Thursday, April 14, 2011


Filippo Battistoni, Parenti dei Romani: mito troiano e diplomazia. Pragmateiai, 20. Bari: Edipuglia, 2010. Pp. 248. ISBN 9788872286005. €40.00.

Reviewed by Heinz-Guenther Nesselrath, Georg-August-Universitaet, Göttingen (

Version at BMCR home site

It is well known that Greek myths never were just stories but always fulfilled specific functions for those who told them and for those to whom they were addressed. It may be more remarkable that they fulfilled such functions not only for Greeks but also for many non-Greeks. The most prominent non-Greeks of the ancient Mediterranean world were the Romans, and it is well known, too, that (at least from a certain stage of their history) they derived a considerable part of their identity from one of the most significant Greek myths, namely that of the Trojan War. This has been the subject of many studies, but Battistoni's book seems to be the first which systematically studies the importance of the Romans' reputed Trojan ancestry for their diplomacy—especially for establishing "kinship relations" with other states—from the later 3rd century BC until well into Imperial times.

The book has a well-organized structure. After a short preface (5-6, by Christopher Jones, who has himself written a major study on Kinship Diplomacy in the Ancient World, 1999) and a succinct introduction (7-12), in which he also gives a short outline of the book, the first major chapter ("Miti troiani," 15-34) presents an interesting overview of studies dealing with the presumed "Trojan past" of the Romans from the 17th century until the middle of the 20th. Within these roughly 300 years, Battistoni distinguishes three periods (17): in the first (from Cluver to Niebuhr), the discussion focuses on whether Aeneas really did come to Italy; in the second (from Niebuhr to Nissen), on how the Aeneas myth reached Italy or whether it was originally "Roman;" in the third (from Nissen to Perret), on how the Roman perspective of the myth differed from the Greek and in which (rather recent) period it was in fact accepted by the Romans. The chapter concludes with a very helpful list of all the works covered in it.

The second chapter ("Leggenda troiana," 35-45) may be the most valuable part of the book for readers wanting to inform themselves on the status quaestionis regarding the ancient evidence for the development of the tale(s) about the Trojan origins of the Romans and their acceptance of them. Battistoni divides modern critical scholarship on these questions into two major lines (36): on the one hand those who consider the elaboration of the legend basically worked out by Greeks and then accepted by the Romans during the 4th and 3rd centuries BC, and on the other hand those who maintain that the legend penetrated earlier into Italian/Roman contexts by being linked to certain regional or local developments. This latter group can again be divided according to which way they propose for the legend to have arrived: via the Etruscans (in whose art depictions of Aeneas can be found on vases and votive objects) already in the 6th and 5th century or via Lavinium (where important archeological discoveries have been made regarding Aeneas) in the second half of the 4th century at the latest. Battistoni then presents a clear and succinct survey (37-42) of the literary evidence concerning Trojans moving into the west, starting with Homer (who actually seems to negate such a movement) and Stesichorus (who may be the first to "document" it), and after this he gives an equally clear survey (42-4) of the archaeological evidence pointing to the presence of the myth of Troy and Aeneas in Latium and Etruria even before the 4th century BC. The chapter closes with evidence that in Rome itself the myth must have been present in the 4th or early 3rd century at the latest, as some gentes with alleged Trojan origins did not survive beyond that time (44); by the end of the 3rd century, Fabius Pictor had written what then became the canonical version of Rome's being the second Troy, and the legend was now firmly established (45).

The third chapter ("I linguaggi della parentela in diplomazia," 47-77) is mainly a study of the terminology (both Greek and Latin) that is used for describing "kinship relations" in Greek and Roman diplomacy:1 the Greek terms examined here (54-61) are συγγένεια / συγγενής, οἰκειότης / οἰκεῖος, ἀδελφότης and ὁμοφυλία / ὁμόφυλος, the Latin ones (61-67) cognatio, agnatio, consanguinitas / consanguineus. The chapter ends with the discussion of some examples of literary usage of the Latin terms taken from Caesar, Livy and Tacitus (67-71) and some concluding observations on the diachronic development of this usage (71-2). Two appendices discuss some polemical comments of Polybius on other authors giving too much space to questions of mythical συγγένεια (73-4), and the famous passage in Aelius Aristides' Encomium of Rome (ch. 59-64), in which Aristides talks about the by now worldwide phenomenon of Roman citizenship and associates it with the concept of ὁμοφυλία. Against attempts by earlier scholars to see certain differences between the two terms, Battistoni convincingly shows that they mean basically the same thing in this context (75-7). His translation of the Aristides passage (which he successfully defends against attempts to alter its text), though, does in some places not seem to be as accurate as it could be.2

