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3. Duels and Devotiones

In a scene full of political resonances for the first century B.C.E., Livy describes the embassy of the Latin praetor Annius Setinus to Rome to demand for the Latin allies a share in governing the state (8.4–6).[1] Since the Latins provide half of Rome’s military forces, Annius argues, one of the consuls and half of the Senate ought to be made up of Latins, although he is willing to concede that Rome should remain the seat of power and that the united peoples should continue to be called Romans. As he had said to an assembly of allies, “where there is a portion of strength, there also is a portion of imperium.”[2] The call for “one people, one Republic” (8.5.5) may seem to offer a chance for the peaceful incorporation of kindred peoples. The compromise reached at the end of the Aeneid proposes a similar fusion,[3] and even the sharing of magistracies has a parallel in the joint kingship of Romulus and the Sabine Titus Tatius. Yet the Roman consul T. Manlius Torquatus regards the Latin claim not only as a cause for war but as sacrilege (8.5.8–10). What Annius’s demands fail to take into account is that Roman imperium is not simply a matter of strength, that political incorporation is not merely a consequence of kinship, and that the Roman Jupiter is not like the other gods. The Roman political structure, as we saw in chapter 2, depended upon a network of contact channeled through the persons of Rome’s legitimate magistrates, which connected all members of the state to the power emanating from the gods; without this, the Latins, despite all their superficial similarities to the Romans in language, race, and institutions, were inescapably alien.

The Latin commander soon received an all-too-vivid demonstration of the realities of Roman imperium and its privileged connection to the divine. Annius’s speech was delivered on the Capitoline itself, the sacred center of the state, where the consul’s bond to Jupiter was annually established through his inauguratio, and the sight that Camillus used above all to confirm the loyalty to place that prevented the Romans from emigrating to Veii.[4] In rejecting the Latin demands, the consul directly addresses the statue of Jupiter, summoning him to witness Annius’s impiety. After Annius responds by “slighting the power of the Roman Jupiter,” he slips and knocks himself out.[5] Torquatus in turn proclaims Annius’s fall to be an omen predicting Roman victory. More than that, he claims it as a proof that the divine power (numen) of Jupiter, which Annius has explicitly and implicitly rejected, does in fact exist.[6] By these actions, Annius is not only exercising the consul’s religious sanction to interpret the omens; his gesture reminds us of the interdependence of political and religious authority at Rome. The consul proclaims the existence of the gods, yet these very gods act to protect the consulate itself from usurpation by the Latins.

Annius’s embassy leads to a battle between the Romans and the Latins. Significantly, in light of the Latins’ demand for one of the consulships, it requires the combined forces of both Roman consuls to obtain the victory. Two events render the encounter particularly memorable. Torquatus executes his son for fighting a duel against a Latin challenger without his consular permission, and his colleague P. Decius Mus obtains victory for the Romans through the ritual of devotio, which requires his own death. Some have argued that the point of the juxtaposition is to contrast the cruelty and extremism of Torquatus with the true piety and patriotism of Decius.[7] But in this context both actions together share the function of illustrating why the political conceptions upon which the Latin claim for citizenship is based are to be rejected. Annius posits a political union based on kinship, but for a Torquatus to sacrifice his son in the interest of the state, not to mention Decius’s self-sacrifice, his bond to Rome must transcend the ties of mere kinship.

Both acts also focus attention on the special quality that differentiates the Roman state from the Latins and places it above kinship. Within the text, this is defined as disciplina, the obedience to orders that requires the punishment of anyone who fights without his commander’s permission.[8] But military discipline is only one aspect of that larger system of transmitting authority through contact on which Roman unity depends. While Torquatus punishes his son for cutting himself off from the state by disobeying orders, Livy’s account of Decius’s devotio highlights the ritual by which the consul places himself in contact with the power of the gods and consecrates himself by the act of touching his own chin. The devotio and the combination of duel and execution not only teach the importance of thus maintaining connection with the collective authority of the state; these actions themselves establish such a connection for the spectators who observe them, through the medium of visual contact.

This chapter analyzes both duels and devotiones as spectacles—that is, as actions whose effectiveness depends on their being witnessed by others. Each “performance” puts on display the hierarchies that give structure to Roman civic life and thus offers an image of the distinctive political system that sets Rome apart from her adversaries. But more than that, these spectacles become the means through which the collective power of the state operates on the spectators, devastating the enemy and drawing the Romans closer to the sources of their own strength. The transforming power of spectacle points to a final similarity between the devotio of Decius and the duel of the young Torquatus. Each is directly linked to similar performances of which it is either an imitation or a model. Torquatus’s son accepts the Gaul’s challenge because the consul himself, when young, had earned his cognomen by defeating a Gaul in single combat. Decius’s son and grandson will also devote themselves in later battles. Thus beyond its own impact, each individual duel or devotio reproduces previous successful performances and thus defines a pattern of imitation, like a series of beacon fires, by which the uniquely Roman res publica perpetuates itself. Such a system of spectacle, which Livy contrasts with the empty and ineffective spectacles of Rome’s opponents, itself provides a crucial criterion for differentiating Rome from her enemies.

In the battle against the Latins, one of these actions, Decius’s devotio is performed properly, while Torquatus’s duel, because he fails to imitate previous duels in certain respects, necessitates his punishment. But as we shall see, this negative example is as instructive as successful duels in defining the crucial elements of the performance. What I have said about duels can also be applied to the scene of the consul executing his own son. Here too Livy emphasizes the impact of the sight of the execution on its spectators, and this act too recapitulates an earlier event in Roman history, the first consul Brutus’s similar punishment of his sons for disobedience.[9] Indeed, the execution is depicted as a corrective to the failed duel, an alternative spectacle that replaces the act it punishes in the eyes of its audience.

I. Devotio

Devotio is a drastic measure in which a magistrate with imperium, consul, dictator, or praetor, to prevent imminent defeat, consecrates one individual, who thus takes upon himself the impurities of the entire state. This individual then charges into the midst of the enemy, presumably to his death, and by this act ensures their destruction. In fact, we know of only three instances of devotio in Roman history, and in each of them, the individual whom the magistrate consecrates is himself. Furthermore, all three consuls were members of the same family: the first is P. Decius Mus, consul at the battle of Veseris (8.9ff.); his son follows his example at the battle of Sentinum in 295 (10.28–9). The case of his son is somewhat problematic: Cicero tells us that he offered his life in the same way against Pyrrhus at the battle of Asculum,[10] and a fragment of Ennius has been taken to describe the same event.[11] However, the summary of the relevant book of Livy makes no mention of it, and the consular Fasti indicate that this Decius was alive some ten years later.[12] Cassius Dio records an extraordinary story in relation to this event that demonstrates the triumph of Greek cunning over Roman religiosity: When Pyrrhus’s troops themselves fear that Decius might perform a devotio, the king makes inquiries about the ritual and instructs his soldiers that no one dressed in the special garb of the devotus is to be harmed.[13] He then sends a message to Decius, letting him know that any attempt to devote himself will be fruitless.

Livy himself provides the fullest account of the procedure for devotio. Both Decii request the assistance of the Pontifex Maximus, who prescribes the proper gestures and the exact words of the prayer. At the command of the pontifex, the consul dons the toga praetexta, the purple-bordered toga worn by magistrates, and veils his head; sticking his hand up from beneath his toga, he touches his chin, and while standing upon a spear recites the prayer:

Ianus, Jupiter, father Mars, Quirinus, Bellona, Lares, Divi Novensiles, Di Indigetes, divinities who possess power over our troops and the enemy, Gods of the dead, I pray and beseech, I seek and bring prayers that you favor the might and victory of the Roman people and that you afflict the enemies of the Roman people with terror, fear, and death. As I have undertaken with words, so on behalf of the Republic of the Roman people, the army, legion, and auxiliaries of the Roman people, I devote the legions and auxiliaries of the enemy along with me to the Gods of the Dead and the Earth.

Having done this, the consul girds himself in the cinctus Gabinus, a way of wearing the toga drawn over the head that was used by magistrates with imperium in the performance of sacred rites,[14] leaps on his horse and charges into the midst of battle. The enemy are afflicted with terror wherever the consul rides, and when eventually they kill him, their fate is sealed. The consul’s body is always buried under the thickest pile of weapons and corpses and so cannot be found until the next day.

