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The History of Rome in the Regal Period Author(s): Plinio Fraccaro Source: The Journal of Roman Studies, Vol.

47, No. 1/2 (1957), pp. 59-65 Published by: Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies Stable URL: . Accessed: 24/03/2011 19:02
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When we consider the information concerning the history of the earliest days of Rome which ancient authors have handed down to us, we have to ask ourselves: which parts of it are acceptable and which are not ? What, after all, do we really know about early Roman history ? Modern scholars view these problems from very different psychological standpoints. Some of them ask why we should refuse credence to a venerable tradition which has been given an artistic form of great beauty by writers of genius, and which is full of lessons of political and moral importance. Others, however, seized with the full frenzy of the critic, and with uncompromising devotion to logic, discard all, or practically all, the tradition. Whatever the cost, they intend to reach the truth. These two conflicting tendencies prevail turn and turn about in accordance with the views dominating in different periods or with the different temperaments or ages of individual scholars. The situation becomes an almost painful one when a scholar has to take up a position in public, and in particular when he wishes to narrate, rather than to discuss, the early history of Rome. In these circumstances the better procedure is that of those historians who choose to recount the tradition first, to follow this with criticism of the tradition, and after such criticism, possibly ruthless, to build a reconstruction on the few elements which have been salvaged, as Ettore Pais did, especially in the first edition of his Storia di Roma. In this way the tradition does not disappear altogether; it is at least recounted before it is rejected. More difficult decisions have to be taken by one who intends to tell the story without first offering an exposition and critical analysis of the tradition. For example, in his RJmische Geschichte Mommsen displays remarkable scepticism and takes no account at all of the traditional stories of the individual Roman kings, although he deals fully with the monarchy as an institution, attributes the Servian constitution to the regal period, and accepts the fact of the expulsion of the kings, which has been ' spun out into a legend ' in our sources. The detailed accounts of the kings are for Mommsen all ' fables ', ' die Sage, die fur alles einen Ursprung weiss ' (p. 47), ' quasi Historie.' In the first volume of his work the development and the civilization of early Rome and of the peoples who were in contact with her have been reconstructed with the help of elements from other sources, differing from those derived from the historiographical tradition. The distrust with which the Romans' own account of the earliest years of their city is viewed stems from the obviously legendary character of much of its contents and from the impression which other parts give of being explanations, worked up some time later, of rites, ceremonies, and monuments of which the origin had been forgotten. This distrust, however, comes also from a failure to see how detailed accounts of events which happened before the third century could have been handed down to the end of that century, when the Romans first began to write annales, began, that is, to arrange the information at their disposal year by year, with the help of the list of magistrates. To counter this second reason for scepticism, or to weaken its force, people have tried to think of some means or other by which information about the period of the monarchy or the early Republic could have reached the annalists of the end of the third century. One possible vehicle was the subject of the well-known theory of Niebuhr, who thought of going back to the carmina which used to be sung to the accompaniment of flutes, in accordance with an ancient mos epularum recorded by Cato in the Origines, and which celebrated ' clarorum virorum laudes et virtutes'. This practice dated to a period some centuries before the time of Cato himself (Cic., Br. 75 : ' multis saeculis ante suam aetatem ') and therefore these carmina were not known to Cato, nor, it would seem, to the oldest annalists. Although Niebuhr's theory was not well-received, it was taken up by De Sanctis. For example, in discussing the story of Verginia he says: ' the pure strain of popular poetry is apparent in the story of Verginia ' (Storia dei Romani II, 47). He is obviously using a very subjective standard of criticism. No one knows what these songs sung by Roman aristocrats at their banquets were like; but they were certainly in
* Miss Ursula Ewins, Lecturer in Ancient History, St. Andrews University, is to be thanked for kindly

undertaking the translation of Professor Fraccaro's article. (Ed.)



