effect: without freedom there cannot be

disorder, without which there cannot be eloquence. By

commenting on the lack of the effect, Tacitus is also

questioning the presence of the cause.

When Aper is rebutting Maternus, he reminds his

interlocutor that oratory is safer than poetry because in the

3

Mayer (2001) 33.

4

Cf. “Uictrix causa deis placuit, sed uicta Catoni” (Lucan De Bello

Civili 1.128).

5

Daniel Kapust, "Inter Pacem et Servitutem Plurimum Interest: Cicero

and Tacitus on Eloquence, Liberty, and Peace," (paper presented at the

annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, August

30, 2007).

114


disputes of “our age…if it should be necessary to offend…

forthrightness (libertas) would be excused” (nostri

saeculi…si quando necesse sit…offendere…libertas

excusata, 10.8). Strunk astutely indicates that under the

conditions of “our age,” “libertas is not something to be

exercised, but rather excused.” 6 The future less vivid

construction, which employs two present subjunctive verbs

to denote the unlikelihood of an event, reveals a great deal

about these circumstances. Speaking freely is no longer

expected or taken as a presupposition of defense, but it is,

rather, an occurrence that is unexpected and, perhaps,

excusable if is necessary for the defense of a friend. By

placing this restriction on “disputes of our age” (nostri

saeculi controuersias, 10.8), Aper has made a distinction

between this and former ages, because the present is an age,

as is noted later in the Dialogus, marked by the “long peace

of times, continual rest of the people, continual tranquility

of the Senate, and the statesmanship of the emperor” (longa

temporum quies et continuum populi otium et assidua

senatus tranquillitas et maxime principis disciplina omnia,

38.2). All of these characteristics are antonyms to and

incompatible with the disruption, described with turbidus

6 Thomas E. Strunk, “Offending the Powerful: Tacitus’ Dialogus de

Oratoribus and Safe Criticism,” Mnemosyne 63, no. 2 (2010): 241-267.

115


(37.6), by the lack of which both eloquence and freedom

are lost. Indeed, under the Principate, “all other things”

(omnia alia, 38.2) were also subdued. Although the

Dialogus is generally in a more Ciceronian style, this

statement on the silencing of “eloquence and all other

things” (ipsam quoque eloquentiam, 38.2) is presented in a

classically Tacitean manner. “All other things” is given

second, after “eloquence,” in a manner akin to the

“weighted alternative.” 7 As the dialogue has shown,

eloquence has declined in the present, so claiming that its

demise is a result of those things is unsurprising. By

placing the “all things” second, however, Tacitus forces the

reader to (re)consider what exactly the characters are

discussing. The example of eloquence demonstrates the

more pervasive effects of the rule of the princeps.

As the exchange continues, the Dialogus digresses

into why ancient oratory was better, until Maternus returns

it to its original question of why present oratory is worse.

Maternus recommends to Messalla to “use the old freedom

of speech, from which we have fallen further than from

7 In the rhetorical construction of the “weighted alternative,” the

listener/reader is presented with a pair of ideas, frequently, though not

uniformly, antithetical. The second option is favored and is generally

emphasized by a change in grammatical construction and more grave

meaning. See Donald Sullivan, “Innuendo and the ‘Weighted

Alternative’ in Tacitus,” The Classical Journal 71, no. 4 (April-May

1976): 312-326.

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eloquence” (utere antiqua libertate, a qua vel magis

degeneravimus quam ab eloquentia, 27.3) to answer the

question. Through his suggestion, Maternus notes that the

decline of freedom is concurrent with the decline of

eloquence. Further, the loss of freedom has been even more

substantial than that of eloquence. He has linked the two,

without saying too much. From the time of the “ancient”

orators (23.1), the greatest change has been the ascendance

of the princeps. And, although correlation does not prove

causation, the numerous references to freedom in the

present time suggest that the two are related enough to

share a cause in their diminishment. Under the Principate,

since the death of Cicero, both eloquence and liberty have

decreased because the rule of one has, according to this line

of reasoning, removed the necessary materials for

eloquence, discord and debate.

Maternus raises the contention that the orators of

old were able to gain so much from their speeches because

they were as good as they were able to convince the mixed-

up crowd they were “in that disorder” (illa perturbatione,

36.2). This, he follows, was a result of the lack of a “single

overseer” (moderatore uno, 36.2). The overseer reins in the

extremes of political positions and of speech. Mediocre

speakers, rather than the best orators, now exist. There was

117


freedom of speech because, it seems, there was a freedom

of thought. That is, in the Republic, decisions were not held

in the power of one man, so there was some value in

persuasion. Especially in the late Republic, the varied

positions provided ample material for debate, but the

“greatest statesmanship of the emperor silenced all things”

(principis maxime disciplina…omnia alia pacaverat, 38.2).

Syme acknowledges, “When peace, order, and control

came, excellence in public speaking was cut off from its

root and source.” 8 The excellence in public speaking, as

free speech, came from the disagreements inherent in ruling

the state under the Republic. When there was an

opportunity and a need to speak freely, one could, without

needing to be excused by a potentate insulted by

unrestricted speech.

After Aper has blamed the current system of

oratorical education, Maternus opines that it is, in fact,

necessary for the state to be in disorder for eloquence to

exist. Although he does concede that the state should not

produce bad citizens just so orators have cases, he reminds

his interlocutor that the question at hand concerns the

decline of eloquence. Now, Maternus makes the point that

eloquentia exists more easily in “turbid and unquiet times”

8 Ronald Syme, Tacitus (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1958), 219.

118


(turbidis et inquietis temporibus, 37.6). These are, of

course, meant to be in direct opposition to the actual

condition of the state (38.2). As this paper will show later,

these conditions are contrary to those deemed favorable by

Segestes. For true eloquence and true free speech to exist,

there must be disorder and discord, not tranquility and

peace. Maternus next asks, “Who does not know it more

useful and better to prosper in peace than to be assailed in

war?” (Quis ignorat utilius ac melius esse frui pace quam

bello vexari, 37.6). Maternus argues that, while oratory is

better in disordered times, peace is still better than war.

Despite Maternus’ concessions, Kapust’s point remains,

“Though Maternus treats it [disorder] as destabilizing and

discordant, it is not necessarily inimical to order or liberty;

as we saw. . .Tacitus in his own narrative voice suggests as

much. Indeed, these conflicts had a positive relationship to

liberty." 9 Although disorder and confusion existed to some

extent under these conditions, they allowed for freedom of

speech.

When Maternus says, “Eloquence is the great and

notable offspring of license, which foolish men call

freedom” (est magna illa et notabilis eloquentia alumna

licentiae, quam stulti libertatem vocitant, 40.2), he seems to

9 Kapust (2007) 36.

119


e moderating his point. His recent statements seem to be

presenting the disorder needed for eloquence, but also

accepting that “disorder” (licentia, 36.2), which was

experienced up to that point, does not necessarily create the

best conditions for the state. This is, perhaps, keeping with

standard Tacitean moderation: he believes libertas to be

missing from the current state, but still acknowledges that

there were faults in the past. Mayer, in his commentary on

the Dialogus, summarizes Maternus’ view as, “Maternus

sees true eloquentia as a product of a free, albeit hectic,

community.” 10 It seems the analysis of the Principate is

worth indicating: although it has ended the license and war,

it has also silenced free speech and eloquence, and it has

yet to restore a balance.

