Chapter 1: The Nature of Latin Culture At the end of Vergil’s Aeneid there occurs an episode in which the goddess Juno finally agrees to stop fighting. Her position, however, is far from abject. Speaking to Jupiter and sounding more like a conquering general than the patron of a defeated people, she dictates the conditions under which she will stop opposing the Trojan effort to settle in Italy: The native Latins must not change their ancient name, or become Trojans, or be called Teucrians, or alter their speech or dress. Their country should keep the name of Latium and be ruled by Alban kings forever. Their Roman offspring should be strong in their Italian courage. Troy, having fallen, should remain fallen, even to the memory of its name. Jupiter readily accepts these terms, assuring Juno that “The people of Ausonia will keep their ancestral speech and culture, their name be as it was. Sharing bloodlines only, the Teucrians will subside…” (12.823–36). The stories we tell about latinity and the ways we tell them— with what emphasis and in what proprtion—determine in large measure our approach to and our understanding of the material we study, our self-conception as professional (or amateur) latinists. This Vergilian episode embodies two of the central myths that inform our thinking about the Latin language and Latin culture: namely, the power of both to extend their sway over non-Latins and, in the process, to occlude or replace whatever other languages and cultures they may encounter. In this essay we shall explore these myths and discuss them in the light of others. The emphasis will be on new or neglected stories and on the capacity of such stories to change the way we think. The purpose of the essay, then, is frankly revisionist. It begins here with two of the oldest and most familiar stories that we know. Where it leads, however, is to the surprising and paradoxical, but upon reflection, self-evident observation, that these stories, taken together, contradict one another and, taken separately, contradict themselves. The Universality of Latin Culture The Aeneid is a foundational text. It tells about the beginning of Latin culture. When Juno stipulates what character this culture is to have, she speaks—leaving aside the soon to be extinct Alban kings—not at all of Roman governmental forms or religious institutions, but of the most ordinary, and yet enduring aspects of daily life: what people wear, what they call themselves, and, most important for our purposes, what language they speak. Despite or because of this focus on the quotidien, Vergil’s Juno represents Latin as almost monstrously potent, capable even in defeat of absorbing and occluding other cultures—here, especially, that of Troy. Just as Ascanius must change his name and become Iulus, founder of the Julian clan, so must Aeneas’ followers put aside their Trojan language and customs so that their descendants, if not they themselves, may become fully Latin. This is how we tend to think Vergil and his contemporaries regarded Latin culture, and it is therefore how we regard it. Latin culture imagines itself as an all-powerful civilizing force that surpasses other cultures and replaces them in its imperialist mission of, in Vergil’s words again, sparing the conquered, warring down the proud. From a modern perspective, the example of Latin as the imperial culture par excellence is widespread, and constantly linked to the civilizing agency of the language itself. This idea receives eloquent expression from the hand of the historian Edward Gibbon, who wrote, So sensible were the Romans of the influence of language over national manners, that it was their most serious care to extend, with the progress of their arms, the use of the Latin tongue. The ancient dialects of Italy, the Sabine, the Etruscan, and the Venetian, sunk into oblivion…. The western countries were civilized by the same hands which subdued them. As soon as the barbarians were reconciled to obedience, their minds were opened to any new impressions of knowledge and politeness. The language of Virgil and Cicero, though with some inevitable mixture of corruption, was so universally adopted in Africa, Spain, Gaul, Britain, and Pannonia, that the faint traces of the Punic or Celtic idioms were preserved only in the mountains, or among the peasants. In our ancient sources as well employment of the Latin language by the Roman government specifically as an instrument of imperial control is well attested. Foreign ambassadors were required to address the senate in Latin and no other tongue—not even Greek, the usual diplomatic language of the Hellenistic world. Roman officials who used any language but Latin in their dealings with alien peoples exposed themselves to official censure. Even in the east, the second capital, Constantinople, used Latin, and the Byzantine Greeks came to pride themselves on their status as Romans. Clearly the idea of Latin that I have been discussing is no mere poetic flourish, but a serious ideological position and a major cultural force in ancient times. In classical literature, the capacity of Latin to overpower and replace other cultures, along with its universal dimensions, is a commonplace. Catullus expects to find monuments to Julius Caesar even among the shaggy Britons (11.9–12); Ovid predicts that his masterpiece, the Metamorphoses, will live forever, “wherever Roman power extends over conquered lands” (15.877); and Martial, in celebrating the emperor Titus’ dedication of the Colosseum, speaks of the immense arena as encompassing the entire world: Quae tam seposita est, quae gens tam barbara, Caesar, ex qua spectator non sit in urbe tua? What race is so remote, so barbarous, Caesar, that no spectator from it is present in your city? Spect. 3.1-2 The poet catalogues those in atttendance in a way that describes the geographical limits of the empire: Sicambrians and Thracians from the north; Sarmatians, Cilicians, Arabs, and Sabaeans from north to south in the east, Egyptians and Ethiopians to the south; and the dwellers along the shores of Ocean in the west (3-10). All of these peoples are distinguished by their respective customs or by the exotic products of the lands they inhabit as well as by their diversity of language. But this diversity falls silent as in awe before the one true speech as foreign tongues train themselves to a uniform latinity: Vox diversa sonat populorum, tum tamen una est, cum verus patriae diceris esse pater. These peoples speak in different voices, then with one, when you are called true father of your country. Spect. 11-12 Barbarian speech, to the Latin ear inarticulate and confused, is thus acknowledged, but only to be explicitly represented as yielding to imperial prerogative when Titus is hailed in Latin by that characteristically Roman and nationalistic title pater patriae. The effects of Roman linguistic imperialism, as I have said, were not merely symbolic. On the other hand, the ideology of universality that we reflexively associate with Latin culture demands a vigorous interrogation that it seldom receives. The basis of this interrogation lies ready to hand, but represents a story less often told than those rehearsed above. We know for instance that Latin culture took firm root in the west; but Gibbon, in the passage I have cited, goes on to observe what everyone knows, that failure to establish Latin in the eastern provinces was an important factor that led to the eventual disintegration of the empire. What he does not say and we do not often admit is that this failure indicates the element of wishful thinking in the imperialist claims of Latin culture generally, as well as the basic fictiveness of these claims. The case of Ovid is instructive. His popularity, despite the Metamorphoses’ closing boast, is attested more securely by the few surviving translations of his poetry into Greek than by any assumptions we might make about the universality of Latin. And indeed, when official displeasure relegated Ovid to the very limit of the empire, he got the opportunity to reflect on his earlier boast. Writing in his exile poetry about conditions at Getic Tomi, he returns over and over to the absurdity of composing or even thinking in Latin so far from Rome, suggesting that removal from the native seat of Latin culture has actually weakened his grasp on the language. We need not take this claim seriously to believe in the anxiety on which it depends. Indeed, the cultural frontier marked by correct latinity was often drawn much closer to and, at times, even within the capital. There is general agreement that after substantial cultural heterogeneity in the early republican period, the Social War of 90 B.C. inaugurated the final stage of latinization and that this stage was substantially complete by the end of Augustus’ regime. At the same time, historians, epigraphers, archeologists, and linguists are well aware that the linguistic and cultural diversity of Italy during the period from Plautus to Ovid is much greater than most students of literature, who concern themselves mainly with a relatively small number of texts that they read in modern editions with normalized orthography, commonly assume. It is also clear that the linguistic evidence available even from epigraphic sources disproportionately represents those segments of the culture that had the most reason to latinize. Though even the major languages such as Etruscan, Gaulish, Venetic, Messapic, Oscan, Umbrian, Faliscan, Paelignian, Auruncan, Aequian, Volscian, and Ligurian all eventually died out, inscriptions have been found in some of these languages dating to the early imperial period; and in two different areas of southern Italy a form of Greek continues to be spoken even today. When we realize these facts, we see that we are in no position to accept the universalist claims made by the latinized elite at face value. Even among this elite we find constant criticism of one another’s pronunciation, diction, and usage. Catullus’ poem on Arrius (84), perhaps the best known example, citicizes an unfortunate acquaintance for putting h’s where they don’t belong, a fault that was the subject of a learned treatise by Catullus’ and Arrius’ contemporary Nigidius Figulus. Even the greatest authors were not exempt from scorn if their language struck someone as odd—as it often did. Pollio famously derided Livy’s “patavinitas”. Vergil’s detractors parodied his experiments with dialect, and Agrippa deplored his