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Documents and Domus in Republican Rome

Author(s): Phyllis Culham
Reviewed work(s):
Source: Libraries & Culture, Vol. 26, No. 1, Reading & Libraries I (Winter, 1991), pp. 119-134
Published by: University of Texas Press
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Documents and Domus in
Republican
Rome
Phyllis
Culham
The Romans
began
to
specify
locations at which documents were to be
kept
and to retrieve and refer to earlier
epigraphic
documents as a
result of en
tanglement
with the
Greek-speaking
states of the eastern
Mediterranean.
The three
surviving diplomatic
documents that
provide specific
citations to
earlier records offer
insight
into how the Romans
categorized
and stored
information.
They
demonstrate that the Romans of the
Republic
did not
attempt
word-for-word
duplication
of master
copies,
nor
did
they
make
public
records
easy
to consult.
Instead,
they attempted
what Foucault called "simi
litude" rather than
"resemblance,"
since
they
shared
a
premodern
mindset
unconcerned with careful
representation
of
originals
or master
copies.
...
a
dislocated voice
(that
of the
painting
or
the
blackboard,
possibly)
speaks
of both the
pipe
in the
painting
and
the one above it: "None of these is a
pipe,
but rather a text that simulates a
pipe;
a
drawing
of
a
pipe
that simulates a
draw
ing
of
a
pipe;
a
pipe (drawn
other than
as
a
drawing)
that is the simulacrum of
a
pipe (drawn
after a
pipe
that itself would
be other than a
drawing)."
. . .
?more
than
enough
to demolish the fortress
where similitude was held
prisoner
to the
assertion of resemblance.
?Michel
Foucault,1
commenting
on
Magritte's
Les deux
mysteres,
a
painting
of
a
pipe
above an
easel on which there is
a
painting
of a
pipe;
at the bottom of the
painting
within the
painting
is
written,
''
Ceci
n
'est
pas
une
pipe''
Phyllis
Culham is
professor of history,
U.S. Naval
Academy.
Libraries and
Culture,
Vol.
26,
No.
1,
Winter 1991
?1991
by
the
University
of Texas
Press, P.O. Box
7819, Austin,
TX 78713
120 L&C/Documents and Domus
Modern readers of ancient
public
documents are
often confounded
by
contradictions
greater
than those that confront viewers of
Magritte's
Ceci
n'est
pas
une
pipe (1926)
or
the later Les deux
mysteres
(1966).
At least the
ver
bal element on
Magritte's
two-dimensional canvas is
negatively
worded:
a
painting
is not a
pipe.
A viewer not
given
to
lengthy contemplation
can
take that statement as an
assertion of self-evident truth:
a
painted pipe
is
not a
pipe.
The modern reader of
inscriptions
does not have such an
easy
option.
The
large
bronze or marble
object confronting
the modern scholar
is
clearly
not the
diplomatic
letter sent from one
party
in
negotiations
to
another,
as its text
may
claim it to be. Nor did the witnesses to the
drafting
cited in decrees of the Roman senate attest to the
accuracy
of the stone
Greek text in which
they
are
listed. What
are we to make of
an
epigraphically
preserved
official letter from
a
Roman
magistrate
that
reports
a
decree of
the senate but
supplies
a text that
departs
from the format in which such
a
decree would have been
passed?2
In most of the
cases
considered
here,
the
situation is further
complicated by
the fact that we have
only
a
Greek
ver
sion of
a
communication that must have been framed in Latin. In each of
these
cases,
the document makes a
positive
statement: "This
is,"
"The
witnesses to this draft
are,"
"I enclose."
Nevertheless,
it
isn't;
they
aren't;
he doesn't.
I believe that
we
should ask
why
those who
engraved
these documents
included these statements. I intend to examine some
of these
published
texts in order to see
what
they
can tell
us
about how Romans in the
period
of the
Republic categorized,
stored,
and described some sorts of informa
tion. Modern historians
rely
on
carefully
verified resemblance in order to
claim
authority
for their
own
attempts
to
report
historical fact recovered
from
authenticated,
carefully
described documentation. I use
"resemblance"
in Foucault's
sense: "Resemblance has a
'model,'
an
original
element that
orders and hierarchizes the
increasingly
less faithful
copies
that
can be
struck from it. Resemblance
presupposes
a
primary
reference
[another
key
term]
that
prescribes
and classes." Foucault
recognized
that
Magritte's
work constituted
an
assault on our
faith in resemblance and an
insistence
on the
primacy
of similitude:
The similar
develops
in series that have neither
beginning
nor
end,
that
can be followed in one direction
as
easily
as in
another,
that
obey
no
hierarchy.
. . .
Resemblance
serves
representation [yet
another
key
term],
which rules over
it;
similitude
serves
repetition,
which
ranges
across it. Resemblance
predicates
itself
upon
a model it must
return to and
reveal;
similitude circulates the simulacrum
as an in
definite and reversible relation of the similar to the similar.3
Modern scholars have tended to read their
own reliance
on
resemblance
121
into Greco-Roman
texts,
which not
only
tolerate but thrive and
propagate
on similitude. An examination of the relevant features of Greek and Roman
diplomatic
documents will demonstrate that these ancient societies did not
think in terms of resemblance but did
develop
other means of
categorizing
texts and
ascribing authority
to
them,
means
that
developed
from simili
tude. The three
diplomatic
documents examined at
length supply
the
reader with
precise
citations to another document in
a
different location.
They
are
the
only
documents I could find in which such information is
offered.
They
are
also
among
the few documents in which there are
instruc
tions for
locating epigraphic copies
of the texts.4 It is no
accident that
Romans first
began
to
provide
for and record locations of texts in this
diplomatic
context,
although
it
may initially
seem
odd that the instances
that survive are Greek versions
kept by
the
recipients.