The conclusion of Maternus’ speech is, perhaps, a

continuation of this moderated criticism. This statement by

Maternus must be considered because Tacitus was

disgruntled by the loss of senatorial power: “What is there

for many public meetings among the people, when the

many uninformed do not decide about the republic, but the

wisest one?” (Quid multis apud populum contionibus, cum

de re publica non imperiti et multi deliberent, sed

10 Roland Mayer, commentary to Dialogus de Oratoribus, ed. by

Roland Mayer (Cambridge: University Press, 2001), 199.

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sapientissimus et unus?, 41.4). This praise seems almost

too extreme to be serious. The very opposite seems to run

through his works more often: the people, or, rather the

senators, have lost their freedom because of the lack of

inclusion, caused by the rise of the Princeps’ power.

Indeed, Syme seems to support this reading: “This

conclusion reveals not enthusiasm, but resignation – and a

strain of the historian’s irony when he commends civic

obedience to the ruler.” 11 The public meetings, in which

eloquence and free speech were exercised, have been

ended, so this exuberant praise is, in fact, a reproach of the

present system. The tranquility of the Principate has stifled

the speech of the Republic.

The opposition between Segestes and Arminius

provides a contrast of the ideas of disorder and freedom.

The German chiefs first appear as the Romans are about to

attack their province. From their introduction to the reader,

Arminius and Segestes are placed in stark opposition to one

another. The speeches present alternative views of possible

courses of action. Although they are both chieftains of the

Germani, they are known by their “disloyalty or loyalty”

(perfidia…aut fide, Annals I.55.1) to the Romans. Stephen

Daitz indicates that the “introduction of minor characters

11 Syme (1958) 220.

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y pairs, with ensuing comparison of their personalities” is

a common literary technique for Tacitus, so following the

pairs will explicate the distinctions between them. 12 When

Segestes later apologizes to the Romans for any apparent

disloyalty (Ann. I.58.3), he is distancing himself further

from bonds he may share with Arminius. Despite the

Romans’ favor for Segestes, the distinction is actually

reversed among Germanic people. Arminius is considered

the more trustworthy (magis fidus, Ann. I.57.1) and more

influential because he is ready to be daring in a time of

turmoil.

Following statements on their loyalty, both are

given a short description. Here, Arminius is called “the

disrupter of Germania” (turbator Germaniae, Ann. I.55.2),

while Segestes is said to have beseeched Varus to enchain

him, Arminius, and the other chieftains (Ann. I.55.2). A

rebellion, a time of great disorder, is planned to gain

freedom for the Germani, but Segestes tries to thwart it by

asking that its leaders be enchained. The language of

chains, used again later, is reminiscent of slavery (servitus,

cf. I. 59.6), quite the opposite of freedom. In opposing the

turbator, Segestes calls for Roman control of the German

12 Stephen Daitz, “Tacitus’ Technique of Character Portrayal,” The

American Journal of Philology 81, no. 1 (January 1960): 49,

http://www.jstor.org/stable/291758.

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leaders, including the future liberator (Ann. II.88.2). He has

created a dichotomy between disorder and enslavement;

this distinction will establish the connection to freedom.

The figures’ speeches reveal their plans and elucidate the

parallel between disruption and freedom. Segestes begins

speaking by mentioning his “alliance” (fidei, Ann. I.58.1)

with the Roman people and by establishing himself as a

client of Augustus. He states that “[he] deem[s] it better to

lead peace than war” (conducere et pacem quam bellum

probabam, I.58.1). While, as Maternus noted earlier, peace

is preferable to war, peace is still detrimental to the free

speech. Here, Segestes recounts the time when he begged

that he be enchained along with those who knew of the plot

(Ann. I.58.2). This reiteration of chains (vinciret, Ann.

I.55.2 ; inieci catenas, Ann. I.58.3) reinforces the earlier

account. Although Segestes avoids using the language of

slavery explicitly, the mention of chains must be called to

mind when Arminius later mentions the slavery that will

begin (Ann. I.59.6), if Segestes is followed.

When addressing the Romans, Segestes declares

that he “[he] hold[s] the old before the new and peace

before disorder” (uetera nouis et quieta turbidis antehabeo,

Ann. I.58.3). He does not hold that this regard is not to gain

a reward for his people, but to absolve himself of the earlier

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mentioned disloyalty and to become a worthy conciliator

(idoneus conciliator, Ann. I.58.3) for the Germani. He has

essentially become a suppliant before the Romans. He will

be a conciliator, “if it [the German race] should prefer

penitence to destruction” (si paenitentiam quem perniciem

maluerit, Ann. I.58.4). Arminius' speech, related in indirect

discourse, begins with his recounting of his success over

the Roman legions and Varus. Certainly, he is no longer a

client. In almost an exact parallel to the conditional

statement, Arminius calls the people to follow him if only

they prefer “homeland, parents, and ancient things rather

masters and new colonies and Arminius as leader to glory

and freedom, rather than Segestes as leader to outrageous

slavery ” (si patriam parentes antiqua mallent quam

dominos et colonias novas, Arminium potius gloriae ac

libertatis quam Segestem flagitiosae servitutis ducem

sequeretur, (Ann. I.59.6). Arminius will lead them to glory

and freedom, Segestes to slavery.

The parallel between the two speeches provides the

analogous link between disorder and liberty. Segestes holds

old before new and peace before disorder (Ann. I.58.3), and

he seeks Germani who prefer penitence to destruction. This

added stipulation changes the character of Segestes’ peace:

it would be an uneven treaty, leading to servitude.

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Although Arminius never explicitly states what he holds in

greater regard, he does call on those who prefer “homeland,

parents, and old things” (patriam parentes antiqua, Ann.

I.59.6), as he assumedly does, to follow him. It would seem

that the opinions of the victor at the Battle of the Teutoburg

Forest would be well known. He adds no condition for their

attitude toward the Romans. By using the plan of

conciliation and penitence, Segestes will seek peace and a

return to the pact with Rome, while Arminius, conversely,

will continue the old project of fighting Rome. Arminius,

as Segestes, prefers the “old things” (cf. Ann. I.58.3 and

I.59.6) so, in that, they agree. He does not, however,

mention any sort of peace explicitly. By opposing Segestes,

he has disavowed servitude for freedom, so implicitly he

has also denied peace for disorder. This fight for freedom

would naturally necessitate Arminius to prefer disordered

things to peaceful. From that point, the paths would

diverge: one to freedom, the other to slavery.

These two parallel conditionals establish a telling

contrast. Depending on the preference, the Germani will

have a conciliator in Segestes or a liberator in Arminius.

Arminius understands that the peace sought by his foil will

lead to slavery. Peace will bring masters and new colonies.

