Roman Masculinity and Politics from Republic to Empire 9780367480462, 9781003038566

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Table of contents :
Half Title
Series Page
Title Page
Copyright Page
List of Figures
Masculinity, Individuality, and the Persona
Chapter Outline
1. The Roman Vir
Power, Aggression, and Dominance
Tyranny and the Vir Malus
“Republican” Masculinity
2. The Old Boys’ Club in the Middle Republic
Early Values: The Convivial Brotherhood
Father Knows Best: Imitatio Patris
The Censor’s Task
Militiae: The Bad Man Abroad
Militiae: The Good Man Abroad
Domi: The Bad Man at Home
Domi: The Good Man at Home
Competition from Within: Electoral Contexts
Competition from Below: The Business Class
3. Vir and Populus in the Late Republic
A Changed Political World
Courting the Populus
Changes to Training and Education
Cato and Caesar
Popular Apotheosis
Vir Divus: Pompey’s Command in the East
4. Decline and the Imperial Senate
The Motif of the Decline of Manliness
Forging a Moral Consensus
Imperial Electioneering
Competition in Performative Oratory and Literature
Oppositional Stances
Agricola’s Gloria Through Obsequium
5. Good Emperors and Good Men
Pliny’s Optimus Princeps
Tiberius in the SC de Cn. Pisone Patre
Imperial Exemplarity
Youth’s Alternative: Caligula and Nero
Index Locorum
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Roman Masculinity and Politics from Republic to Empire

This volume explores the role that republican political participation played in forging elite Roman masculinity. It situates familiarly “manly” traits like militarism, aggressive sexuality, and the pursuit of power within a political system based on power sharing and cooperation. In deliberations in the Senate, at social gatherings, and on military cam­ paign, displays of consensus with other men greased the wheels of social discourse and built elite comradery. Through literary sources and inscrip­ tions that offer censorious or affirmative appraisal of male behavior from the Middle and Late Republic (ca. 300–31 BCE) to the Principate or Early Empire (ca. 100 CE), this book shows how the vir bonus, or “good man,” the Roman persona of male aristocratic excellence, modulated imperatives for personal distinction and military and sexual violence with political coop­ eration and moral exemplarity. While the advent of one-man rule in the Empire transformed political power relations, ideals forged in the Republic adapted to the new climate and provided a coherent model of masculinity for emperor and senator alike. Scholars often paint a picture of Republic and Principate as distinct landscapes, but enduring ideals of male self-fashioning constitute an important continuity. Roman Masculinity and Politics from Republic to Empire provides a fascinating insight into the intertwined nature of masculinity and political power for anyone interested in Roman political and social history, and those working on gender in the ancient world more broadly. Charles Goldberg is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Bethel University, USA. He studies Greek and Roman political culture, and has published on the history of gender, imperialism, and religion.

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Routledge Monographs in Classical Studies Titles include:

Animals in Ancient Greek Religion Edited by Julia Kindt Classicising Crisis The Modern Age of Revolutions and the Greco-Roman Repertoire Edited by Barbara Goff and Michael Simpson Epigraphic Culture in the Eastern Mediterranean in Antiquity Edited by Krzysztof Nawotka Proclus and the Chaldean Oracles A Study on Proclean Exegesis, with a Translation and Commentary of Proclus' Treatise on Chaldean Philosophy Nicola Spanu Greek and Roman Military Manuals Genre and History Edited by James T. Chlup and Conor Whately Illiterate Geography in Classical Athens and Rome Daniela Dueck Religious Discourse in Attic Oratory and Politics Andreas Serafim Roman Masculinity and Politics from Republic to Empire Charles Goldberg For more information on this series, visit: Routledge-Monographs-in-Classical-Studies/book-series/RMCS

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Roman Masculinity and Politics from Republic to Empire Charles Goldberg

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First published 2021 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park,Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2021 Charles Goldberg The right of Charles Goldberg to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A catalog record has been requested for this book ISBN: 978-0-367-48046-2 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-003-03856-6 (ebk) Typeset in Bembo Std by KnowledgeWorks Global Ltd.

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For Rachel

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Whatever sort of man you are, you will miss such a one as Fuscus; halt, traveler, read, if you remember and know who the man was. All men should fear Fortune, yet you should still say one thing: ‘Fuscus has the epitaph and tomb that belong to death. The stone covers his bones. All is well with him. Away with you, Fortune. We poured out our tears for this innocent man, now we pour out wine. We pray that you rest peacefully. No one is like you.’ Tous sous agōnas aiōn lalēsei (The ages will talk of your conquests.) —CIL 2.4315, Tarraco (1st c. CE) I sold goods which met the needs of the people. My remarkable

honesty was always praised. Life was good…. I always paid

my taxes. I was straightforward in everything. In all of my

contracts I was always fair. I always helped those seeking my aid

whenever I could. I was always honored by my friends.

