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PostSubject: Re: Roman Honour Mon Jan 28, 2013 8:28 pm

"Honor, in ancient Rome, had always been “sightliness,” decus, honestas.189 Dis- honor had ever been unsightly, a dehonestamentum (something that disfigured), a dedecus (blemish), something turpis (unsightly, ugly), pravus (crooked, misshapen), foedus (foul, filthy).
But when one could not defend one’s honor, embodiment itself became ugly and enervating. When one could not resist the injury, when one could not battle the corruption, one was tempted to remove an “essential being” from the social and physical world, to sheath it, as it were, in asbestos. The excru- ciating sense of an unbearable immediacy unrelieved by effective rules and rituals resulted in an intense desire to remove the animus from the contest, to break the spell of self-conscious embodiment.

One was tempted to say: “This is not real. This is not really happening to me.”190 The divorce of the animus from the body, the “mind/body split,”and the notion that the body was an unsightly prison gained ground simultaneously in ancient Rome with the notion that the contest had become trivial. It was as if, in this period, one might relegate the ugliness of dishonor to the visible and palpable which one could then slough off and discard. The withdrawal into the self that we associate with an abstract or transcendental Truth or Reality was a way of saying, “You can’t see me. I am not what I see in your eyes.” This tactic was both a relief from the problem of face and an aban- donment of face.

We are not accustomed to thinking of the abstract thinker as shameless but rather as autonomous (insofar as he or she is obedient to God or
Reason). But the abstract thinker was shameless insofar as he or she did not submit his or her truth to common consent; Reason and Truth
were ways of creating a reality over which one was totally sovereign—while totally submissive to God or Reason.

The abstract thinker could have a reality without others, a being without others.
If doubt was the central socializing emotion of the ancient Romans,certainty and veritas, abstract transcendental “Truth,” appeared as the symptom of social collapse."

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: Roman Honour Mon Jan 28, 2013 8:29 pm

"Because of the active role of the voice in defining, expressing, and protecting the spirit, confession ( fateor, confiteor, from for, to speak), insofar as it was the sup- pression or appropriation by one person of another’s person’s voice, was a humil- iation, perhaps the ultimate one, for a Roman. Confession was the move to end all moves; it was checkmate, the end of the game.

The confessus was a suppliant (supplex), someone who bent at the knees, and confessio was inseparable from deprecatio, the postulatio ignoscendi, the plea for mercy.
...Confession was the speech of those who had succumbed to the power of an- other.
It was the speech of those who had lost or abandoned the defense of their spiritual boundaries, the speech of those under compulsion (confessio coacti...ver- bum est [Seneca Rhetor, Controversiae]).

...young and wild Titus Manlius held the tribune Mar- cus Pomponius at swordpoint and threatened to slay him if he did not swear ac- cording to the terms that he would dictate (nisi in quae ipse concepisset verba iuraret). The tribune, broken with fear, swore by the words imposed on him (adiurat in quae adactus est verba [Livy]). In the ancient Roman formula of unconditional sur- render, the deditio in fidem (in dicionem) preserved in Livy, the words of the surrender were dictated by the victor. The victor was the ventriloquist, the defeated his dummy.

Perhaps the Latin idiom verba dare (to fool, deceive, and humiliate) can be ex- plained by the Roman association of humiliation with putting words into the mouth of another.74 As Erich Segal points out, Plautus’s Palaestrio, in the process of trapping his master, the braggart warrior, also succeeds in putting his own words into the soldier’s mouth. “Three times the slave ‘instructs’ his master on how best to get rid of the girl Philocomasium....Finally, the soldier parrots the slave’s advice as if it were his own idea.”

...Calpurnius explains: “A voluntary confession is a suspicious one; you might label such a confession of crime ‘the voice of pain’ ”
(Confessio voluntaria suspecta est. Confessionem sceleris appellas vocem doloris)."