celebration of feats of war, not tragedies like that of Verginia, and they were based on simple themes that were easy to take up again. But recently this theory has been revived by the pupil of De Sanctis, Luigi Pareti (see also below, pp. 104 f.). Pareti, a student of ancient history who has won wide renown, has been publishing in the last few years (I95z and later) a full Storia di Roma, of which four volumes have already appeared, taking the account down to the accession of Vespasian. In Athenaeum xxx (I952), I42, I published a lengthy review of the first two volumes of the work. Pareti replied indirectly to the points I had made when, in a supplement to the Roman weekly, Idea, Of 25th November, 1956, he discussed the paper entitled ' La storia romana arcaica' which I read at the inaugural meeting of the Istituto Lombardo di Scienze e Lettere in I952. There are two points of disagreement between Pareti and myself. One concerns the ' ancient heroic verse ', which I did not mention in my paper, 'probably,' says Pareti, ' because he discounts it.' I do not either discount or value something about which nothing is known. Pareti thinks that 'the plots of such carmina could later have been handed down in writing, as well as orally'. Cicero says, however, utinam extarent, that is, he only knew of such songs from Cato. ' Even to-day,' writes Pareti, 'when we re-read the first books of Livy's History in which is collected the material of the annalists, we certainly find ourselves again and again in the presence of stories of poetical colour and power, overflowing with love of country and greatness of spirit. The obvious explanation of this undeniable fact is that the earliest serious epic poets, Naevius and Ennius, and the earliest annalists who were their contemporaries used material which was derived from the ancient popular heroic verse.' I have quoted the words of Pareti in full, but I do not think that there is any point in discussing the matter further, since I believe that the vast majority of scholars are in agreement that this theory of Niebuhr, De Sanctis, and Pareti has no solid basis. A fuller examination, on the other hand, should be given to Pareti's other theory, concerning the Annales Maximi. According to Pareti the Roman annalistic tradition did not begin at the end of the third century. This, he maintains, is a false assumption, ' although it has been accepted as self-evident by those scholars to whom it should have appeared most awkward '. The tradition, he thinks, goes back to the tabulae dealbatae on which the Pontifices 'from the very beginning of the Republic noted everything of importance, whatever its nature, which happened in the course of the year, and which, after the destruction of the first set in the sack of Rome by the Gauls, were at once afterwards reconstructed by the Pontifices in their main outlines and were published in annalistic form, as Annales Maximi, with a preface concerning the regal period'. The elder Cato does not seem to have had the same opinion as Pareti about the records made by the Pontifices; for he says that he does not wish to put into his Origines matters of no interest, like the price of corn or the changes in the heavenly bodies noted in the records of the Pontifices: ' Non lubet scribere, quod in tabula apud pontificem maximum est, quotiens annona cara, quotiens lunae aut solis lumine caligo aut quid obstiterit ' (Gellius II, 28, 6). It is indeed probable that on the tabula there was recorded above all information of practical importance, for the benefit especially of Roman farmers, and this would include notes of the phases of the moon and eclipses. We gain a somewhat different impression of the records of the Pontifices from the famous passage of Cicero, De Or. II, 52. It appears that in the time of Cicero the tabula, dealbata was no longer displayed. According to Cicero the Pontifex used to write on the boards res omnes singulorum annorum and used to expose these in public so that whoever wanted to might gain information from them. Servius Auctus on Aen. I, 373, gives us a more detailed account: on the tabula there were put first the names of the consuls and of the other magistrates and afterwards ' digna memoratu . . . domi militiaeque terra marique gesta ', and these ' per singulos dies', that is, with a precise date. It is difficult to explain why, if it contained all this, Cato spoke so slightingly of the tabula of the Pontifices and of its humdrum contents. Cicero continues by saying that the first Roman annalists followed the similitudo scribendi of the tabulae pontificales, recording ' sine ullis ornamentis monumenta solum temporum, hominum, locorum gestarumque rerum' '; that is, the annals of the earliest historians were nlot very differenlt



