Friday, September 3, 2010


Version at BMCR home site
Fabian Goldbeck, Salutationes: die Morgenbegrüßungen in Rom in der Republik und der frühen Kaiserzeit. KLIO - Beiträge zur alten Geschichte. Beihefte. Neue Folge, Bd. 16. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2010. Pp. 325. ISBN 9783050048994. €69.80.
Reviewed by Angela Kühr, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

Table of Contents

A monograph on salutationes indeed needs no justification. The revised version of Goldbeck's dissertation not only presents the details of an important ritual, which has lacked explicit attention in modern research so far, but also discusses the phenomenon within the context of social history and the ongoing debates on Roman patronage. Filling a gap himself, the author is very conscious of remaining desiderata, and suggests a way to study Roman patron-client-relationships and amicitia nowadays. By offering the first history of the salutatio in the Republic and the Early Principate, he bridges a divide between studies alternatively focusing on Republican or Imperial forms of patronage. Though he stresses several times that a history of Roman patronage——or, to avoid the problematic term, of "persönliche Nahbeziehungen" (p. 24-25)—still has to be written,1 he describes the changing modes and meanings of the salutatio. In doing so, he compensates for concepts of social history in the Eighties, which primarily concentrated on structures instead of change.2 Methodologically, he also bridges a divide. On the one hand, he opts for a "moderate positivism" (p. 26-27). He entitles the first part "Realia," thus attacks postmodern and narrativist concepts, and alludes terminologically to former antiquarian approaches. By conceiving the Roman salutatio as symbolic interaction, on the other hand, he catches up with concurrent methods of outstanding prominence e.g. in studies on Early Modern history.

Apart from the introduction (pp. 9-13) and the conclusion (pp. 282-285), the book is subdivided into three parts, preliminary remarks ("Vorüberlegungen," pp. 14-58), a presentation of the conditions under which salutationes took place ("Die Realia der salutatio," pp. 59-187), and a history of the salutatio ("Eine Geschichte der salutatio," pp. 188-281). As the chapters and sub-chapters are introduced by concise descriptions of the programme, and as they are concluded by concise summaries, the reader is perfectly led through this well written book, and is invited to use the indices as well as the profound bibliography. Typographically, the minor errors need not to be mentioned, but the separate numeration of footnotes for each page is confusing.

I) The preliminary remarks tackle problems of terminology, methodology, and questioning ("Gegenstand und Begrifflichkeit," pp. 14-25), discuss the sources ("Quellen," pp. 26-36), and offer a doxography of former scholarship ("Forschungsgeschichte," pp. 37-58).

Goldbeck considers salutationes to be a specific form of communication, or interaction system. He follows Luhmann's and Kieserling's "Systemtheorie" in order to describe interaction, and to question the sense of interaction on several levels. In cooperation with his Doktorvater Winterling,3 Goldbeck points out three relevant dimensions for studying patron-client-relationships today, the performative, the instrumental, and the representative, or symbolic-expressive one (pp. 20-21). The first means the analysis of the communication partners, of the period of time, of the place, and of the interaction rules, which are discussed in the chapter "Realia." The instrumental dimension refers to the reasons to meet, it thus departs from the interactors' perspective (p. 21; 225), and is discussed in the history chapter, as the symbolic dimension is too. The latter signifies the deeper sense of the actions, their meaning (pp. 21; 225; 258).

When discussing the sources, Goldbeck explains what to understand by "moderate positivism:" "Ich habe die Arbeit verfaßt ausgehend von der Prämisse, daß es—in Vergangenheit wie Gegenwart—eine von menschlicher Wahrnehmung unabhängige Wirklichkeit gab respektive gibt. Ich gehe zudem davon aus, daß es prinzipiell möglich ist, etwas über diese nunmehr vergangene Wirklichkeit zu wissen" (p. 26). This statement may be significant for recent tendencies to leave discourse theories behind, and to try to approach 'realities' beyond postmodern or narrativist conceptions. Goldbeck does not want to discuss ancient opinions, or, more precisely, strategies how ancient authors used salutationes as an argument for intentional constructions of social realities. In contrast, he aims at reconstructing the salutatio as a part of past social realities (p. 28). He is right in that you get an idea of mental and habitual aspects related to this cultural praxis by analysing en passant comments, by-products in literary sources which concentrate on different topics (pp. 29-32). Nevertheless, two objections may be allowed. First, it is important to distinguish between different text genres and the intention of their authors; Goldbeck knows that, methodologically conscious as he is, but sometimes does not take it as much into account as e.g. texts like Cicero's De officiis and Seneca's De beneficiis might demand. Secondly, Goldbeck does discuss ancient opinions. A clearer definition of the "symbolic" dimension would have been helpful. Once, it is described as the meaning beyond the concrete actions taking place (p. 225). Later, the symbolic consists of contemporary perceptions and interpretations of the interaction (p. 258). Thus, does the symbolic dimension include both, conscious interpretation and a cultural sense beyond individual perception?

II) The second part is dedicated to the so-called "Realia," meaning the conditions under which salutationes were taking place. They represent the performative dimension, but are equally considered to be constructions (p. 24). First, Goldbeck describes the participants ("Die Anwesenden," pp. 59-105), and characterizes the salutatio as a mode of communication spanning class and rank. The following chapters are dedicated to problems of time ("Die zeitliche Dimension der salutatio," pp. 106-118), and place („Die salutatio in der domus," 119-146), where he discusses the archaeological evidence in a methodologically conscious way. Finally, he expounds the rules of behaviour during the greeting procedure ("Die Begrüßung," pp. 147-186). In contrast to his overall convincing arguments when analyzing the differences between the Republic and the Early Principate, his thesis that in the Empire visitors of lower rank had to address the visited with the formula domine et rex (pp. 168-174) is based on a weak foundation. It results from problematic source interpretations, e.g. of allusions in Martial, and from observations related to the princeps. Leaving aside the discussion when the custom of calling the princeps domine arose, the treatment of the princeps should not implicitly be equated with the treatment of senators.