These are the new things, which ought to be feared, not

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whatever “new things” (Ann. I.58.3), Segestes holds in

disregard. As Kapust argues, “The peace of the Principate

is not only different from the peace envisioned by Cicero,

but is actually domination." 13 Indeed, Arminius foresees

this domination (Ann. I.59.6). The “nouis” (Ann. I.58.3),

which Segestes does not desire, is perhaps reminiscent of

nouis rebus 14 , revolution. After of the talk of thwarted

rebellions and opposition to disorder, this understanding

may not be assuming too much about this phrase.

Nevertheless, whatever Segestes’ “new things” (Ann.

I.58.3) are, by preferring peace to disorder, he would lead

the Germani to slavery and away from freedom. Although

Arminius is ultimately defeated in battle, his efforts have

stopped the Roman attempts of conquest. Despite the fact

that he is killed by relatives for his perceived

encroachments on their freedom, Arminius is still deemed

“doubtless the liberator of Germania” (liberator haud dubie

Germaniae, Ann. II.88.2) in the nearly the same line. It

seems the important part of the account is that he has

delivered the Germani from the Romans and has preserved

his people’s freedom by avoiding the “peace” (Dialogus,

38.2) of the Principate.

13 Kapust (2007) 2.

13 Cf. Sallust, Conspiracy of Catiline, 28.4

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As Tacitus presents the case, freedom needs

disorder. Disorder, however, as Maternus perceptively

notes, may be the result of license, which, in fact, causes

harm to the state. In order to speak freely, there must be

discussion, but also an acceptable amount and type of

disorder. This point is, perhaps, why it is best to consider

the Tacitean corpus together: reading the Dialogus and the

exchange between Segestes and Arminius, one can see that

a connection between freedom and disorder exists but, also,

that there is a need for there to be a certain a level of

restraint. Reading the speeches of Segestes and Arminius

delineates the connection between disorder and freedom.

The Dialogus de Oratoribus does the same through a

diachronic progression. By pairing the pieces, one can see

how freedom was maintained in one context, but lost in

another.

127


Bibliography

Daitz, Stephen. “Tacitus’ Technique of Character

Portrayal.” The American Journal of Philology 81,

no. 1 (January 1960): 30-52.

http://www.jstor.org/stable/291758.

Kapust, Daniel. "Inter Pacem et Servitutem Plurimum

Interest: Cicero and Tacitus on Eloquence, Liberty,

and Peace." Paper presented at the annual meeting

of the American Political Science Association,

August 30, 2007.

Strunk, Thomas E. “Offending the Powerful: Tacitus’

Dialogus de Oratoribus and Safe Criticism.”

Mnemosyne 63, no. 2 (2010): 241-267.

Syme, Ronald. Tacitus. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1958.

Tacitus, Cornelius. Agricola, Germany and

Dialogue on Orators. Translated by Herbert W.

Benario. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press,

1991.

———. Annales. Edited by C. D. Fisher. Oxford:

Clarendon Press, 1939.

———. The Annals. Translated by A.J. Woodman.

Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2004.

Mayer, Roland. Commentary to Dialogus de Oratoribus.

Edited by Roland Mayer. Cambridge: University

Press, 2001.

Mycenae Lion Gate

128

Photo by Christine Roughan


A Note on a Virgilian Allusion in Silius Italicus

Matthew Angiolillo, 2013

________________________________________________

One of the aspects of classical literature that makes

the field fascinating to study is the practice of all ancient

poets intentionally alluding to or imitating their

predecessors or contemporaries. This phenomenon was a

staple of the craft of writing Latin poetry and a

characteristic that in some ways separates classical works

from more modern creative literature. In recent times, the

literary artist has looked to break with the molds

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constructed by previous writers and often does not

explicitly allude to others work with any of the frequency

that a classical author would. The referencing of a previous

or contemporary author’s work in Latin poetry reveals the

literature to be part of a continuum, in which imitation and

a reworking with alterations of previous poetry is looked on

favorably when cleverly executed. Because this practice

was so widespread, it means that the reader is often times

not only reading one text, but is also reading certain

episodes “through” similar or imitated episodes composed

before in previous works, which adds to that episode’s

meaning and sometimes allows a deeper interpretation of

what the poet was attempting to convey in the passage.

An example will help to illustrate this point. This

instance is taken from the epic poem Punica, of Silius

Italicus (ca. 28 – ca. 103) who was a Roman orator and

poet, and an avid devotee of the poet Virgil (October 15, 70

BC – September 21, 19 BC). The Punica, which tells the

story of Rome’s eventual victory in the Hannibalic War,

contains within it many allusions to the poetry of Virgil,

especially, and appropriately, his Aeneid, which tells of

Rome’s foundation. In book 7 of Virgil’s Aeneid, he

embarks on a catalogue of Latin warriors, who will soon

begin fighting against Aeneas and his band of Trojans. In

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lines 7.750-7.760, Virgil describes the warrior-priest

Umbro, a creation of the poet, from the Marruvian race.

Virgil relates that, even given his skills, Umbro will not be

able to heal his own wound delivered from a Trojan spear,

nor will either his charms or the herbs he has obtained from

the Marsian Hills be able to save him from death. Umbro

is helpless, despite his abilities, and is destined to die.

Virgil, in this passage, describes the mourning pastoral

countryside. The landscape mourns for Umbro, as the war

between the Latins and the Trojans will lead to the

subsuming of the Latins into the Roman race, and the end

of their freedom over the land. 1

For you Angitia’s grove wept, for you Fucinus’ glassy

wave, for you the limpid lakes!

te nemus Angitiae, uitrea te Fucinus unda,

te liquidi fleuere lacus (7.759-7.760). 2

In book 14 of the Punica, Silius mirrors this episode

when he describes a large naval battle off the coast of

Sicily between the Romans and the Sicilian allies of

Carthage. One of the combatants in this engagement is a

certain Podaetus, a creation of Silius, fighting for the

Carthaginian side, and a native of the Aeolian Islands off

1

This passage is analyzed extensively in Parry (1963) and Putnam

(1995) 121-134.

2

Text and translation are from Fairclough (2002).

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the coast of Sicily. Silius makes it clear that Podaetus is

still immature in experience and not yet prepared to achieve

great success in battle (14.493-14.494). The youth has

already distinguished himself in this conflict and now

wishes to kill the renowned Roman general, Marcellus, and

take his armor as spoils of war (14.503-14.504). Silius lists

the youth’s various skills, as Virgil states Umbro’s magical

powers (7.750-7.755). Silius relates Podaetus’ feats in

rapid succession, emphasizing his ability to succeed in

varied challenges, such as throwing the discus and javelin

along with running and leaping. In each attribute, Podaetus

possesses superior skill (14.505-509). Silius laments that

Podaetus could have attained a great amount of distinction

in affairs not involving warfare or bloodshed. Podaetus is

then killed by a thrown spear and falls into the sea.