from the annales of the Pontifices, about which Cicero himself says (De Leg. I, 2, 5): ' nihil potest esse ieiunius ' (considering them from the point of view of history as the work of the literary artist). There are two other pieces of information. Cicero, in the passage of the De Oratore already referred to, says that the record-keeping of the Pontifices ran ' ab initio rerum Romanarum usque ad P. Mucium pontificem maximum' (Pontifex from I30, Consul in I33 B.C.), and Servius, after the passage already referred to describing what the Pontifex Maximus did, continues 'cuius diligentiae annuos commentarios in octoginta libros veteres rettulerunt ' and says that these were called Annales Maximi. This information is taken to mean that Scaevola stopped the publication of the tabulae and filled eighty books with a transcription of the tabulae down to that date. Pareti, however, thinks that the publication did not take place on one single occasion, on the initiative of Scaevola, but at different periods. Ennius and Cato would therefore have known the work. But Cato speaks of the tabula, not of the Annales Maximi, and Cicero, De re p. I, i6, 25, says that the eclipse which Ennius mentioned as happening 350 years post Romam conditam was recorded also in the Annales Maximi; which does not prove that Ennius himself took it from tabulae already published in book form. The idea which we have been able to form of this publication of the tabulae is not in harmony with the statement of Servius that it comprised eighty books. Even allowing for considerable variation, one book muist have had a certain length, and an enormous amount of material must have been needed to fill eighty books. (Livy reached the period of Scaevola, which is roughly that of the tribunate of Tiberius Gracchus, in fifty-nine books.) We cannot, therefore, have to deal with a simple collection of tabulae, even one of several hundred of yearly tabulae. In this connection it would be interesting if we could discover how in practice these tabulae were used by the Pontifices. Originally their pronouncements must have been made orally, as we see from Varro (De L. L. v, 27) was the case with the proclamation of the Nones. When the change was made to written notification (we do not know the date of this change and it may have been a gradual one) a really large whitened board was certainly needed for an indication in legible characters of a considerable amount of material. I do not think it likely that at the end of a year a new whitened board was prepared for the following year while the old one was stored in the Regia. Some people seem to believe that at the time of Scaevola there were preserved hundreds of tabulae; even Pareti speaks of the ' first set of the tabulae ' destroyed in the sack by the Gauls. But the Regia still exists, a tiny building which could never have contained such a mass of material. We may therefore suppose that from a certain date the Pontifices before rewhitening the tabula began to note on a codex such information from the record of the preceding year as they thought should be preserved. They did not, as we might think, do this primarily in order to store the information for historical purposes, but above all to preserve the memory of particular matters which had a bearing on the duties of the Pontifices, which were complicated and often obscure. This would explain why the few quotations which we have from the Annales Maximi refer to matters of religious or constitutional importance. For example, the story which Gellius IV, 5, obtained from Verrius Flaccus, and which came from the eleventh book of the Annales Maximi (of which it is the longest fragment preserved for us), deals with the expiation of a prodigium, for which Etruscan aruspices were summoned. As Beloch observed (Rom. Gesch. 103), this must have happened at a time when the Etruscan cities were, in general, under Roman control; that is, after 300 B.c. This would suggest that the books of the Annales Maximi later than the tenth contained material from about 300 B.C. This little story could not have appeared in the tabula, but must have been contained among the notes which the Pontifices added to particular incidents, notes which could have been extended without limit and go back to the most remote past. Vopiscus, Vita Taciti I, i, tells us that the Pontifices ' penes quos scribendae historiae potestas fuit ' had written that at the death of Romulus, the good king, the interregnum was instituted, in order to find another good king. If, as appears probable, we ought to read apXi8pEsiY in the text of Dionysius I, 74, then in the records (ricvaQ) of the Pontifices the foundation of Rome was placed in the second year of the seventh Olympiad, and naturally this had never been recorded on the tabula dealbata.