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: Roman Honour Mon Jan 28, 2013 8:30 pm

"The Romans believed that to accuse oneself was a form of dementia. “Confession is entirely of that nature that he who confesses himself may ap- pear insane” (Pseudo-Quintilian, Declamationes minores, Shackleton Bailey ed.). As Guiliana Lanata has observed, to pronounce against oneself, to accuse oneself without the pressure of necessity was to go against both the instinct of self-preservation and the code of honorable behavior; it was a sign of mental dis- turbance. The confession made on one’s own account was attributed to a fool.

For the Romans, as for Bourdieu’s Kabyle, if a man did not respond to a chal- lenge (whether a gift or offense) when it appeared to others that he still had the ability to respond, “he is in a sense choosing to be the author of his own dishonour, which is then irremediable. He confesses himself defeated in the game that he ought to have played despite everything.” The confessus in criminal trials, like the confessus in war, was liable to further hu- miliation. To the extent that the judge operated within and was bound by the rule of law, confession resulted automatically in punishment.

“A confessus is like a iudi- catus (someone who had been condemned by a judge), since he is condemned, in a certain way, by his own judgment” (confessus pro iudicato est qui quoddammodo sua sen- tentia damnatur [Ulpian, Digesta]."

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: Roman Honour Mon Jan 28, 2013 8:30 pm

"It was the close resemblance of the confession of the defeated to the contractual guarantee (stipulatio) that misled scholars like Jhering, Täubler, and Seckel to think that deditio in
fidem was a form of contract or treaty; they forgot that fides as the unlimited power, the will and discretion of the victo- rious general, was a sort of mirror image of the fides, the self-restraint, of the party to a contract.
Juvenal’s willful mistress says: “This is what I want; this is what I order. Let my will be its own argument” (Satirae). The greatest force of the soul that a Roman could imagine was effective speech."

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: Roman Honour Mon Jan 28, 2013 8:31 pm

"For the Romans it was the airiness of the really real. The immediacy and embodiment of one’s will, one’s spirit in the world was accomplished, above all, through the force of one’s own speech—and through the words spoken about one by others, one’s fama.
One could argue that, in our culture, the failure to cultivate the voice has resulted in the sepa- ration of the soul from the voice and from the “breath.” We are not “in” our words. We can separate our voices from our words and from our life-spirits.

The Romans may have been down-to-earth, but they were not “materialists.” It was difficult for the Romans to trace our line between “physical” and “spiri- tual”; in speaking, the body was “spiritualized” and the spiritual “embodied.” The culture of the voice “charged,” “vivified” the spirit, like the loud war-cry cul- tivated by Cato. It was physical exercise and demanded discipline and control.

According to Seneca, speech was the grooming, the adornment of the soul (oratio cultus animi est [Epistulae]). And just as the gods and the dead would cease to exist, for all intents and purposes, when they ceased to be cultivated, so one’s liv- ing spirit would cease to exist when it ceased to be tended. The soul of a Roman
was like the rose of Saint-Exupéry’s prince: it was the time you wasted on it that made it precious.

The promissum (from promitto, to send forth, project) was the most powerful com- mitment of the spirit to the voice. The force of one’s will, in ancient Rome, was realized above all in one’s vow, one’s oath. (In English the identity is still so close that “word” and “promise” can be used interchangeably.) “I will not change what once I have spoken,” Plautus’s Nicobulus declares (Bacchides).

Plautus’s Demaenetus says of his slave Libanus: “He would prefer to die a miserable death than not to carry out what he had promised” (Asinaria).

One’s word bound one tightly, but it also liberated one insofar as voluntarily binding oneself concen- trated, channeled, and focused the energy of one’s spirit. One’s word, provided it was binding, sacralized one’s spirit. The voice guaranteed and delimited not only the individual spirit but the col- lective liberties of all citizens. The defining rights of commercium and connubium rested, finally, on the citizen’s right to make promises, covenants, and on the re- spect afforded these contracts by others. The right to vote (suffragium, from frangere, to break into sound) was the right of the citizen to cry aloud, to contribute his voice.7 The plebeian organs of government, like their magistracies, rested, finally, on the oath that sacralized their tribunes, sworn at the time of their first secession to the Mons Sacerin [Livy]."