A brief account of
the historical milieu in which these
diplomatic
documents
were
drafted
followed
by
an
examination of the reasons
for their survival
only
in Greek
will serve two
purposes.
It will establish how and
why
the Romans
initially
adopted
and then
perpetuated
a
standard of similitude instead of resem
blance and will
provide
a
number of
glimpses
into basic
problems
of how
the Romans
categorized,
labeled,
and stored texts.
Roman interest in the
city
states and
kingdoms
of the
Greek-speaking
eastern
Mediterranean intensified
dramatically
at the
beginning
of the
second
century B.C.,
largely
as a
result of Macedonian and Seleucid
Syrian
complicity
with the
Carthaginians, against
whom the Romans had
just
fought
the Second Punic War.
Correspondence
from Rome to the Greek
speaking
East consisted
mainly
of letters from Roman
magistrates,
decrees
of the Roman
senate,
and documents or dossiers
combining
the two. The
Greek East
generated
letters from the Hellenistic
kings
and honorific
decrees to Romans or
others who had acted in the interest of the state
pass
ing
the decree. Both
sides,
of
course,
are
represented
in the treaties that
survive. We know of the vast
majority
of the documents from Rome
only
because Greek
speakers engraved
Greek versions of the texts. The basic
Roman Documents
from
the Greek East
provides
editions of
thirty-two
decrees
of the senate and
thirty-five
documents labeled
epistulae (letters) by
the
editor.5 More Roman
public
documents from the second and first centuries
B.C. survive in the Greek East in Greek than survive in
Italy
in Latin.6
There
are a
number of
possible explanations
for the survival of these
Roman documents
primarily
in Greek
copies.
One
explanation
lies in the
Hellenistic
kingdoms' development
of
chanceries, archives,
and form letters
long
before the second
century
B.C.7
Consequendy, city
states that had to
deal with the Hellenistic
kingdoms (almost
all of
them)
also had to be able to
document transactions. The Romans had not been accustomed to such
dip
lomatic
procedures
until
they
were
entangled
with these
Greek-speaking
states,
and
they
therefore had no state mechanisms dedicated to
such tasks.8
122 L&C/Documents and Domus
As a
result,
the earliest Roman
participation
in such
diplomatic exchange
tends to look much like its Hellenistic
predecessors:
witness the letter from
Flamininus to
Chyretiae
dated somewhere between 197 and 194 B.C. It
follows the essential
pattern
for letters to cities from Hellenistic
kings:
(a)
name of
king (or
Roman
magistrate), (b)
name
of
addressees,
normally
the
people
and the
magistrates/council
of
a
city, (c) greeting, (d)
back
ground/description
of basic
policy, (e) disposition
of current
question,
and
(f) procedure
for the future. In
announcing
a
policy
and
disposing
of a
matter of
business,
it
intrinsically
shares with
royal
letters the
quality
of
speaking
from
a
position
of
superiority.
That is
especially striking
in this
case,
since
previously
articulated
policy
with which the letter claims to be
consistent
guarantees
the "freedom" and
(implied) equality
of the Greek
cities.9
The document derives its
authority
from similitude to hundreds of
years'
worth of
kingly
letters. The Greeks of
Chyretiae actually
blurred its
re
semblance to its Roman
original by following
the standard
practice
in
Greece
during
these
years
and
listing
Flamininus as consul rather than
proconsul.
Flamininus
was
known for his
subtlety
in
dealing
with Greeks in
Greek,
so he could not have made such
a
mistake
himself;
nor
could he
have
promulgated
any
translation that made so basic and serious
an error.
The terms could not have been
easily
confused:
hupatos
and
anthupatos
do
not resemble each other that
closely, especially
in Greek letters. No Ameri
can
ambassador
or even
extraordinary governor general
could
approve
a
document that called him the
president. Apparently,
as far as the Greek
cities were
concerned,
once a
king, always
a
king;
once a
consul,
always
a
consul. Similitude
preserved authority
and
order;
resemblance would
have threatened it in this case.
Flamininus himself faced
a more
complicated
dilemma.
Nothing
in the
Roman
Republican past gave
him a model
or
authorized him to deal with
foreign
states as a
Hellenistic
potentate.
Nonetheless,
he could
only
succeed
at
representing
the Roman interests with which he had been
charged
if he
participated
in their
ongoing diplomatic
discourse,
issuing
documents that
would be accorded
authority.
He met with the standard Roman
advisory
council of ten of his
peers
from the
senate,
but issued their decisions in a
form that used similitude to
kingly authority.10
If this document had been
circulated
or
engraved
within
Italy
for some
reason,
it
might
well have
evoked
resentment rather than
respect
for
Flamininus,
since it did not refer
to
traditionally
Roman sources of
legitimacy.
The two
great
fires on
the
Capitoline
hill in 83 B.C. and 69 A.D.
may
supply
a second
reason
why
Roman
diplomatic
documents tend to be
pre
served
only
in Greece. In the few cases in which
a location is
specified
for
installing
or
finding
an
epigraphic
text,
the Latin text
engraved
in bronze
should have been
placed
at one of the
numerous sacral sites on the
Capitoline
123
hill. Suetonius tells
us
that three thousand documents
engraved
in bronze
were
lost in the fire of 69 A.D. alone
(Vespasian 8.5).
Suetonius was himself
a
professional
handler of documents for the
Empire,
and
we must trust his
account,
which claims that it took
an
extraordinary
effort directed
by
the
emperor
himself to recover some of these documents and to have them
re
engraved.