“When he fell and the fatal weapon sank him beneath the

wave and cheated his sea- tossed bones of a grave in

Syracuse, he was mourned by the straights and the rocks of

the Cyclopes; Cyane and the river Anapus and Ortygian

Arethusa wept for him.”

ubi labentem pepulerunt tela sub undas,

ossa Syracosio fraudatum naufraga busto,

fleuerunt freta, fleuerunt Cyclopia saxa

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et Cyane et Anapus et Ortygie Arethusa (14.512-14.515). 3

Podaetus, in these lines, is a passive agent, as the

spears (tela) cast by an unidentified individual strike

(pepulerunt) him dead, despite his prayers to the gods to

grant him a victory in single combat (14. 502-14.503). The

skills and powers of Umbro and Podaetus cannot save them

from death. Even though both characters cannot prevent

their demise, the lands are able to actively mourn them.

These lines also mirror the lines of Virgil describing the

landscape. Silius, just as Vigil does, employs the verb fleo

(to cry), using it twice to Virgil’s once. Virgil, as was seen

above, delayed the verb for effect, whereas Silius places the

verb (fleuerunt) in a prominent position as the first word in

line 14.514, and when added to the repetition of the verb

and the assonance of the final vowels in this line, serves to

intensify the emotions of mourning taking place.

The syntactic structure of these passages is also

alike, as each passage is one sentence long and three

clauses are added on to one another, emphasizing the

degree of the sorrow of the landscapes being identified.

Virgil includes three instances of the pronoun te (you) in

these lines, giving prominence to the character of Umbro,

3 Text and translation are from Duff (1934).

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whereas Silius achieves a similar emphasis by employing

the conjunction et (and) thrice in one line, piling on the

locations grieving. Both Virgil and Silius begin with a

geographical location on land, with Virgil using a grove

and Silius, the island rocks. Then, each author uses aquatic

proper names, with Virgil employing two lakes and Silius

outdoing him in terms of numbers by including a river and

two springs. Silius also employs geographical and

mythological details about Sicily, such as mentioning the

spring Cyane (named after an eponymous Sicilian nymph)

and the local goddess Arethusa, just as Virgil mentions that

Angitia, a Marsian goddess, mourns Umbro. Podaetus,

here, is mourned by his native land, Sicily, just as Umbro is

lamented by Italy in the passage from the Aeneid. Silius

highlights this fact in line 14.513, stating that the

shipwrecked bones of Podaetus are cheated from a grave in

Syracuse. Silius expresses this fact poetically by separating

the bones (ossa) from the tomb (busto), putting ossa as the

first word in the line and busto as the last. Podaetus’ body

is separated from its home, which is one reason the Sicilian

land laments his death. However, another cause is that the

death of this one youth may indicate the multitude of deaths

still to come on Sicilian soil during the Hannibalic War and

this destructive loss of young lives. Silius laments in the

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preceding lines: “There was enough, quite enough, of glory

and praise to be won in bloodless strife” (sat prorsus, sat

erat decoris discrimine tuto, / sat laudis, (14.510-14.511).

In addition, in the aftermath of the Second Punic War, just

as after the Latin War between the Trojans and Italians, the

Sicilian allies of the Carthaginians, who had revolted in

support of Hannibal, are harshly disciplined and are

permanently put under the Roman yoke. After the war,

Sicily is held firmly in the Roman sphere and any

independence, which the Sicilians may have had before

under their own king, Hiero II of Syracuse, who died in 215

BC, is at an end.

Silius uses this passage in a similar way to Virgil.

The landscape of Sicily mourning Podaetus’ death indicates

the continuous expansion of the Roman nation as it takes

over peoples, expanding across the Italian peninsula. When

a reader of Silius reads this passage, the Virgilian passage

is already present in his understanding and the actions of

the mourning Sicilian landscape work in conjunction with

the mourning Italian landscape to form a pattern of Roman

conquest over time, originally taking place in Aeneas’ time

and continuing into the period of Scipio and Hannibal.

However, this process also represents the decline of certain

ancestral cultures, such as the local deities mentioned by

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oth poets whom Rome naturally subsumes over time. The

allusion to Virgil in Silius makes his passage more

profound as it operates on multiple levels, heightening the

loss of Podaetus, which Silius tacitly reveals is part of a

continuing development of Roman expansion with positive

and negative repercussions. Silius observes that Aeneas’

victory over the Latins only started the subjugation of

peoples to be put under Roman rule. This is one example

from innumerable others, even just in Silius, which serves

to demonstrate why reading any classical work is by nature

comparative with other authors in a way that a modern text

might not be understood.

136


Bibliography

Italicus, Silius. Punica. Translated by J.D. Duff.

Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1934.

Virgil. Aeneid. Translated by H.R. Fairclough.

Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002.

Parry, Adam. “The Two Voices of Virgil’s Aeneid.”

In Arion, 66-80. Boston: Trustees of Boston

University, 1963.

Putnam, Michael C.J. Virgil’s Aeneid:

Interpretation and Influence. Chapel Hill:

University of North Carolina Press, 1995.

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Greece and Rome on the French Stage:

Classical Adaptation in the Theatre of Jean Racine

Michael Roberts, 2013

________________________________________________

The classical past held the European imagination

captive for centuries through every art form. Seventeenth-

century France, noted for the rise of absolutism and French

culture, honored its king as Louis le Grand, but not without

classical portrayals. As Louis XIV was held up as

Ludovicus Magnus, the classical Latin form of his regal

name, Greco-Roman antiquity permeated all levels of the

French intellectual establishment. Perhaps no example of

this is as striking as the theatre of the great tragedian, Jean

Racine. However, Racine worked intimately with classical

themes and adapted them for the needs of his seventeenth-

century French audience. His plays were not merely

translations of those of the great Greek playwrights, such as

Sophocles, but rather were new creative works, which drew

on familiar themes to deliver different messages. Racine’s

works reveal both ideas important to the French of his day

and his own personal Jansenist beliefs.

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Phèdre

The title character of Racine’s Phèdre suffers from

her own desires in ways that are perhaps more resonant

with Christian France than with ancient Greece or Rome.

This play, Racine’s most critically acclaimed, contains the

familiar plot of the ancient story of Theseus, prince of

Athens, and the Cretan Minotaur, a half-bull, half-man

monster. Theseus’ slaughter of the monster, however, only

serves as a backdrop in Racine’s version. Most of the

action focuses on the character of Phaedra, Theseus’ wife,

and her illicit passions for Hippolytus, her stepson. The

evils of Phaedra’s forbidden love are immediately

presented as the central conflict of the play when Racine

has Oenone, Phaedra’s maid, exclaim, “Oh despair! Great

Heavens, my blood now freezes in my veins! Oh cursed

race! Oh crime!” 1 upon learning of her mistress’ private

feelings. While familial incest is not particular to any

single culture, this episode is important because it

1

Jean Racine, Phèdre, trans. Margaret Rawlings (New York: Penguin

Books, 1991), 51. All subsequent references to Phèdre will refer to the

page numbers of this translation.