After having shown that the Romans at least from the 3rd century BC onwards had accepted their Trojan ancestry and also had the concepts (of cognatio and consanguinitas) to use it in diplomatic relations with other states, in his fourth chapter ("Roma, Parentela e Diplomazia," 79-111) Battistoni documents that they did really use it, giving a diachronic survey of all the known cases in Republican and Imperial times; in the latter the diplomatic use of kinship conceptions based on myth grew less important (and became very much concentrated on the Imperial Family of the Julio-Claudians who claimed direct descent from Aeneas, 100), but did not vanish altogether. It is not possible to give details of all the material presented in the course of this chapter; let me just draw attention to the interesting case of the Acarnanians, who appealed to the Romans for help by stressing the "fact" that they alone of all the Greeks had not participated in the Greeks' war against Troy—Battistoni judges this reasoning "così insolito che potrebbe essere vero" (85). To show how even private citizens were affected by the mythical connection Troy–Rome, Battistoni (in a short epilogue to this chapter, 109-11) adduces two inscriptions, one by the Roman banker Gaius Ostilius Ascanius (!) who lived in the Troad, the other commemorating a wine merchant, who hailed from Ilium and died in Rome.

The last and longest chapter ("I parenti dei Romani," 113-194) dedicates more detailed treatment to five especially interesting cases of kinship with Romans that was claimed by non-Roman political entities to secure Roman support. The first of these cases (113-127) takes us to the beginning of the First Punic War, when first the Mamertines in Sicilian Messina claimed ὁμοφυλία with Rome to attain protection against the Syracusan potentate Hieron, and when only a little later the West Sicilian polis Segesta similarly turned to Rome for help against Carthage on the basis of common mythical origins. Battistoni gives ample documentation of the mythic and cultic bonds that developed between Rome and Segesta from the middle 3rd century onwards (117-127). The second case is Samothrace (128-137), because its "Great Gods" were from some point onward identified with the famous Penates Aeneas had salvaged from the ruins of Troy and taken with him to Italy. Perhaps the most intriguing case is the third, that of the Gallic Haedui (137-147), who considered themselves fratres of the Romans well before Caesar's time; Battistoni presents all the relevant texts and then tries to answer the question how this notion could have arisen. The last two cases are almost exclusively based on epigraphical evidence. The first concerns Centuripe (147-165), a town in the interior of Sicily, which was involved in a kind of "triangular relationship" with Rome and Lanuvium, as the inscription shows that is (re-) edited, translated and discussed in detail (147-53).3 The second case revolves around the Lycians in Asia Minor (165-86), who in Homer are important allies of the Trojans and who therefore apparently tried to "cash in" on that connection in the 2nd century BC, but, as Battistoni shows by discussing the relevant inscriptions (171), between the Lycians' wish to be recognized as cognati of the Romans and the actual granting of this favor there may actually have elapsed up to eight decades. Battistoni then dedicates numerous pages to the mythical Lycian heroes (Sarpedon and Pandarus) who may have been the basis for the Lycians' claims (175-86). The chapter concludes with an appendix on the Lycian dedications on the Roman Capitol, which are the main epigraphical evidence for the Lycians' efforts to be recognized as cognati of Rome (186-94).

The rest of the book is taken up by short "Conclusioni" (195-7), a page of "Addenda" (199), an ample "Bibliografia" (201-22), some illustrations (a map of the Mediterranean and three of the inscriptions discussed earlier, 224-6), and three indices: of passages (229-238), of peoples, places and persons (239-244), and of Greek and Latin terms and other "cose notevoli" (245). The book is not without factual mistakes4 and misprints; 5 it also contains a rather elevated number of (sometimes serious) mistranslations of Greek and Latin texts.6 Despite these blemishes, however, it fulfills the task it set out to do (namely, to document and discuss all cases of mythical kinship relations concerning the Romans and their diplomacy) and in this respect will be a valuable tool for all who want to know more the importance of Rome's alleged Trojan ancestors in Rome's dealings with the non-Roman world.