If the quotations in the Origo gentis -Romanaeare to be considered genuine,' as Pareti seems to believe, the legends of Alba and the Alban kings were told in the fourth book of the Annales Maximi, and with particular attention to the miraculous. We are dealing, therefore, with material of late date. This also explains why the collection of pontifical records, chronologically arranged, came to grow beyond all measure, and reached eighty books by about 130 B.C. The story of the Etruscan arutspicesallows us to see with what material it grew. We can also see why this history of histories, which modern writers so often invoke, was used so little by the ancient historians. Neither Livy nor Dionysius, if we except the passage already referred to where the text is not quite certain, mentions them; nor do the grammarians and antiquarians whose works survive, except for Verrius Flaccus ; the one historian who does quote them, three times, is the author of the Origo gentis Romanae. When did this record-keeping begin ? We do not know. 'Ab initio rerum Romanarum,' says Cicero, and the Origo would confirm this in making the accounts in the Annales Maximi go back to the foundation of Alba. The one piece of evidence with which a date is associated is the well-known passage of De re p. i, i6, 25, on eclipses. Ennius (Ann. fr. I63, Vahlen) recorded that anno quinquagesimoCCC fere post Romam conditam Nonis lunis soli luna obstitit et nox. Atque hac in re tanta inest ratio atque sollertia, ut ex hoc die, quem apud Ennium et in maximis annalibus consignatumvidemus, superiores solis defectiones reputatae sint usque ad illam, quae Nonis Quinctilibus fuit regnante Romulo. According to the manuscript of the De re p., Ennius dated the eclipse about 350 years ab urbe condita; that is, about 404 B.C. Beloch therefore suggested the reading CCCCL and the identification with the eclipse of 13th June (5th June in the Roman calendar) of 288, certainly visible from Rome (Hermes LVII, 1922, I23 ; R6m. Gesch. 92). Since this eclipse came to be used as a point of departure for the calculation of other eclipses, going back to the time of Romulus, Beloch thought it must have been the first recorded in the Annales Maximi (cf. Stuart Jones in CAH VII, 320). This is borne out by the fact that Livy only occasionally mentions prodigies in his first nine books, while in the tenth he records them in chapters 23 and 3I for 296 and 295 B.C. The records of the Pontifices, therefore, had their beginning about 300 B.C., as a consequence, according to Beloch, of the reorganization of the college of Pontifices after the Lex Ogulnia of 300, which opened it and the college of augurs to the Plebs. Beloch reached the same result in investigating the reliability of the dates of triumphs (Rom. Gesch. 88), which are fixed from the end of the fourth century. The consular Fasti themselves are reliable from 300 B.C. The genuine records of the Pontifices must go back to this period. Whatever value we wish to give to these acute observations of Beloch, it is certain in any case that we do not know when the tabula dealbata was first displayed. When Pareti says that the tabulae dealbatae were destroyed in the sack of Rome by the Gauls but were at once afterwards reconstructed by the Pontifices in their main outlines, and so on, he is saying something for which there is not the slightest evidence. The unknown annalist Clodius, quoted by Plutarch, Numna I, said that the ancient avaypacac had disappeared in the Gallic sack and that their place had been taken by others containing falsifications in favour of individuals who were later of importance Livy vi, i, 9, thought that after the Gallic disaster an attempt was made to search out laws and treaties while the Pontifices, on the other hand, kept private even such prescriptions as had been preserved in order to conduct the rites as they pleased in the future. But no author mentions historical works. Pareti accuses me of having too much confidence in a tradition which, in my view, was first put into writing from three to five centuries after the events it describes took place. This is not quite how things stand. Leaving aside the five-century interval and the events of the earlier part of the regal period, the events of the first years of the
1 The Origo twice quotes ' annales pontificum libro IV' (17, 3 ; 5), and once 'annales libro IV' (i8,

4), where it is obvious that 'pontificum' been left out.




