Friday, August 12, 2011


Marianne Coudry, Michel Humm (ed.), Praeda. Butin de guerre et société dans la Rome républicaine / Kriegsbeute und Gesellschaft im republikanischen Rom. Collegium Beatus Rhenanus Bd 1. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2009. Pp. 294. ISBN 9783515093828. €54.00 (pb).

Reviewed by J. W. Rich, University of Nottingham (

Version at BMCR home site

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

This volume is the fruit of a research programme conducted over the years 2005-2008 by members of the Collegium Beatus Rhenanus, a network for research in classical antiquity linking the Upper Rhine universities of Strasbourg, Mulhouse, Basel and Freiburg im Breisgau (for which see further Collegium Beatus Rhenanus).

In view of its central importance in Roman history, it is surprising that this is the first book to have been devoted to Roman war booty as a topic in its own right. A comprehensive monograph would be very worthwhile, but in its absence the nine studies collected here perform a valuable service. The volume complements well other recent research on the triumph and Roman representations of war, in particular Ida Östenberg's important study, Staging the World: Spoils, Captives and Representations in the Roman Triumphal Procession (Oxford, 2009), which appeared too late for the contributors to consult.

The work appropriately focuses on the Republic, paying less attention to the Principate when other forms of exploitation had more importance than booty. A particularly valuable feature is the attention paid to comparison of Greek and Roman procedures and likely Greek influence on Roman practice.

The papers are presented in three groups of three, under the broad headings of appropriation and distribution of booty; prestige and hellenization; and debates and issues relating to the profits of war. These define some of the volume's key themes, but in some cases the connections are not close, particularly in the third section.

The first paper is a comprehensive and acutely argued discussion by Coudry of the sharing of booty under the Republic between the general, the soldiers and the treasury, accompanied by helpful tabulations of the evidence. A survey of commanders' practice in the field and on return to Rome is followed by discussion of the tensions which arose over booty sharing, and the relationship between booty, tributum and soldiers' pay. The final section of the paper deals with record-keeping, arguing convincingly that detailed records were made both when booty was sold and when it was handed into the treasury.

Coudry (44 ff) rejects the view of I. Shatzman (Historia 21 [1972], 177-205) that Roman commanders had complete discretion over the disposal of booty and argues that from the later third century praeda was regarded as the property of the Roman people, and commanders who appropriated it were deemed guilty of peculatus. I doubt whether matters can have been so clear-cut (or the offence of peculatus defined so early). As Shatzman observes, if it had been clear that it was an offence for commanders to retain booty for themselves, there would surely have been more prosecutions. In most of the attested cases which Coudry tabulates (78-9), it is by no means as certain as she suggests that the charge related to appropriation of booty. Thus in the case of M. Livius Salinator in 218,while one late source says that he was condemned ex invidia peculatus (vir. ill. 50.1), Frontinus (strat. 4.1.45) states that his offence was not distributing booty equally among the soldiers. No conclusions can confidently be drawn on this question from the notoriously tangled sources on the trials of the Scipios, where the sums involved are variously spoken of as booty, armistice payments, or a bribe.

Tarpin, in the next paper, holds that commanders could dispose freely of one category of booty, namely spolia, a term which properly relates to captured arms and armour. This forms the basis of his novel solution to the contentious question of the meaning of the word manubiae, already disputed by scholars under the Principate. Manubiae were in Tarpin's view spolia transformed either by sale or symbolically. This theory draws both on Favorinus' statement that manubiae were pecunia ... ex venditione praedae redacta (ap. Gell. 13.25.26) and grammarians' definition of them as spolia quaesita de vivo hoste (Ps.-Asc. 255 Stangl, etc.), but I find it difficult to understand. Tarpin appears to envisage the term manubiae as relating mainly to arms, armour, and artworks, but we do not hear of booty of these kinds being sold. The term manubiae is most commonly used to denote the funding from which buildings were constructed, and the main source in these cases must have been seized cash and bullion and sums realized through the sale of captives. There seems no good reason to suppose that commanders' discretion over disposal varied between different types of booty.

Jacquemin, in the final paper in the first group, reviews the scanty evidence for the sale of booty in the Hellenistic period, but does not relate it to Roman practice.

Humm opens the second section with a stimulating paper on the display of captured arms, armour and artworks on or in public monuments and private houses during the Samnite War period. Following Hölscher and others, he interprets this as a new development reflecting both Greek influence and the aspirations of the new nobilitas. Much in this argument is persuasive, but the scholarly consensus that the displaying of captured arms and armour at Rome was a late fourth century innovation is merely a modern hypothesis and perhaps needs reconsideration. Greeks did not display such booty in private houses, and at least this Roman practice may have been of greater antiquity. At any rate Humm surely goes too far when he seeks (133-6) to downdate the spolia opima tradition to the later fourth century and suggests that the A. Cornelius Cossus originally credited with winning these spoils may have been not, as our sources claim, a late fifth century member of the family fighting against Veii, but the consul of 343 commanding against the Samnites. If the tale had originated in this comparatively better attested context, we would surely have heard of it.