habit of straining the language in a quest for novel effect. Nor is Cicero himself above reproach. The idea that Ciceronian Latin is or should be accepted as a universal norm is familiar and widespread. Cicero certainly did what he could to encourage this view, going so far as to construct his own history of Latin oratory in the dialogue dedicated to and named for his friend Brutus, by setting himself up as the arbiter of all his predcessors’ faults, including sins against pure latinity, in such a way as to argue that only he employed a perfect Latin style. His self-serving ideas were endorsed by Quintilian, the first real professor of latinity, and eventually by Poggio Bracciolini, Lorenzo Valla (an admirer of Quintilian even more than of Cicero), J. C. Scaliger, and Pietro Bembo—despite committed oppositon from such distinguished contemporary authorities as Angelo Poliziano, Desiderius Erasmus, and Justus Lipsius. Thus all modern grammars of Latin are based primarily on a Ciceronian canon of grammar, syntax, sentence structure, vocabulary, and taste. On the other hand, we know that Cicero was not without stylistic quirks of his own, such as a fondness for certain archaic and even “plebeian” usages that were widely avoided even in his own day. His ascent to the position of universal authority was far from assured: between his death and the time when Quintilian took up the cause, his influence was not great, and some of the greatest stylists of imperial times felt free to depart even quite radically from the Ciceronian “norm”. Thus the uniformity and stability of the language that for us best represents Latin culture is far less than the the myths that surround it tend to suggest. It may be that we should pay more attention to other myths, which in fact are available in plenty. Ovid was not the first to test the spatial limits of Latin culture. But his removal to Tomi, his perseverence in producing under alien and artificial circumstances a substantial body of work—along with the general reluctance of later times to allot this work more than a marginal place in the classical canon—tells a very different and neglected, but powerful story about Latin culture. Against the Vergilian model of universal extension and absolute potency we can set an Ovidian model of an outpost culture barely maintaining a degree of integrity against a much more powerful and numerous barbarian Other. This, in fact, is the story that was told more often and more openly as the political power of Latin culture waned and the language itself assumed greater importance as the chief embodiment of the culture that survived, eventually becoming virtually coterminous with it. Ovid’s excursion to the spatial limits of empire anticipates what was to develop along the axis of time. With political change came cultural developments that are reflected with substantial clarity in the mirror of language. By late antiquity, Christian policy makers were vigorously debating whether to observe classical pagan usage or to cultivate a distinctively pietistic latinity. Centuries later the English courtier Alcuin considered the Latin spoken and written in Charlemagne’s realm so corrupt that he instituted a thoroughgoing reform of orthography and pronunciation, and thus played a role, possibly a decisive one, in distinguishing Latin from the Romance languages. We have already mentioned the Ciceronian controversies of the Renaissance. Examples could be mutiplied, but the point is clear. Latin culture likes to imagine itself and its language as universal and powerful beyond all competitors. While the facts tell us otherwise, we latinists seem to find the story so appealing that we often behave as if it were true, even if we know it is not. We have made this myth an important part of how we think about the language—possibly even the basis of our love for it. And yet, when we reflect on other stories that we could tell, we are reminded that Latin is and always was at once less influential and less uniform than the myths that surround it wishfully suggest. Latin Culture in the Modern World The Aeneid is, of course, famously untranslatable. The episode cited above in which Juno delivers her terms of “surrender”, lacks when read in English or indeed any language other than Latin, much of its basic effect—but for a reason that, in this case at least, has nothing to do with Vergil’s celebrated mastery of Latin as an aesthetic medium. Reading the passage in translation, we miss none of the basic semantic content. We understand that a deal has been cut, we understand its terms and its consequences. It is the impact of the narrative event rather than any prosodic virtuosity that most impresses the reader. But if we do read the episode in Latin, a whole range of additional responses comes into play. First, perhaps, we are conscious of employing a skill that we have acquired at some personal cost. For most of us, a part of this cost is years of effort and submission to a pedagogical system in which the student must try every day to construe specimens of Latin under the watchful eye of a teacher who will respond by pointing out and discussing at length and in meticulous detail each and every one of the student’s mistakes. This is a type of education that teaches humility as well as Latin and that equates humility with ignorance of Latin, pride with knowing it well. Understandably few willingly put themselves through this process for long. Some of us, however, persist until we arrive at the end of the Aeneid. Possibly we are reading this passage, even if it is for the first time, some years after our first encounter with Vergil; but the sense of youthful accomplishment that might well attend any reader who approaches the end of the epic in Latin for the first time is understandable, almost inevitable. Indeed, it can be expected to recall earlier sensations—those that some of us were encouraged to feel when we were advised not to abandon Latin after the tedium of Caesar and Cicero, because after all that hard work we were poised to reap the rewards offered by Vergil. Some who took this advice may have wondered about a reward that meant spending a semester or a year slogging through a few thousand lines of poetry parcelled out in snippets that were truly minuscule compared to what we could handle in our own, or even in other foreign languages. But to those who stuck it out, the accomplishment seemed all the greater. Simply reaching the end of the poem, having endured the tedium, the labor, and the seemingly endless deferral of gratification that this process entailed—for to the novice, the task seems truly heroic-even these apparently extraneous elements of the experience helped put us in touch with the emotions Aeneas himself must have felt in his hour of glory. Viewed from this perspective, the text of the Aeneid becomes not merely a narrative, but a kind of script for the establishment of Latin culture, a script that might support a limitless series of performances, each with its own variations, but all sharing certain crucial features. The series begins on the mythic level with the labors of the founder, Aeneas. It includes the political level and the establishment of stable government by the princeps, Augustus. And, I suggest, it extends to the education of the neophyte who by acquiring the skills necessary to read the national epic gains full membership in Latin culture. But what is the culture into which the young modern reader of the Aeneid is received? Early in the poem, Jupiter discloses that he has granted to Latin culture “empire without end”, extending indefinitely in space and time. We have spoken already about the spatial and chronological barriers that must limit our conception of Latin’s universality. But the professional rhetoric of the modern grammaticus likes to suggest that Jupiter’s grant is still in force, if in a greatly attenuated form. This rhetoric speaks of something called “the classical tradition” and figures scholars and others interested in the ancient world as “guardians” of a “legacy” that must be “preserved” and “handed on” to future generations; the materialist imagery of these sentiments is both obtrusive and misleading. In particular it grossly misrepresents the character of Latin culture in the modern world. For the modern latinist, a professional identity fashioned on a cultural model is vastly preferable to objectivist ideas about “the classical tradition”. Our business is not to contemplate an object, but to participate in a conversation. Just as social anthropologists have come to appreciate the unavailability of an objective vantage point on the contemporary, we latinists realize that our studies do not involve a disinterested perspective on a culture that is wholly other. Indeed, our implication in the “material” we study is much tighter than the anthropologist’s or the ethnographer’s. Visiting another culture, an investigator cannot but have some impact on it, and frequently will attempt to assimilate it to the greatest extent possible, but always with the understanding that the process takes place across cultures that are, ultimately, strangers. This method is not available to the latinist, who cannot work by traveling to a foreign land. We are students of a culture that no longer exists, except in our own work. More than any anthropologist can be, we, too, are natives here. To illustrate what I mean, let us consider another script for the performance of Latin culture, the teaching of Latin prose composition. For many years translation from the vernacular rather than free composition in Latin has been the more common practice; and an important feature of this exercise is that it involves an element of cultural as well as linguistic translation. The practice of doing “versions” in fact presents the challenge of reimagining one’s own culture along Roman models, just as the founder of Latin literature, Livius Andronicus, reconceived the Greek Muses of his native culture as Latin Camenae. What is fascinating is how often this form of cultural patterning involves explicitly imperialist themes, as in the following examples: 122. After the destruction of his stonghold, Kunwar Singh pursued his career as a freebooter far away from the land of his birth. In the spring, however, he saw an opportunity of proving his claim to rank amongst the heroes of his race. He knew that the British garrison in the province of Oudh had been seriously weakened by the necessity of concentrating troops elsewhere: now was the time for him to strike a crushing blow at the government.