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establishes a human’s moral fault as the tragic quality of

the protagonist rather than a curse or the ire of divine

figures. The French, a strongly Catholic people during

Racine’s lifetime, would have understood the concept of a

moral failure leading to destruction through weekly

sermons at mass. Contemporary audiences also would have

recognized a Christian message and contrast with the

ancient Greek tale in Phaedra’s dying lament: “Phaedra it

was who dared to look with love profane – incestuous -

upon that chaste and dutiful Hippolytus . . . I resolved to

tell you first all my remorse, and by a slower path descend

to death” (169). Christian concepts of chastity and

acceptable forms of love are evident in this climactic scene.

Since Phaedra could not maintain these morals, and caused

the destruction of others as a result, she chose to kill

herself. The ideals and results of Phaedra’s love for

Hippolytus are different in Racine’s play than in its

counterparts written by Seneca and Euripides.

Seneca, an ancient Roman Stoic philosopher who

wrote plays based on older Greek themes in the first

century A.D., wrote Phaedra, which demonstrates the

strong influence classical tragedy had on Racine’s works

and the subtle changes Phèdre required for its French

audience. Both plays decide to focus on Phaedra as the

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principal character from the outset. Ronald Tobin’s study

of Senecan influence on Racine summarizes that the “play

turn[s] the spotlight away from Hippolytus . . . and on that

female figure who enters dying in the first act and finally

expires in the last, and who in the interim has seen herself

responsible for defiling the universe.” 2 Phaedra possesses

all of the attributes of a tragic hero in both Seneca and

Racine. The emphasis on a woman, not entirely unusual for

ancient Rome, is not where the subtle point of distinction

between Seneca’s and Racine’s plays lies. The result of the

tragedy in Phèdre is what differs slightly from Seneca’s

Phaedra. According to Tobin, Seneca “usually gives free

rein to the declaration and catastrophic effects of passion as

a stoic lesson on the dangers of excessive sentiment.” 3

Racine’s tragedy in Phèdre, on the other hand, is much

more reserved and shocking in its emotional appeal.

Viewers’ sympathy escalates when the events resulting

from Phaedra’s deception and passions cause Theseus, an

innocent party, to exclaim, “Oenone dead, and Phaedra

bent on death! . . . Oh what despair may follow” (157).

Racine’s narration is much more controlled than the chaos

of Seneca in its expression of the tragic events which result

2 Ronald W. Tobin, Racine and Seneca (Chapel Hill: The University of

North Carolina Press, 1971), 130.

3 Tobin (1971) 150.

141


from the protagonist’s flaws. Such a sense of order may

well have appealed to conservative French nobles at the

theatre. Regardless, Racine’s treatment of the Hippolytus

and Phaedra story differs substantially from the best known

ancient Greek version.

Euripides, the famous ancient Athenian tragedian of

the fifth century B.C., wrote Hippolytus, Racine’s primary

source material for Phèdre, which provides its readers with

a perspective rather different from Racine’s through its

depiction of Phaedra’s doomed passions. While the

intervention of a divine force in this central characterization

of Phaedra is not incompatible with Racine’s personal

beliefs, it does provide an enormously different tone for the

Greek play when compared with the French one. Euripides’

Phaedra is completely at the mercy of the goddess

Aphrodite from the opening lines of the play: “One day

when he [Hippolytus] came from Pittheus' house to the land

of Pandion to see and celebrate the holy mysteries of

Demeter, his father's high-born wife Phaedra saw him, and

her heart was seized with a dreadful longing by my

[Aphrodite’s] design.” 4 This sense of divine nemesis, or

vengeance, appealed more directly to a fifth-century B.C.

4

Euripides, Hippolytus, trans. David Kovacs, Perseus Digital Library,

www.perseus.tufts.edu, 24-28.

142


Greek audience than it did to a seventeenth-century French

audience. Racine’s emphasis on Phaedra’s moral failings

rather than her curse at the hands of the gods was an

important adaptation of classical tragedy for a

contemporary French audience. Racine even admits in his

preface, albeit in an understated manner, how he has

chosen “a path a little different from the one chosen by this

author [Euripides]” (19) in his focus on Phaedra’s faults at

the expense of the traditional depiction of Hippolytus as an

equal sinner. In Euripides’ play, Hippolytus is accused of

violating his stepmother, but in Racine “he is only accused

of having the intention” (21). The French playwright chose

to adapt this part of the story to increase the audience’s

sympathy for Theseus (when he must choose to exile his

son) and to stress the tragic guilt of Phaedra. The play has

enough room for one crucially flawed character and, for

Racine, that is Phaedra. Despite all of her noble qualities,

the moral failing of Phaedra’s physical passions come to

define her in the end. This theme appealed well to the

play’s French audience and deviated from its Greek

counterpart quite substantially. The great complexity of

Racine’s theatre also allows a further analysis of Phaedra’s

simultaneous moral doom and reliance on factors beyond

her control.

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The will of the divine and personal moral weakness

are not incompatible themes in Racine’s Phèdre due to the

author’s involvement with the influential Jansenist

movement of seventeenth-century France. Jansenism was a

Catholic movement, started by Cornelius Jansen, which

sought to restore the fundamental aspects of Christianity, as

expressed by St. Augustine, to early modern France. The

scope of Jansenist beliefs was highly complex, but one of

the most basic and widely shared principles of the

movement was to emphasize thethe doctrine of Catholics

in the matter of predestination and reprobation.” 5 With a

reputation for harsh teachings about the inadequacy and

helplessness of a man before God, Jansenism would have

fit well into the concept of divine nemesis in ancient Greek

tragedy. This influence undoubtedly remained with Racine,

who spent his early years studying the Latin and Greek

classics at the Jansenist school in Port-Royal. 6

Predestination and reprobation, as Jansen saw it, placed a

strong emphasis on sin and the grace of God. This latter

concept was well beyond the power of humans to control,

just as the will of the gods that crushed heroes and heroines

5 William Doyle, Jansenism: Catholic Resistance to Authority from the

Reformation to the French Revolution (New York: St. Martin’s Press,

2000), 17.

6 Geoffrey Brereton, Jean Racine: A Critical Biography (London:

Cassell & Co Ltd, 1951), 5.

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in ancient Greek and Roman tragedy. Racine would have

been very familiar with, if not sympathetic to, the idea of

divine power outside of human control because of his

religious sensibilities regarding Jansenism and his early

education under Jansenist teachers. In fact, Margaret

Rawlings has interpreted the final section of Racine’s

preface to Phèdre as a desire to reconcile Jansenist

teachings with the French theatre. Racine writes of using

theatre for instruction so that “it might perhaps be a way of

reconciling the art of the theatre with many persons,

celebrated for their piety and for their learning, who have

during the past few years condemned it, and who would

doubtless judge it more favourably if playwrights would

study as much to instruct as to entertain” (23). The

reference to “many persons” is a thinly veiled allusion to

the Jansenists, who disregarded French theatre because they

believed that it did not teach as ancient drama did. The

Jansenist movement was apparently still an important part

of Racine’s identity at the time he wrote Phèdre and

undoubtedly influenced the themes of the play. Racine’s

desire to settle with the Jansenist movement and

simultaneously adapt ancient tragedy for his French

contemporaries led to more striking thematic material in his

other plays.