—CIL 9.4796, Vescovio

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List of figuresix Prefacex Acknowledgementsxi List of abbreviationsxii Introduction1 Masculinity, individuality, and the persona  6 Chapter outline  9 Notes 10 1 The Roman vir13 Power, aggression, and dominance  15 Tyranny and the vir malus 19 “Republican” masculinity  25 Conclusion 29 Notes 29 2 The old boys’ club in the Middle Republic


Early values:The convivial brotherhood  36 Father knows best: imitatio patris 39 The censor’s task  42 Militiae: The bad man abroad  43 Militiae: The good man abroad  47 Domi: The bad man at home  51 Domi: The good man at home  53 Competition from within: Electoral contexts  54 Competition from below:The business class  55 Conclusion 58 Notes 59

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viii  Contents

3 Vir and populus in the Late Republic


A changed political world  69 Courting the populus 70 Changes to training and education  75 Cato and Caesar  78 Popular apotheosis  81 Vir divus: Pompey’s command in the East  86 Conclusion 90 Notes 91 4 Decline and the imperial senate


The motif of the decline of manliness  99 Forging a moral consensus  103 Imperial electioneering  108 Competition in performative oratory and literature  111 Oppositional stances  113 Agricola’s gloria through obsequium 122 Notes 124 5 Good emperors and good men


Pliny’s optimus princeps 133 Tiberius in the SC de Cn. Pisone patre 138 Imperial exemplarity  141 Youth’s alternative: Caligula and Nero  149 Notes 158 Epilogue Bibliography Index Index locorum

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163 166 186 191

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0.1 Bronze torso from an equestrian statue wearing a cuirass. 2nd

century BCE–2nd century CE.The Metropolitan Museum of

Art, New York. Bequest of Bill Blass, 2002. 1.1 Marble bust of Roman man. First century CE.The

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Bequest of Rogers

Fund, 1912. 4.1 Augustan bronze statue of an aristocratic boy. 27 BCE–14

CE.The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Bequest of

Rogers Fund, 1914. 4.2 Bronze bust of Cato the Younger. 60 BCE. House of Venus.

Volubilis, Morocco. Photograph by Marco Prins. 5.1 Radiate figure on Eumolpus altar to Sol. Ca. 64–68 CE. Museo

Archeologico Nazionale. Florence, inv. 86025; CIL 6.3719 =

31033; ILS 177. 5.2 Bust of unknown man or woman. Neronian period. Galleria

degli Uffizi, inv. 1914.57/photograph no. 112059.

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It was still tempting, when I started this project as a doctoral student at Syracuse University in 2013, to believe in the inevitability of progress in modern gender, or really, in social progress as a whole. I don't mean that I thought inequality was a thing of the past. Far from it. But, I had a naïve sense that we were trend­ ing toward the “right side” of history, that the gains of the feminist and civil rights movements amounted to a kind of wave that would, naturally, sweep away the most pernicious aspects of how those in power tended to act. My naivety, which many women, LGBT, people of color, and not a few other white men surely never shared, faded during the American presidential election of Donald J.Trump in 2016. Even prior to November, it was uncanny, if sadly humorous, to watch exchanges between Mr.Trump and other candidates about their supposed virility that seemed lifted from the pages of Roman political invective in the Late Republic. But in 2016, what had usually been left unspoken in American political speech was then made absurdly clear: “You know what they say about men with small hands?” Florida senator Marco Rubio asked a crowd in Virginia on February 28 about Mr.Trump.“You can't trust them.” What I find most interesting about Senator Rubio's comments is what was left unspoken: that there is still an assumed connection between ideals of masculinity and access to political power, and that all of this was meant to show who in our society we can best “trust,” as if virility were elided with fidelity and integrity. I hope that this book can offer parallel insights. While the Romans were an exceptionally warlike people, they were also exceptionally moral, at least in how seriously they took the weight of their collective morality, their mos maiorum. Roman elite men did not maintain their grasp on power primar­ ily through the use of force, but rather through moral suasion. And that, I believe, is why the roots of Roman patriarchy ran so deep. One of the most rewarding things about being a college professor is the ability to teach and learn from young people. I hope that the lessons I’ve gleaned while writing this book allow me to help my students see that the only way to create a more inclusive and hopeful future is to interrogate our assumptions about how the world works. As a historian, I know, and should have known all along, that there is no “right side” of history unless social actors determine it to be so. Minneapolis, Minnesota 16 June 2020