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: Roman Honour Mon Jan 28, 2013 8:32 pm

"The soul-enhancing speech, the “free” speech of the Republic, was not uncon- strained; it was not speaking without hesitation or saying anything that came into one’s mind whenever and wherever one felt like it (as is our freedom of speech). On the contrary, the more powerful, the weightier one’s words, the less freedom (in our sense) of speech or movement one could have. The greater the authority one aspired to give one’s words, the more formalized, the more circumscribed, the more choreographed one’s speech and behavior needed to be.

...As Arnaldo Momigliano points out, freedom of speech (again in our sense) was not an ideal in Rome until the collapse of the Republic and the beginning of the Empire: “Liberty is nowhere explicitly associated with freedom of speech in Republican Rome....The Romans never had a proper translation of parrhesia [the uninhibited speech of the Greeks].”

Rather, speaking, like all actions in an- cient Rome, drew its meaning from being part of a scripted score or game, a con- test, with all the conditions that entailed: rules, limitations, witnesses, an equal op- ponent.12 Good speech was appropriate to one’s role and expressive of one’s persona. Above all, the well-trained and sharpened tongue was formidable, like the sword of a great fencer—even when it rested in its scabbard.

It was the mastery of the rules and the script and the wit, grace, and elegance of one’s performance that made the shell of one’s words shimmer like mother-of- pearl ...Speech was most demoralizing, most constricting, most “dispiriting,” when what you wanted to say and what you were compelled to say were far removed from one another, when speech became only the means to the end of survival. This utilitar- ian subordination of speech to survival happened automatically when survival became a person’s highest priority; it took the joy and spirit out of speaking."

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: Roman Honour Mon Jan 28, 2013 8:32 pm

"...To a modern eye, the paucity of evidence for the exercise of the ius necis, the right of a father to slay his own child, makes the patria potestas appear negligible. But, as Thomas and Saller point out, the father’s ius vitae necisque was less a de- scription of social reality than a definition or ideal of power—an ideal of the completeness of power (summa potestas).27 “Il n’existe ni conditions ni limites à ce pouvoir,” to quote Thomas.

It was precisely the counterpoise of the most powerful restraints to the broadest imaginable powers that, in the Roman mind, made the patria potestas the most highly charged force the Romans could conceive. It demonstrated, like the fides of the honorable, both the unlimited fullness of strength and its strictest restraint. The father, with his right to kill (ius necis), lift- ing in his hands the newborn and helpless infant (filiam, filium tollere), exercising his prerogative of mercy (ius vitae), was the very model of the Roman man of honor, the man who could do harm, but chose not to.
On the relationship of a father and child, Seneca remarks, “A father would be slow to sever from himself his limbs” (De clementia). The father was the only person to whom one could surrender absolutely and retain one’s honor and one’s soul.

Indeed, this submission was a condition of honor in ancient Rome. Sandra Joshel comments on the “filiations” in Roman in- scriptions: “‘The son of’ was evidence of
his submission to the authority of a father, which brought with it a rightful place in society and marked him as an in- dividual with a family of origins.”

“There is no power of words or genius that can express how beneficial, how laudable, how unforgettably fixed in the memory of man is the ability to say: ‘I obeyed my parents, I yielded
to their rule, and, whether it was just or unjust and harsh, I showed myself obsequious and submis- sive’ ” (Seneca, De beneficiis).

Service to a father was not servitude."

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: Roman Honour Mon Jan 28, 2013 8:33 pm

""Our ancestors,” Cicero declares, “did not call those men whom they justly obeyed ‘lords’ and ‘masters’—nor ‘kings’ even—but ‘custodians of the fatherland,’ but ‘fathers,’ but ‘gods’ ” (De republica).