How many of these details accurately reflect early Roman religious practice remains uncertain.[15] The idea of charging a man or beast with the impurities of the people and sending it off to exert its destructive influence among the enemy possesses many analogues, from Hittite sacrificial practice to the legend of the Trojan horse.[16] However, Versnel has argued that what has become the archetypal form of devotio actually evolved from the more widespread but somewhat less dramatic practice of invoking the gods’ power by making over to them the lives and property of the enemy.[17] But whatever the actual authenticity of Livy’s description, the act clearly possesses a special significance for his text. The historian explicitly justifies his inclusion of the details of the ritual in terms that remind us of one of the cardinal aims of his history: he has preserved the tradition of an archaic Roman practice into an age when native religion has been supplanted by foreign rites.[18] Indeed, the first step in the ritual itself draws attention to the importance of preserving traditions. The Decii would not have been able to perform their devotiones if they too had not had access to an equivalent record of the past through the memory of the pontifex. Thus when the second Decius devotes himself, the ritual prescribed by the pontifex presumably reproduces Livy’s account of his father’s devotio.[19]

Livy’s use of accounts of devotio to highlight his own role of giving access to the past relates to another important feature of the ritual itself: perhaps no other Roman practice reveals more clearly the importance of contact as the mechanism for the transmission of power. The role of contact is first apparent in the physical gestures by which the consul invokes the aid of the gods. The touching of the chin recalls the action with which an object is consecrated or made over to the gods.[20] The spear on which the consul stands either embodies the god Mars,[21] or perhaps, since it is placed on the earth, opens a bridge between the person of the consul and the underworld gods to whom he devotes himself.[22] Between them, the two actions denote the twin sources of power that energize the entire state, the power of the gods and the collective power channeled through the person of the magistrate.

The performance as a whole has a contradictory effect on the consul himself. The devotus surrenders more than his life; through being rendered sacer, he loses his status as an individual member of the group.[23] Thus the devotus’s charge into the midst of the enemy can denote his separation from the Roman host as much as his aggressive intention against the enemy. On the other hand, the gesture of contactus binds the individual even more closely to the whole. Not only does he become their substitute, the one whose death ensures the survival of the multitude;[24] he takes upon himself all the religious impurities of the people, so that his death becomes an expiation for them. At the same time, he also assumes their power, becoming the instrument through which the wrath of the gods is brought to bear on the enemy. The devotus also makes himself a surrogate for the enemy, whose fate is bound to his own through the agency of sympathetic magic. Not only does the devotus actively terrify the enemy, but the death that he suffers ensures that they too will die.

After the initial ritualized contact charges the consul with both the power and the pollution of the entire state, contact emerges again as the mechanism by which these energies are disseminated among the enemy. Thus the younger Decius says that he will “touch the standards, weapons, and arms of the enemy with deadly curses.”[25] The impact of the elder Decius, “like a piaculum sent from the heavens for all the anger of the gods,”[26] can be understood in the same terms. He is initially described as bringing a pestis, or plague, among the enemy, and throughout the description, it is less the consul’s own actions than the superhuman influences he bears with him, terror and pavor (panic), that overwhelm the enemy. The progress of this fear, which sets in confusion the standards of the Latins and then “penetrates deeply throughout the entire army,” resembles the spread of a disease.[27] The enemy “tremble as though stricken by a plague-bearing star.”[28]

But in the description of the elder Decius’s final charge, the very sight of the consul, in addition to physical contact or proximity, provides a medium through which he exerts his influence on both sides. The appearance of the consul, with his specially arranged toga, mounted on his horse in the midst of foot soldiers makes him strikingly conspicuous. Livy emphasizes that Decius was “seen by each army” (conspectus ab utraque acie [8.9.10]) and immediately draws attention to his visus, when he is described as “exalted beyond human appearance” (augustior humano visu [ibid.]). The simile of the “plague-bearing star” (8.9.12) further contributes to the pictorial vividness of Livy’s description of the consul’s charge and at the same time links the visual impression Decius produces directly to his destructive power. Even the devastation of the enemy, called evidentissimum, “most clear to see,” becomes a spectacle for the Roman troops, who immediately take on new vigor, “as if they were beginning a fresh battle with the sign just given.”[29]

That comparison of the consul’s charge to the signal to begin battle emphasizes the connection between the result of a devotio and the powers of imperium, a connection already apparent in the requirement that the devotio be performed by a magistrate with imperium. In fact, the entire ritual can be read as a means for projecting magisterial imperium in a particularly intensive and efficacious form. The twin aims of devotio signaled in the consul’s prayer, to render the Romans powerful and prosperous and to inflict destruction upon the enemy, represent precisely the function of all imperium.[30] Papirius at the battle of Aquilonia accomplishes just the same thing. While Decius’s cry that “the aid of the gods is required” seems to suggest that the devotio procedure marks a movement beyond the standard resources of the commander, it should be remembered that there is a superhuman component in all magisterial authority. What the devotio does accomplish, however, is to heighten the immediacy with which the powers residing in the imperator are communicated. The person of the devotus becomes a particularly transparent manifestation of these powers. The transformations in his appearance all reveal the sources of Roman might.[31] Thus his special way of girding the toga, cinctu Gabino, signifies that he possesses imperium;[32] the term augustior applied to the visual impression made by the consul confirms this connection because of its association with the terms used to describe the “increase” in authority received by the consul at the moment when he enters his magistracy. Yet as we have seen, the devotus’s appearance does not simply represent or symbolize his authority; like the visible insignia displayed in a triumph, it provides the means through which this authority functions.

The role of the devotus as someone who manifests or communicates the power of the gods also explains another important feature in Livy’s accounts of both Decii. In each case, the devotio itself is predicted by an elaborate series of omens. Prior to the battle of Veseris, both consuls in their sleep behold the same vision “of a man larger and more exalted [augustior] than of human bearing, saying that from one side the general [imperator] and from the other the entire army was owed to the gods of the underworld, and [that] victory would belong to the people whose general devoted himself and the legions of the enemy” (8.6.9–10). This communication operates on two levels. First is the simple sending of a message, which is received by the consuls and finally acted upon when Decius devotes himself. But there is also an important connection between the visual aspect of the omen and the devotio: The vision of a figure “more august than human,” predicts precisely the appearance of the devotus himself. Thus the consul is not just obeying the orders of the gods; in his own person, he “broadcasts” the miraculous sight he has seen in the dream, rendering it visible to both armies. Here is another respect in which the devotus performs the traditional function of the imperator through more emphatic means, for as we saw in chapter 2, it is always the role of the general to represent the divine realm to his troops.

Before the battle of Sentinum, when the troops have been arranged for combat, a deer pursued by a wolf runs between the two battle lines. “The deer runs toward the Gauls and the wolf toward the Romans. The wolf is received within the ranks; the Gauls kill the deer. Then a Roman soldier proclaims, “Flight and slaughter have gone to that side where you see the sacred beast of Diana laid low; on this side the wolf of Mars, whole and untouched, reminds us of our martial heritage and of our founder” ”(10.27.8–9). The double aspect of the prodigy looks forward to the two components of the devotus’s prayer where again the “flight and slaughter” of the enemy complements the inspiration of the Romans. More than that, the prodigy also predicts the mechanism by which the devotio operates. The two animals become surrogates for each army, which in turn takes on the characteristics of their representative. When the deer is killed, the Gauls ensure that they will be similarly affected by caedes; the Romans recognize the wolf as victor, and so they too will be victorious.[33]

The willingness of the Decii to give up their lives in the service of the state has made their deaths virtual paradigms for Roman patriotism, and Livy’s account of them has an emphatically didactic function, revealed most clearly in the praise that each receives from his fellow consul.[34] But the devotio ritual itself, which Livy describes in such detail, can also offer a new model for how the exemplary figures of the Decii affect the audiences they are designed to instruct. Imitation, after all, plays a crucial role in each narrative, as the enemy and the Romans both take on characteristics possessed by the Decii. The devotus, precisely by imitating the past, that is by properly performing the ceremony prescribed by the Pontifex Maximus, becomes an embodiment of the collective power of the state and, by projecting this power through his own person, confers it back to the army as a whole, rendering them victorious where before they were on the verge of defeat. Thus through a kind of sympathetic magic, founded on the possession of imperium, the Romans are made more like themselves. The social regeneration, for it is nothing less, accomplished by these devotiones, is made to depend upon direct contact with the centers of collective power. This explains why Livy uses his account of the first devotio ritual to cast his history as the means by which such “transmissions” can be preserved. Admittedly, the devotio offers an extreme case, where the powers of the imperator clearly operate through superhuman means. In the next section, we shall examine a seemingly less extraordinary genre of regularized performance, the series of duels in books 7 and 8, where the role of imperium and its link to the “education” of the individual can be understood in comparable terms.