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Andromaque

Racine’s Andromaque, progressive and sometimes

shocking to contemporary Frenchmen, displays an

assortment of characters who, despite their best efforts to

the contrary, cannot escape their harsh fates because of

their lust and cruelty. Different themes from the ancient

tales of the Trojan War are apparent throughout the work.

The enduring popularity of Andromaque from Racine’s

time to our own shows the skill with which the playwright

adapted a classical story. For Hermione and Pyrrhus,

physical lust is the principal flaw and no escape can be

found from its doom. Mitchell Greenberg describes

Pyrrhus’ lust for Andromache as his own undoing:

“Pyrrhus’ desire for Andromache, a desire for the

fulfillment of which he is ready to alienate himself and,

more important, the state of which he is head from his

Greek brethren is thus at once a private and a public

challenge to the reigning political order of his world.” 7 The

evils of his passion succeed in separating Pyrrhus from

7

Mitchell Greenberg, Racine: From Ancient Myth to Tragic Modernity

(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010), 56.

146


every other important force in his life. Only Andromache,

who is the object of great lust and not subject to it, can

escape from a terrible fate. The characters’ main

progression from trying to control their situations to their

undoing by passion is best evident in the intent of Orestes

at the beginning of the play. He intends to convince

Pyrrhus to kill Astyanax, a Trojan threat to the Greeks, and

take Hermione as his own wife. However, Orestes expected

Pyrrhus to refuse and offer Hermione to him. Orestes’

attempt to control the situation backfires when Pyrrhus

agrees to kill Astyanax and decides to keep Hermione to

spite Orestes: “Yes, my [Pyrrhus’] desires have run too

wildly on to find repose, now, in mere unconcern. Look to

it well: from this time forward my heart, if it cannot love

with rapture, must hate with fury. I will spare nothing in

my lawful rage.” 8 Pyrrhus’ passions here set in motion the

entire conflict of the play, which will cause the destruction

of the things he holds most dear. The failure of the

characters to judge their own situations well creates an

acute sense of tragedy throughout the entire play that any

person could recognize. The sin of passion, especially

sexual lust, would have resonated even more with Racine’s

8

Jean Racine, Three Plays of Racine, trans. George Dillon (Chicago:

University of Chicago Press, 1961), 15. All subsequent references to

Andromaque will refer to the page numbers in this translation.

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Christian audience than with an ancient audience, even if

the viewers did not themselves meet the ideals of their

faith. Seneca’s version of the Andromache story, one of the

most famous from antiquity, differs in some of this

thematic material.

Despite the strong character influences from

Seneca’s Troades on Racine, Andromaque differs greatly in

content from its Latin counterpart. As Ronald Tobin states

in his study of Seneca’s influence on Racine, “the two

plays (the Troades and Andromaque) lead to two different

conclusions: the former ends with Andromacha humiliated

and crushed, and Astyanax slain; in the latter, Andromaque

emerges triumphant over her enemies and saves her son, at

least temporarily. Where then does the similarity lie?

Basically in character delineation.” 9 Although Seneca’s

ending reflects his Stoic values and Racine’s echoes

Catholic beliefs, their plays’ similarities show the appeal of

a certain type of character that French audiences would

have appreciated. Both Seneca and Racine have a talent for

creating strong, sympathetic female characters, and the

story of Andromache provides them both with the

opportunity to exhibit this. Tobin cites the passage from

9 Tobin (1971) 91.

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Andromaque in which Andromache resolves to die with her

son if Astyanax must be killed by order of Pyrrhus as an

example of her strong resolve and sense of honor. He

writes, “Racine, then, in creating his character

Andromaque, made her express sentiments which disclose

her pride and resolution but also her tenderness and

maternal affection. These are precisely the qualities which

appear in the Latin Andromacha.” 10 Racine’s audience

would likely have appreciated both the allusion to the

heroines in Seneca and the emotional strength of

Andromache. Racine’s protagonist is loyal to her dead

husband Hector, extremely protective of her child

Astyanax, and willing to die to uphold her family’s honor.

In the rigidly hierarchical social structure of seventeenth-

century France, these sentiments would have been

immediately recognized. Euripides’ Andromache resembles

and differs from this Racinian model.

While Euripides’ Andromache contains a sense of

the helplessness of humans before the gods, it also

comments on social class and Andromache’s life as a slave,

rather than evil lust. Andromache is presented as the slave

of Pyrrhus, who has Hermione as his new wife, in

Euripides’ version. The central conflict in this story, unlike

10 Tobin (1971) 94.

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Racine’s, is the relationship between these two women and

their roles in society after the Trojan War. Near the play’s

beginning, Andromache and Hermione get into an

argument in which Hermione is insulted that a slave like

Andromache can address her unpleasantly. She becomes

frustrated and yells, “Why do you take this high and lofty

tone and enter into a contest of words with me. . . . May

your way of thought never come to dwell with me, woman!

. . . We do not live here with barbarian customs.” 11 This

speech suggests that Andromache does not yet know her

place, but ought to learn it in order to survive, as Hermione

goes on to threaten to kill her. Lust is not the central issue

in Euripides’ resolution either. The goddess Thetis arrives

to save Andromache in her time of need while Pyrrhus dies.

The moral message that ends the play is expressed by the

chorus: “There are many shapes of divinity, and many

things the gods accomplish against our expectation. What

men expect is not brought to pass, but a god finds a way to

achieve the unexpected. Such was the outcome of this

story” (1284-1288). Racine’s ending, however, sees

Andromache saved with her morals intact (although not

11

Euripides, Andromache, trans. David Kovacs, Perseus Digital

Library, www.perseus.tufts.edu, 234-243. All subsequent references to

Euripides’ Andromache will refer to the line numbers of this

translation.

150


necessarily because of them) in the face of sinners like

Pyrrhus and Hermione. This emphasis on divine grace and

moral superiority reflects Racine’s own Catholic views,

particularly through the Jansenist school of thought.

The tragic climax of Racine’s Andromaque exhibits

Jansenist views on sin and grace, whether or not the

influence was intentional or subconscious. Each character

is deeply flawed and commits grievous sin through passion.

Even Andromache cannot refrain from entering into the

various plots schemed by Racine’s other characters; she

resolves to marry Pyrrhus, who enslaved her, if that might

help her son’s situation. While this may seem self-

sacrificing from a modern perspective, the action implicates

Andromache in all of the wrongs of those around her. She

states, “I give my life, all that remains of it, to Pyrrhus . . .

my hand will then at once cut short a life forsworn” (41).

While Andromache’s sense of honor would doubtless

appeal to Racine’s audience, the acknowledgment of her

impending suicide would also be a manifestation of sin. To

the ancients, suicide could be a way to die honorably, but

for Christians, especially the Jansenists, suicide was a grave

affront against God. The basic idea about original sin,

which underlies Jansenist thought, is that its consequences

are “death, pain, human depravity, and imperfection”

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comes from St. Augustine. 12 All of Andromaque’s

characters suffer despite their best intentions, one might

say, because they are incapable of doing anything else.

