Who's Anti-Roman? Sallust and Pompeius Trogus on Mithridates

Who's Anti-Roman? Sallust and Pompeius Trogus on Mithridates
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    THE CLASSICAL JOURNAL 101.4 (2006) 383–407   WHO’S ANTI-ROMAN? SALLUST ANDPOMPEIUS TROGUS ON MITHRIDATES *   Abstract: Contemporary scholars of Roman imperialism have discussed the ways inwhich ancient historians denigrate non-Romans and thereby present intellectual justifications for Roman conquest. This paper offers a case study that questions this position’s validity: an examination of Sallust’s Epistula Mithridatis ( Hist . 4.69M)and Pompeius Trogus’ speech of Mithridates (Justin 38.4–7). I argue that Sallustoffers a more powerful attack on Roman foreign policy than does Trogus, whommany scholars have deemed “anti-Roman,” and conclude that Roman historians arecapable of using speeches of foreigners to engage in Roman self-criticism.   n the last few decades, scholars of ancient history have grown in-creasingly critical of earlier views of Roman imperialism. 1 Duringthe late 19 th century, as well as the early- and mid-20 th century,many ancient historians believed that Rome’s foreign policy wasessentially “defensive” in nature. 2 That is to say, the Romans, whowere traditionally hesitant to annex territory, did not intend to be-come masters of a huge empire; rather, they stumbled into a series ofwars that compelled them to take control of a large number of pro-vinces and a vast dominion. Since the 1970s, numerous Roman his-torians have come to question this thesis. In part as a result of morenegative views of modern imperialism, scholars have criticized the * I would like to thank S. Douglas Olson and two anonymous referees for Classi-cal Journal  , whose helpful suggestions aided the completion of this paper in its presentform. Thanks are also due to an audience at Swarthmore College, which heard an ear-lier, truncated version of the paper’s thesis and made a number of helpful comments. Iwould also like to thank Mary T. Boatwright, who has offered many useful criticismsand much valuable advice. Any errors in fact or judgment are my own. 1 For examples of more recent views of Roman imperialism, see Harris (1971) and(1979); Brunt (1978); North (1981); Hingley (1982) and (1993); Jal (1982); Miles (1990);De Souza (1996); Freeman (1996) and (1997); Mattingly (1996) and (1997b); Hanson(1997); Whittaker (1997). For a survey of scholarly approaches to Roman imperialism,see Frézouls (1983). 2 See Mommsen (1894); Frank (1912) and (1929); Holleaux (1921); Badian (1968);Errington (1972), esp. 3–5. Badian (1958) has been associated with the notion of “de-fensive imperialism,” due to the recurring argument that Rome shunned annexingforeign territories in favor of a loose-ended patron-client relationship between itselfand the states it had conquered. Yet Badian’s thesis is more nuanced than the label“defensive imperialism” allows: he argues that for strategic purposes Rome preferrednebulous bonds of patronage with its defeated enemies to assess its own obligationsand lack of obligations to the conquered areas in question. I  384 ERIC ADLERnotion of “defensive imperialism” as an elaborate exoneration ofRoman conduct. This has especially been the case among Britishhistorians of Rome who came of age during their own country’spost-imperial period. 3 And, given the current political situation, dis-cussions of American imperialism are likely to have a great influenceon such conclusions in the years to come. 4  According to many contemporary scholars, the Romans were farfrom “reluctant imperialists.” On the contrary: their history demon-strates a great eagerness on the part of Roman elites to win impres-sive victories in war, to conquer new territories and thereby to bringhonor both to themselves and to the Roman state. Much recent dis-cussion of Roman imperialism has centered on the ways in whichancient historians of Rome consciously or unconsciously denigratenon-Romans. 5 Such scholarship has highlighted the fact that thiscasting of non-Romans as inferior served as an intellectual justifica-tion for Roman conquest and for Roman rule. In some cases, con-temporary historians have even perceived ancient authors’ seem-ingly trenchant criticisms of Rome as subtly undermining the anti-imperialist positions they superficially appear to support. 6 By thismeans, some of the most glaring examples of anti-Roman sentimenthave been cast as pro-Roman in effect.   This paper takes for granted that these more modern views ofRoman imperialism have much to recommend them. After all, thenotion that the Romans unwittingly came to control a vast empirerightly strikes contemporary scholars as farfetched. But I will arguethat more modern views of Roman imperialism can overlook waysin which ancient historians of Rome were capable of deep-seatedcriticisms of Roman society. Although it would be foolish to assertthat these ancient historians were stalwart anti-imperialists, it seemsincorrect to assume that they were incapable of presenting serious   reflections on the failings of Roman imperialism.In order to demonstrate this point, the paper offers a case study:an examination of two compositions Roman historians put in themouth and pen of Mithridates VI Eupator—Sallust’s Epistula Mith-ridatis ( Hist . 