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I started thinking about this project while talking with Craige Champion in his office about the many ways that Roman political culture was different in the Late Republic than the Middle. Some of the work I had done as a graduate student under Craige’s direction up until that point related to the expectations elite men faced in ancient Rome to meet and exceed the accomplishments of their ancestors. I wondered how those pressures changed through the tumult at the end of the Republic and into the Principate, and that has resulted in the present work. Craige was an exceedingly patient and personable adviser. Even more than his academic expertise, which is considerable, he imparted in me an appreciation for the fact that historical research is first and foremost an investi­ gation into the human condition. I thank him as a student and as a friend. Others during my time in Syracuse were influential in some or several ways: Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn taught me volumes about writing, and friendship, too. Alan Allport, Patricia Cox-Miller, and Junko Takeda helped bring in other his­ torical and disciplinary perspectives.This is also a good place to absolve them of any shortcomings that remain in the book and claim them for my own. Crucial friendships salved the soul: Lisa Baker, Marissa Bero, Rob Clines, Ben Gerlofs, Tom Guiler, Paul Noe,William Robert, Bob Searing and family, Matt and Katie Stewart, Giovanna Urist, and Jenny Williams, I appreciate and miss you all. Full-time teaching at a small liberal arts college leaves woefully little time for scholarly rumination and conversation, which makes me all the more grate­ ful for the colleagues and friends at Bethel University who have given their advice and support.Thanks, especially, to Chris Gehrz, Kent Gerber,AnneMarie Kooistra, Gary Long, Carrie Peffley,Amy Poppinga, Julie Thoreen, and Dan Yim. I am grateful to conversations with the other participants of the 2018 Council of Independent Colleges Ancient Greece Summer Seminar led by Greg Nagy and Kenneth Morrell. Christy Cobb deserves special mention. I also thank Classical Philology for allowing a brief excerpt from an upcoming article on the “Best Man” competition of 204 BCE to be reproduced here. Most importantly, I am grateful to my family for indulging my interests in ancient history, and for believing in me. Thank you to my parents, Deb and Denny, and to my daughters, Nora and Annie. The greatest thanks go to my wife, Rachel, to whom I owe debts that cannot be repaid in a single lifetime. But I’m eager to try.

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Abbreviations of ancient literary sources and inscriptions follow the Oxford Classical Dictionary, 4th edition. Abbreviations of journals follow L’Année Philologique. In addition, the following abbreviations have been adopted: Cagusi Corp. Gloss. Lat. Criniti GLK Jordan ORF Ramsey Ribbeck RhL Skutsch Warmington West

Cagusi, P. and M. T. Sblendorio Cagusi. 2001, eds., Opere di Marco Porcio Catone. 2 vols. Turin: UTET. Goetz, G., et al. 1888, ed. Corpus Glossariorum Latinorum, Vol. III: Hermeneumata Pseudodositheana. Leipzig: Teubner. Criniti, N. 1981, ed. Grani Liciniani Reliquiae. Leipzig: Teubner. Keil, H. 1855-1880, ed. Grammatici Latini. Leipzig: Teubner. Jordan, H. 1860, ed. M. Catonis praeter librum de re rustica quae exstant. Leipzig: Teubner. Malcovati, H. 1955, ed. Oratorum Romanorum Fragmenta (2nd ed. 1955; 4th ed. 1976). Torino: G. B. Paravia. Ramsey, J. T. 2015, ed. and trans. Sallust: Fragments of the Histories. Letters to Caesar. Loeb Classical Library 522. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Ribbeck, O. 1855-1898, ed. Scaenicae Romanorum Poesis Fragmenta. Leipzig: Teubner. Halm, C. ed., 1863. Rhetores latini minores. Leipzig: Teubner. Skutsch, O. 1985, ed. The Annals of Quintus Ennius. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Warmington, E. H. 1938, trans. Remains of Old Latin, Volume III: Lucilius.The Twelve Tables. Loeb Classical Library 329. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. West, M. L. [1993] 2012, ed. Carmina Anacreontea. Berlin: De Gruyte.

