Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

The Sources of Plutarch'S Life of Titus Flamininus

  • R. E. Smith (a1)

A Study of the sources of a Plutarchan Life may be excused on two grounds: first, a knowledge of the sources is important for a critical evaluation of the Life's historical worth; and second, such a study is instructive for the understanding of Plutarch's methods of composition, which, in its turn, helps considerably in the historical evaluation. For this second object the Titus is particularly well suited, since the problem, owing to the survival in large part of his main source, is infinitely simpler than in many of the other Lives, and it is on these grounds that the present study seeks to justify itself.

Hide All

page 89 note 1 Die Quellen Plutarchs in den Biographen der Romer, pp. 80–5.

page 89 note 2 Kritische Untersuchungen über die Quellen der 4ten und 5ten Dekade des Livius, pp. 290–2.

page 89 note 3 Rheinisches Museum, 1935, pp. 46 ff.

page 89 note 4 In C. Q., 1940, where I have shown what I believe to have been the form and content of this biographical source.

page 89 note 5 The reasons for attributing to Polybius the account of Titus in Greece are given in Nissen and are generally accepted; the very close similarity between the two narratives can leave no doubt of the relationship, and it is unnecessary here to work out the comparison. In what follows I am indebted for my statements about Livy's sources to Dr. A. H. McDonald of the University of Sydney, who made accessible to me his work on these decades, and showed me in conversation satisfactory reasons for any departure from the accepted opinions. He very kindly allowed me to make use of any of his conclusions, and I do so gratefully.

page 90 note 1 There are none the less two important differences between Plutarch's and Livy's narratives: (I) Plutarch says Titus passed over the tribunate, praetorship, and aedileship to become consul; cf. Livy, xxxii. 7. 10, ‘iam aedilitatem praeturamque fastidiri’; (2) he says Titus' candidature was παρà τοùς νομους; cf. Livy, 7. 11: ‘qui honorem quem sibi capere per leges liceret peteret’, etc. Nissen, p. 133, is in error when he says that, according to Livy, xxxi. 4. 5, Titus had been aedile; that was his brother Lucius.

page 90 note 2 xviii. 12. 5.

page 90 note 3 Klotz, p. 49, maintains that Livy, xxxii. 9.6, turns from his annalist, whom he identifies as Valerius, in the middle of the sentence T. Quinctius alter consul to Polybius. Such a procedure is unlikely, and leads in this case to serious difficulties. It is unlikely that Livy would break off in the middle of a sentence to change sources, when the source for the first half of the sentence must have concluded very much as Livy's supposed second source did, and the supposed second source for the second half of the sentence must have begun very much as the first source did. It would need strong arguments to support Klotz's suggestion for this reason alone. He then argues from the similarity in outlook between the first half of Livy's sentence and the beginning of Plutarch's chapter, that Valerius is Plutarch's source for the first three sections. Additional support for this view he discerns in the similarity of the numbers quoted by Plutarch in iii to those quoted by Livy in ch. 9.1. There seems little real similarity beyond the common mention of the Spanish veterans, though it was probably this that led Klotz to his conclusion. Polybius, he says, added the different numbers together to give 8,000 infantry, 800 cavalry, as in the second half of Livy's sentence. He fails to observe that Livy in ch. 8. 2 had already given details of the numbers, and that repetition in ch. 9 was superfluous. But whence, on Klotz's hypothesis, did Plutarch derive his number? If it was from that part of the source which Livy used in ch. 8, how did Plutarch know that the 3,000 voted by the Senate consisted only of Spanish veterans? In ch. 9. 1 he gives no numbers and Valerius certainly cannot be the source for the first half of Livy's sentence; for Livy, ch. 6. 5, after giving the Polybian version—note maturato itinere— gives the Valerian alternative, which made Villius fight a battle; the Valerian version, therefore, demanded that Titus should not go out early, since otherwise Villius could not have fought his engagement, and Klotz cannot have taken this passage into account when he suggested that the first half of Livy's sentence was from Valerius.

page 90 note 4 In Plutarch some shepherds approach Titus and offer to act as his guide, and mention Charops as a guarantor of their good faith. In Livy one shepherd is sent by Charops to offer his services; Titus sent a message to Charops to inquire how far the shepherd could be trusted.

page 90 note 5 Les Procédés et la peinture des caradirès et la vérité historique dans les Biographies de Plutarque, pp. 200–2.