… 123. When Lord Dalhousie proclaimed that the state of Jhansi had now become a possession of the British, the widow of the late ruler protested against his action. She might in time have learned to reconcile herself to a not uncommon fate, if the Government had not called upon her to pay debts which her husband had left.… These passages are taken from a textbook of Latin prose composition originally published in England in over 150 years ago. It has been revised many times and is still in print. I was taught from it myself, not as a British public-schoolboy who would one day go on to a distinguished career in governing the colonies, but as an American graduate student looking forward to a bleak academic job market at the height of the Cold War—a vantage point from which an appreciation of the the irony involved in finding classical Latin equivalents for jingoistic episodes in British history was by far the most obvious lesson. For its intended audience, however—younger, more impressionable, and with no reason at all to question their country’s imperialist project—the exercise takes on a very different aspect, and the study of Latin implies a continuity of cultural ideology that today seems but an astonishing dream. And yet I cannot help but feel that my own students—some of them, at least; for an act of will is clearly involved as well—when they finish the Aeneid or triangulate their own love of Latin with respect to Vergil’s Juno or the British schoolboy’s Lord Dalhousie, do not in some significant measure share that dream, and find it beautiful. But how can this be? How can anyone seriously maintain that Latin culture is not something confined to a distant antiquity? And in what significant sense can the contemporary latinist claim membership in this culture? To put the matter in perspective, one may reply with a different question: if Latin culture did indeed meet its end, when did it happen? The answer, I believe, is far from clear. Professional Latinists generally train as classicists. As such, their area of expertise, as fixed by such documents as graduate school reading lists and histories of literature, extends, if we are speaking of authors, little farther in time than Juvenal (†127?) or at any rate than Apuleius (†170?), Fronto (†175?), and Aulus Gellius (fl. 170)—or, if we prefer to speak of more definite landmarks in political history, than the death of Marcus Aurelius (180). This is a particularly useful landmark because on July 17th of the same year there occurred at Carthage a hearing followed by the trial and execution of several people from the town of Scillum who refused to swear their loyalty by the Genius of the Emperor and offer sacrifice for his health on the grounds that they were Christians; and the text that informs us about this event, the Acts of the Martyrs of Scillum, is the earliest Christian text in Latin that we possess. The oldest Latin translations of the Bible are thought to date from this time as well. Other important texts quickly follow, including the works of Tertullian, who is credited with a large role in creating a distinctively Christian latinity; and this literature begins in the third century to assume an authority that eventually overtakes that of classical paganism. It is from this point, of course, that Gibbon dates the “decline” that led inevitably to the “fall” of the Roman empire, and the cause he alleges as well is the eclipse of pagan culture by an irrational “Oriental” mysticism. So perhaps this is as good a point as any to mark the end of Latin culture. Of course it is difficult to see this point as a definitive end. It was a long time before pagan culture lost its ascendency to the new religion, and we are speaking in any case of a process rather than an event. If our proposed landmark seems too early and arbitrary, perhaps we should look for a more decisive occurrence, for an event more firmly linked to the history of the language itself rather than to the varying but overlapping ideological perspectives of those who used it. The third century is one of almost continuous upheaval and cultural change and may thus be taken as a kind of watershed. If an emblematic moment is needed, perhaps what we are seeking is in fact a non-event, an actual rift in the fabric of Latin culture. Such a seemingly objective point falls during this very century: between the years 254 and 284, no Latin literature that we know of was produced, of any kind. This is a remarkable, possibly unparalleled occurrence in the history of literature. The language continued to be spoken, of course; but the character of that Latin is open to question, and the conditions that made possible such a complete lapse in the production of “literature” of any sort bespeak a profound cultural breakdown. After this disastrous period, new imperial administrative structures were created by new Augusti and a new senatorial aristocracy came on the scene to cultivate classical literature and to sponsor a classicizing literature of their own, while grammarians codified the language along classical models. But all of this activity could be motivated by nostalgia, even perhaps denial: by a desperate longing to resuscitate what was, in fact, a dead body. Perhaps the cultural breakdown of the third century marks the end of Latin culture by fixing the point at which Latin became a “dead” language. After all, doesn’t the character of the literature produced after this breakdown support such a conclusion? Had not a requisite degree of discontinuity and artificiality been reached that something could be said to have died? These points on the timeline have an undeniable appeal, but it is difficult to trust them implicitly. In any case, there are certainly pagan authors on the modern side of this rupture whom most classical latinists read, or at least consult, and frequently at that—Servius and Macrobius, for example. Many of us are probably at least passingly familiar as well with authors like the court poets Ausonius, nominally a Christian, and Claudian, a nominal pagan, both of whom seem to move freely in both pagan and Christian circles. Even among committed Christian authors there are those, like Lactantius and Prudentius, whom we recognize as classicizers; and still others who are simply so important in the scheme of “world literature” that it would be a willful cultivation of ignorance not to read them: Augustine is the preeminent example. But although these authors write in Latin, we hardly think of them as breathing the same air as Cicero or Vergil. Rome was no longer the seat of power. There was increasingly no senatorial aristocracy to speak of. Serious claimants to the title “Augustus” gradually ceased to exist. In the west, the most powerful person came to be the king of the Franks, a people who coexisted in the same territories with the more Romanized Gauls. These Gauls cherished the idea that they were the true inheritors of Latin culture, and modern historians often dignify them with the name “Gallo-Roman”. The Franks, or at least the Frankish court, aspired to this condition as well. Both groups were obsessed with a form of identity politics that has become all too familiar nowadays, and both coveted validation of their right to call themselves Roman, to see themselves as members of a living Latin culture. Classical poets were in short supply in those days, but anyone someone could function as such could make a good career for himself. Venantius Fortunatus, a young man born and raised in the Veneto, arrived in this milieu not too long after the mid-sixth century. In the preface to his collected poems, he announces himself, however playfully, as a second Orpheus, singing in the wilderness to barbarians. It is worth bearing this passage in mind when we read his praises of patrons such as the kings Charibert and Chilperic or the duke Lupus. These Frankish noblemen offered the poet patronage and preferment, and the man who arrived at the Burgundian court a wandering poet died Bishop of Poitiers. The native tongue of these noble patrons was Germanic: if Fortunatus was a second Orpheus, they were authentic barbarians. But they aspired to membership in Latin culture, which by this time had become so much a matter of language that to a wandering poet fell the power to confer it upon them by writing conventional Latin panegyrics in their honor. The forms taken by Fortunatus’ praise are instructive. Descending from a long tradition of regal pangyric in prose and verse, they adapt tradition to current realities in telling ways. We have seen Martial praising Titus as singular ruler of the entire world by celebrating the occlusion of plural, inarticulate barbarian languages by a universal latinity. Fortunatus invokes a similar motif in his encomium of Charibert, but with an important difference: Hinc cui Barbaries, illinc Romania plaudit: diversis linguis laus sonat una viri. On this side barbary acclaims him, Rome on that: in different tongues sounds the man’s unique praise. Carm. 6.2.7–8 Here Latin does not occlude barbarian speech, but is forced to share the stage. Indeed, Latin voices explicitly take second place, as in a later passage that comments on the king’s bilingual eloquence: Cum sis progenitus clara de gente Sigamber, floret in eloquio lingua Latina tuo; qualis es in proprio docto sermone loquella, qui nos Romanos vincis in eloquio? Though born a Sicambrian (of famous lineage), it is in your eloquence the Latin tongue flourishes; what a speaker must you be in your own learned language, you who better us Romans in eloquence? Carm. 6.2.97–100 Not only does Charibert outshine professional Latin rhetoricians like Fortunatus, but he beats them at their own game, outdoing them in Latin, leaving the poet—evidently not bilingual like his subject—to wonder what a spellbinder the king must be in his native Germanic, itself praised here as a learned tongue. In a related move, Fortunatus combines these two motifs in his encomium of Chilperic, Charibert’s half-brother and dynastic rival: Quid? quoscumque etiam regni dicione gubernas, doctior ingenio vincis et ore loquax, discernens varias sub nullo interprete voces: et generum linguas unica lingua refert Why, whomever you govern under the sway of your kingship you surpass, well-schooled of mind, eloquent of tongue, understanding various languages with no interpreter: your tongue