III) In the chronologically organized observations on the development of the salutatio from the earliest attestations in the Republic to the time of Hadrian, two turning points are identified; the first is related to C. Gracchus, the second to Augustus. According to Goldbeck, G. Gracchus amplified the older custom of iurisconsulti coming to the elite's houses by using the visitations for recruiting political supporters. Though the tribune did not intend to do so, his actions resulted in turning the domus into another field of aristocratic competition. In consequence, interaction was intensified. Every morning, the salutationes served as an up to date barometer of reputation (pp. 217-224). Goldbeck stresses himself that the sources only permit arguments of plausibility (p. 223). Again, one could object that his interpretation of some ancient literary sources does not correspond with his high degree of reflection on methodological premises and problems; sometimes, he trusts the ancient sources too much.

In the Late Republic, the salutationes were needed for recruiting voters and demonstrating support (pp. 225-235). Why the salutatio should not be understood as a product of patron-client-relationships (p. 189) is made clear when the symbolic dimension of the morning unions in the Late Republic is discussed. If you consider clients to be people in firm dependency, most of the salutatores were not clients, and most of them were not 'real' amici corresponding to the ancient ideal as described in Cicero's Laelius. Goldbeck points to the difference between the ancient ontological understanding of social positions, which imply lasting relations, and modern conceptions of social roles, which allow us to regard the salutatores as acting as if they were clientes or amici. The 'As If' should even be considered as the real sense of the morning theatre. For none of the observers could know who of the attendants would actually vote for the visited person, who would turn into a firm supporter. Symbolically, a full house was proof of dignitas and power (pp. 235-246). This reading of the evidence is convincing, though not the end of the discussion on patron-client-relationships, as Goldbeck himself stresses several times (e.g. p. 247), not at least in his well informed overview on research tendencies and desiderata regarding salutatio and "Bindungswesen" in the Late Republic (pp. 246-260). Who were 'real' clients, and how did their role change in Roman history? And why were the normative texts on ideal clienteles and real friends written at the periods discussed here? Recognising the existence of ideals and values is one thing, discussing their social contexts something else.

That the magistrates were not elected in the assemblies any more, and that the princeps became an important point of reference for aristocratic action in the Early Principate were the main differences from Republican conditions ("Die salutatio in der Kaiserzeit – Kontinuität und Wandel einer Alltagsbeziehung," pp. 263-281). As a result, the symbolic importance of salutationes rose, while the instrumental dimension got less important: "Kaiserzeitliche Aufwartungen dienten also (…) primär der Manifestation von Status, wohingegen republikanische neben dieser Funktion auch wesentlich der Machtgenerierung hatten nützlich sein können" (p. 277).4 As the powerful did not need salutatores vulgares as supporters any more, the hierarchical differences were stressed more explicitly. However, a domus frequentata still symbolized influence and dignitas. What is more, it demonstrated a good relationship with the princeps who would not have tolerated this veneration of men dangerous to himself. Three ideal types of salutationes stand out. First, visitors tried to contact powerful men, women, and liberti as brokers who had access to the princeps. Secondly, visitors came for officia and suffragium by the members of the elite, who did not depend on their support any more, but still cultivated the salutationes because they kept expressing social power. Thirdly, less acknowledged members of the elite paid their visitors in order to strengthen the illusion of status and power. In his short sub-chapter on "Salutatio and Bindungswesen in der Kaiserzeit" (pp. 277-281), Goldbeck subscribes to the continuation of personal patronage and established practices though communication changed, e.g. by the greater importance of commendations, which did not demand the presence of the communicators any more.

Recognising the continuation of social practices is one thing, to describe how they changed something else, and this is what Goldbeck succeeds in doing. However, change is mainly focused on two epochal turning points, and the admirable closeness to the ancient sources sometimes risks turning into the reproduction of ancient opinions. But this is only a minor consideration in assessing the merits of the book. It succeeds in describing social realities by taking into account many perspectives and approaches, illuminating the performative, instrumental, and symbolic dimension of the ancient interaction system called salutatio. As Goldbeck does not want to discuss ancient opinions, the values and ideals related to this social practice still wait for a decent analysis which could contribute to a better understanding of Roman mentality without resulting in a history of ideas or getting lost in discourses. But this is not the place to say how other books could be written. Goldbeck's monograph perfectly fulfils its own program. No-one interested in Roman social history can neglect this methodologically conscious, very well documented, and impressively informed contribution to the ongoing debate on the cohesion of Roman society.


1.   Mainly due to the uncritical reading of the sources, N. Rouland, Pouvoir politique et dépendance personnelle dans l'antiquité romaine. Genèse et rôle des rapports de clientèle (Coll. Latomus 166), Brussels 1979 could not fill this gap.
2.   The most influential monograph was R. P. Saller, Personal Patronage under the Early Empire , Cambridge 1982.
3.   A. Winterling, „Freundschaft und Klientel im kaiserzeitlichen Rom", Historia 57 (2008) pp. 298-316.
4.   Cf. again Winterling (see note 4), p. 312.

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