page 91 note 1 I cannot see that the introduction of an intermediate source solvess the diffculty, since it mereeely leaves us to attribute to X what we arbitrarily refuse to attribute to Plutarch. Zimmerman, in Rheinisches Museum, 1930, pp. 5565, suggests as an explanation for certain discrepancies between Livy's and Plutarch's narratives in the Marcellus that Plutarch wass writing from memory. Klotz in Rh. Mus., 1934, pp. 291 ff., disagress, but only to find traces of Valerius Antias, which I think very doubtful. Zimmerman may be wrong in this case, but I am quite certain that Plutarch did write some parts form memory.

page 91 note 2 Nissen, p. 290, attributes it to an annalist, and he may be right.

page 91 note 3 p. 141, note.

page 91 note 4 p. 47.

page 91 note 5 p. 290.

page 91 note 6 Plutarch says Philip had to surrender all but 10 ships, instead of 5 (cf. Polyb, xviii. 44. 6).

page 91 note 7 Cf. for the truce, Ployb, xviii. 39. 4–7, where Demetrius is mentioned; for the peace, xviii. 44, where he is not. Livy mentions him in both contexts (xxxiii. I3. I4 and 30. I0), but in 30 he is using an annalist at this point.

page 91 note 8 Cf. Livy, xxxii. 37. 4.

page 91 note 9 Cf. Mor. 855 a where the metaphor is attributed to philip. It does not appear in this context in Polybius.

page 91 note 10 It may possibly come from the biography. The same phenomenon is said to have occurred when Scipio set sail for Africa (cf. Livy, xxix. 25. 4). Since neither story can have any foundation, it may not be extravagant to suggest that this supposed incident in Greece was invented as a pendant to Scipio's pretended experience by Titus' supporters. Nissen, pp. 290–1, and Klotz, p. 51, attribute it to an annalist.

page 91 note 11 He contradicts himself about this chapter. On p. 48 he says that the passage from xiii. 5 πѿν δʹ ʹΑχαων to the end of the chapter is from Valerius; on p. 50 he says that Polybius is used up to the triumph, i.e. to the end of xiii (?); on p. 53 he says that the Valerian narrative begins either at the passage xiii. 5, ʹΡωμαíων οί δυστυχήσσαντες or at xiii. 8, τούτους ό μέν Τίτος. And he abandons his own canon of criticism, the argument from colse similarity between two narratives, in a case in which we have a much clearer example of it (cf. Livy, xxxiv. 50) than in many places where he has employed it to prove that Plutarc's source was Valerius.

page 91 note 12 Klotz, pp. 48, 50, argues that Valerius is the source, reading ʹΑντίαν for the MS. Τουδɩτανόν Or τòν ʹIτανόν. In this he follows Cichorius, Wien. Stud. xxiv, 1902, p. 558, who denied that Tuditanus wrote annals. For a refutation of this view see Schanz-Hosius, Gesch. der röm. Lit., pt i, p. 197; Peter, H.R.R., P1. C II–III.

page 92 note 1 Klotz, p. 51, comparing xviii. 1–2 with Livy, xxxviii. 28. 1–2, decides that Plutarch's source is the same as Livy's, i.e. Valerius. Both of them give a dry outline of Titus' acts during his censorship, in which they agree. But any account as brief as this must be very similar to another, since such information was only to be obtained from official records. What is far more important than the agreements is the omission by Livy of the story of T. Culleo. The argumentum ex silentio, while not conclusive, is more convincing than the similarity of what is said. If Livy's source included the story, then Livy's silence is not easily explained.

page 92 note 2 Klotz is driven to assume that Plutarch derived the Valerian account from Livy, although he contends that Valerius was Plutarch's annalistic source for almost all the rest of the nonPolybian parts of the Life. He is bound to make this assumption, since otherwise it might legitimately be asked why Plutarch had suddenly relegated his main source to the position of secondary. But this suggestion—which I believe is right—makes his theory that Valerius is the source for the rest of the Life quite unconvincing, for even if Plutarch suddenly had reason to prefer X's version to Valerius', yet it is not credible that he should have had to depend on a chance quotation in Livy for the Valerian version.

page 92 note 3 Op. cit., p. 82.

page 92 note 4 Cato Maior, 12. 42.

page 92 note 5 xxxix. 42. 7–12. 43.

page 92 note 6 Cicero gives no description.

page 92 note 7 Cf. Nissen, p. 297: ‘und wollte man auch die Nachrichten bei Livius und Cicero auf's vielfaltigiste permutiren und combiniren, man würde doch nimmer die plutarchischen herausbringen konnen.’