Here it is important to explain that, in Roman thought, the father was a savior (servator/conservator) and, conversely, the savior was a father. Andreas Alföldi points out that the oak-leafed corona civica, bestowed by a soldier on another who, to save him, had risked his own life in battle, permanently marked the saved as the “son” and the savior as the “father.”"

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: Roman Honour Mon Jan 28, 2013 8:33 pm

"Free speech became the very definition of libertas because in trying to save one’s soul, one’s word was the last thing that one surrendered. And “free” speech became, paradoxically, a totally unconstrained, uninhibited speech at the moment when a Roman’s speech was furthest from expressing his or her will, when the function of speech was overwhelmingly to guard the breath of life.

Tacitus, complain- ing of the submissiveness of his generation, remarks, “The spying of imperial in- formers has deprived us even of the give-and-take of conversation. We should have lost memory as well as voice, had forgetfulness been as easy as silence” (Agricola).
And so Tacitus’s definition of the felicitas temporum was “to think what one willed and to say what one felt” (sentire quae velis and quae sentias dicere [Historia].

When the script, the score, was gone, “freedom” of speech became the arbi- trary, whimsical speech of the king or the fool (aut rex aut fatuus). Rather than the display and definition of a bounded and limited “turf,” libertas became one’s un- boundedness, one’s lack of restraint. At precisely the moment when one could no longer defend one’s libertates or iura in their ancient sense, one’s soul cried out for complete emancipation.

This new “freedom of speech” makes its appearance in the licentia theatricalia of the public spectacles, in the parrhesia of the Cynic and Stoic, in the literary underground, in the graffiti scratched on the city walls, and in the outspoken calumnies of the poor man clinging for immunity to the em- peror’s statue (Tacitus, Annales)."

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: Roman Honour Mon Jan 28, 2013 8:34 pm

"Plutarch also observed, legislated a series of prohibitions against violating the eyes, ears, and space of women in order to honor them (eis timen [loc. cit.]).27 By not uttering any
indecent word in their hearing, by not appearing naked in their sight, and by giving them the right of way in the street, men could insure themselves against the shame with which women threatened them. They could, by their inhibition, make the pudenda the veneranda (Romulus).
Concomitantly, reverentia or observantia could be not only an inhibition in the eyes but an “observing,” a particularly accepting or affirming look. Cicero speaks of “observantia by which we revere and cultivate those whom we recognize as pre- ceding us in age or wisdom or honor or in any form of worthiness” (De inventione)."

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: Roman Honour Mon Jan 28, 2013 8:34 pm

"Blushing was not a pleasurable experience. It was a troubled commotion of the mind, a “change of color” (mutatio coloris) and confusion (confusio),a disorder, anarchy, uncertainty in one’s face and body. Latin confusio resembled Greek paralysis: it was a sort of liquidating of the body; the limbs lost their tensile strength. Those who blushed felt as if they needed to “collect” themselves (se col- ligere [Seneca, Epistulae]). The blusher was torn in different directions, wounded, invaded; he or she fell apart, came unglued. Virgil’s Lavinia blushed “as if someone had stained [violaverit] Indian ivory with a bloody dye” (Aeneis). The Roman of honor was simultaneously a tiger on a leash and a bug under glass.
The pain of shame (like its pleasure) was self-awareness."

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: Roman Honour Mon Jan 28, 2013 8:35 pm

"With the loss of the rules and conditions of the good contest, the entire language of honor “imploded” and had to be “reconstructed.” Virtus, the effective energy, the valor and potency that made one a vir, exsanguinated until, in Cicero’s day, it was reborn as temperance, sobriety, chastity. Virtus tends increasingly to describe obedi- ence or endurance rather than vigor or potency.

