A Racial Distinction in Livy? Or something else?

Hasdrubal had secured the war-chest before the battle, and after sending on the elephants in advance and collecting all the fugitives that he could, he directed his march along the Tagus towards the Pyrenees. Scipio took possession of the enemy’s camp, and gave up all the plunder, with the exception of the prisoners, to his troops. On counting the prisoners he found that they amounted to 10,000 infantry and 2000 cavalry. The Spanish prisoners were all released and sent to their homes; the Africans were ordered to be sold by the quaestor. All the Spaniards, those who had previously surrendered and those who had been made prisoners the day before, now crowded round him, and with one accord saluted him as “King.” He ordered silence to be proclaimed, and then told them that the title he valued most was the one his soldiers had given him, the title of “Imperator.” “The name of king,” he said, “so great elsewhere, is insupportable to Roman ears. If a kingly mind is in your eyes the noblest thing in human nature, you may attribute it to me in thought, but you must avoid the use of the word.” Even the barbarians appreciated the greatness of a man who stood so high that he could look down on a title the splendour of which dazzled other men’s eyes. Presents were then distributed amongst the Spanish princes and chieftains, and Scipio invited Indibilis to choose 300 horses out of the large number captured. Whilst the quaestor was putting up the Africans to sale, he found amongst them a remarkably handsome youth, and hearing that he was of royal blood, he sent him to Scipio. Scipio questioned him as to who he was, what country he belonged to, and why at his tender age he was in camp. He told him that he was a Numidian, and his people called him Massiva. Left an orphan by his father, he had been brought up by his maternal grandfather Gala, king of the Numidians. His uncle Masinissa had come with his cavalry to assist the Carthaginians, and he had accompanied him into Spain. Masinissa had always forbidden him to take part in the fighting because he was so young, but that day he had, unknown to his uncle, secured arms and a horse and gone into action, but his horse fell and threw him, and so he had been made prisoner. Scipio ordered the Numidian to be kept under guard, and when he had transacted all the necessary business he left the tribunal and resumed to his tent. Here he sent for his prisoner and asked him whether he would like to return to Masinissa. The boy replied amid tears of joy that he should only be too glad to do so. Scipio then presented him with a gold ring, a tunic with a wide purple border, a Spanish cloak with a gold clasp, and a beautifully caparisoned horse. He then ordered an escort of cavalry to accompany him as far as he wanted to go, and dismissed him. Livy 27.19

This portion of Livy corresponds to Polybius 10.40.  There are a number of differences and I’ve been writing a little elsewhere about how they both treat Scipio’s response to being hailed as King.  Here I’m worrying about this portion:

ex his Hispanos sine pretio omnes domum dimisit, Afros uendere quaestorem iussit.

On first reading my impression was that Livy was concerned to make clear two different standards of treatment one for the Spanish and one for the Africans.  The former being granted clemency, the latter the horror of slavery.  If this was the actual historical event, there might be practical reasons for the distinction.  The local population could be  expected to return to their homes and show appropriate gratitude for this beneficence, while those whose homes were across the sea would likely remain a logistical nuance if freed.   Also it might be tactically a way to divide the loyalties of those in the Carthaginian army by creating distinct outcomes for different populations.  There need not be a racial distinction inherent in this act or its narration.   It’s primary historiographical function is to set up the narration of Scipio’s interaction with Massiva.  Among the African slaves one stands out. He’s over royal blood.  Notice the thematic connection with Scipio’s own rejection of royal honors.  Livy interrupts himself to give a direct commentary saying Scipio is to be admired all the more for  rejecting “a title the splendour of which dazzled other men’s eyes” (miraculo…stuperent).  Now Massiva is recognized because his very bears witness to his royal origins (forma insigni cum audisset regii generis esse). He’s disobeyed his elders and acted wrecklessly by joining battle.  This royal youth shows none of the regalem animum of Scipio himself even though he has the look and lineage.  Recall how Scipio was too young for the command when he was sent out to Spain and the emphasis placed on his obedience to Rome.  Scipio shows this royal youth Roman clemency, restores him with many gifts to his family.  Notably among the gifts is a horse to replace the one that the youth lost, one he had stolen and then was got killed, leading to his own capture.

Massiva and the African prisoners are one hundred percent absent from Polybius.  Did Livy make this up out of sail cloth?!  Perhaps not.  Scipio Africanus is often the subject of anecdotes.  This may have been a well worn traditional story (the prince found among the paupers, diamond in the rough…) and may have been long attached to Scipio.  Livy’s artistry is fixing it here in the narrative in contrast to the Scipio’s acclamation and rejection of kingship.  Romans aren’t kings, they make kings.