That alone demonstrates that the Romans had not
carefully
filed
master
copies
or
originals
at a
spot
from which
they
could have been rou
tinely
retrieved. The
reengraving
shows that the Romans did not
especially
value reference to an
original
document;
what
they
wanted was a bronze
object
dedicated at its
original
sacral site. Similitude
(a
similitude of loca
tion
or
space,
in Foucault's
terms)
achieved
that;
resemblance was not an
issue.11
Third,
the Greeks had the
stronger
motive for
preserving
Roman
dip
lomatic records. The Greek cities that
began petitioning
the Romans for
diplomatic exchanges
and
friendship
at the
beginning
of the second
century
B.C. were
encountering
the Romans as
victors over
Macedon,
the
king
dom that had overshadowed the Greek
peninsula
and was still
keeping
a
hand in
intrigues reaching
to
Syria
and
Egypt.
The Romans were an un
known force and therefore worrisome. Greek cities
as well as
smaller
monarchies in Asia Minor wanted to be assured of amicable relations with
the
new
power
looming
on
their western horizon.
Many
of them
hoped
to
manipulate
the Romans as
counterweights against
older threats closer to
home. In
short,
the Greek
parties
in this
correspondence
were
petitioners
currying
favor with
a
stronger party.
It is the
petitioners
who have the
incentive to document the
guarantees
made to them. With the
exception
of
treaties,
which were
accorded
a
particularly religious treatment,12
the
Romans had little reason to
engrave
the Latin versions of these items of
correspondence
or to treat them with
great respect.
The Romans were
concerned
primarily
with
achieving similitude,
which would lend imme
diate
authority
to their
pronouncements. Resemblance,
allowing
verifica
tion back to a
carefully preserved original,
was not
among
their interests.
One final reason
for the documentation of Greek and Roman
diplomatic
contacts
primarily
in Greek is that the Greek
speakers
had
developed
their
documentary
and
epigraphic
habits within
a
Hellenistic tradition of
royal
correspondence,
which
encouraged
such
developments
more
than the
public
processes
of the
Republic
could foster such
practices among
the Romans.
I mentioned above the habits of documentation in
royal
chanceries and
among
cities that had to deal with the
kings. Royal pronouncements
readily
lent themselves to
recording
and
preservation,
since
they
could be com
municated as
simple,
even
short,
letters from a
recognized authority.
In
the Roman
Republic, however,
leges, laws,
and decrees of the senate de
rived their
authority
not
from the voice that
pronounced
them but from
the
process
that
generated
them. The
Republic,
as shown
below,
did
124 L&C/Documents and Domus
develop
a
formula meant to assure
the reader that a
decree of the senate
was
genuinely
that and
validly produced,
but the situation was
much more
complicated
for laws. It is much harder to document
a
process
than to
preserve
a
pronouncement.
Even Hellenistic monarchs
were more
concerned with
promulgating
their
rulings
and
securing compliance
than with
insisting
on a
standard of
resemblance to a
stored
original.
In
fact,
they
often intended to
generate
as
many separate
texts to consult as
possible?a
clear reliance
on
similitude.13
The
physical
and economic restraints on
recording
texts on
bronze,
wax,
or
papyrus
meant that the Romans could not have
planned
on
preserving
the entire
process
by
which a text became
a
law or
decree.14 If
they
had
somehow,
it would have made the substance of the decision harder to con
sult,
not easier.
Consequently,
Romans
began
the
practice
of
frequent
promulgation
later than did Greek
speakers
and within the
diplomatic
discourse in which such
practices
were
already frequent.
In that
context,
the substantive decision
was more
important
than devices that demon
strated the
authenticity
of the document
qua
Roman document. Such
devices remained
rare,
but it is not
surprising
that
they
occurred
(or
at
least
survived) only
within
diplomatic
documents
preserved
in Greek and
only
as
signposts enhancing
the documents'
authority,
not as
genuine
guides
to
locating
and
referring
back to an
original?that
is,
claims to
resemblance.15
That
brings
us to the three known texts in which there
are
precise
citations
to sources of information. The first is from
c.
129
B.C.,
a
decree of the
senate
preserved
in two
copies
at
Adramyttium
and
Smyrna,
two cities of
Pergamum,
the
kingdom
for which the decree was
issued.16 The decree of
the senate is followed
by
a
rubric,
"judgment concerning
the
land,"
a
citation,
"deltos B wax
[illegible],"
and the date and location of
a
meeting
of
a
magistrate
with his
typical advisory
council of senators to announce a
decision
on
the tax
liability
of the land in
question.
The
judgment
itself was
reported
in the
illegible
section at the end. Deltas is
presumably
Greek for
codex,
a
collection of wax-faced
pieces
of
wood, tabulae,
bound
as a set with
leather
strips.
The "wax"
was
presumably
the
tabula,
numbered as it
was
tied into the codex. From the
context,
this second
(beta)
deltos from an un
named set
appears
to have been the record of the decisions of this
magis
trate with this
advisory group.
Both
copies
of the decree
are
severely
damaged,
and we cannot now recover how the dossier
was
transmitted
(i.e.,
whether the formal senatorial decree
was
appended heading
and all to
a
letter or
whether it
was
reported informally
within
a
letter).
A
later,
better-preserved example
is
more
revealing.
The
example
from 73 B.C.
might conceivably
be called
a
dossier,
or it
might
be termed
a
letter
reporting
on a number of items. It consists of
a
letter from the consuls of 73 B.C. to the
magistrates,
council,
and
people
of
125
Oropos.17
It announces
that the consuls and their standard
advisory
com
mittee of senators have reached
a
decision,
as
they
were
asked to do
by
a
decree of the senate
dating
to the
previous consulship (not explicidy cited),
about
a
dispute
over tax
liability
between the shrine of the
god Amphiarios
and the tax farmers. The decision itself is
prefaced by
a
listing
of the
day
and location of the
meeting
at which the announcement was made and of
those council members
present.
The decision in favor of the Greek
speaking complainants
refers to a law
governing
the award of
public
con
tracts but does not cite it. The consuls
specify
that
they
issue the decision in
accordance with the
opinion
of their
advisors,
that
they
will
bring
that deci
sion before the senate
(presumably
to have it ratified in
a
decree),
and that
they
will record it in the deltos of their minutes.