Virtus is, moreover, frequently re- placed by honestas, fortitudo, or patientia, words that stress control and consistency. Pu- dor is superseded by verecundia for the reason that it implies all of the inhibitions and none of the assertions, all of the constraint and none of the bile or volatility of shame.
In short, honor becomes “honesty,” total self-control, complete, unblushing submission to the conscience (or the god or king represented by that conscience), without support, without compensation or reward.29 Cicero defines honestum as “that action which, in and of itself, without bringing the actor any advantage or reward or profit, ought by right to be praised” (De finibus).

The new “honest” man served the truth rather than made it. Lucan’s Cato was the rigidi servator honesti, the preserver of a rectitude unbending (Bellum civile). But, as I pointed out in the chapters on pudor, total control was the inversion and mirror image of extreme shamelessness: the “honest” man, like the most dangerous criminal, could not be shamed by the opinion of others. This new notion of honor unblushing, which we have inherited from the Romans of the civil war
period and the Empire, explains why we think of honor as the antithesis of shame.

That willfulness, unpredictability, craftiness, and whimsy were defined out of honor was perhaps the single greatest revaluation of values that took place in the course of Roman history. The new “honest” man was not tense and dangerous. He was a man who could not be shamed and yet, simultaneously, posed no threat.

The honest man allowed himself no Saturnalia; nor, conversely, was he given the opportunity to presume upon others’ indulgence. The honest man had all the as- pects of fides as self-restraint but none of the aspects of fides as fullness of power. Indeed, the second meaning of fides starts to fade, leaving only the aspects of fides as trust or fidelity. The “honest” man’s dignitas was no longer his presumptive claim to honor but rather an autonomous well of reserve. The tiger was de- clawed, the fire extinguished.

...Increasingly the honorable man or woman became “ontologically” rather than “existentially” male or female. While the man and woman of virtus were most “unnatural,” the new “honorable” man and woman, like good Stoics, were at one with their na- tures as with their god, and that nature/god was eternal and internal."

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: Roman Honour Mon Jan 28, 2013 8:36 pm

"A special value, in our Euro-American culture, is attached to the demonstration of independence from others and to freedom from controlling emotions and affects. To show emotions or dependence is considered weak.46 To appear “flustered” in our society is considered evidence of debility, inferiority, low status, moral guilt, de- feat,
and other unenviable attributes.

Modern Westerners are afraid of feeling the emotions of shame and intolerant of expressing them; as a result, the fear of shame intensifies the experience of shame. Modern Westerners become ashamed of feeling ashamed and thus are swept into a spiral of shame, making shame so fearful that it is impossible to endure either independence or dependence.

In modern fractionalized, “balkanized” American society, mutual trust, the presumption of the goodwill of others—so essential for the good contest, the en- abling competition, and for comfortable joking and teasing relations—is so fragile as to seem a mirage. As a result, shame has become increasingly insupportable in America; we would rather endure isolation and insensibility than suffer shaming. Not so paradoxically, when we do shame another, it is crude and brutal. We stig- matize, we break each other’s spirits.

And so we are simultaneous rogues and pu- ritans (or prurient puritans), free and/or slaves (or free conformists), with little in between. In our culture, even mild shaming produces rage, and severe shaming can produce, as James Gilligan has documented so horrifyingly, cataclysmic vio- lence. Our terror of shame leads to the desire for apathy, autonomy, and
shame- lessness (if not also passivity, rage, and a desire for revenge). We are terrified by our strongest emotions because we have no traditions, no “way” strong enough to manage them, to channel, bridle, or inhibit them.

Paul Veyne observes, “We might say that they [the Romans] lived in the ten- sion between envy and amity, while we, since the advent of Christianity, live, or believe that we live, in the tension between humility and pride.”

Veyne’s obser-vation of the difference in Roman tensions and modern ones is astute. I would add that the Roman tension between envy and friendliness—or, perhaps better, envy and generosity—was a constant and everyday tension that had the potential to regulate and bind a culture. The Christian (and our) much harsher (and so in- sufferable) tension was between two extreme emotions that, for the Romans of the Republic, desocialized and destabilized.