alone answers the tongues of nations. Carm. 9.1.91–94 And, in the same poem, the motif of the interpreter appears again to provide a learned gloss on the king’s name: Chilperice potens, si interpres barbarus extet, “adiutor fortis,” hoc quoque nomen habes: non fuit in vacuum sic te vocitare parentes: praesagum hoc totum laudis et omen erat. Mighty “Chilperic”—or, had we a barbarian interpreter, “Strong Advocate” (for this is your name as well)— not in vain did your parents call you thus: all this was a presage and an omen of your fame. Carm. 9.1.27–30 Once again the poet disavows personal knowledge of barbarian speech, displacing authority for the learned bilingual etymology onto the absent figure of the Frankish translator, skilled in Latin as well as Germanic. Granting these diplomas of linguistic skill was not Fortunatus’ most lasting or, perhaps, his proudest achievement. Not long after the poet’s arrival in Burgundy he looked elsewhere, seeking the patronage of Radegund, former queen of Lothar I but since 544 the leader of a religious community at Poitiers. Radegund was at the time of Fortunatus’ arrival in Gaul involved in a diplomatic effort to obtain a relic of the True Cross from the Byzantine emperor Justin II and the emperess Sophia. To this end she enlisted the services of Fortunatus, who composed a trio of learned Latin poems to help make her case. The effort was successful and the relic installed in 569; a fourth poem, a gratiarum actio, also survives. These along with the rest of Fortunatus’ oeuvre are, rightly or wrongly, not much read or esteemed nowadays by those who consider themselves latinists. But two of his works, Vexilla regis prodeunt (2.6) and the exquisite Pange lingua gloriosi (2.2), both written to celebrate the installation of the relic at Poitiers, are still sung by thousands, perhaps millions, in their monodic settings as part of Holy Week observances of the Roman Catholic Church. They have been fairly widely recorded as well; several performances of them could be purchased today in any reasonably well-stocked record store. There would seem to be few artifacts of ancient culture of which anything like this can be said; and yet there are few that we consider less representative of Latin culture than these Christian hymns composed for a female patron of Germanic extraction living in a convent in Gaul. The fact that these hymns still have a place in the modern world, both in liturgical practice and in an aesthetic realm indifferent to their religious content, would seem to be further tokens of the anticlassical status that we latinists impute to them when we establish the pomerium of our professional responsibility. Fortunatus’ self-fashioning as an Orpheus among barbarians may remind us of attitudes expressed by earlier writers like Dracontius and Sidonius Apollinaris, and even those of Ovid in his exilic poetry, but it also conceals his status as a skilled specialist in an artificial medium not much practiced if highly prized. That his work should survive today in the form that it does, rather than enjoying a place in the canon of classical poetry, is perhaps understandable. How vital was the language in which he wrote or the culture that he conferred on his barbarian and Christian patrons? We are forced to infer from the strategies of praise that he follows and from the successful trajectory of his career that Fortunatus’ patrons wanted to be praised in Latin for their accomplishments in Latin, even as the poet repeatedly defers to Frankish cultural superiority. Nevertheless, the desire of the Frankish nobility for praise of this type is rather difficult to understand. Isn’t such poetry in itself compelling evidence that Latin culture was already not merely dead, but a fossil? Grammatical and Vulgar Speech This commonly-held position remains in fact surprisingly hard to establish. By the sixth century, the Latin language and Latin culture had been through wrenching changes, and had reached a point at which modern scholars stop looking for the end of Latin and begin searching for the beginning of Romance. If we knew more about archaic Italy, the beginnings of Latin culture might seem equally elusive (and when we look only at the material record, we find that this is in fact the case). At any rate, it seems that the more we learn about medieval Europe, the more difficult it is to discern the moment when Latin language and culture die and when Romance languages and cultures are born. To begin with, we do not know when the Franks, who began to occupy the Roman provinces of Europe from the fourth century on, adopted Latin and abandoned Germanic as their “native” language. Indeed, we do not know to what extent this is even an accurate model of what happened. Did they, in fact, abandon Germanic, or did the Franks consider both languages their own? Are we speaking of the nobility only, or did the phenomenon transcend distinctions of class? When did Latin begin to evolve into Romance, and how long did this process take? Did Latin survive as a written language long after the spoken language had ceased to be recognizable as such? Where it used to be assumed that the process whereby Latin became Romance took place at the latest during the seventh, eighth, and ninth centuries, it is now thought that two different languages cannot be clearly distinguished until two or more centuries later, and not finally distinguished even then. On one view, the distinction between the two languages was the artificial creation of Alcuin’s previously mentioned attempt under Charlemagne to reform the orthography and pronunciation of Latin on (what he thought was) a classical model. This argument rests partly on the notion that Alcuin, an Englishman, would have come to Charlemagne’s court speaking an English Latin: that is to say, his native language would have been so different from Latin as to obviate the danger of corruption, which on the continent would have been inevitable. In his attempt to enforce a uniform standard of spelling and pronunciation, then, one based on insular practice, Alcuin is argued not to have restored classical Latin, which was his goal, but to have “invented” medieval Latin as an artifical and mainly literary entity distinct from spoken Romance, which then developed into French, Spanish, Italian, and so forth. It’s a good story. It may even be, in some sense, true. But true or not, it is a spectacular vehicle for thematic analysis. At issue in this as in other stories of Latin’s demise is a strong element of teleology that appears to work like this: We “know” that Latin is now a “dead” language, the exclusive preserve of academic specialists, unsupported by a living culture. Our task is to discover when this situation first came about. We feel sure that this is in fact what happened, just as the Roman Empire “fell”, but we are hard put to say just when. Alcuin’s reforms are as good an event as any on which to blame Latin’s demise—which is to say, not very good at all. Long after Charlemagne scholars, clerics, and diplomats throughout Europe continued to write and converse fluently in Latin, many of them perhaps exclusively or nearly so. That this can be said only of a cultural elite is true enough. But the same view can be taken of the rise of any official modern vernacular, such as Italian, which in its “official” form was spoken by only a tiny fraction of the total population of Italy until late in the last century. It is further striking that we find in the story of Alcuin the pre-echo of a characteristic still operative in modern Latin culture. First, his classicizing objectives awaken the sympathies of the modern latinist, who sees in the presiding intelligence of the Carolingian “renascence” a kindred spirit. Second, though he did not “restore” latinity to its classical glory, by providing us with a boundary between classical and medieval Latin on the one hand, and between Latin and the vernacular on the other, he performs a service of great importance by ratifying linguistic and cultural categories that we hold so dear. Third and last, it is significant that the individual credited with performing this service is figured as an interloper, the product of a culture in which Latin was not in daily use, but was instead already cultivated solely as a learned language so different from the vernacular as to be immune from contamination or confusion with it. The linguistic situation in Francia we imagine as much more fluid, so much so that we cannot draw a line between Latin and Romance. In Britain, we imagine that Latin survived in something closer to its ancient condition; and it is therefore, paradoxically, the British arriviste who, appalled at the condition to which the language has descended among native speakers, sets things straight. What makes this story so intriguing is its resemblance to situations both in the ancient world, as when it fell to Greek slaves to organize and operate a system of education and a national literature for native speakers of Latin, and in the modern world, in which scholars raised speaking languages that are not descended from Latin have in their own minds, at least, assumed over speakers of the Romance languages a certain hegemony with respect to Latin studies. It is as if we believed that the status of the linguistic foreigner is actually an essential qualification for full membership in Latin culture. However this may be, what always is, or should be, clear is that Latin has never been anything but an “other” language. It is hardly possible to point to a single specimen of Latin written at any time or place that can stand as a witness to the existence of a sincere, nativist Latin culture. The same might well be said of any language or culture, of course; but with respect to the Latin language and its cultures, it is an especially important point. In each period and every form through which Latin speaks to us, it has demonstrably internalized its status as an “other” language. The most influential statement on this aspect of Latin is Dante Alighieri’s essay On Eloquence in the Vernacular. In book 1 of this work, Dante divides all the world’s languages into two categories: the natural, which are the original and more noble sort, and the artificial, which are later human constructs. In the former category he places the vernacular speech used every day in different forms in different places; in the latter such languages as, preeminently, Latin. (Greek, too, he regards