(That
is
presumably
the
kind of deltos cited after the decree of 129
B.C.)
The decision
purports
to
quote previous findings
reached
by
the dictator Sulla with his
advisory
board of senators and notes that
a
list of those who were on
that
advisory
board
can
be found in "deltos one of
Things
Considered,
wax
fourteen,"
obviously
the fourteenth tabula bound into the codex in
question. Finally,
the
inscription (from Oropos
of
course)
ends with the senatorial decree in
ques
tion,
cited with full formal
heading:
date, location,
witnesses to the draft
ing,
whereas
clause,
and concurrence of the senate in whatever the consuls
decided.
Previous
correspondence lays
no
groundwork
for this
unique
effort to
incorporate precedents
in the decision and to enhance the
authority
of the
text with
specific
citations to earlier texts and to a
Latin record. Hellenistic
royal
documents do not cite
precedent
with that detail. If I seem to be mak
ing
much of one
example, my
excuse
is that it is the
only
direct evidence we
have of Romans of the
Republic simultaneously describing
and
consulting
identifiable earlier texts. This
letter,
the
Pergamene
decree,
and the
Aphro
disias dossier discussed below
are
the
only documentary
references to the
technology
of information
storage
in the
Republic.
Even in the
Oropos
case,
however,
the
recipients
are
clearly expected
to
retain, cite,
and refer
to the letter from the
consuls,
not the
"original"
Latin version recorded in
a
codex used as a
commentarius,
which would be retained
by
one
of the con
suls. The text still derived its local
authority
from similitude within the
series of Hellenistic letters from
potentates,
as well as
from its similitude to
the
Pergamene
decree and
perhaps
other
examples
that no
longer
survive
but that
helped
to
enhance, domesticate,
and Romanize this similitude to
kingly
pronouncements.
The citation and the detail of date and
place
of decision lent the
Oropos
document
authority among
the Romans at
whom it was
directed: the tax
collectors who
just
would not leave that
poor
shrine alone. It
placed
the text
within a
series of
findings
of boards that had examined the
dispute,
within
a
Roman
legal
context
(the
otherwise unknown law on
letting
state
contracts),
126 L&C/Documents and Domus
within a
tradition Rome had come to share with Greek democratic cities of
recording
a
legitimating,
deliberative
process
in a short form
(date
and
place),
and within the
weighty genre
of consular
commentarii,
formal diaries
in which
every
consul recorded his own
actions and those of the senate
when he
presided.
These
are all instances of similitude rather than
resem
blance,
albeit
a
complex
similitude of
analogy
or even
sympathy,
in Fou
cault's
terms,
since the
covering
letter
as
engraved
evoked the
atmosphere
of consular deliberations without
actually citing
a "wax" on which the
reader could find the
original
in Rome. There was no
literal
original
or
even master in
Rome,
of
course,
since the consuls
promised
to record the
decision,
not this letter
we
actually
have,
in a
commentarius.
The citation to an earlier codex would be
unique
for the
Republic
even
without the
purported quotation
from Sulla's decision reached with his
advisory
council. Even scholars who believe that the Roman
Republic
thought
in terms of
originals,
verified
copies,
retrieval,
and so on
have
recognized
that this
description
cannot have been meant to aid the reader
in
locating
the cited document in
any publicly
accessible set of
holdings.
The Roman
Republic
cannot have been still in a first codex of
Things
Con
sidered in 73 B.C. The citation must refer to the first codex of
Things
Considered
by
Sulla and his council.18 In that
case,
it was a
commentarius
and
was
retained
by
Sulla.
Hence,
those who
quoted
it borrowed it from
his heirs at home. We will return to the
significance
of that later. Now
we
can
simply
note that this citation of
a
finding,
the
only
one known from the
Republic,
did not constitute resemblance to an
"original"
and could not
have been meant to. It does
grant
this letter from two
potentates
a sort of
similitude to an
authoritative Roman commentarius.
The third
example
comes from the final
days
of the
Republic;
it is from
a
triumvir
just
before the dawn of the
Empire. Reynolds
has sorted out this
dossier,
one she thinks
was assembled and sent out to
Aphrodisias by
Octavian
(called Augustus
as
emperor).
The documents in the set were
apparently
inscribed out of order
by
the
recipients.
The reconstructed
portfolio
consists of
a
covering
letter from Octavian
(inscribed
as no.
6),
a
decree of
Antony
and Octavian
as triumvirs
(no. 7),
a
decree of the senate
ratifying
the substance of the triumviral decree
(no. 8),
another senatorial
decree
or a law
(no. 8a),
and
a
fragmentary
text that is
probably
a related
law
(no. 9).
Nos. 10-13 are other documents
brought
back to
Aphrodisias
by
its ambassador Solon at the same time
as the ones
that concern us.19 The
letter from Octavian notes that he was asked to send
Aphrodisias copies
of
Roman documents relevant to their
interests,
and one is
tempted
to assume
that the attached dossier
was
assembled and sent
by
Octavian in
response
to that
request.
The
eighth
document,
the senatorial
decree,
is the
only surviving
docu
ment that claims to cite the senatorial decrees
deposited
at the
aerarium,
127
or
treasury. Reynolds
translates,
"from the record of decrees referred to
the
senate,
file
[one, pages four], five, six,
seven,
eight,
nine,
and in the
quaestorian
deltoi of the
year
in which M.
Martif-
and
. . .
]
were urban
quaestors,
file one.''
(Her
files and
pages
are
deltoi and
waxes.)