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In 1938, on the eve of World War II, Virginia Woolf penned an antiwar essay called Three Guineas, in which she sought to explain the prevalence of vio­ lence and bloodshed in the modern world. She wrote, Inevitably, we look upon societies as conspiracies that sink the private brother, whom many of us have reason to respect, and inflate in his stead a monstrous male, loud of voice, hard of fist, childishly intent upon scoring the floor of the earth with chalk marks, within whose mystic boundaries human beings are penned, rigidly, separately, artificially; where, daubed red and gold, decorated like a savage with feathers, he goes through mystic rites and enjoys the dubious pleasures of power and dominion while we, “his” women, are locked in the private house with­ out share in the many societies of which his society is composed.1 Woolf ’s problem lay not with men, per se, or at least not with the “private brother” (however she meant that), but rather with the “monstrous male” run amok. Sixty-some years later, the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu under­ took a somewhat related task, of explaining the deeply ingrained nature of male power across social and historical boundaries. He found Woolf ’s essay useful. “‘Mystic boundaries,’ ‘mystic rites,’” he writes. “This language … is an invitation to orient research towards an approach capable of grasping the specifically symbolic dimension of male domination.”2 Woolf and Bourdieu have not been alone in their project; indeed, there has been a veritable explosion of scholarly work on masculinity in the past few decades that has sought to investigate the cultural and social mechanisms that have supported the tenacious grasp of male domination across time and space. These works have ranged broadly in their approach and what they argue, but many have tended to emphasize aggression, domination, and vio­ lence as the traits most directly related to maintaining patriarchal power. So, in the Roman context, the need to prove oneself on the battlefield, to defeat aristocratic rivals in “zero sum” elections, and to adhere to manly protocol in penetrative sex have become almost a metonym for masculinity itself. Myles McDonnell, for example, argues that virtus (in Latin, literally “manliness”)

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in the earlier years of the Republic depended squarely on physical courage in battle.3 To Carlin Barton, virtus is “the aggressive and self-aggrandizing will of the strutting warrior (with its potential to disrupt all bonds and balance within Roman society).”4 And Craig Williams refers to the performance of the penetrative role in sex as the “prime directive” of Roman masculinity.5 It is not difficult to find a basis for these analyses in the ancient sources. Most will agree that the Romans were an exceptionally bellicose people, and the Roman male’s sexual subjection of others is also glaringly apparent even to casual readers. And so, it should be expected that violence, power, and sex would lie near at hand in Roman men’s understanding of themselves as men. But there is more to this story. What is sometimes overlooked in these interpretations is that the vir’s sup­ posed inability to subordinate himself to other men would preclude the kind of shared political participation upon which Roman government was pred­ icated. Whatever dominant expectations may have applied in sex or against Roman enemies on the battlefield, these necessarily needed restraints upon entry into the curia for discussion and debate with other senators. Let us not overlook the fact that the etymology of the word curia, the meeting place of the Republican Senate, assumes co-equality among viri.6 Other aspects of Roman life further complicate the picture. What about the lampoons against the crude militarism of the arrogant miles gloriosus on the Plautine stage? Or war heroes like T. Manlius Torquatus and M. Valerius Corvus challenging much larger enemies to one-on-one combat only after respectfully “ascer­ taining the consul’s pleasure”?7 Or the poet Lucilius’ interpretation of virtus as, among other things, “being a life-long friend to good men”?8 Sweeping admonitions toward active dominance are out of place in this world.9 This book explores the role that republican political participation played in forging elite Roman masculinity. In deliberations in the Senate, at social gath­ erings, and on military campaign, displays of consensus with other viri greased the wheels of social discourse and built elite male comradery.10 Demonstrating aristocratic excellence and embodying the ancestral code of conduct—what the Romans called mos maiorum—legitimated the vir’s elevated position and allowed him to justify his sociopolitical power by means of his supposed moral superiority. Through literary sources and inscriptions that offer censorious or affirmative appraisal of male behavior from the Middle and Late Republic (ca. 300–31 BCE) to the Principate or Early Empire (ca. 100 CE), I claim here that the vir bonus, or “good man,” the Roman persona of male aristocratic excel­ lence, modulated imperatives for personal distinction and military and sexual violence with political cooperation and moral exemplarity. While the advent of one-man rule in the Empire transformed political power relations, I argue that ideals forged in the Republic adapted to the new climate and provided a coherent model of masculinity for emperor and senator alike. Scholars often paint a picture of Republic and Principate as distinct landscapes, but enduring ideals of male self-fashioning constitute an important continuity. And yet, Rome remained a man’s world. Only some men participated in politics and obtained auctoritas and gravitas, the prestigious cultural rewards