Typically, the two poles, the two ex- tremes were easily inverted, the most abject humility and the greatest arrogance being indistinguishable. I would only argue that the Romans of the period of the civil wars and the early Empire had already begun to feel this unbearable tension and the consequent desire to live in a state of perfect and imperturbable peace in which one was in serene, right relationship to god, king, and nature."

---x---

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: Roman Honour Mon Nov 18, 2013 8:39 pm

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PostSubject: Re: Roman Honour Fri Jan 16, 2015 1:49 am

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PostSubject: Re: Roman Honour Thu Jun 04, 2015 9:47 pm

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PostSubject: Re: Roman Honour Sat Apr 02, 2016 4:13 pm

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"Integrity, Visual prominence, and energetic motion in conceptualizing both courage and cowardice – whereas the other metaphors tend to be used to characterize courage alone. For example, while a “sharp” animus signifies courage, a “dull” animus signifies stupidity; and while animus “coming near” means taking courage, the “departure” of animus normally signifies unconsciousness or even death.

The “physical disposition” metaphors instead consistently recruit pairs of images for conceptualizing these categories (as well as their relation). Latin speakers use words referring literally to Uprightness and Wholeness to convey notions of “taking” courage, they also use words referring to Downwardness – cadere, demittere – and Brokenness – frangere, corrumpere and even adflictare – to convey notions of “losing” courage.

Ammianus Marcellinus mentions a word murcus used in military jargon for a coward who cuts off his thumb to avoid service (it is perhaps related to Plautine murcidus, glossed by Festus as ignavus). It is likely derived from mulcāre, “to maul” or “mutilate” – suggesting the metaphor of cowardice as Brokenness, interpreted here in more specific terms of bodily disfigurement, was still highly salient to Latin speakers of the fourth century CE.

Furthermore, Hiddenness often metaphorizes cowardice in the same way that Conspicuousness metaphorizes courage. Though the Hiddenness metaphor of cowardice does not appear to be anywhere near as entrenched in Latin’s phrasal lexicon as the corresponding Conspicuousness metaphor, very likely it motivates – at the etymological level – the meaning of the word cussiliris mentioned by Festus as an archaic synonym of ignavus. Though other (less phonetically plausible) etymologies have been proposed, Walde-Hofmann maintained that this term comes from cossim (or coxim) in lira, literally, “on the thighs in a furrow”. As originally suggested by Peter Rheden (1907), the figurative sense of “cowardly” would then depend on the typical threat avoidance behaviors of some animals: as he writes, “The meaning is clearly taken from birds and other animals which, to escape observation and threats, duck into a furrow”. Elsewhere in Latin literature the metaphor manifests itself unmistakably in representations of cowardice as a kind of animalesque cowering.

Just as Liveliness provides a metaphorical image for courage, Lethargy can be used to convey notions of cowardice. This metaphor is particularly recognizable in the meaning of ignavus, which in the classical period regularly has the sense of “cowardly” (in fact, the etymological sense of this word, that is, “not active” (in-gnavus) < “not knowing” < *ǵn(e)h3-uo-, had almost entirely disappeared in favor of the well-known figurative sense already in archaic Latin). It structures the semantics of other words of similar meaning as well, as reflected in figurative usage of segnis and iners.

Plautus obviously connects cowardice with “hiding” and the semantic structure of cussiliris seems to confirm the operation of this metaphor at a very early period (the Sanskrit adjective avīraghnastha used in the sense of “cowardly”, literally “not- standing-out”, suggests the image may be of Indo-European inheritance).