As
Reynolds's
commentary
notes,
this
initially
looks like
a
reference both to the
copies
of
senatorial decrees that
were taken from the senate and
deposited
at the
aerarium after
they
were
passed
and to the set of codices
kept by
the
quaes
tors at the aerarium into which
they copied
senatorial decrees in chrono
logical
order. In this
case,
the modern reader
naturally
tends to assume
that the
integrity
and stature of this document are
beyond
doubt,
since this
explicit cataloging
information would allow the reader to confirm its
au
thenticity
or
authority.
In
fact,
Reynolds
and Miller both cite this document
as an
example
of Roman
scruples
in
acting "officially through
the
'proper
channels'
"
and insist that it illustrates "the formal observance of institu
tional niceties"
even
by
the
junta
of the triumvirs.20
Reynolds's epigraphic
acumen casts doubt
on
her reconstruction of
a
dictatorial triumvirate
carefully preserving
a
wax-trail,
to coin a
phrase.
In
spite
of her insistence that Romans
carefully cataloged
the stored official
texts of senatorial
decrees,
at
least,
for routine
retrieval,
as well as
supply
ing officially approved
translations,
she
scrupulously
notes in her
commen
tary
that this text of this decree is rife with "incoherence of
arrangement
. . .
repetition
of theme
. . .
variation in the form of the recommendations/
decisions
. . .
[and]
idiosyncrasies
of
translation,"
even in the basic termi
nology
used when
enrolling
a state
among
the allies. Some of the other
documents in the
dossier,
she
notes,
display
"textual
corruption"
and
reverse the normal order of the names of the consuls.21 It would have saved
Reynolds
much trouble if one of Octavian's scribae had
self-consciously
and
playfully
written at the bottom of the text sent
Aphrodisias:
"This is not
a
decree of the senate."
If this document is
actually
an
authenticated
representation,
in official
translation,
of an
original
filed in the most
organized
record series we
know
of in the
Republic (the
senatorial decrees in the
aerarium),
it does not
inspire
faith in Roman
recording
and transmission of information. An
alternative
explanation may
lie in the
phrase
"deltos of decrees referred to
the
senate,"
not
"passed by
the
senate,"
a
phrase
that bothered
Reynolds.22
The
simplest explanation
is that Octavian's household
slapped together
the whole set of documents from their own
holdings.
We know that senators
had
begun
to draft items
they
meant to
refer to the senate
and to
present
them from written
copy
at least
a
generation
earlier.23 The codices
(deltoi)
involved,
in that
case,
were
those in which Octavian's slave and freedman
clerks
kept
track of decrees drafted in his household and referred to the
senate for ratification. These
codices,
in other
words,
were
the commentarius
of a
magistrate
with
imperium,
the most
authoritative
source
the Romans
128 L&C I Documents and Domus
could
imagine,
the same
definitive source
cited in our two
previous
ex
amples.
Octavian's staff
undoubtedly
retained a
copy
of what he wanted ratified
before
sending
it to the senate. A
copy
read
by
Octavian
or
by
a consul in
the senate
might
or
might
not have been the
copy
taken to the aerarium
for
registry by
the
quaestors.
Whoever took
a
copy
to the aerarium must
have
copied
down the
registry
date
(i.e.,
the numbers
assigned
the tabulae
as
they
were
bound into codices and the location of the version
copied
into
the
quaestorian codices)
in order to be able to offer the data as
proof
that it
had been
properly registered.
It is
simply
inconceivable that Octavian
or a
consul
or
staff from the households of either
copied
this text we have from
the
quaestorian
files in the aerarium. Under
any
reasonable
reconstruction,
whoever
presented
the draft to the senate
already
had a
copy.
The
proposer
must have taken
a
draft of the decree to the senate with him. If the decree
passed
in that exact
form,
he
may simply
have listed the witnesses on his
own tabulae and have taken those
very
tabulae to the aerarium.
Surely
he
already
would have seen to it that he or his scriba had entered it on tabulae
in his own commentarius.
Why
would
any magistrate
have carried a
single
copy
to the
awkwardly arranged, badly
lit
record-keeping space
and then
proceeded
to
copy
his own
copy
after
registering
it? If the senate had in
sisted
on
changing
the
wording,
the
problem
was even
simpler.
The com
mittee of witnesses would have attested that
a new
version
perhaps
recorded
on
the
spot
reflected the will of the senate. The
proposer
would then have
made the
requested changes
on the
copy
he had
brought
with him and
would have taken the new
copy generated by
the senate over to the aerarium.
In our
case,
either
someone made notes for
Octavian,
adding
on
his draft
both the
names
of witnesses
appended
to the
copy
to be taken to the
aera
rium and the
registry
data from the
aerarium;
or someone
simply
made
note of the names
of witnesses and the
registry
data,
and Octavian's staff
added that information to the retained codex of "decrees referred to the
senate." The text of the senatorial decree sent
Aphrodisias
was not re
covered from
a
records
set,
nor were the other documents in that
group,
including
the law
(if
it is
a
law).
In
short,
even in the
one case in which
a
specific
citation to a
records set
at a known location is
given,
it cannot have been intended to allow the
reader to retrieve
an
original.
The
wax text in the
aerarium,
taken from
another
wax
text,
was not an
original,
and the senatorial decree
as we see
it in
Aphrodisias
does not claim to resemble
an
original.
None of these
copies
in
my
reconstruction
(which
is
simpler
than that
implied by Rey
nolds and
others!)
is an
original. They
share similitude. The citation of
another text in another location confirms that the
requisite
process
was
followed: ratification then
deposition.
This
descriptive
device is meant to
establish
authority
rather than location.
129
These three instances of citations in
diplomatic
documents?the decree
on
Pergamum,
the letter to
Oropus,
and the decree
on
Aphrodisias?
demonstrate the
importance
of
commentarii,
the records
kept by magistrates
in their own
households. There is no
sign
of deference to an
original,
descriptively cataloged
at a
specified
location. There
are reasons
why
the
only
known citation to a set of
deposited
records,
that in the
Aphrodisias
decree,
occurred
during
the
legal
chaos of the
junta.24
Documents
produced
anywhere during
those
years
were
suspect,
but those sent to reassure the
frightened population
of the Greek East were
the most
suspect.
