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Epictetus and the Imperial Court*

  • Fergus Millar (a1)
Extract

What we know of Roman political life under the early Empire we owe mostly to senatorial writers, and to an eques, Suetonius; a single Imperial freedman, Phlegon of Tralles, has left some scraps of information about the Court in his own time and before. It is therefore worth paying some attention when we have a lengthy text which reproduces the observations on human life and fortune of a man who was himself the slave of an Imperial freedman. Epictetus has been little used as a historical source; it is the aim of this paper to bring out both the extent and the value of his references to Roman society and politics in his own time.

Before we can assess the value of these references, we must examine both the experience on which they are based and the authenticity of the text in which they occur. Epictetus originated from Hierapolis in Phrygia; according to an inscription he was born a slave. Either by birth or sale, he belonged to Epaphroditus, the freedman and a libellis of Nero, who after Nero's death survived unharmed until relegated, and then (in 95) executed, by Domitian. Whether Epaphroditus remained a libellis under the Flavians is not clear, though the likelihood is that he did not. This view would be supported if we could be sure that it was the same Epaphroditus who encouraged Josephus in the writing of his Antiquitates, completed in 93–4.

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1 Jacoby, FGrH 257, F 36, XIV; F 37, IV.

2 For the full testimony see the Teubner ed. by H. Schenkl (1894), XIV–XXIII, and PIR 2 E 74.

3 PIR 2 E 69. Dio LXVII, 14, 4–5 dates the execution to 95.

4 Jos. AJ I, 8. The question of the identification cannot be formally decided. Frankfort, Th., ‘La date de l'autobiographie de Flavius Josèphe et des oeuvres de Justus de Tibériade,’ Rev. Belge de Phil. et d'Hist. XXXIX (1961), 52, esp. pp. 56–7, shows that there are no firm chronological grounds for dismissing the identification.

5 I, 25, 22. This could have been on any one of a number of occasions between 60 and 66. See PIR 2 D 39.

6 PIR 1 M 380; P–W s.v. ‘Mestrius’ (3).

7 I, 2, 12–18.

8 I, 1, 19. Compare Tac., Ann. XV, 60, 1–2.

9 I, 1, 26–7.

10 I, 1, 28–32 = Fr. 21 Schenkl. Compare Tac., Ann. XVI, 33, 3 and see PIR 1 P 16.

11 See Lutz, Cora E., ‘Musonius Rufus, “The Roman Socrates”,’ Yale Class. Stud. X (1947), 3, esp. pp. 8–9.

12 III, 15, 14.

13 I, 7, 32. Cic., de amicitia 11/37 and Plut., Tib. Grac. 20, 4, quoted by Souilhé ad. loc., do not suffice to prove that ‘burning the Capitol’ was a proverbial expression.

14 I, 9, 29–30. This could of course date to before the banishment of Musonius in 65.

15 III, 15, 8; IV, 8, 17–20.

16 I, 2, 19–21. Note IV, 1, 123, a reference to the condemnation of Helvidius. PIR 2 H 59 notes neither passage.

17 II, 7, 8.

18 For a discussion of the date see Sherwin-White, A. N., JRS XLVII (1957), 126–7.

19 For a discussion of the tradition about Epictetus' works see Vol. I of the Budé text by J. Souilhé (Paris, 1943), XII f.

20 See PIR 2 G 132 and Corinth VIII, 2, no. 93.

21 Praef.

22 See Hartmann, K., ‘Arrian und Epiktet,’ Neue Jahrbücher XV (1905), 248, on p. 275.

23 See 1, 18, 15 and 29, 21 and Hartmann, o.c. 259. Compare n. 69 and the text to it.

24 See Bruns, I., De Scholae Epicteti (1897) and, for the form of the Discourses, see Colardeau, Th., Étude sur Épictète (1903), 283 f.

25 IV, 5, 17–18. See Mabbott, T. O., ‘Epictetus and Nero's Coinage,’ Classical Philology XXXVI (1941), 398.

26 II, 22, 22.

27 III, 7. Compare Tod, M. N., ‘The Corrector Maximus,’ Anatolian Studies Presented to W. M. Buckler (1939), 333. esp. pp. 336–7.

28 See Syme, R., Tacitus (1958), 661.

29 PIR 2 F 219.

30 Suggested by Syme, o.c. (n. 28), App. 18, and fully documented by Morris, J., ‘Leges Annales under the Principate,’ Listy Filologické LXXXVII (1964), 316.

31 II, 16, 30–1.

32 I, 19, 6. See Latte, K., Römische Religionsgeschichte (1960), 52.

33 I, 11, 27. See also 1, 29, 37—gladiators owned by Caesar begging to fight.

34 I, 25, 8; 29, 31; IV, 1, 58.

35 11, 1, 26–7. On the vicesima libertatis see also IV, 1. 33.

36 III, 3, 15 and 17.

37 I, 19, 24.

38 I, 25, 15.

39 Fr. 15 Schenkl.

40 III, 8, 7. It is not quite impossible (but not particularly probable) that this was the poet, Silius Italicus. See Schanz-Hosius, , Geschichte der römischen Literatur II 4 (1935), 526–7.