Republic would have been put into writing 300 years later. Now the first thing to bear in mind is that we are considering a trustworthiness which is admittedly only relative. For example, I accept as approximately right the Polybian dating of the first treaty between Rome and Carthage, but neither I nor others would stake a penny to back this opinion. A number of considerations makes us think that this dating is tenable and probable, but nothing more. Besides this, a number of facts have been associated with names in the list of eponymous magistrates and their dating is therefore almost certain: for example, the laws of the Twelve Tables, the capture of Veii, the sack of Rome by the Gauls. Several public and private documents which recorded events in the earliest period must have escaped destruction by the Gauls, and we have examples of these. But these are only isolated facts, furnishing evidence of a very scanty nature. Now on the other hand, an attempt is being made to find in the Annales Maximi the historical basis of our accounts and this is not likely. At the centre of accretions of legend lie some historical facts of the fifth century B.C. of great importance, and the legends themselves are certainly often ancient and revealing, but the rest of the story was embroidered by the annalists in order to form a continuous and readable narrative. The earliest annals were, as Cicero says, exiliter scripti, and we are made aware of this whenever quotations are given with an indication of the book from which they come. This allows us to see the length to which the account ran. On this point Beloch's excellent discussion (Rom. Gesch. 95) should be consulted. The fuller treatment of the material of the annals is found for the first time in Cn. Gellius, who seems to have been writing about IOO B.C. The enrichment of material did not depend on the publication of the Annales Maximi but on the new tendency in historical writing to give a literary form and a richness of detail to the events narrated. Anyone who wishes may believe with Pareti (I take my example from his Storia, p. 373) that Coriolanus was condemned by eleven tribes and acquitted by nine. I am convinced that Spurius Cassius fell for reasons of internal politics ; it is very likely that, as Diodorus says, he was accused of aiming at tyranny, but we know nothing more about it. Livy himself, II, 41, iO, says so: 'ubi primum magistratu abiit, damnatum necatumque constat.' Everything else in Livy is obviously a later addition, and the opposing conjectures which he gives show that he knew nothing about the end of Spurius Cassius beyond the simple fact of his violent death. Let us now turn to the period of the kings. Pareti, as we have seen, holds that, when the tabulae were reconstructed after the Gallic invasion, the Pontifices prefaced to them an account of the regal period, which had come to an end little more than a century earlier. If we are to accept the quotations in the Origo, we have to think of a preface of huge dimensions, since in the fourth book the subject was still the Alban kings. It is a long time since Luigi Pareti and I read, in amazement, and, at least for my part, in admiration, in the first edition of Pais' historical work, that the kings were either the gods of the Roman hills or doubles one of another. (There are several cases in ancient history of local deities who have been made into kings ; the difficulty consisted in giving proof of such transformations.) We have devoted many years to scholarship and now good sense finally gains the day, not over the critical spirit, but in it, for the moderation and detachment which grow stronger in us with maturity and age bring restraint even into our critical activity as scholars. It is certain that from very early times not a few legends about the Roman kings were in existence, and we can see this from the fragments of the oldest annalists. We can tell that there was quite a full treatment of the period of the kings compared with that of the early Republic. It is more than likely that the Pontifices elaborated considerably the accounts of the regal period, to trace there the origins of the religious, social, and political life of the city. But in doing this they were not contributing to history: if anything they were inventing it. For this reason I consider the view that the Pontifices of the period of the Gallic invasion wrote a preface, of a historical nature, on the period of the kings a mere fantasy (though one may adopt it in order to salvage information which one is sorry to have to abandon). It is hard to believe that in those days there existed at Rome a historical sense like that which developed in Greece, and in Rome later on, and in modern times. For the study of the earliest Roman history there are few books as



instructive as Jacoby's Atthis, on the chronicles of early Athens. Jacoby has shown that the pre-literary chronicles of Ionia and of Athens and the chronicle of the exegetai imagined by Wilamowitz are modern fantasies; apart from a few documents there existed only an oral tradition, first put into written form by Herodotus.2 The history of the kings of Rome has to be considered with a certain scepticism, but at the same time with a degree of optimism. We have the names of seven or eight kings. Are these all who reigned at Rome ? We shall never know. Romulus is generally considered to be the eponym of the city; but Romulii existed at Rome from the very earliest times, and we are at liberty to believe that even Romulus may have been a historical personage. The other names I consider 'some at least of those who did in fact rule at Rome '. This is the way Pareti expresses my views, and it is substantially correct. But it must be understood in this sense: we have no means of proving (at least it has not so far been proved) that these kings were not real human kings, and that the Tarquins were one and not two. We should, therefore, allow these kings to keep their place in the history