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for the vir bonus, who stood at the apex of society. Others—slaves, freedmen, foreigners, and women—were mostly foreclosed access to these prizes, and thus to many forms of political and social power. Even a cooperative and moral masculinity therefore still furthered elite male authority. I cannot overlook the importance of aggression and violence, both gener­ ally throughout Roman history, and specifically as important considerations in Roman manhood. I do not wish to offer an apology for Roman masculinity. However, pace Bourdieu, Woolf ’s quote in Three Guineas does more than note the “symbolic dimensions of male domination” that perpetuate and reinforce patriarchy. Bourdieu himself may have been guilty here of the very charge which Woolf was leveling at western society in that passage, of overlooking what there was of the “private brother” in the Roman vir, however little there may have been, and instead overdetermining him according to the “loud of voice, hard of fist, monstrous male.” But, as we shall see, the Romans generally distrusted the “loud of voice, hard of fist, monstrous male,” and preferred their male leaders to act with fides (“trust”), auctoritas (“moral authority”), and gravi­ tas. It is that kind of man that typically enjoyed preeminence at Rome. I draw attention to cooperative and moral aspects of Roman masculinity not to dis­ miss the weight of its more destructive ones, and certainly not to make Roman men seem more pleasant or sympathetic. I do so because without accounting for how they cooperated and collaborated politically, we cannot adequately understand the complexity and immensity of their sociocultural power. There are many explanations for why we have come to view Roman mascu­ linity mainly in terms of domination and aggression. Part of this has to do with the conceptual distance between the discourse the Romans assembled around “manly” behaviors and the reality of their enactment in social practice. Take, for example, the paterfamilias’ ius vitae necisque (“right of life or death”), or his unilateral legal right to execute his children and those under his legal potestas.11 The Romans themselves often treated the ius as the quintessential example of the all-powerful vir, whose power was so supreme that not even the state could inter­ fere with his judgment. As many scholars have now shown, however, exercise of the ius has scant mention in the historical texts.12 In actual practice, the father’s right was constrained within social limits: he had to declare a just cause, which was then evaluated and sanctioned by a council of kinsmen. For the ius vitae necis­ que, the representation of unilateral masculine power is challenged by the reality of its social execution, which required communal oversight by the man’s peers. Of course, such a council—his consilium—was made up solely of other men in similar social circumstances. We therefore cannot strike the vir’s impulse toward retributive violence from the equation, but must instead consider how such an impulse was evaluated and sanctioned by his peers only when it was deemed to help ensure the social configuration in which they dominated. The ius therefore provides a forceful metaphor for masculine authority, but its value as a shorthand for unilateral male power is doubtful, or at the very least, must take into account the evaluative role of other elite men.13 Another issue is an unintended consequence of the fact that those who work on the history of masculinity typically approach the topic with an aim to demonstrate

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4  Introduction

the inherent contestability of gender, and to promote future equality. I admit I also write within this perspective, but it has tended to portray certain masculinities in the distant past as the opposite of those we hope to see in an improved future. This makes advancement in gender relations essentially a teleological process. The Greek aner or Roman vir appears as a sort of hypermasculine straw man who embodies all of the negative aggressive masculine qualities we wish to eradicate from our own society.14 Undesirable features of modern western masculinity then become the cultural descendants of an atavistic “Mediterranean masculinity” centered on bravado, rivalry, arrogance, and violence, which many today would seek to banish.15 As Thomas Hubbard explains, viewing history in this way isolates “…male sexual domination, violence, militarism, imperialism and oppression of minorities, which are treated as so historically pervasive that they almost re-essentialize the concept of masculinity.”16 It is also common to think of the Romans as a foil to their classical counterparts, the Greeks. Here, the Romans are pictured as minatory, belligerent, and brutish in comparison to the more refined, ethically minded and civilized Greeks. As Myles McDonnell writes about the Romans in contradistinction to the Greeks, “in regard to ideal manly behavior, issues of right or wrong were not paramount” in Roman thinking, and were secondary to martial prowess.17 When the Romans did occasionally ponder more moral virtues, scholars have been quick to attribute such reflections to Hellenistic influences, as if the Romans never thought about it until their encounters with the Greeks escalated in the second century BCE.18 Finally, common theoretical perspectives within modern masculinity studies have also narrowed our view. By far the most frequently applied theory on masculinity is the one R. W. Connell describes in Masculinities and several other works.19 Connell posits the existence of multiple masculinities in contest with one another in a given society, with one of them emerging as dominant or, borrowing a term from the neo-Marxist, Antonio Gramsci, “hegemonic,” over the others. As Cornwall and Lindisfarne describe the idea, “Hegemonic masculinities define successful ways of ‘being a man’; in so doing, they define other masculine styles as inadequate or inferior.”20 The hegemonic version of masculinity is often that of the dominant social group, which may indicate elites specifically (as in the Roman world) or, more generally, a conglomeration of groups of men with a vested interest in the continued dominance of some men over others and women. Connell’s work has been applied fruitfully to the ancient world.21 But there have been some drawbacks to the quest to find exactly what is “hegemonic” in hegemonic masculinity. For one, scholars using the model tend to focus on a narrow range of traits.22 Historian John Tosh writes, “The attributes which [hegemonic masculinity] prescribes are those which confirm the power and prestige of men at the expense of the opposite sex: typically strength, selfreliance, bread-winning capacity and sexual performance.”23 Those attributes which do not apparently align with this task are dismissed as either unmanly or unimportant for defining masculinity. Less aggressive components of