4.69M = EM ) and Pompeius Trogus’ speech of Mithri-dates, found in Justin’s epitome of Trogus’ Historiae Philippicae (Jus-tin 38.4–7). 7   3 For discussions of this topic, see Hingely (1993) and (2000); Freeman (1996).Cromer (1910) offers an explicit comparison between Roman and British imperialism. 4 On this topic, see Vasunia (2003) 93–6. 5 E.g. Webster (1994) and (1996b), esp. 116–19; Alston (1996); Rutledge (2000);Clarke (2001). 6 E.g. Rutledge (2000); Clarke (2001) 103; Fincham (2001), esp. 31. 7 Justin himself, in the preface of his work, claims that he has made a  florumcorpusculum —a  florelegium  , not an epitome ( Praef  . 4). Perhaps Jal (1987) 196–7 offersthe best description of this “epitome”: “une sorte d’adaption abrégée.”    WHO’S ANTI-ROMAN? 385Sallust hailed from Sabine country; he was born in the town ofAmiternum. 8   Trogus,   the   author   of   a   44-book    world   history   and   a   nat-ural scientist in the age of Augustus, was from Gallia Narbonensis. 9  Unlike the Italian Sallust, Trogus was only a third- or fourth-genera-tion Roman citizen. 10 It is chiefly for this reason, it seems, that nu-merous scholars inspecting their respective Mithridatic compositionsconsider Trogus’ oration “anti-Roman,” 11 whereas they never claimthat the EM ’s vehemence proves its composer’s hatred of Rome. 12  Modern historians have expatiated on Sallust’s criticisms of con-temporary Roman politics. After all, the decay of Roman society afterthe Third Punic War is among the most prominent themes in Sal-lust’s monographs. 13 Even so, scholars tend to conclude that Sallust’sdiscussions of Roman failings can be chalked up to what A.O. Love- joy and G. Boas termed “chronological primitivism”—uncriticallauding of the past at the expense of the present. 14 Sallust, that is tosay, believed that the destruction of Carthage in 146 BC marked theend of Roman virtue and the beginning of Roman moral degenera-tion (see Cat . 10). To numerous   modern historians, then, Sallust’scriticism of Rome in the EM does not betray any hatred of Rome;rather, it conforms to Sallust’s framework of Roman decline.Those who perceive a distinctly negative attitude toward Romein Pompeius Trogus’ speech of Mithridates, however, generally donot conclude that this resulted from an intellectual framework wemight also label “chronological primitivism.” Rather, modern histo-   8 Jer. Chron . 151 H. 9 Justin 43.5.11. Justin specifies that Trogus was of Vocontian srcin. 10 Some manuscripts of Justin offer the reading avum in 43.5.11, and thus claimthat Trogus’ grandfather received citizenship from Pompey the Great. Others read  proavum . From a chronological standpoint, it is more likely that avum is correct. SeeKlotz (1952) 2301. 11 E.g. von Gutschmid (1894 [1882]) 223; Kaerst (1897) 653–5; Schanz and Hosius(1935) 322; Sanford (1937) 438–9; Swain (1940) 17 n. 44; Mazzolani (1976 [1972]) 172;Santi-Amantini (1981) 30–1; Alonso-Núñez (1987) 68. Some scholars claim that Trogus’choice of sources are chiefly to blame for his history’s anti-Romanism. A few scholars believe that Trogus did his best to limit the anti-Romanism he found in these sources(e.g. Jacoby (1926) 221). Still, Trogus selected these sources—and not others—for hisworld history, and thus remains implicated in the supposed anti-Roman elements inhis speech of Mithridates. 12 Those scholars who believe that Sallust, to a certain extent, has sympathy forthe arguments offered in the EM posit that the letter criticizes only specific elements ofRoman society—not Roman society wholesale. E.g. Bickerman (1946) 148–51; Pasoli(1965) 139; Mazzarino (1968) 374–5; Mazzolani (1976 [1972]) 41; Sherwin-White (1984)181 n. 82; Vazquez (1989) 151. 13 For an extended discussion of this topic, see Earl (1966). 14 Lovejoy and Boas (1997 [1935]) 1–7.  386 ERIC ADLERrians often consider Trogus genuinely “anti-Roman.” 15 This is odd,since Trogus’ description of early Rome, at least as it survives in Justin’s abridgement, is generally positive. 