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Tradition and abridgement: a study of the exempla tradition in Valerius Maximus and the Elder Pliny

posted on 2022-03-28, 02:42 authored by George Maslakov
An argument is developed in the Introduction that the Roman exempla tradition has to be seen in relation to the monumental and pictorial setting (statues, paintings and other forms of visual display - e.g. imago clipeata, signet rings) that conditioned and developed Roman historical consciousness. The evidence for the political/historical role of these images is taken from the Natural History and the discussion moves to consider Pliny's understanding of this material and his use of the sources from which it is drawn (antiquarian-prosopographical studies and the illustrated exempla, literature that naturally developed together with these - Varro, Atticus). The ground is prepared for a detailed discussion of these sources in Chapter two and the concluding Chapter on Pliny's response to this tradition. -- Chapter one follows through the theme of pictorial representation of historical figures and events into rhetorical theory and practice (Ad Herennium, Cicero, Valerius). This is done in order to make a comparison between Cicero's allusions to the exemplars of Roman virtus (which are grounded in familiarity with the representational images and monuments) and Valerius Maximus' second-hand, derivative and rhetorically conditioned references taken from orators and antiquarians. Contrast is also made between Valerius and Pliny. Unlike Valerius, Pliny transmits in a well-informed and relatively comprehensive manner material from the antiquarian writers. -- Chapter two seeks to document the complexity of the exempla tradition. Valerius Maximus, it is suggested, is representative of only one aspect of it (the rhetorical one, though he does not completely exclude antiquarian material). Here an evaluation is given of the historiographical significance of the considerable body of lost exempla literature and its close links with antiquarian studies and developing prosopography (e.g. Atticus, Messalla). The importance of illustrated exempla literature is again underlined and Pliny's role in transmitting and interpreting this heritage is again noticed. -- The moralism of this tradition is emphasized and presented as an important aspect of contemporary anxiety and insecurity. It is argued that the antiquarian tradition of scholarship has to be seen as an essential part of Roman historical thought. -- Chapter three discusses Valerius Maximus' understanding of the historical traditions he inherits. Importance is placed on his lack of coherent perspective and effective overall control of material. Again a contrast is suggested between this approach and Pliny's handling of antiquarian items. -- Chapter four examines the old problen of Valerius' sources from a new angle. A number of Livy-Valerius parallels are scrutinized to determine the distinctive aspects cf Valerius' understanding and interpretation of annalistic material. His moralism and religious traditionalism emerge as crucial. In general, possible links of the Facta et Dicta with other strands of the exempla tradition are taken into account. -- Chapter five deals with a number of Cicero-Valerius parallels, noting the numerous distinctive features of Valerius' interpretation of the Ciceronian material on Greek and Roman history. Particular attention is given to Valerius' understanding of the nature of the Roman political tradition (material that further illustrates points made in Chapter three), with special reference to his response to Cicero's De Senectute (which he cites ). -- Chapter six picks up a theme that runs right through this discussion - Pliny's response to the antiquarian exespla literature. The discussion centres on Pliny's use of that literature to develop a penetrating critique of Augustus and his political publicity. It is illustrated how Pliny exploits the resources of the antiquarian exempla to highlight the discontinuity in the Roman tradition brought about by the principate of Augustus.


Alternative Title

Study of the exempla tradition in Valerius Maximus and the Elder Pliny

Table of Contents

1. Exempla, exemplars and the monumental exempla tradition -- 2. Antiquarians, imagines and exempla -- 3. Valerius Maximus' collection - some problems of historical perspective -- 4. Selection and abridgement: Livy - Valerius Maximus -- 5. Selection and abridgement: Cicero - Valerius Maximus -- 6. Pliny's response to the exempla tradition.


Bibliography: p. 394-399 May, 1978

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD), Macquarie University, School of History, Philosophy and Politics

Department, Centre or School

School of History, Philosophy and Politics

Year of Award



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