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Roman masculinity, however, like contributing towards senatorial consensus and building rapport with other senators, were just as valuable in constructing something similar to Connell’s hegemonic masculinity and in reinforcing male social dominance. Nevertheless, Connell’s hegemonic masculinity still provides useful insights. The contestability of masculinity urges us to rethink how certain behaviors or ideas lacking an explicit relationship to domination or power still helped to legitimate certain men’s position atop Roman social hierar­ chies. Toward this goal, the focus on “masculinity” might be too narrow. Instead, broader attention to behavior that contributed to the maintenance of only particular Roman men’s hegemony in the sociopolitical system is needed. Sociologist Jeff Hearn has thus called to move the discussion from “hegemonic masculinity” to the “hegemony of men.” He writes, There is a greater need to look critically at the ordinary, taken-for-granted accepted dominant constructions, powers and authorities of men—in rela­ tion to women, children and other men, both men who are subordinate and those who are superordinate. This involves addressing the formation of the social category of men, and it is taken-for-grantedness, as well as men’s taken-for-granted domination and control through consent.24 Hearn urges a focus beyond conflict and contestation to more basic elements of group formation, and with others has placed greater emphasis on homosociality in maintaining cohesion in groups of elites.25 Work along these lines has already been undertaken in the Greco-Roman world. For example, B. Graziosi and J. Haubold have explored how manly imperatives in the Homeric poems which encouraged violence and battlefield distinction were tempered by others emphasizing communal well-being.26 Similarly, G. Herman demon­ strates how the good citizen in democratic Athens avoided macho posturing and subordinated his desire for revenge, instead seeking satisfaction in com­ munal justice, even if some interpreted such a move as unmanly.27 A notewor­ thy recent work in Roman culture is Masterson’s exploration of aristocratic homosociality in Late Antiquity as a mechanism to reduce the immense hier­ archical social distance between the emperor and other elites.28 The study of Roman masculinity, and, more broadly, ancient gender and sexuality, stands in the long shadow of Foucault and his rigorous probing of modernity’s strictures on sexual practices and the formation of modern sexual identities, and how these differ from those in the ancient past. Foucault and others have found ancient sexuality to have been foregrounded in concerns about penetration, domination, and control. While the relationship between sexuality and gender is often close, to assume that a Roman man’s under­ standing of himself as male depended on little more than the imperatives of sexual dominance writ large seems to me to contradict an essential aspect of Foucault’s argument, that is, that sex in the ancient world, in contrast to how it is sometimes treated in the modern west, did not define the core of

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individual identity.29 While ancient sexuality is a rich and fascinating topic precisely because of its many jarring dissimilarities to our own society, schol­ arship on ancient sexuality and masculinity has perhaps overemphasized the weight that cultural representations of sex had on other aspects of gender.30

Masculinity, individuality, and the persona In fact, the modern focus on the role of “identity” in forging norms and ideals of gender may be misleading. While we can safely consider gender a transh­ istorical and transcultural phenomenon, thinking about some key differences between ancient and modern understandings will lay the groundwork for our investigation. At its best, modern gender can help link us to others with whom we share certain physical characteristics, personality traits, and cultural upbringings, and distinguish us from those who do not. For the individual person, gender and sexuality might be thought to name some most intimate part of our identities, to comment on some deeper understanding of the self and reveal our individuality. But in its worst forms, gender can strap the individual into a discursive straightjacket of norms and expectations. Because it assigns certain behaviors and emotions to one sex over the other, we can sometimes feel it working against the grain of our true identities and selves. It constrains human agency.31 At the same time, modern gender norms often operate relatively independently of morality; modern normative masculinity can even be used to sanction amorality or immorality. An act of showy bra­ vado, for example, might fit our definition of manliness, but we might also call it pride, self-interest, and vainglory. Perhaps especially so for masculinity, we often note a tension between normativity and moral goodness. But a Roman would not have understood much of this, at least not in these terms. We therefore need to acclimate ourselves to the ancient setting. For starters, “identity” is a very recent way to categorize human experience, and privileges the individual person as quintessentially unique and distinct from others.32 As Hölscher writes, “‘identity’ means a given fact that cannot be criticized but must be acknowledged. … It implies strong emphasis on intro­ spection, self-definition, and self-assertion.”33 Modern “identity” as such is not easily transposed to other societies. Those familiar with the classical past may note that such a self-reflexive, individual­ istic perspective is often difficult to uncover.34 From Greek statuary’s celebra­ tion of generic ideals of male beauty to the stock, interchangeable war heroes commemorated by Roman mos maiorum (“way of the ancestors”), it is the outer form and appearance, how the individual is perceived by his or her community, which take precedence over particularities and unique interior compositions. The Roman heroes celebrated by Cato the Elder in his Origines are literally identity-less: Cato refused even to give names to the men performing the exemplary deeds he wrote about, for fear that they would distract from their moral lessons. We might attribute all of this to formal demands of the genres within which these works were created, but there are deeper factors at play.

