Friday, December 11, 2009


Version at BMCR home site
Werner Eck, Matthäus Heil, Johannes Heinrichs (ed.), Prosopographia Imperii Romani Saec. I. II. III. Pars viii, Fasciculus 1. Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2009. Pp. 140. ISBN 9783110202953. $81.00.
Reviewed by Joerg Fuendling, Technische Hochschule Aachen, Germany

The Who's Who of the Roman Empire has advanced one large step towards completion, and its newest section shows us the way to 450 additional persons (compared to 326 in its 1898 first edition), their careers, biographical data and relatives, from a hopelessly mutilated [---]ius T[---] to the Sardic rebel Tyrrhenus -- as well as hundreds of cross-references and addenda concerning others that have (or should have) been treated in the previous instalments. The result, concentrated scholarship at its best, demands our respect and gratefulness, all the more so because it is the story of a lucky escape from the killing fields of public funding.

The second edition of the Prosopographia Imperii Romani, launched in the darkness of 1933, had survived the Third Reich -- as had, against all Nazi intentions, both its founding fathers, Arthur Stein and Edmund Groag. It had weathered the Cold War in East Berlin, even though it was mainly a compendium of Rome's ruling classes, devoid of socialist pioneer spirit. It was about to survive the disintegration of failing East Germany. This was the state of things when a panel of representatives from German national authorities and the federal state governments started weeding out 'unproductive' long-term projects. Their special attention was reserved for the humanities. Some editions and handbooks had their advocates, others were saved by the geological amount of time they will continue to need (and rightly so). Paradoxically the PIR's advanced state developed into a threat to its existence. It could be and it had to be finished by 2005, the panel decreed. Deadlines and forced commitments alone do not equal the means to keep them, yet public service, universities and academies alike are supposed to play at competitive economy (which in practice often boils down to playing tough). 2005 came and went. The R names had appeared; Part VII 2, containing S, was on its way to the press; the names beginning with T were quickly maturing. T was to be the last instalment but one. It did not matter. The PIR was shut down in the manner of a bankrupt enterprise pour encourager les autres; so hastily, in fact, that the staff of its Arbeitsstelle were practically forbidden to continue before their contracts expired. Some way of saving state money! As 2006 came to its end the lights went out in Berlin, and the PIR was history.

Now it has come back. A conspiracy took shape as soon as the commission's sentence had been executed. The PIR team and their well-kept archive were still fit for duty. It all came down to money and lots of persuasion. The tireless editors won, thanks to the dedication of the present volume's quadriga of contributors (Marietta Horster, Andreas Krieckhaus, Anika Strobach and Klaus Wachtel), to assistance from the former home of the PIR, the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences, and not least to private funding from the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung. It is to be feared that the bullying officials who made this small miracle necessary will congratulate themselves on generating a happy example of personal initiative. They sent it to Death Row at the eleventh hour, that's all, and may no prosopography ever list their names without remembering what an effort they tried to cripple.1

The PIR has got its second wind and shows no marks of the past ordeal. Its traditional Latin garb is neat and very much to the purpose; the language should deter no one from having recourse to it at the earliest possible stage of their career. Transparent, unambiguous and succinct, it might even turn out to provide some useful academic lesson of applied Latin. Romanus and Graecus are set in lower case when languages are meant, not geography or politics, but that is a harmless mannerism. Spelling in general is not much of a problem.2

Editors and contributors have -- just as in the previous instalment -- decided on providing us with every bit of information that may possibly be given, and they take whatever occasion arises. End-of-volume addenda have long since disappeared as they are too seldom read and lengthy to prepare. Apart from the nomina gentilia concerned, the present makers of PIR update us on various persons treated sixty or seventy years ago if these happen to have 'secondary' gentilicia or even cognomina starting with the right letter; they also use necessary disambiguations for such a purpose. A somewhat playful procedure, it might seem, yet it all fits to a T. Take the various Caucidiae Tertullae, sorted out in all clearness and brevity (p. 31, after T 115), or the massive increase of information on Ti. Claudius Vibianus Tertullus (originally C 1049) and a namesake who may well be his father (p. 34, after T 128). The slim volume is in no way swelled or outbalanced by such welcome grace notes -- it rather suffers from the effects of an overconfidence that has turned part of contemporary prosopography into pattern charts of mutually exclusive dots and dashes. To cope with such conjectural liberties the T volume of PIR is richer in urgent warnings than most of its predecessors: res valde incerta (e.g. T 61) is still rather polite, and in some cases the less sharp fortasse should have been raised to a higher alert stage.