Coudry follows with another thorough and well researched paper on aurum coronarium (on which see also now Östenberg, Staging the World, 119-27). She traces its origin from Greek cities' practice of giving honorific gold crowns in diplomacy and to rulers. From the beginning of the second century Roman commanders receiving such crowns had them carried in their triumphs. Coudry rightly identifies this as a significant instance of the Roman elite's assimilation and adaptation of Hellenistic political and cultural codes. It was also a necessary precaution: it would have been politically risky for a commander who received such crowns not to have them carried in his triumph and handed in to the treasury. The crowns were no doubt offered to Flamininus and his successors in the Greek East spontaneously, but Roman commanders soon learned to prompt the cities under their authority: Livy reports successive praetorian commanders as carrying numerous crowns in their Spanish triumphs in 185-180. By Cicero's day it had become commonplace for crowns to be commuted to cash, as aurum coronarium. Compulsory exaction of crown money developed in the civil war period and continued under the Principate, but, as Coudry shows, it did not simply become a form of taxation: it continued to be linked to special celebrations, and crowns, rather than money, were still sometimes offered.

Holz's paper examines the evolution of Roman commanders' deployment of works of art taken as booty, and includes within its scope further developments such as Verres' seizures of artworks and Pompey's theatre complex.

Stoffel's paper, which begins the third section, discusses the differing judgements passed by Polybius, Cicero, Livy and Plutarch on Marcellus' seizure and despatch to Rome of artworks from Syracuse and Marcellus' possible motives for this action. She insists (218) that this was the first time that Greek art had been brought to Rome as booty and in large quantity, a point more fully developed by M. McDonnell, in S. Dillon and K.E. Welch (edd.), Representations of War in Ancient Rome (Cambridge, 2006), 68-90 (not cited by Stoffel). (See also now M.M. Miles, Art as Plunder: the Ancient Origins of Debate about Art as Cultural Property (Cambridge, 2008), 61 ff; Östenberg, Staging the World 79 ff.)

Collas-Heddeland compares Greek and Roman practices relating to the freeing of prisoners of war. In both cultures prisoners might be freed without ransom for political advantage, and treaties imposed by victors commonly obliged the defeated to return their prisoners without charge. Hellenistic states generally permitted their opponents to recover prisoners by exchange or ransom and sought to recover their own prisoners in this way, but Roman practice was somewhat different: we only occasionally hear of Roman commanders permitting ransoming, and, although after Heraclea they offered Pyrrhus ransoms, they famously refused to pay ransoms after Cannae.

Greek and Roman practice is also compared in the final chapter, a lucid treatment by Ungern-Sternberg of money payments in victors' treaties. Ungern-Sternberg argues that in Greek treaties such payments were normally based on war costs but that, although Romans sometimes paid lip-service to this principle (for example Scipio Africanus, cited by Pol. 21.14.3), the payments they imposed were often determined rather by how much they thought they could exact from their opponents. Notable instances of such Roman profiteering were the additional payment they exacted from Carthage in 237 following the dispute over Sardinia and the huge sum of 15,000 talents which they compelled Antiochus to pay under the treaty concluded in 188.


Avant- propos 7

Introduction générale 9

I. Appropriation et partage du butin 19
Partage et gestion du butin dans la Rome républicaine: procédures et enjeux (Marianne Coudry) 21
Les manubiae dans la procédure d'appropriation du butin (Michel Tarpin) 81
La vente du butin dans le monde grec à l'époque hellénistique (Anne Jacquemin) 103

II. Prestige et hellénisation 115
Exhibition et "monumentalisation" du butin dans la Rome médio-républicaine (Michel Humm) 117
Les origines républicaines de l'or coronaire (Marianne Coudry) 153
'Praeda und Prestige -- Kriegsbeute und Beutekunst im (spät)republikanischen Rom' (Susann Holz) 187

III. Débats et enjeux autour des prises de guerre 207
'Fallait-il piller Syracuse? Un débat passionné' (Éliane Stoffel) 209
'Faut-il libérer les prisonniers de guerre? Pratiques grecques et pratiques romaines' (E. Collas-Heddeland) 223
'Kriegsentschädigungen—eine vertraglich geregelte Form der Beute?' (Jürgen von Ungern-Sternberg) 247

Résumés/Resümees/Abstracts 265
Index 275

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