The Death of Verginia
The scene was justly famous in antiquity as can be judged from three echoes of it in Tacitus: 48. 4 = Hist. 3. 4. 1; 48. 7 = Annals 2. 75. 1; 49. 3 = Annals 2. 80. 4.
48. 5. prope Cloacinae: sc. templum, between the Basilica Aemilia and the comitium, in reality not a temple but an open shrine as the remains (Hülsen, Mitt. Deutsch. Arch. Inst. 17 (1902), 44; 20 (1905), 62) and the representation on a coin of L. Mussidius Longus, monetal of 43–42 b.c. (Sydenham no. 1093), reveal. It is called a sacrum by Plautus (Curc. 471). The double name Venus Cloacina and the antiquity of the cult, attributed to Tatius (Pliny, N.H. 15. 119), suggest a fusion between Venus and a deity Cloacina. This is confirmed by the cult-image which comprised two draped figures, the left hand of which clasped a myrtle branch. The cult was associated with the twin ideas of purification (Pliny, loc. cit. cluere enim antiqui purgare dicebant; cf. 15. 120) and, perhaps, of concord ((myrtum) coniugulam, fortassis a coniugiis, ex illo Cluacinae genere), but it was Cloacina's capacity as a purifier, above all from the taint implicit in stuprum (for which see Noailles, Fas et Ius, 1–28), that made her shrine the natural setting for Verginia's death. Indeed it would be true to say that the myth of Verginia is the aetiological myth of the cult. A similar myth explained the cult of Pudicitia Plebeia (10. 23. 4–11) and the two may be related, or even duplicate. See Dressel, Wiener Studien 24 (1902), 418 ff.; Pais, Ancient Legends, 196–9; Basanoff, Rev. Hist. Relig. 126 (1942), 7 ff.; R. Schilling, La Religion romaine de Vénus, 210–15; Latte, Religionsgeschichte, 186 n. 3.
ad tabernas: the original shops (9. 40. 16 argentariae) on the north side of the Forum were burnt in 210 (26. 27. 2). Rebuilt at some date before 192 (Festus 258 L.), they were called Novae and the area where they stood came to be known as sub novis (Varro, de Ling. Lat. 6. 59). pg 488The reconstruction of the Basilica Aemilia in 78 and 55 b.c. (dedicated in 34 by L. Aemilius Paulus, according to Dio Cassius 49. 42) must have involved the removal of the shops. In writing nunc Novis est nomen L. must either be reproducing a comment from his source or else be loosely commenting on the survival of the name to designate the area. Cf. 2. 33. 9, and see Platner–Ashby s.v., with references.
consecro: the singularity of the formula has passed unnoticed. Verginius was neither priest nor magistrate with sanction of official ceremony to conduct a consecratio capitis (55. 7 n.). Yet L. means evidently to convey something more potent than a curse. By writing consecro he hints at magic, where a mere curse or exsecratio would be dramatically too mild. There is nothing resembling it in the narratives of D.H. We are forced to conclude that L. has invented a fine-sounding formula for dramatic effect, perhaps influenced by the vengeance scenes of Greek tragedy (e.g. Euripides, Electra 1142–6). This is borne out by the balanced structure te tuumque caput | sanguine hoc consecro; cf. 1. 24. 4.