Roman Men, Sabine Women


This book cover came across my twitter feed today.  It riffs on RRC 344/1 and its depiction of the Rape of the Sabine Women.  The reverse design re-imagined with more modern assumptions of bodies made me look at the bodies of the original more closely.   I realized that because of the direction of the women’s arms I’d always read the type as the their being carried off stage left.  This isn’t the case.  The two men face each other and make eye contact.  There feet and legs suggest they are run towards each other not off in the same direction.  The scene is the “we got them, now what?” moment of the seizure and rape.  I want to think more about this…

ὦ ἀγαθέ, or the creeping of the philosophical into historiography

δὲ Βροῦτος αὐτῷ πάλιν παραστὰς, “Ἴθι, ἀγαθὲ,” ἔφη, “τοῖς λήροις τούτων χαίρειν φράσας…”

and Brutus was standing with him again saying, “Go my good friend, be done with the non-sense of these people…” (Nic. Aug. 87; Toher trans.)

I read the above and started to fret a little over the vocative ἀγαθὲ.  It felt unfamiliar and maybe an odd translation.   Nope. Totally standard translation according to the LSJ:

ὦ ἀγαθέ, my good friend, as a term of gentle remonstrance, Pl.Prt.311a, etc.

Huh, I thought, maybe this is a philosophical thing?  Ya sure you betcha!  One use in Isaeus.  But then lots of Plato and always with Socrates teasing and guiding the other interlocutors to the ‘right’ conclusion away from some ‘preposterous’ one (Republic, Phaedrus, Crito).

Where else does it show up?  Well in the mock philosophic dialogue of Athenaeus!

[Bye-the-bye, it’s also all over early Christian writers and has some antecedents in the NT, probably a philosophical influence but not really my area, so I leave it be]

So what I like about this all is that Nicolaus the Peripatetic is bring his vocabulary of Philosophic dialogue into his life of Augustus.  BUT, of course, we know that Brutus is deceiving Caesar at this moment!  So is Nicolaus constructing ὦ ἀγαθέ as a bit of sophistry?   Is Plato playing with sophistic rhetoric when he uses it in his Socratic dialogues?

Interestingly, Appian uses ὦ ἀγαθέ in moralizing discussions between friends deliberating correct action:

στενῆςδὲτῆςἐξόδουπάμπανοὔσηςΒλάτιοςἔφητῷΔασίῳ, τοὺςἄλλουςλαθών·
οὐσώσεις, ἀγαθέ, τὴνπατρίδα;δὲκαὶτοῦτ’εὐθὺςἐκβοήσαςἐμήνυεν. …

As they were going out by a very narrow passage Blatius said to Dasius in a low tone, “Are you not willing to save your country, good sir?” The latter immediately repeated the words in a loud voice… (App. Hann. 45, White trans.)

ἐπανερομένουδὲτοῦΚασσίου· “τίδ’, ἂνἡμᾶςκαλῶσινὡςστρατηγούς, τίποιήσομεν, ἀγαθὲΒροῦτε; “ἀμυνῶτῇπατρίδι,ἔφη, “μέχριθανάτου.

Then Cassius asked him further, “What if we are summoned there as praetors, what shall we do then, my good Brutus?” “I will defend my country to the death,” he replied. (App. BC 2.113, White trans)

These instances are so similar that they feel like Appian must have a common model for both.  His usage feels much more platonic, that Nicolaus’ sophistic tongue and cheek usage.