Class Notes (810,816)
Canada (494,260)
Classics (1,680)
CLA233H1 (160)
all (12)


9 Pages
Unlock Document

University of Toronto St. George

Introduction to Roman Culture or Society Advice of Cato the Censor to his son Marcus Porcius Cato (243-149 BC) came from the town of Tusculum, near Rome, and rose to hold in turn all the important magistracies of the Roman Republic, including those of consul and censor. He was famous not least for his devotion to traditional Roman virtues (the mos maiorum, or ‘custom of the ancestors), which for him entailed unbending hatred of Rome’s great rival Carthage and a deep suspicion of what he saw as the unmanly excesses of Greek culture. A fragment of one of his writings, the Praecepta ad filium (‘Advice to his son’), is preserved by the first-century author Pliny the Elder (Natural History 29. 14): I shall speak about those Greek fellows in their proper place, son Marcus, and point out the result of my enquiries at Athens, and convince you what benefit comes from dipping into their literature, but not making a close study of it. They are a quite worthless people, and an intractable one, and you must consider my words prophetic. When that race gives us its literature it will corrupt all things, and even all the more if it sends its physicians here. They have conspired together to murder all foreigners (‘barbarians’) with their medicine, but this very thing they do for a fee, to gain credit and destroy us easily. They are always dubbing us barbarians, and to fling more filth on us than on others they give us the foul nickname of Opici. I have forbidden you to have dealings with physicians. Translated by W.H.S. Jones, Pliny. Natural History, in the Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, Massachussetts and London, England, 1963), volume 8, pages 190-193. Slightly adapted. The Opici were an Italian tribe infamous for their lack of refinement and civilization. The Greeks, says Cato, applied the same name even to Romans, as an insult. • The purpose of Roman history was to teach one how to be a good male citizen and a good warrior •Much of Roman History is based on Myth; in most cases there is no evidence to prove that these events happened or that the characters existed •This is irrelevant as the stories/myths still outline Roman thought, morality, and what it means to be a Roman citizen • Rome was founded in the middle of the 8thc bce • The city was built on seven hills with seven Kings; none of these Kings can be proven to be true Some of the Kings included: • Romulus who was a fictional character • When translated the word Romulus means person from Rome • Since the word was already apart of the Roman language, the city of Rome must of existed before him • King Serveus was the son of a slave • Again this shows that Roman made acceptation for everyone, anyone even a freed slave could have the same benefits as a Roman citizen • The fifth and sixth Kings weren't even Roman • Seventh King thought he was superior to everyone • Romans later started to think that the kings were becoming uppity, so they drove out their Kings and became a Republic Two heroes led to Rome becoming a Republic Mucius- this name meant Mucus in Latin The Story/Myth of Mucius Scaevolva: If you were a Roman then you would already know this story, and you are most likely a male. As a child you were probably told this story to encourage you to be brave. • The author Livy with his take on the story of Mucius is allowing himself to image what Mucius must of felt (while on his journey) and is presenting it as historical fact • During the time of Mucius the Romans who left the city to retain the monarchy were seen as traitors • Livy assumes that you know about Roman military discipline: imaging that Mucius want to do something heroic but as a good Roman he has a duty to the community In order the leave Rome without looking like a traitor Mucius had to gain permission from the Senate. • Senate- is the council of elders, made up of Roman aristocratic figures, it is them that Mucius has to go through • If your going to die in battle anything that is there is the property of the victor: Mucius told the elders that this was not his goal • He was not going to leave Rome simply to defeat their enemy and attain whatever treasures were found on them • It was common practice to burn the crops of your enemy, Mucius makes clear that is not his goal he is not going to battle to get rich • Mucius says that he is fighting the enemy for the community and something more important; here we see that Mucius is taking a great personal risk for the community • The real difficulty was getting out of Rome without looking like a traitor, it was easy to get into Lazurrus camp • Mucius arrives on payday where soldiers are getting paid with salt and other things • Ascriber/ clerk was an important figure because they made sure that no soldiers were over paid • Lazurrus is a good king because he is not plush and dressers like his clerk; he dressed like his people therefore showing that he was equal to them • The Roman stereotype was that they were drunk, spent money and bought prostitutes • Mucius doesn't know who is the King, he kills the clerk instead, he is cornered by soldiers and he has to escape • As he tried to escape he killed people on the way, they were fearful of him and not the other way around • The Romans thought that the left hand was Sinister, right hand was holy • Mucius puts hand in fire to show no fear • Porsena had the right to kill Mucius but he sends him away unhurt • He sends him away unhurt because he respects the body of a Roman; shows that he has dignity • Mucius wants to make a name for himself by killing the King ,but fails, however he remains unscaved because of his heroism • The story of Mucius is noble but humorous, courageous and conning, -Romans love this What does this tell us? • Romans admire courage and heroism • Individual heroism through duty of community • Love that he screwed up but fixed the situation • One man against an entire army • They also knew how to admire foreigners: Porsena was a good man and not uppity and admired courage Advice of Cato the Censor to his son • Family and ancestry were important to the Romans; they were famous cause of their family accomplishments • Families were not important simply because they were ancient they