as an artificial language; but, not knowing Greek, he has little to say about it.) His argument is remarkable in that Latin was in the late middle ages a language of great prestige as compared with the vernacular. Dante acknowledges this fact by referring to Latin’s enormous utility as a grammatical language, one based on a rational system rather than on natural usage and thus impervious to change across time, national boundaries, or any similar factor. Latin for Dante is Latin, one and the same, always and everywhere. The vernacular, on the other hand, is capable of extensive and confusing variation over time and from place to place. Typically, he explains this property of natural language with reference to a judeochristian view of history, tracing the mutability of natural language to God’s punishment of humankind for constructing the Tower of Babel. The pristine state of the original human speech—probably some form of Hebrew—gave way to a degraded condition in a way that mirrors precisely the contrast between the edenic and postlapsarian conditions lived by the original humans Adam and Eve. Artificial language based on grammar is thus but synthetic expedient, like clothing, a cutural institution that enables humankind to cope with the degraded life that is the result of sin. But natural language, according to Dante, retains its inherent superiority and greater “nobility”, despite its mutability and the confusion to which this gives rise, as a matter of ontology. If one were to plot their places on a Platonic line of authenticity, Latin would be found to be a mere representation of vernacular speech; and Dante is clearly working with some such notion in mind. An important element of Dante’s position is the remarkable argument that Latin and the vernacular are more or less entirely unrelated. In particular, it follows from the fact that he regards the vernacular as the more ancient language that it cannot be descended from Latin. If anything, the opposite would on Dante’s account be true, Latin being a stable form of the vernacular constructed along grammatical principles. It was over a century after Dante’s essay before humanist scholars reached a consensus that ancient culture was not bilingual, writing the Latin that survived in classical literature while speaking a vernacular of which no record survived, but that it rather spoke and wrote a plural Latin that, far from being impervious to change, underwent many changes over time and in different places, emerging as the various forms of the vernacular spoken in contemporary Italy, Provence, France, Spain, and Romania. This conclusion anticipated the findings of later comparative philologists, which are the basis of modern historical linguistics. But neither Dante’s position nor the terms of the humanist debate have failed to leave their mark on the Latin and vernacular cultures of today. Like the Aeneid, Dante’s Eloquence in the Vernacular is a foundational text. His argument for the greater nobility of the vernacular, though based on historically untenable ideas, is none the less revered as one of the originary charters of modern European consciousness. Significantly, this consciousness defines itself against the image of an older one that it takes to be its opposite. That this image is a constructed one endowed with properties tailored to the discursive requirements of Dante’s argument is of course equally significant. Like the myth according to which Dante begins to write the Divine Comedy in Latin, but then switches to Tuscan, this effort to articulate the intrinsic worth of vernacular speech, which in reality was not intrinsic or based on that language’s great antiquity as compared to Latin, but was due rather to the rise during the late middle ages of a prosperous merchant class that conducted its affairs in the vernacular instead of Latin, is taken to mark an important historical and cultural shift. Though his linguistic explanations are nowadays universally rejected, Dante’s status as revered spokesman for the new vernacular culture is thus assured. Humanist scholarship ultimately rejected the Dantean view that classical culture was bilingual, that Latin was a scribal language only and that the ancient Romans spoke a form of the vernacular. Before doing so, however, the humanists considered seriously several forms that an ancient bilingual culture might have taken. What is of interest here is that some of the versions that they proposed recur in various modern forms. Professional linguists and philologists are much more aware than literary scholars of the many forms that the Latin language has taken in different places and at different times. On balance, however, they have tended to go too far in this direction and to regard the different varieties of Latin not merely as distinct dialects or stylistic levels, but almost as discrete languages. This practice has unfortunately colored the study of literature as well, artificially reinforcing the idea that the Latin of classical literature was effectively walled off from the spoken language, from regional variation, and other such forces. Indeed, it is not unususal to find historians of literature questioning whether ordinary speakers of Latin could even have understood what what was being said at a public literary performance during the early empire, as if the performer were speaking one language and the man in the street a quite different one—almost the situation Dante describes through his hypothesis of an ancient spoken vernacular that coexisted with an exclusively literary Latin. The resulting modern construction, however, is artificial in a way that goes well beyond what Dante meant when he called Latin an artificial language. The analysis of Latin linguistic culture has become freighted with an abundance of technical terms used to designate a variety of dialects, argots, generic protocols, and other forms of speech observed in ancient usage. Employing Latin in its common modern role as a technical language, scholars employ terms such as sermo cotidianus or sermo plebeius to designate what a speaker of English would call “everyday speech” and then devise rules to characterize the spoken language in contrast with the written one. This procedure leads to arguments that treat an adjective like harenosus “sandy” when it occurs in serious poetry as a “borrowing” from the vulgar tongue almost in the same way as if it were a loan-word from Greek or Persian, and not a perfectly normal Latin word. The point of course is that, while the method makes it possible to distinguish usefully between the ways in which Latin was used under varying circumstances, the conclusions drawn perpetuate, no doubt unwittingly, something very like Dante’s idea that the written Latin we still read was a very different thing from what the Romans actually spoke. There is, so far as I know, nothing to suggest that Dante’s views on this matter have actually influenced later philologists. On the other hand, it is difficult not to recognize in Dante, in the humanist theorists of language, and in the work of modern philologists a deep conviction that that Latin we know from the written record is a strange and unusual thing, a language so artificial that it cannot well represent the everyday speech of the Roman people—that it is an artificial language, and not a natural one. The Nature of Grammar A more ancient view on the nature of Latin is equally illuminating. Two late antique grammarians, Charisius and Diomedes, cite the Republican-era polymath M. Terrentius Varro for the view that “correct latinity can be established by one of four principles: nature, analogy, convention, and authority.” These four “Varronian” categories are in fact used by later grammarians as the grounds on which specific usages can be justified. The terms are more or less self-explanatory, but is worth inquiring what is actually meant here by “nature”. The first named, nature is also the preferred criterion, while the others occur in descending order of importance: to be able to cite the nature of the language as authorizing a particular usage was felt to constitute a stronger position than, say, the argument from authority, which would admit that the usage was irregular but justify it on the grounds that it could be paralleled at least once in a standard author. Nature enjoys this privileged position because the ancient grammarians felt that it was the basis of Latin grammar as a whole. Such a notion would seem to be drastically at odds with Dante’s position, were it not for the fact that the conception of nature held by the ancient grammarians is unstable and full of contradictions. Charisius for instance is capable of so categorical and seemingly unambiguous statement as this: Latinus vero sermo cum ipso homine civitatis suae natus significandis intellegundisque quae diceret praestitit. The Latin language that is born along with an individual of Latin citizenship offered a means of expression and comprehension through speech. p. 50.16–17K/62.2–4B And accordingly, he glosses “nature” as a thing that is “unchanging and has passed on to us nothing more or less than it received [from the past]”: Natura verborum nominumque immutabilis est nec quicquam aut plus aut minus tradidit nobis quam quod accepit. pp.50.26–51.1K/62.15–17B So Charisius’ appeal to nature, like Dante’s appeal to grammar, is meant to establish the fixity and immutability of the language. A paradox? Apparently; but if we inspect more closely the grammarian’s conception of nature, the paradox can be resolved. When an ancient grammarian appeals directly to nature or invokes the concept of nature as a grammatical category, it is clear that he is employing a constructed and indeed a highly regulated cultural marker. Furthermore, and contrary to what Charisius asserts in the passage quoted above, “nature” is not even in this sense an immutable category. The oldest and most basic view of language as a natural phenomenon concerns diction and posits that the names of things originally had a natural connection with the things themselves; but over time words became corrupt in various ways, losing their natural connection with the things they named. It would follow from this position that the older a usage, the closer to nature and hence more correct it ought to be. But while the grammarians do equate the ideas of “natural” and “correct” speech, they also frequently note that a particular word or construction is “archaic”—i.e. inappropriate for contemporary usage except as a deliberate archaism. This implies that the nature of a language changes over time in such a way that the more ancient usage is not at all the most natural: what had been natural in Vergil’s time was no longer natural for Servius’ students. Thus Charisius’ assertion that the nature of Latin never changes is not only false, but false on the evidence of his own practice. The grammarians were not unaware of the difficulty they faced in resolving the contradictions inherent in their professional ideology concerning the natural and artificial qualities of Latin. One response to this problem was simply to do away with nature altogether. Indeed, those who concerned themselves less with systematic grammar as a whole than with the specific idea of latinity itself—writers like Pansa, Quintilian, the elder Pliny, and Flavius Caper—mention the four familiar Varronian criteria of correct latinity, but with an important exception. Where Varro speaks of “nature, regularity, usage, and authority” (natura analogia consuetudo auctoritas), these authorities cite “regularity, usage, authority, and antiquity” (ratio consuetudo auctoritas vetustas). That analogia and ratio are the same principle is clear enough (their synonymy is explicit in Diomedes, p. 439.15–30K), and two other terms are identical in both lists. “Nature” however has disappeared as an explicit term, while a new criterion, “antiquity”, has been added, if only in last place. This change seems closer to the theory of natural language and etymology discussed above, but it avoids the contradiction between the naturalist ideology and the artificial praxis that most grammarians employed. In the context of ancient grammatical theory, however, this reasonable solution to the problem of natural language is very eccentric. Indeed, the grammarians’ insistence that nature is the basis of their art forms an essential feature of their professional ideology, one that was both consistent and long- lived. More commonly the grammarians attempted to resolve the conflicting claims of nature and artifice. After commenting on the Latin language as an innate condition of Latin citizenship, Charisius goes on to qualify his statement as follows: Sed postquam plane supervenientibus saeculis accepit artifices et sollertiae nostrae observationibus captus est, paucis admodum partibus orationis normae suae dissentientibus, regendum se regulae tradidit et illam loquendi licentiam servituti rationis addixit. Quae ratio adeo cum ipsa loquella generata est ut hodie nihil de suo analogia inferat. Ea enim quae ad explicandam elocutionem iam apud sensus nostos educata sunt a confusione universitatis disseminavit et a disparibus paria coaluit. Adprobatur autem defectionis regula argumento similium. But when with the passage of time [the language] recognized artificers [i.e. us grammarians] and was taken over by our analytical observations, so that only a very few elements of speech deviated from the norm that we had established, it surrendered itself to regular rule and committed its characteristic freedom of speech to the servitude of reason. This reason has come to be innate in the language itself to such an extent that today the continuing contribution made by analogy per se is nil. For analogy generalizes the rules of linguistic analysis that we have deduced from [linguistic practice in its] confused entirety, and makes regularity out of irregularity, and the rule of differentiation is proved by the evidence of similar cases. p. 50.17–25K/62.4–8B Here the relationship between nature and grammar is exactly opposite to the one on which the idea of etymology as a quest for the “true names” of things is based. With the passage of time the nature of the language changes in such a way as to internalize the artificial system than we know as grammar; and by a rather extreme form of logical slippage based on ideological conviction, the grammarians maintained that the nature of Latin was identical with its regularized status as a grammatical, and hence artificial, language. Thus were most grammarians able to claim nature as the most important standard of correct latinity while insisting that in practice the “nature” of the language is something that must be established by a particular method of applied study, a ratio, which enables the grammarian to articulate the rules that comprise his art. “Nature,” in other words, is here a grammatical, and so an artificial category. The grammarians’ Latin thus resembles Dante’s vernacular in that it is subject to the forces of linguistic indeterminacy that assault its systemic coherence and produces change over time. But conversely, the ideology of the grammarians supports Dante’s notion that it is only the status of Latin as a grammatical language that preserves its coherence, its resistance to change, and its capacity to rise above the unstable flux of the vernacular. Thus when the ancient grammarians speak of the “nature” of Latin, it is clear that they refer to nature as a constructed category, almost as a figure for the cultural authority that they arrogate to themselves. For them as well as for Dante, Latin is not a natural language in any simple sense. Its nature is constructed by the forces of culture. This paradox appears most clearly, perhaps, in a passage that reveals the gap between the meanings of which the word natura is capable as a grammatical terminus technicus and in more exoteric usage. Charisius, as we have seen, accepts the idea that nature is the basis of ancient grammatical theory. But he betrays a somewhat different view in the dedicatory epistle of his magnum opus: Amore Latini sermonis obligare te cupiens, fili karissime, artem grammaticam sollertia doctissimorum virorum politam et a me digestam in libris quinque dono tibi misi. Qua penitus inspecta cognosces quatenus Latinae facundiae licentia regatur aut natura aut analogia aut ratione curiosae observationis aut consuetudine, quae multorum consensione convaluit, aut certe auctoritate, quae prudentissimorum opinione recepta est. Erit iam tuae diligentiae frequenti recitatione studia mea ex variis artibus inrigata memoriae tuisque sensibus mandare, ut quod originalis patriae natura denegavit virtute animi adfectasse videaris. Valeas floreas vigeas aevo quam longissimo, fili patri tuo karissime. Desiring to confirm you in your love of Latin, my dear son, I have sent to you as a gift this art of grammar, which has been brought to perfection by the diligent effort of the most learned gentlemen and disposed by me into five books. After you have looked deep into it you will understand the degree to which the reckless abandon of Latin eloquence is checked either by nature or by analogy—that is, by a system of careful observation—or by usage, which prevails by the consensus of many, or in the last instance by authority, which is accepted as the recommendation of the most wise. Now your task will be diligently to commit these studies of mine, the distillation of many different sourcebooks, to your memory and intelligence by frequent recitation, so that you may seem to have acquired by intellectual excellence what the nature of your original fatherland has denied. Farewell, flourish, and be strong so long as you live, son most dear to your father. pp. xxK/59B It is extremely telling that in this most conspicuous passage of the entire work Charisius should invoke the idea of nature in such contradictory ways. In the first instance it appears as we have seen it above, as a grammatical category and, specifically, as the most important of the four criteria that establish correct latinity. But in the second instance, nature is set against the entire enterprise of grammar: it is something deficient, something that must be corrected by grammar, a condition of birth—something, in fact, that looks remarkably like Dante’s notion of vernacular speech in a postlapsarian world. Charisius’ five-book treatise belongs to the technical genre of the ars grammatica; but it must also be seen as part of a more diverse and prolific genre in which a father dispenses instruction to his son. The instruction concerns some topic or topics about which a gentleman ought to know, usually topics of great importance to any member of Latin culture. Like the modern student who reads the Aeneid, Charisius’ son will grow familiar the canons of his language and so will be initiated into Latin culture. In this context, Charisius’ closing wish is extremely touching: he hopes that his son will acquire through the application of intellectual effort, an effort that matches the father’s mastery of the subject demonstrated by the composition of this very work, “that which the nature of his original homeland has denied him.” This failure of nature or of birth is made good by the power of intellect as father and son come together in their mutual love of Latin. Nature in Latin Culture The inner conflict with respect to nature that we find in Dante and the grammarians is not merely a theme that recurs throughout discussions of latinity from age to age; it is in all ages a defining characteristic of Latin culture. The conflict appears with great clarity and significance in Cicero’s dialogue on Laws, where the grammarians’ claim that their art is based on nature finds its parallel in the idea that Roman law—or, for the purposes of the dialogue, human law—is based on natural law. In Charisius’ dedication, the grammatical concept of nature occasions a revealing remark about the linguistic faults to which the grammarian’s son was born in his originalis patria, his “original fatherland”. In Cicero’s dialogue, the idea of natural law gives rise to a discussion that glosses Charisius’ apparently (but only apparently) redundant phrase by defining just what constitutes a Roman’s fatherland. The dialogue on Laws, uniquely, is set at Cicero’s ancestral villa in Arpinum; the participants are Cicero himself, his brother Quintus, and their friend Atticus. Near the beginning of Book 2, Atticus waxes enthusiastic about the setting: “Nature is supreme in matters that concern spiritual repose and diversion,” he says, “just as you were saying before with regard to law and justice.” He then launches into a spirited encomium of the place’s natural beauty. Cicero replies that he comes whenever possible, since the place is dear to him not only for the natural beauty that Atticus fully appreciates, but for a personal reason as well: because it is his patria, his “fatherland”. His family has lived here for generations; it is still the seat of their ancestral religion. His father spent almost his whole life in a house that still stands, and the place is full of family memories. He compares his paternal homestead to that of the ancient Sabine, Manius Curius Dentatus, and his desire to return to it to that of Odysseus, who preferred his homecoming to Calypso’s offer of immortality (2.3). It is here that the discussion takes an especially interesting turn. Atticus happily admits his complete empathy with Cicero’s nostalgia for Arpinum: he too now loves Arpinum, knowing that it is the birthplace of his friend, just as he loves Athens not so much for its cultural riches (“stately and exquisite works of ancient art”) as for the great men who lived there (2.4). Note how Atticus appears to miss the point entirely. The expected reply to Cicero’s encomium of his birthplace would be, “Yes, I feel just the same way about my own birthplace.” Instead, Atticus inscribes himself within a triangular erotic relationship: Cicero’s love for Arpinum produces in Atticus, who loves Cicero, a similar love for Arpinum. Similar, but different, in that Cicero loves Arpinum “naturally”, because it is his birthplace; Atticus’ love is predicated on a prior social relationship. His comparison of the love he feels for Arpinum to the love he feels for Athens confirms this point. Atticus actually takes pains to deny that he loves Athens as a center of culture, but rather insists that he loves it because, like Arpinum, it was loved by men he loves. The parallelism that Atticus sees between Cicero and himself is false, because the love that Cicero feels for his birthplace is natural, whereas the love felt by Atticus is an acculturated love, something learned—the kind of attachment that an individual might feel to a place with which he has no natural connection at all. This position makes Atticus a convincing spokesman for the idea that follows. “What did you really mean by the statement you made a while ago, that this place, by which I understand you to refer to Arpinum, is your fatherland?” The reader might be forgiven for wondering, has Atticus been listening? Arpinum is Cicero’s birthplace: what other fatherland could he have? Atticus turns out to be thinking much the same thing, but from a different perspective: “Have you, then, two fatherlands? Or is our common fatherland the only one? Perhaps you think that wise old Cato’s fatherland was not Rome but Tusculum?” This is of course just what any modern reader would think. Cato was born in Tusculum. He moved to Rome and made his career there, but Tusculum remained his fatherland. Or didn’t it? In what follows, Cicero enunciates the doctrine of the two fatherlands. According to this doctrine Cicero, Cato, and all natives of Italian towns have two fatherlands, one by nature or birth and one by citizenship or law—unam naturae alteram civitatis—“just as the people of your beloved Attica, before Theseus commanded them all to leave the country and move into the city (or astu, as they call it) were at the same time citizens of their own towns and of Attica, so we consider both the place where we were born our fatherland, and also the city into which we have been adopted.” Cicero’s comparison is telling. Taking his cue from Atticus’ well-known love of Athens, which Atticus himself had just made the vehicle of a similar comparison (and which is the source, after all, of his cognomen), Cicero explains the condition of modern Italy by appealing to that of ancient Attica. That is to say, the modern custom is justified not by an appeal to nature, as the idea that the legal order is based on the natral order might suggest, but by a paradigm drawn from another culture. Further, the culture to which Cicero appeals is distant, the particular usage that interests him no longer in force. After Theseus’ organization of Attica, everyone became a citizen of Athens alone, and presumably lost any tie to a second fatherland. This is not the usage that Cicero has described as obtaining in modern Italy: “so we consider both the place into which we have been born our fatherland, and also the city into which we have been adopted.” But Cicero then in a sense validates his previous comparison between Rome and Athens and shows that his conception of “fatherland” is in fact much closer to Atticus’ than to ours. “But that fatherland must stand first in our esteem in which the name of republic signifies the common citizenship of us all. For this fatherland it is our duty to die, to give of ourselves entirely, to stake and, as it were, to consecrate everything we have. But the fatherland that begot us is not much less sweet than the one that adopted us. Thus I shall never deny that my fatherland is here, though my other fatherland is greater and includes this one within it” (2.5). Atticus finds these arguments completely convincing and admits as much in what he must not have intended as, but to us can hardly seem other than, a jarring paradox: “I think I have been brought around to the view that this town that gave you birth is also your fatherland” (3.6). What is most striking here is the way in which the entire conversation, despite the interlocutors’ occasional protests to the contrary, systematically privileges the claims of culture over those of nature. Atticus cannot really understand the natural affection that Cicero feels for his birthplace. Furthermore, Cicero, whose attitude seems much closer to ours, understands Atticus’ confusion, and seems almost to acknowledge that the natural affection he feels for Arpinum requires some explanation. But the dichotomy represented here between nature and culture, while clear, is obviously complicated by Cicero’s claim throughout the dialogue that the basis of human law and culture lies in nature. This is the same situation that we observed in Charisius’ Grammar. Both expositions take place under an ideological assumption that the cultural institution being discussed is grounded in nature, while the specific terms in which each discussion is framed relegate nature to a clearly inferior position vis a vis the cultural forces of grammar and law respectively. In Cicero the need to contain and redeem nature and turn it to the purposes of culture is reflected in all the interlocutors’ praise of the natural beauty that surrounds them. As noted above, Book 2 of the Laws begins with Atticus expressing his enthusiasm for the setting in which he finds himself. It is easy for a modern reader to share in his enthusiasm; but Atticus is no Thoreau. He is in fact closer to the Oscar Wilde’s Duchess of Berwick in Lady Windermere’s Fan who blandly observes, “After all, there is nothing like nature, is there?” When he compares the natural beauty of Cicero’s villa to the grandiose piles of other rusticating aristocrats, he heaps scorn on their penchant for marble floor tiles, paneled ceilings, and aqueducts built to feed artificial “Niles” and “Euripuses”, so called. Having once thought that the entire district of Arpinum was merely an uncultivated wilderness, Atticus is now surprised to find how much he enjoys it, and even expresses wonder that Cicero ever cares to go elsewhere—“when you are not at Rome” (2.2). It would seem that the main fault of those other estates is that they use cultural means to counterfeit nature, whereas at Arpinum nature has been improved by culture. Naturalizing culture, counterfeiting nature by sophisticated technical means, it would seem, is bad; but acculturating nature, turning an unspoiled environment to cultivated ends, is good. This bias comes out in many details. For instance, when Atticus suggests that the threesome continue their conversation on a small island in the Fibrenus, Cicero heartily approves, but not because he wants to enjoy the natural setting per se: rather because it is an excellent venue for various cultural activities— or, as Cicero puts it, “that island is a favorite haunt of mine for meditation, writing, and reading” (2.1.1)—and thus for conducting a philosophical dialogue on law. Later, when they arrive on the island, Atticus indulges in a brief ecphrasis: Ah, here we are on the island! What could be more pleasant? The Fibrenus is split by this beak, as it were, and then, divided equally in two, washes over these sides, flows quickly past, speedily comes back together, and so embraces just enough space for a small wrestling floor. This done, as if its raison d’źtre were to provide us with a place for our discussion, it plunges immediately into the Liris and, as if it were being adopted into a patrician family, loses its less famous name and chills considerably those waters; for I have travelled and never felt a colder stream than this: I could hardly dip my foot into it, as Socrates does in Plato’s Phaedrus. The ecphrasis in Latin literature is never a simple thing, but it is remarkable that Atticus is unable to manage this brief description of a very small island without employing three distinctly different similes. Merely describing the physical shape of the place does not satisfy him. Instead, he finds it necessary to load the island with a variety of overdetermined cultural markers. But this needn’t surprise us. School children are still taught that among the other remarkable features of the famous first simile in the Aeneid is the fact that it illustrates a natural phenomenon, a storm at sea, by employing a vehicle from the cultural realm, namely, a political riot—thus reversing the usual Homeric procedure whereby a warrior fights like a lion, weapons fall like hail, and so forth. Atticus’ similes are like Vergil’s in this respect. The point of the island that splits Fibrenus stream he calls a “beak” (rostrum). The word does of course mean a bird’s beak, but in this aquatic locus it seems rather to denote the metaphorical “beak” or prow of a ship: thus the island, a natural formation, is assimilated to the condition of a boat, a product of human technology—and, it may be worth noting, a potent symbol in primitivist, ”golden age” thought of nature violated, of life in an age when humankind could no longer live in deep harmony with the natural world, but chose or was forced to use technology to make its living: to live in a cultural, and not a natural world. At any rate, given the context and the dramatis personae, it is difficult to believe that the word rostrum does not also look to those