II. Duels

In spite of the juxtaposition of the stories of Decius and the younger Torquatus in book 8, and the shared willingness of those involved to give up their lives for their country, any intrinsic similarity between duels and devotiones seems to be ruled out by their different outcomes. The devotus is expected to die in battle, while the youth sent out to fight the enemy champion is expected to win. Nevertheless, Livy’s narratives of the two types of actions share the same general structure. Prior to the duel itself, the young Roman combatant must be given permission to fight by his commanding officer.[35] In each of the two successful duels, this is none other than a magistrate with imperium, a dictator in Torquatus’s case, a consul in Corvus’s. So too a citizen can only be devoted by a consul, dictator, or praetor (8.10.11). After their respective performances, both the living champion and the dead devotus are reincorporated into the group by being praised and held up as inspiring examples, again by the commander.[36] The way that the actions of the magistrate frame the exploits of both champion and devotus emphasizes the importance of contact in each procedure as the means that allow the individual to act effectively on the state’s behalf. Correspondingly, in Livy’s account of the duels of Torquatus and Corvus, each champion, like the two Decii, becomes a kind of surrogate for the Roman people as a whole. Their victories not only bring them individual glory but predict, or indeed determine, the outcome of the conflict between Gauls and Romans. Their success acts to validate Rome’s intrinsic might and renders the Romans who witness it fiercer and more active; the defeat of each Gaul has an equivalently demoralizing effect on his fellows. When the first Gaul is killed by T. Manlius, fear is said to have rendered the entire army of Gauls motionless (defixerat) while the Romans are made alacres (7.10.12). The defeat of Corvus’s Gaul similarly determines in advance the outcome of the battle in which it occurs.[37] Thus the effect of the duel as spectacle, to invest each side with the attributes displayed by their surrogate, reproduces the combined result of the devotio. The difference is that in a devotio, the devotus plays a double role, acting as surrogate for the victorious Romans and at the same time “infecting” the enemy with death through his own destruction. In the case of the duel, this double function is split in half. Each side produces its own champion, so that victory can belong entirely to the Roman and death need befall only the Gallic combatant.

Livy’s treatments of the exploits of Torquatus and Corvus give us important clues about the particular concerns of his narrative, because we can compare them to parallel accounts from other annalists, which survive as excerpts in the text of the second-century antiquarian Aulus Gellius. The fragment recording the duel of Torquatus is especially valuable: it is directly attributed to the first century B.C.E. historian Claudius Quadrigarius, and close verbal resemblances make it likely that Livy modeled his account on it directly.[38] It would thus provide the only point in the first ten books where we can compare Livy’s treatment of an event verbatim with that of one of his “sources.” The Corvus narrative is more difficult to use.[39] Gellius does not attribute it directly to Quadrigarius, as we would expect, since this author was one of his particular favorites,[40] and probably reaches him only through having been previously excerpted, and in some measure recast, by another compiler.[41] Comparisons between both sets of parallel versions reveal that the crucial elements of Livy’s construction of the duels—the role of the commander as the one who both enables the young Roman to fight and later praises his victory, and the corresponding influence the duel acquires over the outcome of the larger conflict between Gauls and Romans—were not indispensable components of a fixed narrative tradition. Claudius Quadrigarius makes no mention of Torquatus’s request for the dictator’s permission to accept the Gaul’s challenge, a moment Livy accentuates by including the dictator’s exhortation in direct speech. The “annalistic” treatment of Corvus’s duel does state that the tribune asked the consul’s permission but leaves out the later speech of the consul urging his soldiers to “imitate” their champion. Neither account implies that the duel has any greater consequence than to win glory and a new cognomen for its victor.[42]

The full significance of Livy’s reformulation of the duel can best be viewed against the background of the varied cultural associations that the institution of dueling possessed in the Late Republic. Stephen Oakley has demonstrated the frequency and importance of single combat in Roman military practice and made clear that such duels cannot be regarded simply as a response to foreign challenges.[43] Oakley collects over thirty examples of single combats and suggests that during the peak period of the Middle Republic, such combats could have happened as frequently as once a year.[44] The evidence he compiles, together with the wealth of parallels adduced from other cultures, make it possible to trace the variety of connotations the practice acquired within Roman culture.

One of the tendencies that emerges from Oakley’s analysis is the link between participation in single combat and the competition for power and prestige within the Roman aristocracy. Both Manlius Torquatus and Valerius Corvus rise to the highest positions at Rome. More than that, their exploits yield the honorific surnames (cognomina) that will distinguish their respective families throughout their history. Indeed, it has been suggested that the story of Valerius Corvus arose as a response to the glorification of the hero of the Manlii.[45] At the same time, Oakley points out that the Romans were unique among ancient cultures in their attempt to circumscribe the personal glory won through single combat by emphasizing that the champions accepted challenges only with the permission of their commanding officer.[46] For our purposes, though, the stress on disciplina is best treated as only one of many possible ways of interpreting single combat rather than as an overarching Roman cultural strategy for regulating individual ambition. It is possible to imagine a version of the Torquatus story designed solely to commemorate the young man’s heroism and prowess. In fact, such a version survives in the account of Claudius Quadrigarius.[47]

A brief survey of the accounts of duels fought in the decades surrounding the Social Wars, a period when the traditional models of aristocratic authority were being tested by the rise of Marius, reveals that the practice could be subjected to a variety of competing interpretations and had in fact become a significant locus for demonstrating or debunking the importance of noble ancestry. Thus L. Opimius, presumably connected with the consul responsible for the destruction of Gaius Gracchus, is reported to have fought a duel with one of the Cimbri.[48] The anti-Sullan hero Sertorius similarly challenged the soft aristocrat Metellus Pius to a duel. Unlike Opimius, Metellus refused and was derided by his troops.[49] During the same war in which Opimius accepted the chance to distinguish himself through single combat, Marius himself was said to have been challenged to a duel by a Teuton and to have ostentatiously rejected that challenge in a manner that parodied the entire institution. “When a Teuton challenged him and demanded that he advance, Marius responded that if he wanted to die, he could go hang himself. After the Teuton insisted, Marius placed before him a gladiator of contemptible stature and almost worn out with age and told his challenger that if he beat the gladiator, he himself would fight the winner.”[50]

By the time Livy came to write his own versions of the duels of Torquatus and Corvus, the practice of single combat itself seems to have all but died out. With the exception of an encounter during the Jewish war,[51] the last recorded instance of single combat took place during Caesar’s Spanish campaign of 45 B.C.E.[52] But the decline of the actual practice of single combat does not mark the end of its cultural significance; in addition to Livy’s narratives, the statue of Valerius Corvus, complete with crow, erected in the Forum of Augustus testifies to the importance that these episodes assumed during the early Principate.[53]

How then are we to understand Livy’s representations of single combat, particularly his interest in the relationship between the young champion and his commanding officer, in this context? We can rule out any idea that Livy was sending a crude message about the new political reality by subordinating the accomplishment of the individual champion to the superior authority of the magistrate. The explicit moral function of these episodes, both in Livy’s text and in the Augustan Forum, was not to check ambition but rather to inspire imitation; Corvus is held up as a model of behavior whom his consul instructs the other Roman soldiers to emulate. The innovation of Livy is not to have wrested dueling itself away from the surviving nobiles as a means of personal advancement, but, like Augustus in his Forum, to have taken control of the stories told about these events, converting them from self-glorifying family narratives to paradigms of patriotic action that had broader, national application. We shall see that even within the story of Torquatus, Livy signals the transition from family glory to the interest of Rome as a whole as the motive that impels the youth to accept the Gaul’s challenge. The motif of the commander’s permission therefore has nothing to do with limiting individual accomplishment; on the contrary, contact with the collective power of the state in the person of the magistrate is what enables the individual to be successful and allows him to act not just on his own but as a true representative of the entire state. It thus gives his victory a historical significance it would not otherwise have possessed.

Another aspect of dueling facilitates Livy’s translation of single combat from a manifestation of individual or familial prowess to a sign of the broader superiority of the Roman state over its opponents: the idea that single combat had a quasi-judicial function and served to resolve disputes by legitimating the claims of the victor.[54] We have already seen on a larger scale how the victory of the Romans over their enemies itself validates their motives; the gods would not have aided them unless their cause was just. Nicolaus of Damascus attests the existence among Italian peoples of a form of trial by combat to resolve disputes between individuals: “Whenever the Umbrians have a dispute against one another, having armed themselves, they fight as if in a war, and those who slaughter their opponents are thought to have made the juster claim.”[55] A similar principle has been discovered in archaic Roman judicial procedures like the vindicatio, an ancient form of judgment to determine ownership of slaves or moveables that required both disputants formally to state their claim in the presence of witnesses while simultaneously touching the slave in question with a rod.[56] After this, the magistrate compels both parties to release the slave and to state the basis of their claim. Even the response to this question is standardized. The claimants offer no other proof than the simple fact of having performed the rite (ius feci). As Gernet points out, in this case, not only do actions have a ritualized, linguistic function but the words themselves have a palpable physical effect. The performance of the act of vindicatio is the prerequisite for decision. The right of ownership is obtained not by offering a compelling account of the past but by participating in the present encounter.

In addition to their own physical resources, participants in a trial by combat can invoke the aid of the gods themselves by oaths, which Gernet interprets as originally serving simply as a means of engaging the divine powers in support of one’s claim.[57] Whoever wins the duel will now have his right affirmed by the gods who have given him victory. Something similar is accomplished in Livy’s account of Torquatus’s duel when the consul, in giving the combatant permission to fight, also invokes the aid of the gods on his behalf. This action, almost a consecration of Torquatus, in addition to providing him with greater resources to fight, necessarily raises the stakes of the competition and assures that a victory will be attributed not just to the might he inherits from his ancestors but to the power of the Roman gods.