were important because their families had a reputation of success and contribution • Roman aristocrats had they challenge; they were expected to live up to their ancestors • The Romans have no problem with believing that different people had different rights according to their ancestry The Romans also admired Courage • The admired courage not only in battle, but also courage in difficult circumstances, and in love stories where of individual Romans who are courageous when vastly outnumbered • Although Romans claimed to be the most truthful and honest people they have no problem in a military context with deceit, if deceit serves the noble purpose of preserving community • The Romans needed to balance the rights of individuals and duty of individuals to themselves and their families, with the rights and duties they owed to the state • It is perfectly noble and acceptable for Mucius to want to gain fame and property, by stripping the corpses of anyone he kills in battle, but he has to balance those things with community The Iliad: The most strong ancient conception of honor in which a man is killed a warriors is considered superior to the duties which he owes the state • Romans knew it was important to balance your Roman personal reputation with the needs and wants of community • Romans loved stores about themselves which were complex and frequently revealing about what they say about Romans in general is regularly conflicted Cato the Younger committed suicide rather than live under the reign of Julius Caesar Cato the Elder( the sensor) • He lived a long life and was famously old and grumpy • He famously hated foreigners especially the Greeks, in every speech he made in the senate he spoke about cleaning up the garbage and getting rid of the Greeks • The Greeks were a present danger, they were a military danger • Cato was anxious because the problem with the Greeks was that they were clever, they genius, inventive, and everything that they invented was attractive • They were clever in mathematics • That meant that is they were clever then they were sneaky • The Greeks and according to Cato couldn't get over the fact that they were once the number one nation and now they were just number two, because they Romans had surpassed them and conquered them • In Catos head, if the Greeks had found out how to beat them on the battle field they would destroy them with Roman culture by making them soft Pliny • Quoting a series of advice letters that Cato the Elder is writing to his son “I shall speak about those Greek fellows in their proper place, son Marcus, and point out the result of my enquiries at Athens, and convince you what benefit comes from dipping into their literature, but not making a close study of it. They are a quite worthless people, and an intractable one, and you must consider my words prophetic...” • For Pliny writing this a two hundred years later, Cato is in some ways admirable and in some ways a complete nutcase • Trust me Marcus I have seen the Greeks so I know ow they are, it is okay to read Greek literature but don't memorize it because they are corrupt • The Greeks are loyalist, the general Roman consensus was that the Greeks had once been great, defeated enemies in battle, famous for their Spartan courage and famous for artwork and inventing things But • In Roman times the Greeks are not worthy of their ancestors, the Greeks have lost dignity (this was a gross exaggeration) • In taking the advice Marcus Porcius Cato was doing something very Roman, he was judging them by their ancestors • He did not say this was the way of all Greeks he was just saying in General • He wrote the first History of the Roman people written in the latin language and he used Greek logic so he was well aware of the accomplishments of the Greeks • He just thought that in general the Romans of present day had failed to live up to the accomplishments of their elders and they were really bitter that the Romans were the ones that were now in charge • The are going to corrupt with poetry, novels, and al those things that intellectuals like when we should be out killing Germans • They Romans also had to look out for doctors due all the Greek medicine, Medicine was a market that the Greeks had covered, all the great doctors at that time were Greeks Cato believed • Roman doctors were conspiring to murder the Greeks if they could not kill them in battle, and their so sneaky that they are trying to charge money for it • The Greeks called the Romans barbarians/hill billies • They hated foreigners, but they hated Romans more than any other foreigner • The Greeks dont just call us foreigners they call us Opici which meant hillbillies • Opici was the name of a hill tribe that were famously backward they did not read the times,  they lived in mud huts, they were a people who were as poor a lacking civilization that were  as backwards as they come in ancient time • This was the worst insult that you could give • Cato finds this insult funny because he knows that Romans do change over time • They have established quite a bit since their ancestors the Opici, they know that  they are highly developed • The Romans of the Berber empire that their ancestors had been rustic and old fashioned,  suspicious of foreigners and not very sophisticated • The called them Bembarti­ guys with big beards • In Plinys day Roman males shaved, this stopped only if they were in the army, Roman males  served in the army and went on shaving • The ancestors he(Pliny) knew all had big busy beards, that in itself was a marker of how  strange and unsophisticated their ancestors had been • They are all these rules of what you need to do if you want to fit in with the culture • Seneca says,” how can you tell if a man is feminine, how can you tell if he's crossed the line? If  he shaves his 
More Less

Related notes for CLA233H1

Log In


Don't have an account?

Join OneClass

Access over 10 million pages of study
documents for 1.3 million courses.

Sign up

Join to view


By registering, I agree to the Terms and Privacy Policies
Already have an account?
Just a few more details

So we can recommend you notes for your school.

Reset Password

Please enter below the email address you registered with and we will send you a link to reset your password.

Add your courses

Get notes from the top students in your class.