Timothy J. Cornell (ed.), The Fragments of the Roman Historians, Vol. 3

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pg 59271A. Cremutius Cordus

COMMENTARY

F1–2 Cremutius, in writing triumviral history, involved himself in the literary contest of doing justice to Cicero's death (cf. Aufidius Bassus 78 F1–2); the language of his judgement on Cicero is certainly not memorable. As for the extended passage, S. F. Bonner, Roman Declamation in the Late Republic and Early Empire (Liverpool, 1969), 158–9, remarks on the eloquent but restrained style of Livy in comparison with that of Cremutius Cordus, which is reminiscent of Velleius Paterculus; this is in line with the judgment of Columba, A&R 4 (1901), 362 ('un semplice esercizio di amplificazione'). Antony's remark is also recorded by Plut. Cic. 49, who goes on to speak of the display of both hands (so Livy and Bruttedius Niger 72 F1 (=Sen. suas. 6.21–2)).

For other versions of Cicero's death see commentary on Aufidius Bassus 78 F1–2. Odium for the deed focuses on Antony in them too, whether or not the question of Cicero's burning his writings in return for Antony's promise of safety (suas. 7) is the subject of debate. The proscriptions were authorized by all three Triumvirs jointly (App. b.c. 4.8.31), but modern scholars accept that Antony made sure that Cicero's name was on the list (e.g. E. Rawson, CAH 92. 486).

F3a–b Cremutius did not originate the durable expression 'last of the Greeks/Romans/Mohicans'. Furneaux ad loc. argues that he must have been quoting Brutus (Plut. Brut. 44; App. b.c. 4.114.476), or he would have included him in the description, as he is made to do by Suetonius in F3b; so Schanz–Hosius 24. 422. That should have reduced the seriousness of the charge; but the phrase must have been quoted with approval, and the judgement that true Romans were extinct carries harsh implications, not only for the regime of the Triumvirs (Antony could serve as a scapegoat) but for that of Augustus, for all its claim to have restored the commonwealth to working order.

Suetonius, failing to distinguish between Cremutius' handling of Brutus and Cassius, does not seem to have read the offending passage, or reports of the trial, very carefully. He is expressly writing here by genera, and mentions a poet who suffered alongside Cremutius, Mamercus Aemilius Scaurus, suff. 21, who committed suicide only in 34 (Tac. ann. 6.29.4–7; Dio 58.24.3–4). According to Dio his play was an 'Atreus'; there is no other reason than what Suetonius says to suppose that Augustus had heard it.

F4 For Augustus' invidious attempts to purge the senate, see A. H. M. Jones, Studies in Roman Government and Law (Oxford, 1960), 19–26. Augustus himself mentions three occasions in res gestae 8.2 (see P. A. Brunt and J. M. Moore, Res Gestae Diui Augustae (Oxford, 1967), ad loc.); Suetonius mentions his first occasion cum

pg 593uir uirum legeret again in 54; Dio deals with the selections of 29 (52.42) and 18 bc (54.13–14), describing the manner of operating that Suetonius attributes to the first lectio. It looks as if Suetonius has inverted their true order (so Jones, Brunt, and Rich on Dio 54.13; Tränkle, WS 3 (1969), 121 and 123, and MH 37 (1980), 231–41, regards Cordus as the source of the account of the lectio of 18), and the episode to which Cremutius referred belongs to 29 bc. However, Suetonius might be describing two phases of the lectio of 18. The first failed, and Augustus completed the work himself (Dio 54.14.3). This solution has two advantages: Agrippa's role is explained: he had not been consul in 29 (although Augustus says that he carried out the census of that year with Agrippa as colleague), but in 18 he was granted tribunician power; then Dio mentions Augustus' wearing of a breastplate in this tract of his principate (54.12.3: but πολλάκις‎). However, Suetonius' account does seem to be presenting two separate lectiones rather than a single occasion divided into two parts, and, as Manuwald (Cassius Dio und Augustus, 256) argues, Augustus would have been more in danger and so likely to don a breastplate when he was personally responsible for the lectio, as he was in 29; moreover, Suetonius goes on in this passage to refer to 'voluntary resignations', which Dio 52.42.2 associates with the lectio of 29.

Body searches of the emperor's peers were an affront, perpetrated also by the timid Claudius (Suet. Claud. 35.1) and renounced by Vespasian (Suet. Vesp.12), who possessed the deterrent of two sons to avenge his assassination. Cremutius could have stressed the real need for protection when feelings (among undesirable senators) were running high, or, if the allusion is indeed to the lectio of 29 bc, he might have been showing how unsure of his position Octavian still felt.

F5 These 'daughters of Memnon' the Ethiopian king, son of Tithonus and Aurora, who fought against the Greeks at Troy (Ovid met. 13.618–19; his tomb was in the Troad: Strabo 13.587), are identified (OLD s.u.) with the ruff, machetes pugnax, or with tringa pugnax (E. Saint Denis ad loc.). There are many other references to them (Mosch. 3.4.2; Paus. 10.3.6–7; Solin. 40.14), but their place in Cremutius' history is a question. The starting point should be either the Troad or, given the point of Cremutius' observation, Ethiopia. If it is the Troad, the occasion might be Sex. Pompeius' operations there in 36 bc (App. b.c. 5.137.567–138.575; Dio 49.17.6–18.4); if it is Ethiopia it is natural to think either of the aftermath of the fall of Egypt to Octavian in 30 bc, and the expedition of Cornelius Gallus (ILS 8995), or, more plausibly, of the campaigns of 24–22 bc (res gestae 26.5).

F6 Phyllis was the daughter of Sithon, king of Thrace, who killed herself on the mistaken idea that her lover Demophoon was unfaithful (Ovid. epist. 3; cf. am. 1.13.3; Hyg. 59) and was changed into an almond tree. If a particular tree is in question, it was presumably in Thrace, an area that was involved in M. Crassus' operations in 29 bc (Dio 51.23; 25. 4, defending a King Sitas), in those of M. Primus c.25 bc (Dio 54.3.2), M. Lollius in 19/18 bc (Dio 54.20.3), and L. Piso in 13–11 bc (Dio 54.34.5–7). F5 and F6 both have allusions to subjects of interest to Cordus' contemporary Ovid, namely Memnon and Phyllis; if he was influenced by his reading of the poetry, and ornamented his history from it, these parts of the history must post-date it: the latest, the Metamorphoses, belongs to the years just before Ovid's exile in ad 8.

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