Another feature that has been around for the last few fascicles: the slightly more democratic mode of admission. The senatorial census, an imperial administrative career or some major contribution to literature are still the credentials of choice but the backdoor for famous or notorious others has been opened wider than in Stein's day. Thus we can welcome Tausius of the Tungri (T 45), murderer of Caracalla. Philologists will meet with Terentianus (Maurus; 59) and the more-than-problematic descendants of Terentius Scaurus that only the Historia Augusta has preserved -- or invented? (89-90)

What is on store for the 'general reader' who does not specialize in consular dates or career patterns? To begin with the dying Republic and the nascent Principate, a shortlist of noteworthy persons contains the bibulous M. Tullius Cicero (filius; T 378) as well as Tiro, more than a secretary (390); Terentia (97) completes Cicero's family. Kings Tiridates and Tigranes (236; 204) are joined by Tarcondimotus of Cilicia (16). The formidable turncoat M. Titius (261) and the Augustan admiral L: Tarius Rufus (19) are fine specimens of the generation of Civil War winners; note also A. Terentius Varro Murena (96) who is in a most helpful way disentangled from (L. Licinius?) Varro Murena the conspirator. Speaking of Terentiae, Maecenas' wife (98) and her possible sister (102) crop up. 2000 years after the Varus mishap let Thusnelda not be forgotten (194); Numidia is represented by the resilient Tacfarinas (3).

The later Julio-Claudian characters are somewhat in the background, but observe Terentius Rufus during the Jewish War, maybe rather a praefectus castrorum than a legionary legate. Another Tiridates of Armenia (238) does homage to Nero. Q. Trebellius Rufus from Tolosa, Athenian by choice, features in a gem of an entry (361). The consular Tettieni, too few for a stemma of their own, flash their ever-growing stock of inscriptions (130-133). From Trajan's age onwards attention should be paid to D. Terentius Scaurianus, the imperial familiar (88), and Gentianus his son (71). The entry on Plutarch's wife Timoxena (219) figures as a roadmap to their children, dispersed all over the PIR as their Greek names demand. Q. Tineius Rufus, his relatives and descendants (222; 228-231) group around a stemma of their own (p. 66) and are tentatively linked to the family of the ephemeral co-emperor Pupienus Maximus by a Tineia (T 234) who should, by the way, have appeared in brackets (signalling a name not explicitly attested) on the Pupieni stemma (p. 68) -- which in its turn contains not a single ascertained parentage over six presumptive generations. The relative density of third-century documentation makes this a res valde incerta indeed, especially François Chausson's less-than-compelling reading of [Ovi]nius for [---]nius Tineius Tarrut[enius ---] Atticus (T 233). Fully conjectural stemmata of the Pupieni variety have their well-defined value when part of a paper but are positively dangerous when transplanted into a work of reference. Their half-life tends to be low since any new persons who happen to accrue must shake the whole edifice, and the authority of the PIR in general will mislead hasty readers (which all of us tend to be on a bad day) into taking them for proven.

The Antonine praetorian prefect C. Tattius Maximus (T 40) is a fine specimen of last-minute additions: now attested as prefect of an unknown Italian fleet and as military an equestrian as anyone could wish for. The Guard is present in force: at long last P. Taruttienus Paternus (T 35) may be liberated from his decades-old curse to haunt essays and monographs in an impossible number of spellings. Let all friends of Tarruntenus, Tarrutenius and Tarruntenius agree to end this schism. Even more important is Paternus' colleague Sex. Tigidius Perennis (T 203), the first dominant figure of Commodus' troubled reign. Severan protagonists are as scarce as emperors in our sample; one family worth mentioning are the Triarii and Iunii Rufini around whose descendants conjectures have been crystallizing for some time (their stemma on p. 103 benefits from a higher number of known relationships).

