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Vires/Robur/Opes and Ferocia in Livy's Account of Romulus and Tullus Hostilius

  • Robert J. Penella (a1)

In a recent article I observed that Livy sees a dialectic at work in Roman history over the course of the reigns of the first four kings. The first king, Romulus, is associated with physical (i.e. military) strength and is devoted to war. His successor Numa is devoted to peace and to the advance of religion, law and the civilizing virtues. The Romulean thesis, having been answered by the Numan antithesis, reasserts itself in the reign of the third king, Tullus Hostilius. This time, devotion to war is even more intense: Tullus is ferocior (1.22.2) than Romulus. Excessive devotion to war, however, entailed the neglect of other things: towards the end of his reign, during a plague to which he himself eventually fell victim, Tullus turned to religion, hoping that the gods would end the pestilence if he could balance his Romulean devotion to war with a Numan concern for sacra. But his efforts were too late and inept. It was not until the reign of the fourth king, Ancus Marcius, that a synthesis was achieved. Ancus had a medium ingenium that fused the Romulean and Numan tendencies. The adoption of the ius fetiale by the Livian Ancus symbolizes this synthesis: the ius fetiale was a martial (i.e. Romulean) ritual, but it also acknowledged the Numan claims of religion and right.

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1 ‘War, Peace, and the Jus Fetiale in Livy I,’ CP 82 (1987), 233–7.

2 e.g. by Ogilvie, R. M., A Commentary on Livy, Books 1–5 (Oxford, 1965), p. 106 (on 22.2).

3 cf. Solodow, J. B., ‘Livy and the Story of Horatius, 1.24–26’, TAPA 109 (1979), 253.

4 cf., in Ovid, 's Fasti 2.483, the remark of Mars surveying Romulus' reign: ‘“luppiter,” inquit, “habet Romana potentia uires.”’ For Livy's pairing or associating of uires and robur, see the many examples to be found in Packard, D. W., A Concordance to Livy (Cambridge, MA, 1968), under the forms of robur. Note also Livy 36.34.10 (opes ac uires), 9.39.11 (ille…dies…fregit opes. caesum…quod roboris fuit…).

5 There is more in Dionysius (esp. 2.12, 14, 30.3, 35.1–2,45.3–4, 47.1–2, 52.4, 56.4). His account, of course, is much longer than Livy's and some of the material in Dionysius on Romulus' senate occurs in his systematic discussion of the Romulean politeia (2.7ff.). If Cicero in his De republica lays stress on how Romulus deferred to and was supported by the senate, it is because he wants to show that the principle of the mixed constitution – at this early stage, aristocracy balancing monarchy – was already beginning to be acknowledged at Rome (De rep. 2.14–15, 17, 23).

6 Ogilvie, , A Commentary, p. 64.

7 See, on Romulus' words to Proculus, Weeber, K.-W., ‘Abi nuntia Romanis…: Ein Document augusteischer Geschichtsauffassung in Livius I 16?’, RhM 127 (1984), 326–43.

8 Dumézil, G., Horace et les Curiaces (Paris, 1942; repr. New York, 1978), pp. 7981, 86, makes much of Floras 1.1.3, ‘hie [Tullus Hostilius] omnem militarem disciplinam artemque bellandi condidit', and compares Orosius, Hist. 2.4.9, ‘Tullum Hostilium militaris rei institutorem’. This is because these texts permit an interpretation of Rome's first four kings that is in line with Dumézil's well-known views on the tripartition of Indo-European social classes or functions. The first function, sovereignty, has two sides, one ‘frénétique et magique,’ the other ‘juridique et réglée’ (p. 79); these are represented by the first two kings, Romulus and Numa respectively. The second function, military force, is represented by the third king, Tullus. (The fourth king, Ancus, represents the third function, fecundity/prosperity: cf. Poucet, J., Les origines de Rome [Brussels, 1985], pp. 173–4.) Dumézil admits that Romulus, ‘tout attaché qu'il fût à la souveraineté magique, n'en fait pas moins figure de roi belliqueux’. Still, he preserves a special place for Tullus by insisting that he was ‘exclusivement un chef militaire, un technicien de la guerre…guerrier sans religion’ in contrast to Romulus, ‘augure combattant’ who won his military victories because he was a ‘client du ciel’ (pp. 81–2). Dumézil does not allude to Livy's assertion that, during a military crisis, Tullus vowed to establish twelve Salian priests and to erect shrines to Pallor and Pavor (1.27.7; cf. Dion. Hal. 3.32.4); nor does he refer to the tradition that Tullus, after several military victories, consecrated ex voto a temple to Saturn and founded the Saturnalia (Macrob. Sat. 1.8.1). There was also a tradition that Tullus established the ius fetiale (Cic. De rep. 2.31, ius… quod… sanxit fetiali religione, ut omne bellum quod denuntiatum indictumque non esset, id iniustum esse atque inpium iudicaretur). And Dionysius, specifically naming Romulus, Numa and Tullus, notes that all the kings of Rome founded religious institutions (2.23.6). All of which suggests that the ancient mind, though it did see Tullus as reacting against Numa's preoccupation with sacra, was not committed to as rigidly secular a view of Tullus as Dumezil maintains.

9 See the entries ‘ferocia,’ ‘ferocitas,’ ‘ferociter’ and ‘ferox’ in TLL and OLD; Eckert, K., ‘Ferocia’ – Untersuchung eines ambivalenten Begriffs’, Der altsprachliche Unterricht 13 (1970), 90106. Cf. Solodow, , TAPA 109 (1979), 253.

10 cf., in book seven, Manlius Torquatus, who both displays heroic ferocia (7.10.8) against the huge Gaul and also orders his own son to be put to death for an act of military bravery performed against orders. Livy acknowledges that the latter act improved Roman disciplina, but still labels it atrox (8.7.20, 8.1).

11 cf. Heurgon, J. (ed.), T. Livi, Ab urbe condita, Liber primus (Paris, 1970), p. 45, on this passage: ‘dans une perspective stoicienne, T.-L. fait de Romulus un nouvel Hercule.’ See also Galinsky, G. K., The Herakles Theme (Totowa, NJ, 1972), p. 140.

12 Note Cicero's ascription of ferocitas in a positive sense to Romulus: et corporis uiribus et animi ferocitate tantum ceteris praestitisse (De rep. 2.4).

13 A problematic ferocia reappears frequently in the rest of Livy's first pentad: e.g. in the criminal Tullia, Servius Tullius' daughter (1.46.6); in the tyrannical Tarquinius Superbus, usurping Servius' throne (1.48.2); in Sextus Tarquinius, raping Lucretia (1.58.5); in the Roman ambassadors who violated ius gentium at Clusium while meeting with the Gauls (5.36.1). Ferocia is a trait that incites or exacerbates civil strife: e.g. 2.28.8, 29.5, 39.7, 55.11, 58.5–6; 3.65.10; 5.9.4, 25.12. On the other hand, an admirable ferocia drives the fight against tyranny and for libertas (1.59.5, 3.39.3, 3.41.1), and Romans can display this kind of ferocia in combat (2.33.7, 3.47.2 if the manuscripts' ferociter is retained, 3.70.10; cf. 3.68.2).

14 cf. CP 82 (1987), 237.

15 I am grateful to CQ's anonymous readers for several improvements.

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