Cicero
may
have been
exaggerating
or even
lying
when he claimed that the consuls
brought proposals
before the senate for ratification that had
already
been
sent to the East and
already
had lists of witnesses
appended (e.g.,
Pro Sestio
66),
but Cicero's
repeated charges
to that effect must have fed
skepticism.
One need not take Cicero at his word that
Antony's
household staff
was
manufacturing
decrees for
any
frightened
Greeks who would
pay
his
price
in order to
accept
the
implication
that his staff
was
big enough
and
expert
enough
that the
charge might
have been
thought plausible (Philippics
5.4.
11-12,
et al. on
operations
in
Antony's domus).
A decree in which the
city
of Abdera honored its
envoys
in 166 B.C.
demonstrates that the Greeks understood well how to
manipulate
the
Roman
system
as
early
as
their second
generation
of intensive
negotiations.
Abdera hailed its clever
envoys
who
besieged
the Roman
"leading
men"
by waiting upon
them in their homes
daily
and won
them over as
patrons.25
Greek
envoys
sought
introduction to the senate
by
attendance at
Roman
salutationes
(levees)
in the domus of the consular families. Documents first
drafted
by
the consular families were
sought
and
supplied
from those fami
lies. It
may
seem
strange
that Roman
diplomacy
could be handled on
such
an
entrepreneurial basis,
but we
should be less
surprised
when we remem
ber that the
preference
for
original
and archival
copies
is ours and that
Romans
always thought only
in terms of similitude. The chaos of the civil
wars
permitted
some of the less
scrupulous among
them to
dispense
with
the
process
that should have conferred
authority.
In
fact,
texts that located other texts in order to establish their own
authority
are a
unique
feature of the
diplomatic correspondence,
un
matched
by anything
in the Italian documentation. It is
surely significant
that formal treaties alone merited the
specification
of location of
epigraphic
copies
in Rome and in the Greek cities. The Roman texts were
bronze and
were
placed
on or
around the
temple
of
Jupiter Capitolinus.26
Nor did the
rarer
Latin texts have
many
headings
or labels that could allow
a
reader to
scan a
wall or monument
looking
for the
subject
heading
of immediate
interest. A few of the Greek versions have
headings
that
were
probably
added
by
the
recipients
when
they
had the texts
engraved. Surely
Teos,
rather than
Rome,
added the
separate
line "Of the Romans" at
the
top
130 L&C/Documents and Domus
of a
letter from M. Valerius as
praetor,27 just
as
the
Magnesians
must have
added the rubric "from the Roman senate" at the
top
of a letter from M.
Aemilius.28 In the second half of the second
century
B.C.
Greek-speaking
communities
frequently
added
a full
heading
to Roman
documents,
giving
the
names
of those who
were in local office when the Roman document
was obtained. Greeks as well as
Romans
normally
dated
by eponymous
magistrates,
and the Greeks
were,
in
essence,
assigning
the document
a
date within their local
system.29 Clearly,
the Greek
recipients
had
greater
incentive to ensure
that
they
could
identify
these documents when
they
needed
them,
but even Latin documents on Italian issues
preserved
in
Italy
were not
user-friendly
and did not aim at ease
of
consultation,
let alone
scanning.30
These tacked-on Greek
headings,
of
course,
weakened
resem
blance rather than
fostering
it.
They certainly
do not indicate deference
to the form of
a
Roman
original.
One
may reasonably
ask at this
point
whether Romans
actually cataloged
or even classified information
on
public
affairs at all. The few
examples
we have of Roman citation of documents
admittedly
demonstrate that the
Republic
did not have
sophisticated
ideas of
subject headings?witness
the
multivolume codex
Things
Considered.
Only
modern
historians,
spoiled
by
modern
cataloging
and
storage processes,
could
ever have
envisaged
retrieval of
documents,
even decrees of the
senate,
from the
aerarium,
where the
copies
sent from the senate would have been
registered
in chrono
logical
order. One can
imagine
how hard it would have been to find
a sena
torial decree of the first
century
B.C. for which one had
only
a
year
and
not a
month,
at
least,
especially given
the absence of
any
comfortable
or
even convenient
provisions
for
using
these codices.31
Nonetheless,
the
standard
preamble
to a
public
document did offer
important identifying
information that would have told
a
researcher
or interested
party
where
the text and
even,
perhaps,
details of the
meeting
at which it had been
passed
could be
sought.
Williamson,
in
an
important
dissertation,
has
collected instances in which Romans cited
laws,
some of them from other
laws. As she
notes,
laws
are
cited
by
the
names
of the
proposers
and
are,
in
essence,
named after them.32 After the
Empire
moved the
legislative
process
from the assemblies of citizens to the
senate,
senatorial decrees
took the
place
of
laws,
and
they
also
began
to
be,
significantly,
named
(e.g.,
the
senatus consultum
Velleianum).33
That
was
the information the researcher
needed?telling
which of the
great
families to
petition
for
help.
This whole
picture
of information stored and
mentally categorized
in accordance with
status and
patronage procedures
is
incompatible
with modern
conceptions
of
publicly
verifiable archival
documents,
derived from
our own insistence
on resemblance.
As late as
the Lex de XX
Quaestoribus,
one of those
rare
survivals in Latin
of
a
Republican
law,
dating
to 81
B.C.,
we have
a valuable
glimpse
of
131
Roman efforts to create mechanisms
enabling
the state to
cope
with escalat
ing
demands.34 It is
significant
that the increase from
eight
to
twenty quaes
tors was
part
of
a
package
of constitutional "reforms"
proposed by
Sulla
during
his
illegal dictatorship.