In the series of narratives that make up Roman society’s “mythistory”, the stories of Horatius’s defense of the Sublician Bridge against Lars Porsenna and of Scaevola’s subsequent attempt to assassinate the Etruscan king perhaps best exemplify courage in a martial context. Certainly, Horatius and Scaevola are repeatedly cited by Latin authors as models for imitation in this sense: Seneca, for instance, calls Horatius “the very picture of bravery” in his letters to Lucilius (EM. 120.8 ); and in Pro Sestio (48 ), Cicero lists Scaevola first among Romans willing to give their lives for their countrymen. However, the imagery that surrounds these figures in literary accounts suggests that “cowardice” was actually a consistent feature of their representation. Consider, in the first instance, their cognomina: Horatius the “One-Eyed” (Cocles is related to Greek kýklōps, probably through an Etruscan intermediary) and Mucius the “Left-Handed” (Scaevola is straightforwardly from scaevus, “towards the left side”, cognate with Greek skaiós). Georges Dumézil, comparing Cocles and Scaevola to the “mutilated” gods Odin and Tyr of Norse mythology, read in the physical impairments designated by their names a representation of the magical and juridical aspects of the “sovereign” function: for Dumézil, they are gods who have “decayed” (been euhemerized) into Roman soldiers. But in a linguistic context where cowardice is regularly expressed in metaphorical terms of BROKENNESS and in particular of BODILY DISFIGUREMENT, in presenting such images the names “Cocles” and “Scaevola” were likely interpreted as symbolizing the cowardliness of those who bear them.

Other recurring details of the legends equally appear to characterize Cocles and Scaevola through images of cowardice. For instance, in hurling himself down into the river when there is no longer any hope of defending the bridge, Horatius performs an act that – given a symbolic context where DOWNWARDNESS so regularly signifies cowardliness – likely would have been understood by Latin speakers in this way. It is striking how regular a feature of the characterization of Horatius’s act the meaning of “down” actually seems to be across different versions of the legend, even when the differ in other gross respects (for example, Livy has him swimming across the river in full armor to safety; in Polybius he drowns). Thus we read (in § IV 2) that Horatius “jumped down”; “let himself fall into the river; “threw himself headlong in the river”; “leaps down”; “threw himself down into the channel; “dove headlong into” and “fell down into the Tiber”.

Similarly, Scaevola, in disguising himself to enter the Etruscan camp evokes an image of HIDDENNESS that very likely would also have been understood as cowardly, given that Latin speakers so frequently expressed cowardice in such metaphorical terms. Particularly as the coward was directly metaphorized in Latin as “covering” or “hiding” (as in the semantic structure of cussiliris), regular representation of Scaevola’s stratagem in these terms by Roman authors – he approaches the camp “secretly (clam)”, “under the guise of a deserter”, “wearing Etruscan garments” – powerfully marks him in metaphorical terms of cowardice. Even in versions of the story where this disguise is not explicitly mentioned, this “theme” nevertheless seems to manifest itself in other ways, as when, for instance, Livy notes that Scaevola conceals a dagger in his cloak.

If the imagery that consistently surrounds Cocles and Scaevola across different narrative instantiations of their stories would have been interpreted by Latin speakers as signifying their cowardice, in what sense, then, were these figures able to serve as examples of courage to be admired and imitated, as they clearly did in antiquity? As I see it, the images of cowardice that so regularly characterize Cocles and Scaevola in their respective legends is a deliberate feature of their traditional representation, which actually works to undermine any understanding of these figures as individually courageous.8 What I mean is that it is precisely because Cocles and Scaevola are represented as performing acts of outstanding personal bravery that the Roman exempla tradition repeatedly brings symbols of cowardice to bear on their characterization in more covert ways, to complicate any easy interpretation of these acts according to a “one-against-many” model of heroic courage à la grecque. And by precluding the possibility of interpreting these figures in such terms, the tradition suggests an entirely different understanding of courage:9 one in which courage rests not so much in possessing any particular personal qualities of martial prowess – indeed, Cocles the One-Eyed and Scaevola the Left-Handed, by virtue of their personal attributes, are symbolically speaking cowards – as in being just one of many.