16 Trogus may have pre-sented a view of Roman history similar to that of Sallust, but con-temporary historians have not perceived it as such.Modern scholarly discussion of Sallust’s EM and Trogus’ speechof Mithridates, then, presents us with an assortment of views thatappear to fit current positions on Roman imperialism. For manyclassicists argue that Trogus’ speech of Mithridates is genuinely“anti-Roman”; the same argument, however, is never made aboutSallust’s EM . A discussion of the compositions at hand appears to beof secondary consideration to the details of their authors’ biogra-phies. Too often the assumption is made that Trogus, the Gaul, can be anti-Roman; Sallust, the Italian, cannot. Accordingly, the argu-ment this paper puts forward—that Sallust’s EM is in fact far morecondemning of Roman actions than is Trogus’ speech of Mithri-dates—will do much to prove that Roman historians did not alwayscast foreigners as inferior; they did not incessantly denigrate non-Romans. In the EM  , the “Roman” Sallust was capable of criticizingRomans and even valorizing barbarians’ complaints against Rome.In his corresponding speech of Mithridates, the “foreigner” Trogus,however, pulled most of his punches. It is thus incorrect to assumethat Roman historians inevitably discussed barbarians with the im-plicit motive of    justifying Roman conquest. On the contrary: at timesRoman historians present deep-seated criticism of their own society.Such criticism, by no means confined to the periphery of Rome’s ter-ritory, is detectable in an array of ancient historians’ works. I To prove this point, we must take up a comparative examination ofthese two compositions. First, Sallust’s EM . The EM purports to be aletter addressed to Phraates III Theos, the twelfth Parthian King ofthe Arsacid line. 17 It requests Parthian aid against Lucullus and his 15 See above, n. 11. Rambaud (1948) 182–4 is an exception and links Trogus’ viewof Mithridates to what we might call “chronological primitivism.” Yet Rambaud seesSallust as Trogus’ intellectual influence regarding this idea. 16 See Justin 43, esp. 1.1–2; 2.5. Admittedly, Justin’s Book 43 only discusses earlyItaly and the Roman Kingship. It is possible that Trogus believed Rome decayedearlier than Sallust thought. 17 In the EM (1), Sallust refers to Phraates simply as Arsaces. This prompted vonCarosfeld (1888) 75 to claim that the EM was written to Sinatruces, Phraates’ prede-cessor. Phlegon 12.7, however, informs us that Phraates succeeded Sinatruces in 70/69 BC  , before the Battle of Tigranocerta; it is to the former, then, that the EM is addressed.For the dramatic date of the letter, see below, n. 18.    WHO’S ANTI-ROMAN? 387troops, most likely shortly after the Battle of Tigranocerta in 69 BC . 18  The EM presents a series of arguments in favor of the Parthians joining an alliance with Mithridates and Tigranes, the King of Arme-nia. Some of these arguments are based on selected examples fromthe history of Roman foreign policy in the East—more specifically,from Roman treatment of Eastern kings. In reality, any diplomaticcorrespondence between Mithridates, Tigranes and Phraates provedineffective, since Phraates ultimately decided to remain neutral inthe conflict, even though he had apparently made some sort of dealwith both sides. 19 The EM comes to us in the form of a collection ofSallustian speeches and letters (Vatican Lat. 3864) probably srci-nally produced in the first or second centuries AD . 20 This means thatthe context of the EM is wholly lost to us.Before we can conclude that the letter of Mithridates offers usthe opportunity to glean sentiments concerning Roman imperialismthat are Sallust’s invention, we must determine that this compositionis largely of his own making. A few scholars have asserted that the EM owes its srcin to a document culled from the archives of Mithri-dates, which Sallust somehow acquired and translated or adaptedinto Latin. 21 Some claim that Pompey discovered this epistle in asecret archive after the Third Mithridatic War, and then presumably brought it to Rome. 22 Others have supposed that the EM is an expres-sion of authentic Pontic propaganda, and thus based on argumentsthat are not Sallust’s own. 23 In the opinion of such scholars, Sallustexplicitly   consulted   sources   that   favored   Mithridates   in   order   to writethe EM and repeated elements of actual Eastern propaganda in theletter. 18 De Brosses (1777) 528 offers 69 and 68 BC as potential dates for the compositionof the EM . Debevoise (1938) 70 dates the letter to shortly before the Battle of Tigra-nocerta in 69 BC . Von Carosfeld (1888) 75 and Pasoli (1965) 136 claim that the EM wascomposed after Tigranocerta. In view of the ancient evidence regarding Mithridates’and Tigranes’ diplomatic contact with the Parthians, it is unlikely that Sallust hadMithridates write the EM before the battle. 19 For contradictory views regarding Mithridates’, Tigranes’ and Lucullus’ diplo-macy with Phraates after the Battle of Tigranocerta, see App.  Mith . 87; Dio 36.1; Plu. Luc . 30.1–2; Memnon 38.7–8. For opposing modern assessments of this situation, seeReinach (1890) 365–6; van Ootegehem (1959) 136; Keaveney (1981) 203; Dabrowa(1982) 24–5, who mistakenly believes that Sinatruces is part of the negotiations; Bulin(1983) 81–5; Sherwin-White (1984) 180; Keaveney (1992) 116. 20 For the date at which the collection was made, see Geckle (1995) 12, 21;McGushin (1992) 6. 21 E.g. de Brosses (1777) 527–8 n. 1; Sanford (1937) 438–9; Stier (1969) 447. 22 See Richter (1987) 178–9. 23 E.g. Volkmann (1964) 10–11; Mazzarino (1968) 374; Raditsa (1969) 6–9, 310–14;McGing (1986) 154–61; Vazquez (1989) 148.
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