III. Torque and Crow

If the story of Valerius Corvus’s miraculous fight with the Gaul did originate as a doublet of the earlier duel of Torquatus, then it is remarkable that Livy has treated both episodes so fully given their temporal proximity to each other.[58] The number of identical narrative elements (challenge, request for permission, the combat itself, aftermath) further reinforces the similarity between the two scenes, and Corvus himself refers to Torquatus as a precedent, again ensuring that we read the second duel with the first one in mind (7.26.2). Thus, far from treating it as a liability to be disguised, Livy has made this repetitiveness one of the crucial features of his presentation.[59] Each scene emphasizes elements that complete the other narrative, so that the full meaning of both emerges only when they are taken together. While Torquatus’s duel highlights the power of men, Corvus’s victory results from the aid of the gods. In the Torquatus episode, the commander speaks in his own voice before the duel, emphasizing the moment when the champion requests permission to fight. In Corvus’s case, it is the complementary scene, where the consul praises the victor, in which the magistrate speaks.

At a deeper level, the exemplary function assumed by each champion explains the interdependence of the two scenes. Livy has transformed Quadrigarius’s narrative to stress the links between the individual achievement of Torquatus and the entire state. The momentum by which his deed becomes “public” reaches fulfillment when another youth, not a member of his own family, imitates his behavior. By this principle, no historical event is complete in itself, the great deeds of the past always demand to be renewed by being repeated in the future. Each of the two duels emphasizes one of the reciprocal aspects of this process of imitation.[60] The Torquatus duel focuses on the production of a spectacle that both forges a link between the individual and the power of the group and “broadcasts” this power in a manner that has a transformative effect upon its spectators. The Corvus duel by contrast is about the reception of messages, the interpretation and reproduction of signs.

Comparisons between Livy’s description of the Torquatus duel and Quadrigarius’s frequently emphasize that Livy has paid greater attention to the visual impression created by the duel.[61] The space in which the combat occurs is clearly delineated before the Gaul’s challenge almost in the manner of an ecphrasis.[62] Livy presents the fight itself through the eyes of those looking on and correspondingly provides a greater variety of visual stimuli, like the embroidered clothing and gilded armor of the Gaul,[63] for his audience.[64] These changes are generally regarded as purely stylistic choices designed to make his narrative more vivid and dramatic. However, Livy’s interest in reproducing the visual impressions produced by the duel goes beyond the level of presentation; he explicitly draws attention to the “theatricality” of the scene in a manner that gives the question of spectacle a thematic importance within the episode.[65] Not only does the appearance of each fighter provide crucial clues to the characteristics of the nation to which he belongs, with the boastful and avaricious Gaul ranged against the controlled and resolute Roman, but as in the battle of Aquilonia, the very manner in which each side makes use of visual communication becomes a criterion for distinguishing between them. In the Gaul’s case, the discrepancy between the appearance he gives and his actual effectiveness in combat betrays the same inability to produce meaningful visual signs that marked the Samnite “linen legion.” The Roman wins after moving past this outward appearance to the vulnerable body it conceals by “twisting himself between the Gaul’s arms and body.”[66] The Gaul’s gold and finery is a pure distraction, and Torquatus’s decision to leave the splendid corpse of his opponent undispoiled with the exception of a single neckband, a choice that will surprise anyone familiar with the common result of duels in Greek epic, appears as an implicit rejection of mere appearance.[67] In his description of the Roman, on the other hand, Livy faces the problem of making “visible” the absence of any purely visual characteristics. The Roman is physically unremarkable, average size, and his weapons are chosen for use rather than show. Correspondingly, Livy describes the Roman primarily in terms of his action and accomplishment; it is precisely the movement of the Roman that uproots the statuesque and largely immobile Gaul. At the same time, Livy’s description of the Roman provides an “image” of his inner qualities, his “heart full of courage and silent wrath.”[68]

For the Roman side, the process of watching itself takes on a particular dynamic property: it becomes a medium for an exchange of energy between the individual and the group that has the power to transform both. As we have seen, Livy alters the earlier account of the duel by introducing the idea that the two champions act as representatives for their entire peoples. It is the Gaul who introduces this theme by claiming that the duel with “the man whom Rome considers the bravest” will “show which race is better at war” (7.9.8). Torquatus, by contrast, betrays no awareness that the duel possesses any such national consequences; what he wants to put on display is the honor of his family.[69] His request for the dictator’s permission to accept the challenge, beyond illustrating the value of disciplina per se, offers the means by which this essentially personal impulse acquires a larger importance. The dictator responds with the words, “Be successful in your virtue and piety toward your father and fatherland. Go forth and with the gods’ help render the Roman name unconquered.”[70] The dictator’s command, by coupling father and fatherland, translates Torquatus’s action to one where family motives go hand in hand with patriotism. In proportion to the increase in the stakes of the combat, the dictator’s words also lend the youth greater resources with which to fight. The gods will be aiding him, and the expression macte virtute, translated above as “be successful,” although something of a formulaic phrase, may yet retain some of its original sacral meaning, “be filled, be increased.”[71] The fashioning of Torquatus into a surrogate for the group as a whole is completed when his comrades all participate in arming him (7.10.5). Thus from the Roman perspective, the spectacle of the combat itself comes at the culmination of the process that binds the individual to the larger group. In return, by watching his victory, the Roman spectators are brought into contact with their collective might. Rendered alacres, they are freed from the immobility that marked the first stages of their conflict with the Gauls, and they too run forth from their posts, as originally Torquatus had,[72] to retrace his journey toward the dictator. The Gaul by contrast stands resolutely alone; there is no mention at all of his fellows until the fear and astonishment engendered by their own response to the spectacle paralyzes them (7.10.12).

The properties that the process of watching possesses within the narrative in turn explain Livy’s own adoption of a visually vivid narrative style. By enabling his own audience to become spectators of the duel, he makes it possible for them to share in the exchange of energy experienced by the participants. Indeed, Livy’s narrative can go beyond the purely visual by directing the attention of the reader toward the inner qualities that the Roman does not put on display, his “heart full of courage.” The account of the duel differentiates between two possible modes of spectacle; the socially cohesive experience of the Romans stands in contrast to the meaningless and ineffectual display of the Gaul. How does Livy ensure that the “spectacle” he produces will not be taken as the stylistic equivalent of the Gaul’s performance, a purely decorative intrusion within the course of the larger narrative? The initial attitude the historian adopts toward the combat suggests that this is indeed how it is to be regarded. When Livy says that the encounter between the Torquatus and the Gaul was more of a spectacle than a battle, he himself seems to be detaching it from his narrative; it is a show, not a serious combat. Like the Gaul’s gesture of sticking out his tongue at the Roman, which Livy can only describe with the qualifying comment that such behavior is not worthy of forming part of his narrative yet has been recorded by his predecessors (7.10.5), it is an element that Livy must both include and somehow excise from his text. Again Torquatus’s adoption of the Gaul’s torque provides a model for Livy’s approach. This single Gallic artifact can acquire a Roman historical significance as a marker of the defeat of the people who produced it. Like the armor taken from the Samnite linen legion, its splendor must first be dimmed by blood. In the same way, Torquatus’s defeat of the Gaul gives his outrageous performance a place in Roman history precisely as a record of the failure of the quintessentially alien behavior of Rome’s opponents.

In the Corvus episode, the language of signs and revelation punctuates the narrative, just as the imagery of spectacle did the account of Torquatus. The crow that miraculously perches on the Roman’s helmet and helps him to defeat the Gaul is an “augurium sent from the sky.”[73] As a result of this miraculous apparition, the human aspect of the duel is said to be made less insigne, marked or conspicuous (7.26.3). The same word had first been used to describe the Gaul, “conspicuous for his height and weapons.”[74] But as the balance shifts from human resources to divine power, it is the Roman champion who after his victory becomes “conspicuous” because of the spoils of the defeated Gaul.[75]

But like all signs from the gods, the apparition of the crow must be acknowledged and accepted by the human to whom it is sent. In the version of the duel recorded by Gellius, the apparition of the crow is treated as nothing so formal as an augurium, but as the intrusion of “a certain divine power” (quaedam divina vis [NA 9.11.6]) that operates on its own. Livy by contrast emphasizes the role of the human tribune in receiving the divine message. At first, the crow is presented simply as a crow who alights on the Roman’s helmet. It is only once Corvus recognizes the crow as an augurium and formally entreats the goodwill of the god who sent it that the behavior of the crow becomes “miraculous” and it begins to fight on the Romans behalf. But the emphasis on the transmission of signs does not stop there. Once Corvus receives the sign from the gods, he becomes a sign himself. After the tribune has defeated the Gaul, the consul Camillus presents this victory to the soldiers as a token of divine benevolence and urges his soldiers to fight more confidently (7.26.7). The crow therefore becomes only the first miraculous sign, the influence of which is transmitted to ever-larger audiences. In acknowledging the crow as a sign, the tribune is made “joyous” (laetus [7.26.4], a word we have met before used to describe the recipient of a message from the gods). When the victory is interpreted for the soldiery, the same word is used of them and emphasized by anaphora.[76]