However, the one who suffers least, Andromache, is also

the character who survives in the end. This can be seen as a

sign of God’s grace for her. Even Euripides’ Andromache

seems to be favored by the gods, an influence which Racine

certainly maintained. The Augustinian idea of grace, as

envisioned by the Jansenists, provides a good comparison:

“Fallen man is so deprived by the legacy of sin that he is

incapable, unaided, of willing what is good; let alone

achieving salvation through faith in Christ. Divine

assistance is essential, in the form of grace.” 13 It should

come as no surprise, then, that all of Racine’s characters are

flawed beyond their control in Andromaque and also that

the one who suffers least among them, Andromache, has

been afforded the mercy and grace of God. As in Phèdre,

Racine’s characters have striking moral flaws which

represent their downfall. Christian sins, particularly pride,

continue to be evident in Racine’s plays with Britannicus.

12 Doyle (2000) 5.

13 Doyle (2000) 5-6.

152


Britannicus

Throughout Racine’s Britannicus, Agrippina, the

mother of the emperor Nero, is presented as prideful and

ambitious in a way that differs from the historical accounts

of Tacitus. The French viewing public, probably familiar

with the story, would have understood Racine’s choice to

emphasize the pride of Agrippina over the cruelty of Nero.

Racine depicts Agrippina as a plotter in royal intrigue from

the very beginning when she reveals, “I know it was I alone

that worked their ruin, that from the throne, which his

blood claimed for him, Britannicus saw his hopes by me

cast down . . . Nero enjoys all; and in recompense I must

hold the balance between them [the Roman people] and

him.” 14 The title character, Britannicus, does not receive

nearly the same attention as Agrippina and Nero because of

their tragic qualities. Britannicus just becomes a victim

because he was the rightful heir of the Roman Empire and a

threat to Nero. After Nero has murdered Britannicus, the

play ends with Agrippina predicting her own fate. Her

intrigues had angered the emperor and Agrippina’s outlook

is not bright: “Did you see, Burrus, when Nero took his

14

Racine, Britannicus, Three Plays of Racine, trans. George Dillon

(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961), 65. All subsequent

references to Britannicus will refer to the page numbers of this

translation.

153


leave, what furious looks he gave me? It is over; he has

nothing more to stop him. Now the blow predicted to me

will fall upon my head” (119). An oracle that had

previously predicted death for Agrippina if she put her son

on the throne comes true as a result of her ambition.

Racine’s audience would have seen the poignancy of this

predicament because pride was perhaps the worst of the

seven deadly sins, a common conception in Catholicism

since the Middle Ages. This particular concept would have

resonated with mainstream Catholics just as strongly as

with Jansenists. While Nero’s lust for a woman named

Junia also permeates the play, Britannicus leaves its

viewers with the sense that the true loser in the entire

course of events is the prideful Agrippina. Britannicus,

although killed in the prime of life, at least maintained a

sense of dignity in the play. Tacitus, an ancient Roman

historian from the aristocratic class who wrote during the

late first and early second centuries A.D., wrote a version

of this narrative in his history which focuses more on the

savage ways of Nero and poor omen they bring for the

Roman state.

The character of Nero in the Annals of Tacitus must

be understood in context in order to understand the Roman

historian’s version of Britannicus’ death. Nero is the focal

154


point for Tacitus, while Racine arguably makes his

Agrippina. Tacitus’ first line about the reign of Nero sets

the tone ominously, describing “the first death of the new

principate [the form of government adopted under the

Roman Empire which considered the government’s head to

be first among equals]” rather than the usual list of consuls,

the senior magistrates under the Roman Republic, which

begins most years. 15 The most enduring image of Nero in

the Annals, which the well-educated Racine must have

been familiar with, is that of the emperor singing after the

great fire of Rome in A.D. 64. Tacitus writes that Nero

“had actually mounted his domestic stage and sung of the

extirpation of Troy, assimilating present calamities to olden

disasters” (15.39.3). This image of the self-centered and

cruel Nero has captured the European imagination for

centuries. While Racine certainly hints at Nero’s great

harshness throughout the play, the emperor’s lust for Junia

receives more attention in Britannicus. He speaks in the

third person as he threatens Britannicus for supposedly

fancying Junia: “The worse for him if he has attracted her,

Narcissus; he had rather wish for her anger. Nero will not

be jealous without revenge” (77). Nero is even given a

15

Tacitus, Annals, trans. A.J. Woodman (Indianapolis: Hackett

Publishing Company, 2004), 13.1.1. All subsequent references to

Tacitus’ Annals will refer to the section numbers from this translation.

155


moment of mercifulness toward Agrippina by Racine:

“Make no mistake, Burrus: unjust as she is, she is my

mother. I will ignore her caprices” (74). Yet despite this,

Agrippina’s ambition is still more central to the plot of

Britannicus than either the infamous emperor Nero or the

title character. Tacitus’ depiction of Nero and Agrippina in

the specific episode of Britannicus’ death further colors

Racine’s use of these figures.

Tacitus’ Annals concentrate on the faults of Nero

and his murderous intent against Britannicus without the

knowledge of his mother, Agrippina. Agrippina is no

longer the central character in Tacitus’ narrative by the

time of Britannicus’ death. However, just as in Racine’s

Britannicus, the would-be heir’s death is a turning point in

the relationship between Nero and his mother in a very bad

way for Agrippina. Tacitus conveys that “in Agrippina’s

case, such panic, such mental shock flashed out, despite her

attempt to suppress them in her look, that it was agreed that

she had been as unaware [of the assassination] as Octavia,

Britannicus’ sister. She had begun to understand that her

last source of aid had been seized away and that there was

now a precedent for parricide” (13.16.4). Racine confirms

this assessment in his aforementioned description of

Agrippina’s impending death at the end of Britannicus.

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However, the important difference from Tacitus is that

Agrippina remains the central figure of even the coming

tragedy of her own death. Tacitus’ tragedy is really the

story of Rome trapped under despotic tyrants like Nero. An

educated French theatre-goer would look for the

similarities and subtle differences in Racine’s tale from that

of Tacitus. Others might not be quite as cognizant of these

things, but they would still be entertained by the story and

alerted to the moral message that comes out of it. Racine

continued to appeal to this knowledge of ancient Roman

history in Bérénice, another of his tragedies.

Bérénice

Bérénice explores the idea of devotion to one’s duty

over love, certainly recognizable for the French aristocracy,

through an ancient Roman tale about the emperor Titus.

The historical Titus lived in the first century A.D. and

supposedly fell in love with a foreign queen, Berenice, after

he suppressed a revolt in Judaea. Racine’s play skips all of

the background details to focus on one subject, Titus’

announcement to Berenice of his decision. As soon as the

play opens, this decision has already been made: “I’m

going to leave her for ever. For a long time my heart has

known what it must do. . . if in the end I have chosen my

157


duty, I want you to know that, to destroy such wanting

there’ve been days of struggle which have left me

bleeding.” 16 Thus it does not play any real role in the play’s

action, and the conclusion is already drawn from the start.

The center of the action is the emotional consequence of

abandoning love and the necessary attention to duty.