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The inapplicability of “identity” to the ancient world is more important for our study than it might seem. There are in fact fundamental differences in conceptions of self hood between past and present that compromise ideas like gender and masculinity. While it is generally agreed that the Greeks and Romans did have a concept of “self hood,” or a coherent sense of an individual’s interior state, many have noted marked differences to the present. Christopher Gill, in particular, has argued for two patterns of self hood, one that emerged in western thought after Descartes, and one that predominated before. For us moderns, Gill sees the presence of a “subjective-individualist” pattern, which is “focused on (unique) individuality, ‘I’-centered self-consciousness and sub­ jectivity.” We recognize here identity’s emphasis on the individual’s excep­ tional circumstance. In contradistinction is the “objective-participant” model common throughout the premodern world. More community oriented, the OP model is concerned with “interpersonal and social engagement, and the development of objective understanding, as this bears on the question of what counts as a good human life.” In OP societies, the individual self is dedicated to “objective ethical norms [depending] on participation both in social and communal life and in the shared life of an intellectual community.”35 In OP societies, the individual finds his or her own worth in social relationships, in how they participate in the community at large. An ancient world with a more community centered understanding of self­ hood requires the reorientation of the study of masculinity away from the modernist focus on individual “identity.” Once we take this step, we can begin to appreciate the common depiction of men in the ancient sources as objects of their community’s discerning and penetrating gaze, as if their very selves were on communal display.36 As Cicero writes to his son about the life of the vir in his De Officiis, “If anyone from early in his life possesses some claim to fame and distinction, whether he gets this from his father (as I believe you have, my dear Cicero), or through some other fortunate circumstances, all eyes are fixed on him. As a result, people are curious about what he does and how he lives. He spends his time in the spotlight—his every word and deed known to all.”37 Seneca uses the metaphor of the persona, or the mask worn by actors on the stage, to refer to the role which elite men cultivated and dis­ played in public life, “The consensus of mankind has imposed a great persona upon you: this you must guard…. Your eyes are being watched.”38 For the vir, the appearance of this outer persona mattered more than the unique components of the man within. The persona was consistent from man to man and was not to vary, as it was an objective standard of ethical com­ portment. This is not to say that the Romans did not recognize that individual men possessed unique characteristics. Indeed, Cicero incorporated this per­ spective into his account of how the persona worked, which he saw as being in fact four personae working in concert.39 The first is made up of the essential components common to all human beings (Off. 1.107); the second consists of the specific qualities of the particular human in question (1.107), such as his physical abilities and the predilections of his personality. The third refers to his

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circumstances in life, such as his wealth or rank; and the fourth the role he has chosen to play in life, such as his career as a politician, philosopher, or orator (1.115). All of these structured each man’s decisions.40 “Remember,” Cicero’s friend Servius wrote to him, “those things which are worthy of your persona.”41 The idea of the persona is a useful one for understanding Roman mascu­ linity in a way that recognizes the unique ancient understanding of self hood without losing the more familiar features of modern gender. As a model of male self-fashioning, the persona operated in similar ways that gender norms or expectations do today. However, instead of the sociological focus on the constraints of normativity upon individuality, as we often find in modern gender studies, it is more appropriate to the Roman world to think, as they did, in terms of ideals of character to which the individual aspired in order to fulfill the expectations of his persona. The persona offered a picture of the vir as an actor upon the larger stage of life. This role required constant cultivation and practice. We can therefore refashion the famous claim of de Beauvoir and state that one is not born, but rather becomes, a vir through self-fashioning.42 The ideal Roman statesman, to Cicero, must “never cease improving himself and contemplating himself, that he may call others to the imitation of himself, so that by the splendor of his character and life (animi et vitae) he provides, as it were, a mirror to his fellow citizens.”43 Cicero’s choice of words here is significant, as they reveal the project of becoming a vir in ancient Rome to be an ongoing project of developing the habits and customs of the vir that helped promote communal success. As I have said, a feature of objective-participant communities is the emphasis on objective ethical standards of action. This means that for the Roman man, his value to society depended on his ability to discharge his duties toward the common good, or res publica.44 This duty, I will argue, was the primary one of the vir throughout the period I study here. What the Romans called the vir bonus—the “good man”—encapsulates their ideal male persona. A very old moniker, the bonus aspect of the title perhaps relates etymologically to abundance and prosperity, describing the high productivity and efficacy with which the paterfamilias would manage his wealth and estate.45 We can see this in how Cato the Elder uses the term in regards to farming: “When they praised a vir bonus, they did it this way: a good farmer, and a good tiller.”46 The term is in other places used more broadly to describe someone who embodied aristocratic political excellence.47 In this regard, Cato, again, provides the template, famously describing the vir bonus as the man “skilled in speaking,” bringing the term into the realm of political discourse.48 For the Romans, it was difficult to separate bonus’ qualitative description of someone’s moral value as “good” from his status as an aristocrat, and so the term does a kind of double duty. I interpret it broadly and generally, describing a moral, political, and social ideal to which male aristocrats were supposed to aspire. The remains of a statue of an equestrian rider in the Metropolitan Museum of Art captures the sense of community-oriented ancient masculinity I am emphasizing (see Figure 0.1). In an accident of historical transmission, time