Since the
quaestors
were
charged
with
keep
ing
track of financial
records,
and one of them
was
assigned
to
manage
the
aerarium,
the
temple
where
copies
of senatorial decrees and
perhaps
en
acted
legislation
were
deposited,
this additional administrative
support
was
at least a
century
overdue. That is
typical
of the
Republic's
reluctance to
institutionalize and bureaucratize. The section of the law that survives
provides
for
increasing
the
quaestors'
staff
by adding
criers and couriers?
useful for financial business but of no
help
in
classifying
and
retrieving
records. There is no mention of the
managers
of
tabulae,
the
tabularii,
who
were to
emerge
in the
Empire.35
After more than
a
century
of intensive
diplomatic exchange
with the Greek
East,
there is no trace of the sort of
chancery
with
specialists
in records
management
that
every petty
Hel
lenistic monarch had to have.
After Octavian became
Augustus
and the
Republic
became the
Empire,
tabularii
began
to
appear,
but still in the context of finance and
accounting.
They
were
slaves and freedmen detached from the
emperor's
own
house
hold. The
great imperial chanceries,
a
bureau for Greek
correspondence
and another for
Latin,
were
part
of the
emperor's
own
domus,
not of the
old aerarium.36 That does not
represent imperial usurpation
of functions
from older mechanisms of the Roman
state;
there was
nothing
to
usurp.
Augustus
continued to issue letters
(which
survive in
epigraphic copies)
saying,
"Here is the decree of the senate on this matter." Over the next
century,
his successors with
increasing frequency simply
issued what came
to be called edicts. Some of these survive in truncated form in the
Digest
of Roman
law,
others in odd
epigraphic copies. Nonetheless,
resemblance
to an
archived
original
was never
the issue. The Roman
emperors
spoke
in the voice of the Hellenistic
kings
to whom the Mediterranean had
long
been accustomed. That similitude was more
comforting
to them than the
Republic's infrequent attempts
to have a
document
represent
the authen
ticating
process
that
produced
it. An ancient
Magritte, working
as a stone
carver on
the
Aphrodisias
or
the later
Cyrene dossier,
might
have
thought
"This is not a
decree of the senate" or "This is not a
letter,"
but he never
mentioned it.
Notes
1. Michel
Foucault,
This Is Not A
Pipe (Berkeleyr: University
of California
Press,
1982), p.
49. I could not have
completed
this
study
or
have
begun
the next
stage
of a
related
long-term project
without the
professional
assistance of Barbara
Breeden,
a
reference librarian at the Naval
Academy,
who has remained
astonishingly
cheerful
132 L&C/Documents and Domus
in the face of
my repeated
demands that she
supply
me
with obscure
foreign pub
lications of mutilated
epigraphic
documents.
2.
Examples
are
Robert K.
Sherk,
Roman Documents
from
the Greek East
(Balti
more:
Johns Hopkins University
Press,
1969),
nos. 11 and 38. This basic collection
is
normally
cited
as
RDGE.
3.
Foucault,
Pipe, p.
44.
4.
Except
for
military diplomas certifying
honorable
discharge,
which
ordinarily
cite
a
bronze
copy placed
somewhere on the
Capitoline.
See the collections of M.
Roxan,
Roman
Military Diplomas
1954-1977
(London:
Institute of
Archaeology,
1978),
and Roman
Military Diplomas
1978-1984
(London:
Institute of
Archaeology,
1985).
5. The two
categories
of RDGE are not
really
distinct,
since decrees were often
reported
within or
appended
to a letter. Since the
headings
or
tops
of stones are
often the most
severely damaged part,
it is
quite likely
that decrees not now known
to have been
engraved
with
a
letter
originally
were
(e.g.,
RDGE
no.
13,
categorized
there as a senatus
consultum).
6. I am not
counting
milestones and other brief texts in Latin that
give
credit
for
public
works in
Italy. They
are much shorter than
legal
texts and
were
presuma
bly placed by
the builder to honor
himself;
they
do not
speak
to the intentions of the
Roman state.
7.
Examples
are
conveniently
collected in C. Bradford
Welles,
Royal Correspon
dence in the Hellenistic Period
(Chicago:
Ares,
1974).
RDGE
(pp.
188-189,
197)
notes
the Roman
adoption
of Hellenistic models. The Latin records
contemporary
with
the Greek
correspondence
in the second
century open
with a
very
short formula that
identifies the document
as a senatorial decree and
names
the
presiding magistrate.
There is
no
equivalent
for the Hellenistic
diplomatic protocol
of formulaic
greetings,
and so forth.
See,
for
example,
the senatorial resolution
on the Bacchanalia and
the one addressed to
neighboring
Tibur,
in H.
Dessau,
Inscriptiones
Latinae
Selectae,
3
vols.
(Chicago:
Ares,
1979),
vol.
1,
nos. 18 and
19,
respectively.
8.
Phyllis
Culham,
"Archives and Alternatives in
Republican
Rome,"
Classical
Philology
84
(1989):
100-115. William V.
Harris,
Ancient
Literacy (Cambridge,
Mass.: Harvard
University
Press,
1989),
p. 166, posits
a
heightened
awareness of
literacy
and records
beginning
to
change
Roman
practices
about 130 B.C.
9. The literature on the Roman
proclamation
of
support
for "The Freedom of
the Greeks" is
immense;
see now Erich
Gruen,
The Hellenistic World and the
Coming
of
Rome,
2 vols.
(Berkeley: University
of California
Press,
1984),
vol.
1, pp.
132-157.
10. On the
magistrate's
concilium,
see
J.
A.
Crook,
Concilium
Principis (Cam
bridge: Cambridge University
Press,
1955),
pp.