which we recount. The same thing has to be said about the acts attributed to some of the kings by the tradition. We do not know how and why the name of Tullus Hostilius was associated with the destruction of Alba, but there is no reason for us to deny the association, and therefore, though we retain some doubts, we accept it. The archaeologists, who now and again refuse to accept the traditional account, have uncovered at Ostia the walls of the oppidum of the fourth century, but we cannot prove that these walls were those of the first Roman fortification placed to guard the port at the mouth of the Tiber, so that there is no reason to deny the connection between Ancus Martius and Ostia recorded in the tradition. The tradition does not tell us who, and at what point in the history of the Republic, gave to the Roman state its organization by classes and centuries, an organization which, on the other hand, seems to be presupposed in the Twelve Tables. It does not seem likely that such an important fact would have been lost from the tradition of the Republican age to be carried back into the period of the monarchy. Therefore, I have maintained that this organization could very well go back to one of the last kings, perhaps even to Servius Tullius, in some primitive form which we can no longer discern. Similarly, we may accept the statements about the building in the regal period of the Capitoline temple, the temple of Diana (marking the supremacy of Rome in Latium), of some stretches of the Cloaca Maxima, of a wall in tufa built around the enlarged city towards the end of the monarchical period, and so on. Also, since by the beginning of the Republican period the territory of Rome was that of the sixteen rustic tribes, and much more extensive than it had been originally, it is evident that this land was acquired for Rome by the kings. When, however, I read in our sources that individual kings conquered, once or several times, the individual cities near Rome, then I do not place reliance on the individual statements, since I am not convinced that these statements had, even in antiquity, any foundation. Similarly, as I have said, I accept the Polybian dating of the first treaty with Carthage, since it seems that the position of the Roman state in the first years of the Republic corresponds better with the clauses of the treaty. Polybius says that the Romans attributed it to the first consuls of the Republic, Brutus and M. Horatius. Was the name of Horatius in the treaty, as it was in documents relating to the Capitoline temple ? The account by the Greeks of Campania of the struggles with the Etruscans in Campania and Latium helps us to envisage what happened at Rome in the transition from the regal to the Republican period, an event which is seriously obscured in the Roman tradition. It is plain that in these cases we are dealing with state institutions or important historical facts, the memory of which, as I have said, could not have been erased from the tradition of the Republican period in order to carry it back to the regal period; or
2 The essential point had already been made by Beloch, Gr. Gesch. I, 2, 5 * ' Es mag ja sein, dass es hier und da, namentlich in Ionien, Stadtchroniken schon seit der zweiten Hilfte des VI. Jahrhunderts gegeben hat; aber uiberliefert ist davon nichts, und von Athen wissen wir, dass es noch im V. Jahr-

hundert nicht der Fall gewesen ist (Thuk. I, 97, 2); was neuere von dem " Exegeten " zu erzaihlen wissen, der eine solche Chronik seit anno Tobak gefiuhrt habe, sind Phantasien, die ein Blick auf die Beschaffenheit unserer Uberlieferung wiederlegt.'



we are dealing with monuments of very great importance, with which the name of a king who built them could have remained permanently associated. Pareti says that my confidence is excessive in a tradition which, if the chronicles of the Pontifices did not go back to the regal period, must have been put into writing from three to five hundred years after the events took place. If we were certain that from 6oo to 200 B.C. no one ever wrote at all in Rome, the criticism would be serious: 400 years of oral tradition would be too many even for a relatively small city with a limited and traditionally-minded aristocracy, in which the remembrance of matters of state which were of direct importance to the families could have been long preserved. But we cannot be sure of this. Just as the name of the consul Horatius, the one historical personage among the legendary figures of the first year of the Republic, was preserved as it was connected with the dedication of the Capitoline temple,3 so the names of certain kings could have been preserved in very old inscriptions relating to certain events or buildings of which no trace has been preserved for us. Surely, for example, there stood in the Forum the column of bronze with the treaty of Spurius Cassius and the Latins inscribed upon it ? (Cic., Balb. 23, 53). Very old documents and records, both public and private, could have been preserved by the families themselves, for it is one thing to feel a historian's interest and to write history, and another to preserve the memory of such deeds and events as are of personal interest. If, therefore, we cannot swear to the historicity of certain happenings of the regal period, neither can we deny it just because we cannot be sure how the record of them was preserved. Even for the fundamental facts we have only a greater or lesser probability, and never absolute certainty. These inquiries of ours into the very nature of the data we are forced to use cannot lead to more definite results. I would therefore say that the most difficult virtue required by the historian of early Rome is that of being able to renounce the greater part of the information the ancients have handed down to us; next comes that of knowing how to interpret and to illuminate the rest.
3 See Beloch, Rom. Gesch. 40; although he does not suppose that the name of Horatius was on the pediment of the temple.