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Figure 0.1 Bronze torso from an equestrian statue wearing a cuirass. 2nd century BCE– 2nd century CE. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Bequest of Bill Blass, 2002.

has eaten away the man’s flesh, leaving only bronze fragments of his cape and cuirass behind. Who he was to begin with, what he looked like, the dispo­ sition behind his gaze, are all lost to us. The individual man is gone, but the communal role he played, his ancient persona, remains. A further note on terminology is required here.49 I will refer to this pro­ ject of male self-fashioning as a moral one, but I do not use “morality” quite like we do today. Some have argued that the Romans lacked the kind of deontological understanding of morality, later described by Kant, concerned with abstract, generalized issues of right and wrong.50 Instead, many modern writers on the ancient period refer, as the Greeks did, to a more functional “ethics” (ethikos), the custom or habit of society at large. This is how I see it for the Romans, too, but I will favor the word “moral” instead of “ethical” because it is the best way to remain true to the Latin sense of mos, “custom or habit,” from which we derive our word morality.51

Chapter outline Chapter 1 investigates in detail the persona of the vir bonus in relation to power, violence, and aggression. I conclude that while these are necessary components for a defining ideal Roman masculinity, they do not sufficiently account for elite male political life. How did the vir respond to the demands

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of the political process, which required power sharing and consensus with other men? I describe the vir bonus as an exemplar of what I call republican masculinity, a model of male self-fashioning that helped to sort out these con­ flicting and competing demands. In Chapter 2, I analyze republican masculinity in action in the Middle Republic through the role men played in domestic politics and on military campaign. I argue that republican masculinity provided a grammar for pub­ lic life, the rules of which were enforced by elite men themselves. I dis­ cuss mechanisms through which participation in high politics was regulated according to one’s embodiment of the principles of republican masculinity. I conclude that there were powerful and effective mechanisms that encour­ aged self-restraint and cooperation among the senatorial class, and that these mechanisms helped ensure the prominence of some elite men over others and restricted membership to the Senate. In Chapter 3, I argue that the increased political power of the lower classes in the Late Republic diminished the importance of republican masculin­ ity. Because political power moved away from elites and towards the urban poor who cared little for the refined aristocratic demeanor of the vir bonus, politicians no longer had a strong incentive to pay heed to these expecta­ tions of manly comport. Late Republican politicians like Marius, Caesar, and Pompey exchanged many long-held imperatives for self-restraint and humility for self-aggrandizement through royal and divine posturing as part of their quests to woo and court the lower-class plebs. One of the major claims of this book is that the model of the vir bonus applied in a recognizable form to both the Republic and Principate.52 Despite profound political and cultural rupture between Republic and Principate, I argue in Chapter 4 that the model of the vir bonus adapted to the new con­ ditions and continued to provide a coherent model of male self-fashioning for elites in the Principate. Chapter 5 acts as a conceptual counterpart by examining the emperor in the same period. Although they often dominated political life as near-autocrats, most emperors publicized their adherence to the collaborative principles of republican masculinity by eliciting consensus with other elites in order to promote the legitimacy of their rule. I explore the ways in which emperors through Trajan attempted to embody this per­ sona. I end by exploring the divergent examples of Caligula and Nero, who seem to have consciously rejected the model of the vir bonus.

Notes 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

Woolf 1939: 121. Bourdieu [1998] 2001: 2–3. McDonnell 2006: 24–33. Barton 2001: 43. Williams 1999 [2010]: 18. As Palmer 1970: 75, states, “The word curia