4-5. Given the attested finesse and
linguistic
skills of
Flamininus,
we must
suppose
that he intended to achieve the
tone
represented
in the letter. On his skill in
dealing
with the
Greeks,
see Plutarch's
Flamininus 2.2-4 and 5.5.
11. Michel
Foucault,
The Order
of Things (New
York:
Vintage, 1970), pp.
18-19.
12. C.
Williamson,
"Monuments of Bronze: Roman
Legal
Documents
on
Bronze
Tablets,"
Classical
Antiquity
6
(1987):
172; Culham, "Archives," pp.
110-111.
13. For
example,
Welles,
Royal Correspondence,
no. 18.
14. On the costliness of
papyrus
for the
Romans,
see
Harris, Literacy, p. 195;
on
the awkwardness of the
codex,
see C. H. Roberts and T. C.
Skeat,
The Birth
of
the
Codex
(London:
British
Academy, 1983),
pp. 11-12;
on
the
illegibility
of most
bronze documents in
situ,
see
Williamson,
"Monuments."
15. Pace RDGE
(pp. 7-10),
whose reconstruction of Roman
chancery
and record
handling practices
is
accepted by
recent scholars
except
for
Culham,
"Archives."
133
16.
RDGE,
no.
12,
with references to the voluminous literature. The
copy
from
Adramyttium only
recorded the section
naming
the members of the consilium and
giving
their decision
(lost
here,
too).
But the
illegible beginning
never
included the
citation to the minutes
according
to
Sherk,
who saw the
squeeze
in Berlin. The
Adramyttium copy
also omits one
witness,
lists others out of
order,
and
misspells
one's
name,
although
its letter forms indicate that it
was
engraved shortly
after
receipt
of the document. Since the
Smyrna
copy engraved
almost
a
century
later is
more
accurate,
this
speaks
well for Hellenistic
archives,
but ill for theories that
require epigraphic
documents to share in resemblance. There
may
have been
a
tendency
toward careful
reproduction
in stone of received
documents,
but the dis
parities
between the two
copies
of this document deserve fuller discussion elsewhere.
17.
RDGE,
no.
23.
18. See
Sherk,
who mentions the
concurrence of
Badian,
Rome and the Greek East
to the Death
of Augustus (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press,
1984),
p.
71. On
the stature of
commentarii,
see Cicero Atticus 14.13.6 and Pro Sestio 66. Cicero claimed
in de
Lege Agraria
14.37 that
only
the consuls for
any
given
year
could serve as re
liable sources for decrees of the senate
passed during
their
year
in
office;
that
directly
holds commentarii to be more reliable than
anything
that could be recovered from the
aerarium.
19.
Joyce Reynolds, Aphrodisias
and Rome
(London: Society
for Roman
Studies,
1982), pp.
33-70.
20.
Ibid., pp. 45, 46,
where
Reynolds
cites
Fergus
Miller in
agreement.
See
Miller,
"Triumvirate and
Principate," yownia/ of
Roman Studies 63
(1973):
50ff.
21.
Reynolds, Aphrodisias, pp.
64-69. A
relatively
new
find
presents significant
comparative
evidence: K.
Bringmann,
"Edikt der Triumvirn oder Senatsbe
schluss?"
Epigraphica
Anatolica 2
(1985):
47-76. This document
apparently
derives
from a
similar Octavianic
portfolio,
but its difficulties are
such that
Bringmann posits
a
local translator who understood neither Latin
governmental terminology
nor sena
torial
procedure.
While
pronouncing
that
judgment, Bringmann
still believes that
Rome had a
professional chancery
and that the triumvirs were
anxious to follow
normal
procedures.
Whether this and other documents were
locally
translated or
not,
the
explanation
offered above is at least
supplementary:
the Romans had
no
chancery
or true
professionals
at
correspondence yet.
22.
Reynolds, Aphrodisias, p.
64.
23. Cicero Caec. 16.52
even accuses an
opponent
of
intending
to
present
a stock
rhetorical
reply
from a
collection available in a
liber,
a
papyrus
roll sold in the book
stalls.
24. Other
possible
instances occur in
Josephus
A
ntiquities of
the
Jews 14.10,
where
a
number of documents from the final civil wars are
cited.
Josephus
claims he saw
all of them
posted
in bronze on the
Capitoline
in Rome.
Nonetheless,
his version
of their texts
presents
a
number of
anomalies,
and we
do not know whether these
texts
exemplify,
as does
Aphrodisias
no.
8,
the
too-rapid
manufacture of decrees
for the Greek East and the
publication
of these texts in bronze after insufficient
vetting,
or
whether
Josephus,
who was a native
speaker
of
Aramaic,
did not exer
cise
precision
in
translating
from Latin texts read in Rome into his
history
in Greek.
25.
Inscriptions
Graecae ad Res Romanas Pertinendas
(Paris: Leroux,
1927),
vol.
4,
no.
1558.
26. For
example, RDGE,
nos.
25 and 44.
27.
Ibid.,
no. 34.
28.
Ibid.,
no.
7.
29. For
example,
ibid.,
nos. 9 and 43.
134 L&C/Documents and Domus
30.
Williamson,
"Monuments."
31.
Culham, "Archives," pp.
101-102.
32. C.
Williamson,
"Law
Making
in the Comitia of
Republican
Rome"
(Ph.D.
diss.,
University
of
London,
1984), pp.
235-236.
33. The senatus consultum Velleianum
gets
a
titled section in the
Digest:
16.1.1.1.
34. C. G.
Bruns,
Fontes Iuris Romani
Antiqui,
7th ed.
(Tubingen:
Mohrii,
1909),
no. 89.
35. The law does not survive in its
entirety,
but what
we have does
seem to in
clude the whole
personnel
section.
36. G. W.
Houston,
"Administrative Records in the Roman
Empire," pre
sented 1
September
1984,
at the annual
meeting
of the
Society
of American Archi
vists.