The pattern of resemblances traced here recalls the treatment of Decius’s devotio, where the consul becomes an image of a sign sent from the gods, and his “performance” in turn causes the spectators who witness it to take on his own characteristics. Indeed, by assuming the cognomen Corvus, the tribune himself becomes the “Crow.” The motif of resemblance in the Corvus narrative is explicitly emphasized by the consul himself in a manner that assimilates it to the process of imitation that provides the mechanism by which all historical events are meant to transform their audiences: the soldiers are told to “imitate him,”[77] a phrase that looks back to the central purpose of Livy’s own history, to provide exempla for his readers to “imitate.”[78] The parallel between the imitation of a historical example and the transmission of divine signs is confirmed when we recall that the initial impetus that drove Corvus to accept the Gaul’s challenge was his emulation of Torquatus. And once again, as in the narratives of the sack of Rome and of Torquatus’s duel, the Gaul, whose blindness to divine signs is graphically represented by the crow’s pecking at his eyes, serves as a foil to highlight the distinctively Roman ability to recognize and interpret such signs effectively.

IV. The Duel of the Younger Torquatus

These earlier narratives form the background for the younger Torquatus’s encounter with his Latin challenger (8.7). Together, they have defined a double tradition that binds each individual champion to the collective authority of the state through contact with magistrates and gods and to a pattern of successful behavior extending through time, of which his own action provides but one manifestation. In conforming to the demands exerted by the political hierarchy and the weight of historical precedent, the individual becomes an instrument for disseminating the influence of each tradition, and this provides both the means and the significance of his victory. As we have seen, the younger Torquatus’s duel occurs in a context that puts at risk both the historical supremacy of the Romans over the Latins and the privileged connection to the larger power of the gods upon which that supremacy depends. Yet Torquatus, far from asking the consul, his father, for permission to fight, ignores his specific instructions that no Roman is to engage the enemy without orders. Had Torquatus lost his duel, the outcome could therefore have been easily explained and would have possessed an educative value as an illustration of what happens when soldiers fight without permission. But the outcome of this encounter turns out to be far more dangerous for the authority structure of the state and even calls into question the value of the historical tradition: Torquatus wins despite the fact that he is fighting without authorization. Thus his very victory, far from affirming the superiority of Roman over Latin, as he had hoped, can be read as a justification of the Latins’ position: there is no power beyond force, and the idea that Rome’s dominance has any kind of external guarantee from the gods is a sham; therefore it is only right that the Latins, who have shared equally in Rome’s victories, should also have a share of imperium.

Torquatus’s son belongs to a cavalry squadron sent out to reconnoiter. A band of Tusculan cavalry meets and recognizes them, and the leader of this band, Geminus Maecius, taunts the Romans. The young Torquatus responds by an appeal to both axes of authority, the hierarchical and the historical, in his assertion of the superiority of Rome. He claims that Roman victory will be assured by the presence of Jupiter along with the armies of the consuls, and, as his father had before him (8.5.10), invokes the battle of Lake Regillus as a historical precedent for the victory of the Romans over the Latins: “The consular armies will be here in time, and with them will be Jupiter himself, a witness of the treaties you have violated, who has even more power. If you had more than enough of us at the battle of Lake Regillus, this encounter too will curb your taste for doing battle with us.”[79] But having correctly recognized the sources of Roman power, Torquatus then makes a mistake. Maecius challenges, “Do you wish then, until the day when you move your armies for the great attempt, to fight with me yourself in order that the outcome of our battle make clear by how much the Latin knight excels the Roman?”[80] And Torquatus, “moved by anger or shame or the ineluctable power of fate” (8.7.8), accepts.

The duel that the young Torquatus fights under these circumstances is very different in character from that of his father:

Thus forgetful of the command of his father [imperii patrii] and the order of the consuls, he is driven headlong into a contest where it did not matter much whether he conquered or was conquered. When the other riders had withdrawn, as if at a spectacle, they drove their horses against one another in the area of empty field that lay between them. As they clashed with their opposed weapons, the spear of Manlius flew over his opponent’s helmet; Maecius’s glided over the neck of Manlius’s horse. On the second charge, when Manlius rose first to deliver his blow, he planted his missile between the ears of the Latin’s horse. Feeling his wound, the horse reared up and shook his head with such force that he unseated his rider, whom, while he leaned upon his shield and spear and was raising himself from a bad fall, Manlius stabbed through the throat so hard that the spear came out through his ribs and pinned him to the ground. Gathering up the spoils and returning to his fellows, he headed straight for the camp, accompanied by his rejoicing squadron, and to his father’s tent, uncertain of his fate and destiny, whether he deserved punishment or praise.

Here, too, the fight takes the form of a spectaculum, yet unlike his father’s battle with the Gaul, it is a spectaculum entirely without consequences, a mere spectacle. Since Torquatus fights entirely alone, without contact with the imperium of the magistrate or the aid of the gods, his victory will prove nothing about the real sources of Roman power, it can only be meaningless. As opposed to the reserve and discipline of his father, which stood as a foil to the extravagant display of his opponent, the son appears from the first as out of control, “driven headlong” to battle rather than choosing it; the errant casts of the combatants and panic of the stricken horse aptly represent the absence of any restraining influence. Correspondingly, the narrative itself is constructed as a flamboyant pastiche of Homeric elements; the repeated throws, wounded horse, and the anatomic specificity in the description of the final blow all suggest the world of epic.[81] What is missing from this narrative, apart from the description of the “rejoicing squadron,” is any reference to the effect the duel possesses upon its spectators.

Unlike his father, this Torquatus does not limit himself to a single token of victory but gathers spoils from his fallen opponent. The youth’s enthusiasm for spolia, of the sort that were frequently displayed on the façades of the houses of the nobility,[82] aptly connects the misplaced interest in insubstantial visual signs illustrated in the account of the duel to a flawed conception of the relationship between family glory and the needs of the res publica. Pointing to the spolia, the young man tells his father that he chose to engage in combat in order to live up to the precedent of his own earlier duel, “so that all would say that I was truly born of your stock” (8.7.13). Torquatus’s mistake is not so much to have placed his desire to exalt himself and his gens above obedience to the orders of the consul as to have failed to realize that there simply ought to be no difference between the demands of family and patria. This was one of the lessons of his father’s duel, where the dictator’s formal command to fight served to fuse duty to the family with patriotism. Torquatus was to be of “outstanding pietas toward father and fatherland.” By winning his duel, he had earned both praise from the dictator and an honorific cognomen. The unity of the authority of family and state ought to have been especially clear to the young Manlius, since the consul whom he should have obeyed and the father whose example he wished emulate were one and the same person.

The speech in which the consul sentences his son to death for disobedience elucidates the relationship between the misinterpretation of visual signs and the breakdown in the patterns of order upon which the survival of the state depends:

Since, Titus Manlius, you have respected neither the imperium of the consul nor the supremacy of your father, and have fought against the enemy contrary to orders and outside of your position, and, as much as you could, eroded that military discipline by which the Roman state has stood until this day, and have led me into the necessity of neglecting either my own interest or that of the res publica, we shall be afflicted by our fault rather than the nation pay the penalty for our sins. We shall be a severe exemplum but a healthy one for the youth [triste exemplum sed in posterum salubre iuventuti erimus]. I am indeed moved by the natural love of fathers for their children and by the appearance you give of virtue deceived by a false image of honor, but since the imperia of the consuls must be either sanctified by your blood or be henceforward violated with impunity, I would think that not even you, if you have any drop of my blood, would deny that you must restore through your punishment the military discipline that has been compromised by your error—go, lictor, tie him to the stake!

His son was lured into fighting this battle by a “false image” (vana imago) of glory (8.7.18), which finds a corollary in the sight of the spolia with which the consul has just been confronted. In participating in the duel, however, his son was not just a victim of deception; through the excitement aroused by the combat and his own use of signs to commemorate his victory, he has helped perpetuate the “empty image of glory” responsible for his own mistake. He himself has become in his father’s words a “specimen”(8.7.18). Thus in contrast to Valerius Corvus, the sight of whose victory served to communicate the power of the gods responsible for his success to all the spectators of the duel, the young Torquatus has set in motion a sequence of visual signs that, if left unchecked, is in danger of deceiving those who witnessed it and drawing them away from the disciplina that links them to the imperium of the state. Another of the dangerous consequences of the youth’s action afflicts the father himself. By assuming that the chance to win glory for his family justified disobedience to orders, his son had created an opposition between the service of family and state. His disobedience compels his father in turn to choose between personal interests and affections and the demands of public duty. By presenting the punishment of his son as something that his family’s tradition of obedience requires, and by compelling the young man himself to acquiesce in the principle that necessitates his death on the basis of heredity, the consul attempts to make the execution a sight that will paradoxically restore the alignment between family honor and the interest of the nation.