Racine’s psychological examination of Titus and Berenice

revolves around these ideas through the climax and end of

the play. The story concludes with Berenice’s last speech to

Titus, in which she realizes how their situation will not be

resolved: “You know my heart . . . I wanted to be loved . . .

I thought that my lover’s feelings were over. I realize my

error; you’ll love me for ever. I’ve watched your tears

falling, what pain you’re in I know . . . goodbye, my Lord,

reign now; I shall never see you” (60). The tragedy in

Bérénice is not what terrible fates befall the characters due

to moral flaw, but rather the same ideal of duty surpassing

love that begins the play. The idea of duty for the state,

while certainly not comparable to modern nationalism, held

a strong sway among the nobility of seventeenth-century

France. Social class and nobility were defining elements of

16

Jean Racine, Bérénice, Three Plays: Berenice, Le Misanthrope, The

School for Wives, trans. Neil Bartlett (Bath, England: Absolute Press,

1990), 27. All subsequent references to Bérénice will refer to the page

numbers of this translation.

158


a Frenchman’s existence at this time and any marriage that

could be used for political purposes would be welcomed

regardless of love. Racine’s emphasis on this idea

definitely applied to both ancient Rome and early modern

France, but would have been particularly appreciated by his

fellow Frenchmen.

The Roman historian Suetonius, a Roman writer

contemporary with Tacitus who wrote biographies of the

Roman emperors and Racine’s chief source for Bérénice,

does not dwell on the story of Titus and Berenice for long

and does not note a particular importance of duty in the

decisions of Titus. Much of Racine’s work on Bérénice

involved a complete adaptation of an ancient scenario for

his French audience. This story especially cannot be

accused of merely being a French translation of classical

stories and ideas. Suetonius references Berenice exactly

twice in his Life of Titus. He says that Titus gave her “a

promise of marriage,” according to unverified reports. 17

The line which inspired Racine’s play describes the

outcome of Titus and Berenice’s relationship: “He

immediately sent away Berenice from the city, much

17

Suetonius, Titus, trans. Alexander Thomson, Perseus Digital Library,

www.perseus.tufts.edu, 7.1. All subsequent references to this work will

refer to the section numbers of this particular translation.

159


against both their inclinations” (7.2). No further

information is provided about the dynamics of this

relationship, leaving room for Racine to create a tale that

could appeal to enthusiasts of French theatre and learned

appreciators of classical history alike. Some of the

playwright’s own vision undoubtedly contributed to the

development of Bérénice as well.

Even more so than for ordinary Catholics, the

Jansenist ideal was one of separation from the world and

devotion to God. This monastic ideal did not value the sort

of worldly love that Titus and Berenice both desired.

Although Racine was no longer an active part of the

Jansenist movement by the time of Bérénice, the emphasis

on one’s duty to God over worldly things would certainly

have remained with him for better or for worse. As a boy,

Racine was educated in an environment which “wished to

separate him from humanity . . . [teaching that] man turned

inward upon himself . . . is sinful; therefore he must turn to

God.” 18 Brereton’s biography claims that this tendency

toward isolation from worldly things combined with his

withdrawn personality to haunt Racine throughout his

life. 19 A possible middle ground for this internal struggle

18 Brereton (1951) 84.

19 Brereton (1951) 84.

160


and ancient Roman themes may be the basis of Bérénice’s

plot. The Roman emperor rejects his worldly pleasures for

duty, in his context to the Roman people who never appear

directly. As noted by Roland Barthes, the Roman public

represents Titus’ fears and obligations but is never given

any indication of actually existing in Racine’s entire play. 20

Titus’ fear and duty towards these Romans may be similar

to the young Racine’s fear and duty towards a God who

could not be present in the corrupt physical world. While

the most inner workings of Racine’s mind may never be

fully known, it is still apparent that his Jansenist education

continued to affect him throughout his career and life.

Jean Racine has been credited as one of the greatest

playwrights in French history because of his unique artistic

vision. In an era dominated by classical antiquity, he

brought many familiar and profound themes into the

seventeenth century through his theatre adaptations. These

plays were not merely translations of great Greek and

Roman writers like Euripides, Seneca, and Tacitus, but

versions of tales which could appeal greatly to his

contemporary French audience. In addition to seventeenth-

century French concerns, Racine’s plays also reveal some

20

Roland Barthes, On Racine, trans. Richard Howard (Los Angeles:

University of California Press, 1992), 95.

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of the most important influences on the playwright himself.

His education at the Jansenist stronghold of Port-Royal

undoubtedly impacted Racine’s views and may have even

helped him reconcile classical ideas about the harshness of

fate and the divine with Christian ideas. Such a complex

creative career certainly places Racine on the same level as

his classical forebears and will ensure his enduring

relevance in both theatre and the study of early modern

French history.

162


Bibliography

Barthes, Roland. On Racine. Translated by Richard

Howard. Los Angeles: University of California

Press, 1992.

Brereton, Geoffrey. Jean Racine: A Critical Biography.

London: Cassell & Co. Ltd., 1951.

Doyle, William. Jansenism: Catholic Resistance to

Authority from the Reformation to the French

Revolution. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000.

Euripides. Andromache. Translated by David Kovacs.

Perseus Digital Library. www.perseus.tufts.edu.

———. Hippolytus. Translated by David Kovacs. Perseus

Digital Library. www.perseus.tufts.edu.

Greenburg, Mitchell. Racine: From Ancient Myth to Tragic

Modernity. Minneapolis: University

of Minnesota Press, 2010.

Racine, Jean. Andromaque. Three Plays of Racine.

Translated by George Dillon. Chicago:

University of Chicago Press, 1961.

———. Bérénice. Three Plays: Berenice, Le Misanthrope,

The School for Wives. Translated by Neil

Bartlett. Bath, England: Absolute Press, 1990.

———. Britannicus. Three Plays of Racine. Translated by

George Dillon. Chicago: University of Chicago

Press, 1961.

———. Phèdre. Translated by Margaret Rawlings. New

York: Penguin Books, 1991.

163


Suetonius. Life of Titus. Translated by Alexander Thomson.

Perseus Digital Library.

www.perseus.tufts.edu.

Tacitus. Annals. Translated by A.J. Woodman.

Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 2004.

Tobin, Ronald W. Racine and Seneca. Chapel Hill:

University of North Carolina Press, 1971.

164


Theater of Epidauros

Photo by Christine Roughan

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Submissions for Next Year’s Journal

________________________________________________

Parnassus welcomes submissions from Holy Cross

students of any major. For next year’s journal, students

from the classes of 2013 - 2017 are eligible to submit.

Pieces should relate to the study of the ancient world and

should be understandable to a wide audience. Essays,

poems, translations, creative pieces, and artwork are

eligible for publication.

Submissions can be e-mailed to

HCclassicsjournal@gmail.com, beginning in October 2013.

Pieces will be reviewed during winter break, and authors

will be notified of acceptance at the beginning of February

2014. Authors of accepted articles will continue to work on

their piece with an editor in the following month.

Any questions about Parnassus and the submissions

process before October 2013 can be directed to Anne

Salloom, Editor-in-Chief, at acsall14@g.holycross.edu.

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