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IDEALIZATION AND IRONY IN SALLUST'S
JUGURTHA: THE NARRATOR'S DEPICTION OF
ROME BEFORE 146 B.C.
The Classical Quarterly / Volume 65 / Issue 01 / May 2015, pp 242 - 252
DOI: 10.1017/S0009838814000688, Published online: 02 April 2015
Link to this article: http://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S0009838814000688
How to cite this article:
Jacob Miller (2015). IDEALIZATION AND IRONY IN SALLUST'S JUGURTHA: THE
NARRATOR'S DEPICTION OF ROME BEFORE 146 B.C.. The Classical Quarterly, 65, pp 242-252 doi:10.1017/S0009838814000688
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IDEALIZATION AND IRONY IN SALLUST’S JUGURTHA: THE
NARRATOR’S DEPICTION OF ROME BEFORE 146 B.C.*
An examination of the idealized image of Rome before 146 B.C. constructed in the
Jugurtha (Jug.) reveals that despite the narrator’s own stated opinions, his depiction of it is perverse and unhistorical. The narrator’s value judgements are unappealing, his archaizing affected, his history plainly wrong: these are serious interpretative problems. Is this an attempt, as in the dialogues of Cicero, to re-educate the moral intuitions of his day by means of a fictitious past? Perhaps; but narratological analysis of the relevant sections suggests another solution, an extrapolation to the narratorial persona of the technique of ironic subversion used in the speeches. The key to understanding the depiction of Rome before 146 lies in the identification of political and historical discourse and the consequent extension to the latter of the factionalization characteristic of the former. The problematic aspects of the depiction of Rome before 146 empower the reader to articulate a critique of faction; the text needs to be surmounted to be understood.
The narrator of the Jugurtha begins the monograph by establishing a non-specific chronology. First, a series of gnomic statements about human nature. Second, he introduces the narrative present, marked with the ablative hac tempestate (3.1), characterizing it negatively: public office is not associated with virtus, and does not even protect those who gain it by fraud (3.1). More gnomic statements follow (3.2–4.1); and the narrator discusses his career and his choice to write history in the narrative present (4.2–4).
Third, the narrator introduces the past (4.5), signalled by the temporal adverb antea (4.7), which the narrator characterizes positively in contrast to the present: leading citizens, such as Q. Maximus and P. Scipio, were roused to virtue by images of their ancestors (4.5).1 After reflecting further on the contrast between the past and the present, the narrator introduces the main subject of the monograph: the Numidian War (5.1). He therefore introduces two pasts in the preface, distant and recent.2 The Numidian War, * I am very grateful to Dr Tim Rood and Dr Rhiannon Ash for comments on an earlier draft of this paper. They are of course not responsible for the views that are expressed or the faults that remain. 1 There is some ambiguity about which Q. Maximus and P. Scipio are meant; J. Grethlein, ‘Nam quid ea memorem: the dialectical relation of res gestae and memoria rerum gestarum in Sallust’s
Bellum Jugurthinum’, CQ 56 (2006), 135–47, at 137, rightly notes the significance of the ambiguity, although the generals of the Second Punic War seem the most likely referents. On imagines, see generally H. Flower, Ancestor Masks and Aristocratic Power in Roman Culture (Oxford, 1996), who briefly discusses this passage at 46. 2 Similarly, J. Grethlein and C. Krebs (edd.), Time and Narrative in Ancient Historiography: The ‘Plupast’ from Herodotus to Appian (Cambridge, 2012), 1 coin the term ‘historian’s plupast’ for ‘a past completed prior to the past that the narrator focuses on’.
Classical Quarterly 65.1 242–252 © The Classical Association (2015) 242 doi:10.1017/S0009838814000688 the recent past, lies between the distant past and the present, both temporally and morally; for a mid-point in a downward-sloping line must be lower than its starting point.
The narrator thus intertwines the monograph’s chronological framework and its moral framework: morals have declined as time has progressed. Of course most of the
Jugurtha concerns the Numidian War; this paper, however, will consider the depiction of Rome in that more distant past, which the narrator develops essentially in the digression on the rise of factions at Rome (41–2).
In that digression, the narrator characterizes this distant past as harsh and difficult, but also as the apogee of the moral quality of Rome and the concord of its citizens.
In his view, ante Carthaginem deletam, the Romans placide modesteque inter se rem publicam tractabant, neque gloriae neque dominationis certamen inter civis erat (41.2). This happy condition prevailed because metus hostilis in bonis artibus civitatem retinebat (41.2).3 The temporal boundaries of this distant past thus become clearer: the years before 146.4 Then, when formido disappeared, those qualities that res secundae promote arose, namely lascivia atque superbia (41.3).5 The otium that followed the Third Punic War (an otium that curiously includes the narrator’s chosen subject, the Numidian War) was asperius acerbiusque than the Punic Wars (41.4).6 Concluding his analysis, the narrator contends that civil discord arose ubi primum ex nobilitate reperti sunt qui veram gloriam iniustae potentiae anteponerent (41.10).
Some of the narrator’s value judgements depart from what is normal or at least expected.7 In this ideal period, there was metus (41.2), formido (41.3); and Romans were in advorsis rebus (41.4). The Numidian War, however, when in the narrator’s view matters started to decline precipitously, was a time of res secundae (41.3), when the nobility put true glory before unjust power (41.10). Given a choice between fear and adversity on the one hand, or abundantia (41.1), res secundae, otium and leaders who shunned unjust power on the other, the latter seems preferable; based on the descriptions provided of the two, the denigration of the period of the Numidian War in favour of the distant past is therefore intuitively strange. There are, however, some more conventional choices: the time of the Numidian War has associated with it lascivia, superbia, asperitas, acerbitas, ‘ducere, trahere, rapere’ (41.5) and avaritia (41.9).