page 92 note 8 Since, on Klotz's hypothesis, Plutarch must have derived the information that the man was a condemned prisoner from Cicero, as Livy says he was a Gaul. Klotz says, incidentally, on p. 51, that Plutarch omitted the name of Cicero's dialogue περì Τήρως in the Cato, xvii. 8; yet in the Teubner text, according to which Klotz's references are given, the name is to be found.

page 92 note 9 Klotz further weakens his case by ascribing this chapter to Valerius (pp. 52–3). If Plutarch consulted him for this part, it is very difficult to understand why he should have had to depend on Livy for the story of Lucius and the favourite.

page 93 note 1 Cf. App. Syr. 11. I purposely do not refer to Livy, xxxix. 57, as Dr. McDonald has shown me good reason to believe that the Livian narrative is not dependent on Polybius.

page 93 note 2 Nissen, p. 228, followed by Klotz, p. 52, reads Поλύβɩος for Αίβɩος, to which the MS. reading Αεύκɩος was early changed. I prefer to retain Aìβɩος and suggest that the reason why Plutarch did not give the Polybian version is that Polybius only said, in a general way, that Titus procured Hannibal's death. Cf. App. Syr. II:έκτεɩνε δɩà τοû. Kumpel E., Die Quellen des Krieges der Romer gegen Antiochus III, 1893, p. 9, reads ʹΑκίλɩος for which there seems no good reason. Cf. Schanz-Hosius, op. cit., p. 178.

page 93 note 3 Cf. § 5: ‘Claudius, secutus Graecos Acilianos libros … tradit’, etc.

page 93 note 4 This suggestion as to where it might be found in Polybius is Dr. McDonald's.

page 93 note 5 I have shown in the article referred to above that I believe this version to have been invented by Titus' supporters to counter the unpopularity which attached to Titus as a result of Hannibal's death; the biography would not unnaturally adopt this version. It was quite by chance that Plutarch was able to check the biography against Polybius.

page 93 note 6 Klotz, p. 53, thinks that xxi. 7–13 can hardly be Plutarch's own and suggests Valerius as their source. But it is surely not unreasonable to suppose that the man who composed so many parallel lives should be capable of drawing simple historical parallels.

page 94 note 1 e.g. for information about minor offices, the triumph, and the censorship.

page 94 note 2 As in the Paullus he used Scipio Nasica's Greek letter, Polybius, and a certain Poseidonius for Paullus' campaign of Pydna.

page 94 note 3 As e.g. in x, where he describes the proclamation of freedom at the Isthmian Games.

page 94 note 4 Plutarch says:inline-graphicέχων τἡν πόλɩν but it seems tolerably clear from Livy that the Thebans looked upon their city as captured: ‘velut prodita dolo Antiphili praetoris urbe captaque’.

page 94 note 5 v is another good example of Plutarch's adaptation of history to biography. He centres interest on Titus throughout; he omits the details of the march through Epirus; by adding οūτω κοσμìως … ώστε (2) he shows us clearly Titus' moderate treatment of the inhabitants, The circumstances of Philip's flight are given as a piece of news which encouraged Titus further in his behaviour. In 4–5 we are shown the results of this behaviour (the suggestion of the immediate surrender in 4 is misleading; it was only when reflection showed this to be the better course; cf. Livy, xxxii. 14 and 15). In 6–7 we are shown the contrast between the Macedonian description of Titus' barbarity and the truth, and though these facts are probably taken from Polybius, the arrangement is Plutarch's own.

page 94 note 6 It was the senatorial commission of 10; cf. Livy, xxxiii. 35. I.

page 94 note 7 Cf. Livy, xxxv. 23. 5, where Titus is one of four.

page 94 note 8 Cf. v, where 1–3 and 4–5 are complementary to one another; 1–3 explains 4–5, and 4–5 illustrates the quality noted in 1–3. In xvii he halts the narrative to give us a picture of Titus' ready wit and charm, since he thought those qualities helped to explain Titus' success in Greece.

page 94 note 9 See xx. I.

page 95 note 1 In ix. 8 this explains why Plutarch describes Titus' anxiety to end the war as being felt at the time of the peace (§§ 9–11), though Polybius described it as being felt at the time of the truce (xviii. 39, 3).

page 95 note 2 e.g. in iv he makes no mention of Titus' forty days' inactivity in Greece or of Philip's fruitless attempts at negotiation (Livy, xxxii. 10.1–2).

page 95 note 3 Cf. Paullus, i; Demetrius, i.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Classical Quarterly
  • ISSN: 0009-8388
  • EISSN: 1471-6844
  • URL: /core/journals/classical-quarterly
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 10 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 88 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 20th October 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.