To correct his son’s error, the consul produces another spectacle, the young champion’s execution, to be witnessed by precisely the same audience who exalted in his success. This spectacle ought to put on display all the personal and national qualities conspicuously absent in the duel itself. Personal fortitude, family honor, and the authorization of the consul unite in an image which will restore and “sanctify” (sancienda [8.7.19]) that bond between each individual and the power of the state that is the secret of Roman difference. Unlike the empty and ultimately insignificant duel, the execution will take its place within the “official” tradition of Roman history, recalling one of the founding acts of the res publica, Brutus’s execution of his sons: it will be a salubre exemplum, designed not just for its immediate audience but to provide a model for the future as well.

We are forced to speak about what the spectacle of the execution ought to reveal rather than what it does reveal because Livy avoids describing the actual moment of Manlius’s execution and allows his audience to see it only as it is reflected in the eyes of those who watch it:

All were stunned [exanimati] by such a ruthless command and were silenced by fear rather than moderation, just as if each one saw the ax prepared for him. And so they stood in silence rooted to the spot [defixi], their senses, as it were, overwhelmed by astonishment. Suddenly after the blood poured forth from the victim’s neck, their voices rose in such an unrestrained cry that they held back neither from mourning nor from curses, and the youth, covered with his spoils, was given a funeral with all possible marks of the favor of his fellow soldiers and burnt on a pyre built up outside the camp. And “Manlian imperia”were not only terrifying in the present but served as a cruel example for the future [exempli etiam triste in posteritatem]. But nevertheless the very ruthlessness of the punishment made the soldiers more obedient to their leader, and since guards and watches and the stationings were conducted with greater care, this severity was beneficial in the final battle.

The very absence of narrative specificity about the execution itself creates an opposition between this scene and the duel, with its carefully descriptive detail. The technique provides a corollary to the absence of external signs with which Torquatus had confronted the merely visual magnificence of the Gaul. But if the spectacle itself has vanished from Livy’s text, the decision to describe the spectators rather than the action shifts the emphasis of the scene to the effect of spectacle. Nowhere in Livy’s text is the sympathy that develops between audience and the object of spectacle more clearly evoked. So strongly do the spectator’s identify themselves with Manlius that they actually seem to take his place as victim; they see the axes raised against them. As in the other spectacles discussed, the audience take on the characteristics of their surrogate. He is deprived of life; they, too, are exanimati. During the very time when the victim is immobilized by being bound to the stake, they are described as “rooted to the spot” (defixi). As such, the young men who had before identified only with the victor of the duel come to resemble the posture of the defeated, whom Manlius pinned to the ground (adfixit [8.7.11]) with his spear.

Livy’s emphasis on the horror experienced by Manlius’s fellow soldiers has been read as an implicit criticism of the consul’s severity. Torquatus, in contrast to his fellow consul Decius, mistakes cruelty and extremism for duty, and the fact that the youth of Rome will never be reconciled to his authority, even going so far as to spurn his triumph,[83] seems to suggest that the execution has failed to be anything other than an exercise in violence.[84] But nothing in the text leads us to look for compromise or reconciliation. The consul predicts that the exemplum he produces will be both triste and salubre, and indeed it is the very cruelty of the penalty that is the key to its effectiveness. As Livy puts it, the atrocitas of the punishment makes the soldiers more obedient. The consul’s remedy relies upon the same mechanism of sympathetic contact by which the influence of imperium communicates itself in duels and devotiones. The punishment of the victim here becomes the punishment of the audience who, having identified with his success in the duel, now experience his execution as their own. If we, Livy’s audience, have rejoiced in Manlius’s success without perceiving its illegality, then the exemplum is as much for us as for the soldiers who were actually present. Thus it is by recreating the full impact of the spectacle on those who witness it that Livy most effectively communicates the influence of the exemplum through his text.

The execution therefore, rather than harmonizing the social and ethical tensions resulting from Manlius’s disobedience, necessarily articulates them with the greatest clarity. For this reason, even in the midst of the consul’s exemplum a rival spectacle is produced, which enshrines an image of precisely the values that have necessitated the punishment. Manlius’s comrades immediately give the victim a funeral where the tokens of victory, the spolia that occasioned his death, are again placed on triumphant display in such a way as almost to conceal the corpse itself and allow the youth’s glorious accomplishments to obliterate the traces left by his punishment.[85] Like the burial of an epic hero, the scene concludes with the construction of a pyre, a monument in this case both to the son’s glory and the father’s cruelty. The episode therefore generates a double historical legacy; the image of the young man’s victory and the consul’s cruelty are infixed in the disciplinary exemplum he produces. Yet by ensuring that the exemplum continues to be felt as triste, they also preserve it as salubre.

The execution of Manlius is not the only such doubled spectacle that appears in Livy’s text. In the next chapter, we shall see that similar scenes occur precisely in contexts that require Roman society to redefine itself by simultaneously excluding outsiders and cementing new bonds of loyalty between insiders. These spectacles perform the same “initiatory” function as the execution of Manlius, which is designed to restore the soldiery to obedience to the imperium of the consul. A clue to the nature of these spectacles is to be found in the remark of a later historian, Valerius Maximus, that the young Manlius perished in modum hostiae, “like a sacrificial victim.”[86]


1. For an analysis connecting this episode to the issues raised by the Social Wars, see Dipersia 1975; and see also Lipovsky 1981: 130–32. [BACK]

2. 8.4.4: ubi pars virium, ibi et imperii pars est,. [BACK]

3. Cf. Aen. 12.820–40. Indeed, Annius’s concession at 8.5.6, “let us all be called Romans,” closely resembles Juno’s insistence on the abandonment of the Trojan name. [BACK]

4. 5.54.7, and see ch. 1, sec. IV. Manlius’s reference to Jupiter’s auguratum templum (8.5.8) not only refers explicitly to the inaugural ritual through which the consuls entered office every year; it also recalls the description of the original inauguration of the temple itself in Camillus’s peroratio. Again, an emphasis on the preservation of rituals and traditions highlights the parallel between maintaining continuity with the past and continually reestablishing the vertical bonds linking Rome’s political leaders to the power of the gods. [BACK]

5. 8.6.1 ff. Levene 1993: 218–20, finds an inconsistency between this act and Annius’s affirmation of the gods’ power elsewhere (e.g., 8.4.6 and 8.5.4). But the episode as a whole reveals how closely the cult of the gods was connected to place and nationality. Annius slights the Roman Jupiter; his piety in the abstract is irrelevant. Indeed, his failure to recognize that the consulship of the Romans is divinely sanctioned and not to be arbitrarily shared with the Latins already amounts to a rejection of the Roman Jupiter. This is Torquatus’s point. [BACK]

6. 8.6.5: Est Caeleste numen; es, magne Iuppiter; haud frustra te patrem deum hominum hac sede sacravimus. Notice again the insistence on locality. [BACK]

7. Levene 1993: 222–23 and Lipovsky 1981: 112–15. [BACK]

8. For the motif of disciplina in this section and its role in establishing a distinction between Romans and Latins, cf. 8.6.15–16: Agitatum etiam in consilio est ut, si quando unquam severo ullum imperio bellum administratum esset, tunc uti disciplina militaris ad priscos redigeretur mores. Curam acuebat quod adversus Latinos bellandum erat, lingua, moribus, armorum genere, institutis ante omnia militaribus congruentes. [BACK]

9. For an analysis of the Brutus episode as spectacle, see ch. 5; and see also Feldherr 1998. [BACK]

10. Fin. 2.61. [BACK]

11. Enn. Ann. 191–94 (6.xii) Skutsch. See, however, Cornell 1986a, who argues that the book to which the fragment belongs actually includes material from much earlier than the Pyrrhic war and that Ennius is more likely to have described one of the two successful devotiones than the abortive attempt of the third Decius. [BACK]

12. Another difficulty is that the Romans ultimately lost the battle of Asculum, although for their opponent this was to prove a “Pyrrhic” victory indeed. Also, since some sections of the Roman army were more successful than others, the devotio of Decius may have affected only the troops under his command. [BACK]

13. Dio. 10.43 = Zon. 8.5. [BACK]

14. Not only of a sacrificing priest (Deubner 1905: 70). See Versnel 1981: 148–49, for evidence and bibliography. [BACK]

15. Skutsch 1985: 355, regards the prayer formula itself as “a fairly competent antiquarian’s product.” [BACK]

16. For parallels, see Versnel 1981, esp. 153 ff. and 164 ff.; and see also Burkert 1979: 52 ff. [BACK]

17. Versnel 1976. The formula for this type of devotio is preserved by Macrobius Sat. 3.9.9 ff. [BACK]

18. 8.11.1: Haec, etsi omnis divini humanique moris memoria abolevit nova peregrinaque omnia priscis ac patriis praeferendo, haud ab re duxi verbis quoque ipsis, ut tradita nuncupata sunt, referre. The language of the passage, with its doublets, heavy alliteration, and pleonasm, makes the historian’s own description of his task an echo of the consul’s prayer. [BACK]