So much, at least, emerges explicitly from the tale of Scaevola, whose self-mutilation functions less as proof of his own bravery than as a sign of the collective Roman character: et facere et pati fortia Romanum est, he tells Porsenna in Livy’s account. Indeed, Porsenna is meant to fear not Scaevola’s own willingness to suffer, but the Roman people’s as a whole. This is why Scaevola stresses his absolute unexceptionality: “I am not the only one who brings such courage against you (nec unus in te ego hos animos gessi)”, he goes on, “There is a long line of men behind me seeking this same honor”. Similarly, in Florus’ epitome, he warns Porsenna: “Look – so you understand what kind of man you have escaped; three hundred of us have sworn to do the same”. The model seems implicit in the story of Horatius as well, for instance in the prayer that Livy has him address to the Tiber: “Father Tiber”, Horatius says, “I solemnly beg you, accept these weapons and this soldier with a favorable current”. Horatius’s omission of any personal pronoun and representing himself merely as “weapons and a soldier” is telling. In the very moment of performing a feat of individual bravery, Horatius strips himself of personal identity and portrays himself as just a(nother) Roman soldier. A far cry from the Republican aristocratic ethos of virtus, which, we know, encouraged elites to broadcast their special individual claims on this quality in funeral inscriptions, temple dedications, and images on coins. The kind of courage they embody is instead one that rests in being – not a Horatius or a Scaevola – but a civis Romanus.

To sum up. In this paper, I illustrated the range of metaphors converging on animus in Latin speakers’ understanding of courage and cowardice to argue that a particular subset of these metaphors – the Vertical orientation, Structural integrity, Visual prominence, and Energetic motion metaphors – are a sort of “privileged conceptualization” in Roman culture, in the sense that they recruit pairs of images toward the conceptualization of both courage and cowardice and, crucially, have effects on Latin’s semantic structures throughout different periods of its development. At the same time, these metaphors form the basis for some “mythistorical” representations, suggesting they remained salient and meaningful over the long history of this culture. Through an analysis of the stories of Cocles and Scaevola showing that these figures were in fact consistently represented in terms of images symbolizing cowardice in Latin, I suggested, finally, the existence of a “local” collectivist model of courage in Roman culture according to which courage derives from shared identity, and which thus stands in opposition to the kind of individualistic, competitive understanding of courage associated with Republican virtus.

Such an approach also facilitates the kind of “emic” reflection that has been advocated in the study of ancient cultures, by allowing us to juxtapose how different languages and cultures may capture the “same” concept through sometimes strikingly different metaphorical images, and to trace developments in conceptions over time. For example, we could compare Latin’s metaphors of courage to those of ancient Greek, where courage was often understood as the bodily accumulation of thymós conceived as a sort of “vapor” or “smoke”; or to Mandarin Chinese, where courage is understood in terms of the size of the gallbladder (so a brave person is said to have a “big gall (dǎn-dà)”, whereas a coward has a “small gall (dǎn-xiǎo)”; or to Japanese, where it is more common to speak of someone brave as having “bitter cold courage (yuuki-rinrin)” . . . to highlight how different societies differently capitalize on the affordances of human physiology in metaphorical understanding. Or we could compare ancient Rome’s metaphors with those of modern European societies – where courage and cowardice are more commonly conceptualized through “heart” images, often in conjunction with an OBJECT metaphor: as in Italian prendere and perdere corraggio or French prendre and perdre courage (along with German den Mut finden and verlieren and English take and lose courage) – to highlight, say, the sort of “externalization” that seems to characterize our modern folk theory of the emotions (In this metaphor, unlike Latin’s, emotions are not just caused by external stimuli but in fact are external objects). In this sense, Latin speakers’ preference for a bodily metaphorics in the conceptualization of courage and cowardice appears to constitute a distinctive feature of their way of “having” the world." [William Short]

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