1.   The chapter starts by evoking a "modern" case of such a presumed kinship, namely that of a Chinese village named Liqian and its claim to harbor descendants of the Roman soldiers that were taken captive by the Parthians after the battle of Carrhae and then deported eastward (47-9). The claim is bolstered by certain physical peculiarities (green eyes, blond hair and big noses) of some modern inhabitants of Liqian. Battistoni asserts that such peculiarities never play a role in ancient claims about kinship, but at least Herodotus (2.104.2) points to them when he wants to prove just such a relationship between Egyptians and Colchians.
2.   In ch. 63, he renders τὸ πλήρωμα αὐτῆς ἄξιον ἐζητήσατε with "avete reso nobile il farne parte", but it rather means "you looked for a worthy group of people to fill her", and he translates τὸ Ῥωμαῖον εἶναι ἐποιήσατε … ὄνομα κοινοῦ τινος, καὶ τούτου οὐχ ἑνὸς τῶν πάντων, ἀλλ' ἀντιρρόπου πᾶσι τοῖς λοιποῖς with "avete reso l'attributo 'romano' … proprio … di una stirpe commune, e questa non è commune a tutti, ma si oppone a chi ne è escluso", but especially the latter part (which actually means that the label "Roman" is not just one among all the others, but is in itself equivalent to all of these others) looks seriously distorted. See also Behr's translations of these passages.
3.   On pp. 161-4, Battistoni discusses the interesting find of library pinakes in Sicilian Taormina, which in a summary of the first book of the Annales of Fabius Pictor mention a person called Lanoïos, whose name evokes Lanuvium and who may (as a mythic inhabitant of Centuripe?) have been the "prosopographical" basis for the link between Lanuvium and Centuripe (to his credit, Batistoni treats this possibility with much caution).
4.   On p. 7, "Giustino, a sua volta epitomato da Trogo" should be the other way round, as it was Justinus who made an epitome of Trogus' work. On p. 22, it is strange to find a note appended to "E. Uschold" which does not cite Uschold at all but E. Rückert (Troja's Ursprung …) instead; Uschold's work (Geschichte des Trojanischen Krieges, 1836) is then cited on p. 25 n. 39, but still with the wrong initial, "E." (the correct initial would have been J. or J. N., for Johann Nepomuk). P. 43 n. 42: the Sophocles reference should not be "p. 160 N.", but "p. 160-1 Radt". On p. 85 n. 18, "Corsten 1992" cannot be found in the bibliography (the reference is to "Der Hilferuf des Akarnanischen Bundes an Rom. Zum Beginn des römischen Eingreifens in Griechenland," ZPE 94, 1992, 195-210.). On p. 98, "Ipso" has to be replaced by "Isso", for Alexander's famous battle at Issus is meant. P. 113: the Segestans rebelled against their Carthaginian overlords in the initial phase of the First Punic War, not the Second. P. 120: Hercules is not two but only one generation older than those fighting in the Trojan War. P. 138: "Cicero epist. 33 Shackleton" is a curious reference, actually meaning Ad fam. 7.10. On p. 172, the name "Flega" should be corrected to "Flegias" (Phlegyas, father of Coronis and grandfather of Asclepius).
5.   I cite only misprints causing serious difficulties. On p. 21 n. 21, read … Aeneae adventu; p. 22 n. 22, read … iusta uxor (instead of iuxta); p. 24 n. 36, read ignivomorum (instead of -mov-); p. 39 n. 20, read captam (instead of -ta); p. 43 n. 42, read nomenque (instead of nomen); p. 67 n. 86, read "[aus] der Sprache"; p. 94 n. 67: after "La" (the first word) something has fallen out (oikeiotēs?); p. 99 n. 84 (and Bibliography): read "Kahrstedt", not "-städt"; p. 108 n. 124, read "delle città orientali" instead of "della …"; p. 120 n. 42, read "sie seien" instead of "so seine"; p. 156 n. 189, third line: read "Lanuvio" instead of "Centuripe"; p. 158 n. 199: read alius alium instead of alis …; p. 159 n. 204: read "Badian 1954" instead of "… 1958"; on p. 181, the name of the Lycian Amisodaros is misspelled twice. Occasionally, Battistoni exhibits the same translation twice, both in the text and in a accompanying note (thus p. 177 + n. 277; p. 179 + n. 284)
6.   P. 51-2 n. 16: in Cicero's words (off. 1.17.54: sanguinis autem coniunctio et benevolentia devincit homines et caritate), Battistoni takes benevolentia as a second subject nominative, but it is an ablative and has to be coordinated with caritate ("both by goodwill and affection"). P. 86 n. 27: the translation of recitata vetere epistula Graeca (Suet. Claud. 25.3) leaves out vetere and Graeca. P. 116 n. 14: τῶν μὲν ἄλλων ἀπεκρούσθησαν does not mean "le espugnarono tutte", but "there were beaten off from the others". P. 122: deprecaretur in Cic. Verr. 2.5.125 is rendered with "lamentare," but it means "to avert / ward off by prayer". P. 126 n. 70: iuberentur means "they were ordered (to do something)," not "ordinarono." P. 133 n. 95: quod carum putaret hardly means "quanto aveva di caro", but rather "what he considered dear to him." P. 136 n. 110: translating fortunam deosque, Battistoni omits fortunam. P. 142-3: the sentence alii Doriensis antiquiorem secutos [Battistoni wrongly prints secutus] Herculem oceani locos inhabitasse confines is misconstrued as "altri dicono che dei Dori avendo seguito Ercole si siano stabiliti in luoghi ai margini con l'oceano" and should be understood as "others (say) that they [i.e. the aboriginal inhabitants of Gaul] followed a Hercules who was older than the Doric one and settled in places bordering on the ocean." See also note 2.

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