For the post-Severan third Century AD, with all its decrease of sources both written and epigraphic, we have Tullius Menophilus (T 387), member of the senatorial 'junta' against Maximinus Thrax, Traianus Mucianus (300), highly interesting for his meteoric rise from the ranks in a time of profound military change, and Tenagino Probus (57), the imperial governor falsely called a usurper. The kindness of the Historia Augusta provides us with a number of fictitious names, and Hermann Dessau would be proud to see how justice is done to his discoveries during work on the first PIR edition. "Theoclia" (165), the alleged sister of Severus Alexander, and "Toxotius" (296) who pre-dates his distinguished senatorial family by a century and a half, marked as suspecti by Dessau in 1898, are now treated as figments.3 So is "Trebellianus" the pretender (309, taken as genuine in PIR 1 T 231), and of course "Trebellius Pollio" (315), unforgettable pseudo-identity of the HA author.

There is not much to complain about. One more cross-reference to Thascius Caecilius Cyprianus (C 38) would have been a good idea. Looking at Togodumnus (T 296), prince of the Catuvellauni, we are reminded of Ti. Claudius [..]gidumnus, rex magnus of the Britons. His name has mostly been read as [Co]gidumnus since Stein's decision to follow the majority of codices on Tac. Agr. 14,1 and list the king from Tacitus as C 1256 but the mutilated inscription as C 841. He ought to be spelled [To]gidumnus as scholars have been pointing out for some time.4

Accidents happen; the stemma of the Tullii Varrones shows L. Dasumius Tullius Tuscus (see now p. 121f. in addition to D 16) as if he were an attested son of P. Tullius Varro (T 394) -- the line should be a broken one. The last lines of T 394 have it right: Tuscus is merely one possible candidate, advanced by Chausson to provide a link to several consular Tullii of the third century. A cross-reference to T. Calestrius Tiro Orbius Speratus appears on p.75 but unfortunately not in T 243, which discusses Calestrius' conceivable identitiy with the legate Tiro. The suffect consul Tutilius Pontianus (T 439) is identified without question, as Scaliger suggested centuries ago, with 'Utilius', the alleged lover of the younger Faustina according to HA Marc. 29,1 (not 19,1 as printed). Yet the whole passage on adultery in 29,1-3, built around the Tertullus anecdote 29,2, may well be fictitious for all our efforts to find the four adulterers, and to emendate, say, [L]ucilius instead would be just as feasible (minuscule c and t are easily confused). For reasons of clarity 'Utilius' should be treated like the crux of 'Tiberius' in Tertullian (T 201) and assigned a separate entry among the V nomina in the future fasc. VIII 2.

That this delivery, the very last to fulfil the legacy of Stein and Groag, will appear before long must be everyone's hope. Students and scholars around the world owe thanks to those who have had the staying power to make this happen. Just as its predecessors, the T fascicle proves indispensable to research on the Principate; the last instalment will be awaited with joy and impatience. As soon as possible there should be a coniuratio for the day after. To expect the start of a third edition in the predictable future would be more than optimistic, but the precious few experts in prosopography must keep sharing and spreading their knowledge. All due respect to the PIR, the venture that lived -- and may we live to see its successor, beyond hope or expectations.


1.   Friends of historical irony will relish the title of the panel in charge, 'Bund-Länder-Kommission für Bildungsplanung und Forschungsförderung': 'mixed federal/states commission on educational planning and the promotion of research'.
2.   The very few misprints not mentioned above: p.3 Taius Sanctus l.1: occurit read occurrit; p. 10 T 35 l.6: Cotinios read Cotinos; l.15: Saotarum read Saoterum; p.11 T 40 l.11: Ravenatis read Ravennatis; p.18 T 69 l.2: construenda read construendam; p.26 T 96 l.18: Mytilinaeis read Mytilenaeis; p.46 T 178 l.2: triclinarcha read tricliniarcha; p.54 T 203 l.27: retulisse read rettulisse; p.73 T 239 l.1: Henochiorum read Heniochorum; p.74 T 241 l.4: Tirirdates read Tiridates; p.85 T 281 l.5: cancelariis read cancellariis; p.108 T 368 l.16: cum alliis read cum aliis.
3.   Toxotius: The lone advocate for possible authenticity is A. Lippold, Kommentar zur Vita Maximini duo der Historia Augusta. (Antiquitas IV.3.1.) Bonn (Habelt) 1991, 607-610. Lippold had no positive evidence and could not do more than throw some suspicion on the communis opinio, so he beat about the bush. It was easy enough to overlook this.
4.   Cogidumnus/Togidumnus: See, inter alios, A.R. Birley, The Roman Government of Britain. Oxford (OUP) 2005, 466-468 on CIL VII 11 (now RIB 91) and the Agricola passage.

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