famous prows erected in the Roman Forum as a monument to a naval victory over the people of Antium won by the consul C. Maenius in 338 BC. In the context of Atticus’ ecphrasis, the meaning of these rostra lies not in their historical significance, but in the fact that they had come to be used as the main speaker’s platform in the Forum, a place from which Cicero had addressed the public on many occasions, including several on which he proposed new laws to the people. So, in as much as Cicero in the dialogue is about to promulgate an entire law code in the style of those venerable documents of Roman law, the Twelve Tables, perhaps it is appropriate that Atticus should depict this humble island in terms that recall the very center of Roman civic culture. But he does not stop at this. Soon he describes the way in which the Fibrenus, as if it existed only to create this island, feeds into the much larger Liris and then disappears, just as a man adopted into a patrician family loses the name to which he was born and assumes that of his adoptive father. Again culture illustrates nature, and the parallel contrasts between on the one hand natural and adoptive fatherlands earlier in the discussion (Italian and Roman respectively), and on the other hand natural and adoptive families (plebeian and patrician respectively), can hardly be missed. Like the Fibrenus feeding the Liris, this simile quickly inspires another. But it is worth turning back to see how the transition soon to take place is anticipated. The very same sentence in which Atticus figures the island as the Roman Forum goes on to call the little plot of ground that rises from the stream a “wrestling floor” or palaestra that looks almost as if it were designed to provide the three friends with a place for their discussion. The metaphor by which dialectic is figured as an athletic contest is common, but we should not for that reason overlook its specificity here. In the first place, palaestra is a loan word from the Greek. Latin is full of Greek borrowings; but a sentence in which an unnamed place of no special significance, a place so small that it hardly exists except as a setting for the imaginary dialogue that is the only document even suggesting that the place ever did exist—a sentence in which such a place is figured first as the center of Roman culture and then as a palaestra, one among many centers of Greek culture, deserves to be taken seriously. And in fact, the same movement from Rome to Greece occurs earlier, when Cicero compares his paternal homestead to that of the ancient Sabine, Manius Curius Dentatus, and his desire to return to it to that of Odysseus, who preferred his homecoming to Calypso’s offer of immortality (2.2.3). The same movement from Roman to Greek is repeated within the ecphrasis when Atticus comments on the chill waters of the Fibrenus. First, he says, they are so cold that they cool the larger stream of the Liris, into which they flow and then lose their name, like a man of humble birth who is adopted into a patrician family. Then, he says, they are so cold that he could hardly stand to test them with his foot, as Socrates tests the waters of the Ilissus in the Platonic dialogue Phaedrus (230b5–8). Of the many observations that could be made about this remarkable transition, I note only that the shift from patrician (and thus a fortiori Roman) to Greek, and to the Phaedrus in particular, brings the entire movement of this extraordinary passage to a close: for Cicero has of course been thinking of Plato all along. In a general sense, his entire project of writing philosophical dialogues is inspired by Plato’s example; more specifically, his earlier dialogue on The Republic and this one on Laws are explicitly modeled on the Platonic dialogues of the same names. In particular, the idea that nature is the source of human law is an important theme in Plato’s Laws (especially in book 10), even if Cicero has other sources in mind as well. And finally, the prominent thematic role allotted to nature in Cicero’s proem is inspired by Plato’s Phaedrus, which informs the entire passage under discussion, as Cicero at last discloses by having Atticus cite as his own model the behavior of the Platonic Socrates in that very dialogue. In all the examples I have discussed, the claims of culture are clearly privileged over those of nature. This much should by now be obvious. But the line of interpretation I have been following leads to a further conclusion as inescapable as it is surprising. In all these examples, the appeal to nature conceals a much stronger discursive move, a form of self-fashioning that is practiced by one—namely, Latin—culture taking as its model another—namely, Greek—culture. Cicero’s natural law is a Greek concept that in fact has little to do with the law code that he eventually promulgates. Similarly, the appeal to nature in Latin grammar, along with the very idea of systematic grammar and most of its actual details, is borrowed from the Greeks. And Aeneas finally succeeds in losing his Trojan identity and becoming proto- Roman by taking on more exactly than ever the characteristic traits of the greatest Greek cultural paradigm, the hero Achilles. Again and again, when Latin culture confronts itself and inquires into its nature, it sees Greek. Indeed, these ingredients—a nativist or naturalist impulse, manifested either as the worship of Aeneas of Troy as Pater Indiges, as praise of a Frankish king for his command of Latin, or as a father’s express intent to correct by a grammatically constructed nature the lingusitic faults bequeathed to his son as a condition of birth; a coming together through triangular desire, whether in conflict over Lavinia, or in mutual affection for the Latin language, or for a particular landscape; a scene of initiation, by which Aeneas’ last words to Ascanius and Charisius’ invitation to his son provide the script for countless iterations played out across the centuries by thousands of readers, students of Vergil and students of grammar; these ingredients may be said to define the master narrative by which Latin culture continues to write itself. To conclude, let me draw attention to one further feature shared by Atticus and Cicero, by Aeneas and Charisius, by the spectators at Titus’ games, by Fortunatus’ Frankish patrons, by Dante, and by ourselves. It is worth remembering that someone like Atticus is that rarest of creatures in Latin culture: a native Roman, Roman by birth, or, as the phrase goes, “a Roman of Rome.” None of Atticus’ own literary works survives. If one were to appear, Cicero’s friend would join Julius Caesar in a very select group, doubling the number of native Roman authors whose works still exist; for Atticus, as his biographer Cornelius Nepos tells us, was from a very old Roman family. His confusion in the dialogue I have been discussing is thus the more readily understandable. Atticus did not have two fatherlands, one natural and the other cultural. His only patria was Rome. It is therefore at least intelligible that he should be unfamiliar with the idea that most Romans have two fatherlands. But in other respects, Atticus’ position remains strange and allows further interesting observations. First I would note that Atticus does not have the affective relationship for Rome, his natural fatherland, that Cicero has for Arpinum. Rather, he has the very feelings towards Rome that he expects Cicero to have, and that Cicero in fact insists he does have: feelings of duty, responsibility, and so forth. But in neither case are these really feelings of affection, such as Cicero (and Atticus following Cicero) expresses for Arpinum. But Atticus does have an affective relationship for his adoptive fatherland, Athens. His situation is thus the inverse of Cicero’s: a sense of duty rather than affection towards his birthplace, and a sense of affection for adoptive homes deriving from his love for various non-Romans, friends and cultural exemplars, whom he admires. It is also worth noting that Atticus, a native Roman, requires Cicero, an arriviste, to interpret his own position for him. As a Roman he has no sense of a natural fatherland as distinct from an adoptive one, and he regards his natural fatherland almost as if it were not his birthplace at all. Cicero’s position is fraught with complementary ironies: a consular, he was also a new man, reaching the highest annual office in the government but unable to penetate the inner circle of the ancient aristocracy. He was not a native Roman, but became, if anyone, the exemplar of latinity for future generations. As such he is heir to a long line of foreigners who won their places in the pantheon of Latin culture, a group that includes the Greek Livius Andronicus, the Campanian Gnaeus Naevius, the Messapian Quintus Ennius, and many others; and he is the progenitor of an even longer line that includes the Iberians Quintilian and Martial, the Africans Charisius, Augustine, and Apuleius, the Britons Alcuin and Arnold.… The list could be infinitely extended. Finally, I would note that there is an interesting ambivalence in Atticus’ position, one that is not, however, made explicit in the dialogue. Atticus was a member of an old Roman family, the Pomponii; but the name Pomponius is not Latin. If it were, it would be Quintilius (an older form, Quinctilius, is also attested). Pomponius is a Sabellian form of the same name, rather like such variants of the same name as Anderson and Anderssen. Many other ancient Roman families bore Sabellian names as well. Indeed, tradition even records that the first king, Romulus, murdered his twin brother Remus rather than suffer diminution of his kingly prerogative, and yet accepted as coregent for a time the Sabellian Titus Tatius. The biological twin is removed only to be replaced by a cutural one who is, moreover, foreign. So Sabellian and Latin culture existed side by side in archaic Rome, as Germanic and Latin cuture did in medieval Francia, and became in many ways indistinguishable. Officially the oldest Latin family in Rome was that of the Julii; but to claim this distinction even the Julii, with several other families, had to claim Trojan ancestry. The point is, there are no native Romans, no national myth of an autochthonous people. All members of Latin culture must journey to Rome, each in his or her own way; the modern Latinist is in this respect no different from any other member of Roman culture at any time, in any place.