Even if Livy isn’t playing with race in this episode, the later reception of this story certainly reflect European preoccupations with Race, especially its depiction in paintings…

Fasces as Royal Symbol

For, whereas the previous decemvirs had observed the rule of only one having the “fasces” at a time and making this emblem of royalty go to each in turn, now all the Ten suddenly appeared, each with his twelve lictors. The Forum was filled with one hundred and twenty lictors, and they bore the axes tied up in the “fasces.” The decemvirs explained it by saying that as they were invested with absolute power of life and death, there was no reason for the axes being removed. They presented the appearance of ten kings, and manifold fears were entertained not only by the lowest classes but even by the foremost of the senators. They felt that a pretext for commencing bloodshed was being sought for, so that if any one uttered, either in the senate or amongst the people, a single word which reminded them of liberty, the rods and axes would instantly be made ready for him, to intimidate the rest.  (Livy 3.36)

I’m always intrigued by the symbolism of the fasces and thus just wanted to file way this reference for future.  Older posts on fasces.

Minerva, not Mars


All images in this post link to acsearch.info entries

I just wanted to put these two types next to each other (RRC 306/1 and 476/1).  They are a great example of the long memory of earlier types at the Roman mint.  I check myself.  Perhaps a long memory more generally as RRC 476/1 is thought not to be struck at Rome.  I wonder is Massilia might not be a likely place for its design and possible striking.  I was made to wonder this because of the clear relationship between RRC 306/1 and RRC 365/1, both struck by Flacci, but the latter at Massilia, and of course Caesar’s pre occupation with events in the Hispania and So. Gaul during his third Dictatorship (46 BCE, 45 BCE).  The desirability of Minerva instead of Mars in 46-45BCE is surely that the former is viewed as the more rational of war gods, and thus perhaps more attractive during the midst of the civil war.  (I’m also struck by the lack of hoards from So. Italy or points east for 306/1…  It is found North of the Appenines, in Spain, and Britain.  Worth further thought perhaps. CRRO is a glorious thing!)


Really a Rather Strange Capitoline Triad

Links to acsearch.info entry

I never realized how odd this early representation of the Capitoline Triad is (CRRO entries).  I can’t think of another instance where Minerva is crowning Jupiter.  This type of crowning we’ve talked about elsewhere on this blog.  It has a very specific Hellenistic iconography.  And then just look at Jupiter!  He’s hunky.  A perfect six pack.  Not to mention the nice slinky S curve of his contraposto pose and and 3/4 profile head with a crown of hair worthy of Helios and not a hint of beard.  This is certainly not what the cult statues on the Capitoline actually looked like.   And not at all what we get in most other representations of the Triad.

(Also notice below how much more often Minerva is on the left not the right.)






Severan Coin:


The Bonn Altar might actually be the closest, but still no crowning imagery:




Decorations on Triumphal Chariots


Still on my supplications kick.  The cars of (triumphal?) quadriga are often decorated. Republican numismatists will recall the controversial interpretations of the series RRC 348/1, 348/2, and 348/3.  We see victory with  a crown on imperial triumphal cars (example 1, example 2, example 3). And some times there seem to be depictions of uncertain gods (example).  But this above is a brilliant example of the clement emperor accepting supplication.  It’s too bad catalogues don’t often note these designs on the cars of the quadrigas.

Measuring Authorial Intrusion


I was delighted to find I actually already own a digital copy of Naiden, Ancient Supplication (OUP 2006).  For a second I thought I might have to walk over to the library and risk fresh air and exercise.

I love this highlighted sentence (p.50).  As a historiographer, I’m always concerned with how we can actually measure and document the degree of authorial intervention or cultural influence.  Here we have a nice tidy example by a scholar more interested in the details than the presentation, that indeed Diodorus and Dionysius both recreate Roman rituals along the lines of cultural practices from their own backgrounds!

When did Jupiter foretell the greatness of Rome?

Links to Beazley Archive Entry

I love teaching the prophecy of Jupiter in book 1 of Vergil’s Aeneid in my general education classes, but  I’m not working on that right now.  Instead, I’m thinking about the iconography of supplication.  Hence, I stumbled on this gem above.  The detail that’s blog worthy is this:


That’s a little bit of the zodiac in the sky!  Namely Pisces and Ares, end and the beginning of the cycle.  A perfect symbolic moment for the revelation of the coming greatness of Rome!  It’s not a detail I remember from Vergil.  Perhaps I’ll find the reference one day.