19. 10.28.14. Ironically, this second pontifex also bears the name Livius, although with a different praenomen than the historian. [BACK]

20. See Deubner 1905: 71, and esp. Wagenvoort 1947: 34. The chin, which in many European cultures was regarded as a center of life forces (cf. Onians 1951: 233), was surely not chosen just because it is easily accessible when the head is veiled. [BACK]

21. Deubner 1905: 71–72. [BACK]

22. If this spear ever comes into the possession of the enemy, a suovetaurilia must be performed to Mars as an expiation (8.10.14). [BACK]

23. Wagenvoort 1947: 32, defines the devotio as “a religious capitis diminutio maxima,” referring to the legal term used to designate the complete loss of citizen rights. He bases this definition partly on the references to the caput of the devotus as the object of consecration in other Latin authors (Val. Max. 5.6.5, Curt. 8.6.28, Flor. 1.17.7, and Ps. Quint. Decl. mai. 12.11 and 12.18). Livy does not use the term explicitly of either Decius (unless the idea of the loss of caput is somehow conveyed through the gesture of veiling the head), but one of the signs by which Decius learns that he will be required to devote himself is that the liver of the victim he has sacrificed, although healthy in every other respect, has had the “caput cut from the pars familiaris”(8.9.1). On the devotio as a rite of separation, see also Versnel 1981: 148–52. [BACK]

24. For the many levels of ritual substitution involved in the devotio, see Versnel 1981: 159. Palinurus, whose life is demanded by Neptune in return for the safe arrival of the Trojan fleet in Italy (unum pro multis dabitur caput [Aen. 5.815]), provides the clearest example of the logic of this kind of substitution in Roman literature. [BACK]

25. 10.28.17: contacturum funebribus diris signa tela arma hostium. [BACK]

26. 8.9.10: sicut caelo missus piaculum omnis deorum irae. [BACK]

27. 8.9.11: ita omnis terror pavorque cum illo latus signa primo Latinorum turbavit, deinde in totam penitus acies pervasit. For the connections between contact and “contagion”, see Wagenvoort, 1947, esp. 175–78. [BACK]

28. 8.10.12: haud secus quam pestifero sidere icti pavebant. Another uncanny aspect of the consul’s charge, one that makes it inexplicable on purely rational terms, is that while we might expect the enemy to be terrified by the sight of such a terrific figure charging toward them, the actual death of the consul, rather than restoring the enemy’s courage, only completes their devastation. Cf., too, the instantaneous demoralization, indeed insanity, that afflicts the Gauls after the death of the younger Decius (10.29.2). [BACK]

29. 8.9.12–14. Evidentissimum is emphatically placed at the beginning of the sentence. [BACK]

30. Indeed, even the language with which the consequences of devotio are described can be compared to terms applied to the effects of imperium. The Romans, after the death of the consul, are said to “charge into battle as if the signal had just been given for the first time” (8.9.13). Giving the signal for battle, a procedure we saw emphasized especially in Livy’s narrative of the battle of Aquilonia, may be regarded as one of the essential acts of the imperator. So, too, even the report of the devotio of the younger Decius inspires the Roman soldiers who have not actually seen it (ibi auditur eventus P. Deci, ingens hortamen ad omnia pro re publica audenda [10.29.5]). The enemy, on the other hand, are said to “grow sluggish” (torpere [10.29.2]) as a result of the charge of the younger Decius. This sluggishness often appears among troops exposed to imperium that is flawed or ineffectual, or opposed by a conquering enemy, as for example the Romans before the disaster of the Caudine Forks: sistunt inde gradum sine ullius imperio stuporque onmium animos ac velut torpor quidam insolitus membra tenet (9.2.10). [BACK]

31. Wagenvoort 1947: 122, n. 2, suggests a connection between the physical amplification of the devotus through contact and the large size of the statue that must be buried as a piaculum if the devotus survives the battle (8.10.12). [BACK]

32. Versnel 1981: 149. [BACK]

33. The soldier’s description of the wolf as integer and intactus is also interesting in this regard. Although the Romans will not be “untouched” in the battle of Sentinum (cf. 10.29.18), the same adjectives are used repeatedly to describe the “restoration” of the Roman troops after the devotio of the first Decius at the battle of the Veseris (cf. 8.10.4–6). [BACK]

34. 8.10.4: memores consulis pro vestra victoria morte occubantis. Cf. 10.29.19–20. [BACK]

35. 7.10.2–4 and 7.26.2. [BACK]

36. For the recovery of the bodies of the devoti and their funeral, which is in each case conducted by the devotus’s partner in imperium, see 8.10.10 and 10.29.19–20; for the praise and celebration with which the victorious champion is received by his fellows, cf. 7.10.12 and 7.26.10. [BACK]

37. 7.26.8: adeo duorum militum eventum, inter quos pugnatum erat, utraque acies animis praeceperat. [BACK]

38. Aul. Gell. NA 9.13.7–19=Claudius Quadrigarius fr. 10b Peter. For the argument that Quadrigarius is in fact Livy’s source for the duel, despite the differences in his treatment, see Luce 1977: 224–27. [BACK]

39. Aul. Gell. NA 9.11=Claudius Quadrigarius fr. 12 Peter. [BACK]

40. See Holford-Strevens 1990: 179 ff. [BACK]

41. In spite of Gellius’s assertion (NA 9.11.2) that the story is told in libris annalibus, the way the quoted fragment begins suggests that its immediate source was not an annalistic text but a collection of exempla. The beginning of the true excerpt from Quadrigarius on the duel of Torquatus, cum interim (9.13.7), shows that it forms part of a continuous narrative of the battle. It could fit in precisely at the point where 7.9.8 begins in Livy’s version. The Corvus excerpt however was not taken from a narrative of the events in the ager Pomptinus, which are summarized in the second sentence of the selection (9.11.4). The consular dating is included; this would be unnecessary in an annalistic source, where that information would have been given at the beginning of the account of that year. The link to what preceded the excerpt in its source is provided by the phrase adulescens tali genere editus. This would seem to derive either from some parenthetical description of the deeds of famous noble men or more probably from a collection of narratives arranged by subject (e.g., “How Noble Families Won Their Names”; indeed, Wiseman 1986: 98, with n. 58, notes that one later collector of exempla, Aurelius Victor, had a special interest in the origins of noble cognomina). Talis can perform a similar linking function in the work of Valerius Maximus (cf. 3.3.4: talis patientiae aemulus Anaxarchus). Therefore for all its archaizing tendencies of language (Holford-Strevens 1990: 179, n. 10), it is possible that this account, far from being a source for Livy’s text, may have even been retailored to conform to Livy’s version. [BACK]

42. A point also observed by Fries 1985: 99–100, and Walsh 1961a:71. [BACK]

43. Oakley 1985: 392, provides a summary of previous scholarly opinions and acknowledges his debt to Harris 1979: 39, n. 1, as the only other scholar to draw attention to the prevalence of single combat at Rome. The opposite notion, decisively refuted by Oakley, that the institution of dueling was associated with a lack of discipline and therefore an essentially alien practice, belonging above all to Rome’s Celtic opponents, will be found, e.g., in Bayet and Bloch 1968: 109–11. [BACK]

44. Oakley 1985: 397. [BACK]

45. Holford-Strevens 1984: 148, suggests that the story was worked up by Valerius Antias for the purpose of glorifying the Valerii. But he does not think it was actually invented by Antias. According to Suetonius Tib. 3.2 (= Oakley ex. 9 [1985: 394]), the Livii Drusi also claimed that their cognomen derived from Drausus, the name of an enemy chief killed in battle. However, nothing in the language of the passage allows us to be certain that the killing took place in the context of a formal duel. [BACK]

46. Oakley 1985: 404–7 contrasts his approach with the conclusions esp. of Neraudeau 1979: 249–58, that dueling, as a definitively un-Roman practice, was associated particularly with the impulsiveness and energy of the iuvenes, who had to be held in check by the disciplina of their elders. [BACK]

47. Oakley’s interest in recovering the attitudes of the Early and Middle Republic has perhaps led him to underestimate Livy’s own role in making the duelist’s request for his commander’s permission a canonical element in duel narratives. Oakley 1985: 406, declares that this theme “is regular in the literary sources,” but of the seven passages he cites, five come from Livy himself and the other two are of a later date and quite possibly influenced by Livy’s practices. So, too, he sees Livy’s addition of such a scene to Quadrigarius’s narrative as evidence that the emphasis on discipline had become “a topos of single combat.” One could equally say that it reflects Livy’s desire to construct such a topos. [BACK]