40a II, 12, 17–25.

41 III, 23, 27

42 IV, 13, 5.

43 IV, 1, 17. See Pliny, , Pan. 24, 2 comparing Domitian and Trajan on this point.

44 I, 3, 2.

45 SHA, Had. 3, 10. See PIR 2 A 184. But compare Syme, o.c. (n. 28), 232–4.

45a For a good analysis of the extent to which Epictetus' teaching reflects his experience of Rome under Domitian see Starr, C. G.Epictetus and the Tyrant’, Class. Phil. XLIV (1949), 20, which I ought to have known before writing this article, but did not.

46 I, 1, 20. For the justifiable emendation of the text to make Lateranus the author of this remark see the Budé edition.

47 I, 26, 11–12.

48 Dio LIV, 26, 3 gives 1,000,000, Suetonus Div. Aug. 41, 1,200,000. For subventions by Nero, Suet., Nero 10; Tac., Ann. XIII, 34, 2–3, cf. XV, 53, 2.

49 I, 19, 19–21. An imperial sutor is attested on ILS 1787 (A.D. 13).

50 I, 19, 17–18. On the power of members of the Imperial familia note also IV, 13, 22.

51 IV, 1, 95.

52 IV, 1, 6–13.

53 Compare Suet., Div. Vesp. 21; Pliny, , Ep. III, 5, 9.

54 IV, 1, 45–8.

55 Almost certainly not the young Julius Naso, whose candidature for honores had been supported a couple of years earlier by Pliny, , Ep. VI, 6. But he might be the proconsul of Africa about 107, C. Cornelius Rarus Sextius Na[so?], possibly the same as a suffect consul of 93. See Syme, o.c. (n. 28), 638, 805. Epictetus' words would suit a man of that status.

56 11, 14, 18.

57 IV, 1, 60.

58 IV, 1, 148.

59 IV, 10, 20–1. On senatorial ambition compare 1, 25, 26–7; IV, 1, 55 and 173.

60 IV, 7, 19–24. There are references to the terrors of audience with Caesar in 1, 30, 7 and IV, 7, 1.

61 III, 7. The view of Hartmann, o.c. (n. 22), 261, that the dialogue is a fiction narrated by Epictetus and relating to an incident some years back involves believing that Arrian's introduction to it is straight forwardly false. There is no basis for such a belief.

62 III, 7, 13.

63 Though ILS 1684 reveals a libertus of Trajan, M. Ulpius Symphorus.

64 III, 7, 29–31.

65 Ep. VIII, 24, 8.

66 I, 10, 2–6.

67 Dio LXIX, 19, 1.

68 P–W s.v. ‘Sulpicius’ (104). See Stein, A., Die Praefekten von Ägypten (1950), 53–5.

69 Note in III, 7, 3 (Maximus) “χειμῶνος” and III, 9, 3 (the man from Cnossus—see below) “μετὰ χειμῶνος”.

70 1940, 38. See Stein, o.c. 55–8.

71 I, 10, 10. The previous sentence perhaps also refers to Praefecti annonae

72 Note for instance 11, 13, 11 which lists among unworthy causes of anxiety

73 II, 6, 20–3. On trial and condemnation by Caesar see also II, 19, 17–18 and III, 8, 2. Banishment to Gyarus is a recurrent theme—1, 25, 19–20; III, 24, 100; IV, 4, 34.

74 III, 9.

75 1908, 215 = Inscr. Cret. I, viii, 54.

76 IGR III, 704, Col. III.

77 III, 9, 18.

78 IV, 1, 14.

79 III, 4.

80 St. John 19, 12.

81 PIR 2 C 1424. See H. G. Pflaum, Carrières Procuratoriennes (1960–1), no. 81.

82 Perhaps as a sinecure: see JRS LIII (1963), 196–7.

83 III, 4, 11.

84 Mor. 86 B–D.

85 I, 19, 26–9.

86 Petronius, , Sat. 30, 71.

87 One might note especially his statement in III, 3, 3 that it is forbidden to reject Imperial coins, which is confirmed by Paulus, , Sent. V, 25, 1.

88 I, 29, 9.

89 See PIR 2 F 219.

90 Gellius, Aulus, NA 1, 2, 6–13. The date can be roughly calculated from the fact that Gellius, now ‘apud magistros’ (1, 2, 1), had been an adulescens attending grammatici in Rome in the Urban Prefecture of Erucius Clarus (VII, 6, 12; XIII, 18, 2–3) who died in office in 146 (PIR 2 E 96).

91 Meditations VI, 30.

92 Ad Verum II, I (Naber p. 123; Van Den Hout p. 117).

* An earlier version of this paper was read to the Oxford Branch of the Classical Association on 12th November, 1964. I should like to thank those present for the helpful discussion which followed, and also Professor Sir Ronald Syme for his advice and assistance, especially on points of prosopography. My quotations of passages in English owe much to the Loeb Epictetus by W. A. Oldfather (1925, 1928).

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