48. Ampel. 22.4 (= Oakley ex. 24 [1985: 396]). Münzer 1931 suggests that this L. Opimius was the son of the consul in 121 B.C.E. and also that he fought the duel in order to restore the reputation of his family. [BACK]

49. Plutarch Sert. 13.3–4 (= Oakley ex. 26 [1985: 396]). Plutarch’s defense of this refusal, based on Theophrastus’s dictum that a general should die like a general and not a foot soldier, represents his own opinion, not Metellus’s. [BACK]

50. Front. Strat. 4.7.5 (= Oakley ex. 23, [1985: 396]): C. Marius Teutono provocanti eum et postulanti ut prodiret, respondit, si cupidus mortis esset, laqueo posse eum vitam finire; cum deinde instaret, gladiatorem contemptae staturae et prope exactae aetatis obiecit ei dixitque, si eum superasset, cum victore congressurum. However, Marius too was subject to radically different interpretations. Thus when Plutarch in the early part of his biography celebrates Marius’s rustic origins and essential valor in a manner reminiscent of the glorification of the early heroes of Rome, he notes that Marius himself defeated an enemy in single combat at the battle of Numantia. This brave action contrasts with the general corruption and laxity of the rest of the army. See Plut. Mar. 3.1–2 (= Oakley ex. 22 [1985: 396]). [BACK]

51. Jos. Bell. Iud. 6.168–76, cited by Holford-Strevens 1984: 148; see Oakley 1985: 410. [BACK]

52. Bell. Hisp. 25.3–5 (= Oakley ex. 30 [1985: 396]). [BACK]

53. Even if it is an accident of transmission, it should be born in mind that with the exception of the excerpts preserved in Gellius, one of which may well be most immediately derived from an imperial compilation, all of our accounts of duels date from after the end of single combat as a Roman military institution. [BACK]

54. See also Fries 1985: 17–18, with bibliography. [BACK]

55. Nicolaus of Damascus, FGrH 90 F 111 = Stobaeus Ecl. 3.10. 69. [BACK]

56. Gernet 1981: 216–39. The source for the vindicatio episode is Gaius Inst. 4.16. [BACK]

57. Gernet (ibid.) here refers to Greek law, but the oath was also a common and powerful feature of Roman legal practice. The Roman oath, which is much more specifically linked to the power of contactus, whether expressed by touching an altar or by raising the hands to heaven, made the link between god and swearer all the more explicit. See Wagenvoort 1947: 50 ff. [BACK]

58. If Holford-Strevens 1984: 148, is correct in this suggestion, then it is possible that Livy was in fact the first historian to include accounts of both duels in his narrative. The elements of the story itself however may have a much earlier provenance. Bayet and Bloch 1968: 114 ff., have suggested that the legend of the fighting raven in fact betrays the influence of Celtic beliefs in a battle goddess who could appear in this form. For more on the history and development of the narrative, see Köves-Zulauf 1984 and Fries 1985: 146–51. [BACK]

59. For the contrary interpretation, see Fries 1985: 149: “Der zeitlich geringe Abstand, die Ähnlichkeit der Situation der Torquatus- und Corvus-Episode stellen Livius vor die Aufgabe, den Eindruck einer Doublette zu vermeiden und die Besonderheit der jeweiligen Vorgänge zu betonen.” [BACK]

60. Naturally, of course, Torquatus’s action was itself inspired by the earlier deed of his father, and Corvus’s action is also meant to be an exemplum for others. [BACK]

61. The stylistic comparison between Livy and Quadrigarius has been undertaken countless times. My reading owes most to von Albrecht 1989: 86–102, esp. pp. 90–92, who provides a full bibliography. See also Fries 1985: 99–105. Livy’s portrayal of the Torquatus duel as spectacle is explicitly noted by Borzsák 1973: 59–60. For an analysis of the duel as a self-contained “dramatic” incident see Pauw 1991: 36.

In light of the attention that has been focused on the visual interest of Livy’s version in contrast to Quadrigarius’s, it is interesting to note that it is precisely the quality of visual realism that is responsible for Gellius’s interest in Quadrigarius’s narrative. “The philosopher Favorinus used to say that when he read this passage, his mind was shaken and affected by emotions no less than he would have experienced if he himself had actually seen their combat [quam si ipse coram depugnantes eos spectaret]” (Aul. Gell. NA 9.13.5). See Borszák 1973: 60. [BACK]

62. 7.9.7: Pons in medio erat. [BACK]

63. Quadrigarius’s Gaul is naked except for his torque. [BACK]

64. 7.10.6; cf. aestimantibus. [BACK]

65. 7.10.6: et duo in medio armati spectaculi magis more quam lege belli destituuntur. [BACK]

66. 7.10.10: totoque corpori interior periculo volneris factus insinuasset se inter corpus armaque. The phrase inter corpus armaque and the colorful verb insinuasset represent Livy’s additions to Quadrigarius’s description. [BACK]

67. Heinze 1933: 101 f., sees Torquatus’s refusal to cut off his opponent’s head, as he does in Quadrigarius’s version, as a sign of Livy’s attempt to soften the cruelty of the earlier version. But while Livy does not draw attention to this act, the Celtic torque was not a simple necklace but a heavy band of twisted metal, which would perhaps have been most expeditiously removed through decapitation. [BACK]

68. 7.10.8: pectus animorum iraeque tacitae plenum. [BACK]

69. 7.10.3: volo ego illi beluae ostendere…me ex ea familia ortum quae Gallorum agmen ex rupe Tarpeia deiecit. The verb ostendere responds to the Gaul’s own use of ostendat, “to show which nation is best in war” (7.9.8). The entire career of Torquatus illustrates the process by which family loyalty is harnessed to and eventually superseded by patriotism. We first meet him as a young man whom his father has banished from the city because of his slowness of speech. When a tribune attempts to use this mistreatment against the father, the young man roughly threatens him and forces him to swear an oath at knifepoint to withdraw the accusations—as Livy says, a deed praiseworthy for its piety, even if hardly a model of civic behavior (7.4–5). Yet this is the same man who in the interest of preserving state order will be prepared to sacrifice his own son. [BACK]

70. 7.10.4: macte virtute ac pietate in patrem patriamque, T. Manli, esto. perge et nomen Romanum invictum, iuvantibus dis, praesta. [BACK]

71. As such the phrase often formed part of a prayer and was addressed to the god who was “enriched” by sacrifice. See Wagenvoort 1947: 46, n. 3, who defines mactare as meaning both “to strengthen (the gods) by sacrifice” and “to strengthen a sacrifice for the gods,” and Fowler 1911: 182–83. [BACK]

72. 7.10.12: Romani alacres ab statione…progressi. Cf. 7.10.2: T. Manlius…ex statione ad dictatorem pergit. [BACK]

73. 7.26.4. Later it is a prodigium (7.26.5). [BACK]

74. 7.26.1: magnitudine atque armis insignis. Cf. the similar transfer of the adjective insignis from the conspicuous Samnites to the Roman commander who defeats them in Livy’s acount of the battle of Aquilonia discussed in ch. 2, sec. I. [BACK]

75. 7.26.7: insignem spoliis tribunum. [BACK]

76. 7.26.7: laetum militem victoria tribuni, laetum tam praesentibus ac secundis dis. [BACK]

77. Ibid.: hunc imitare. [BACK]

78. Praef. 10: inde…quod imitere capias. [BACK]

79. 8.7.5–7: Aderunt (sc. exercitus consulares) in tempore,…et cum illis aderit Iuppiter ipse, foederum a vobis violatorum testis, qui plus potest polletque. Si ad Regillum Lacum ad satietatem vestram pugnavimus, hic quoque efficiemus profecto ne nimis acies vobis et conlata signa nobiscum cordi sint. [BACK]

80. 8.7.7. Again we recognize the use of single combat not only to distinguish between two combatants but to establish a permanently valid assessment of the two peoples represented. [BACK]

81. For the motif of the repeated throws, cf., e.g., Il. 3.346–60, 7.247–50, 22.273–90; Aen. 10.776–86; for the death of the horse, cf. Il. 8.83–86, 16.467; Aen. 10.892 (again the Mezentius-Lausus episode, which offers an interesting foil to Livy’s treatment of fathers and sons in this narrative). See also the analysis of the passage’s vividness in Pauw 1991: 37 and 47, n. 24, and Fries 1985: 154–65. [BACK]

82. Rawson 1991: 582–98. [BACK]

83. 8.12.1: iuventutem et tunc et omni vita deinde aversatam eum exsecratamque. [BACK]

84. Lipovsky 1981: 112–15, supported by Levene 1993: 222–23, a reading that seems to me at odds with the sympathetic focus on the consul’s own internal ambivalence and anguish in the speech Livy composes for him. [BACK]

85. 8.7.21: spoliisque contectum iuvenis corpus. [BACK]

86. Val. Max. 2.7.6. Sacrificial overtones are also present in Livy’s text, particularly in the consul’s comment his son’s death will “sanctify” the imperia of the consuls (8.7.19). [BACK]

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