In Roman literature Aeneas serves as the epitome of a well behaved exemplary citizen. The poet Archias is also the embodiment of the values of Rome. He displays loyalty, honesty, and honorable character. These traits make him a model citizen. However we also have Roman citizens like Catalina who have done bad things like attempting to over throw the republic, attempting assassinations, and extorting money. Behaviors among citizens such as those displayed by Catalina force us to pose the question do those poorly behaved citizens make Rome and its accomplishments any less dmirable?
The Roman poet Aulus Licinius Archias was a favorite of the great Roman orator Cicero. While defending his citizenship in 62 AD he cited his loyalty, honesty, and other honorable characteristics were cited alongside a number of papers with his name recorded on the citizen list as reasons as why he should be considered a citizen. Cicero argued in his speech, In Defense of the Poet Aulus Licinius Archias, that Archias was in fact a Roman citizen because he had served in the Roman Military, and had claimed citizenship of the Roman franchise Heraclea in Lucania.
The court ultimately decided in Cicero’s favor. Archias who had grown to be a talented, respected, and celebrated poet was greatly renowned in the Roman world and surrounding areas at the time. “At the time, it was a city of extensive population and wealth, overflowing with fine scholars and scholarly activities, and it was there that he first succeeded, very rapidly, in showing gifts of an exceptional nature. Later on, when he visited various parts of Asia and toured round the whole of Greece, his arrival in a place would arouse the keenest interest.
His talents had by now won him a igh reputation, and the excitement aroused by the news of an imminent visit by Archias reached remarkable heights (Cicero, 149)”. While defending Archias, Cicero told the court Archias poems “[provides] my mind with refreshment after the din of the courts; he soothes my ears to rest when they are wearied by angry disputes (Cicero, 154)”. Cicero tells the court that although Archias was not a natural born citizen and he acquired his citizenship he was fiercely faithful and loyal to the roman republic.
He even tells the accusers of Archias to back off and calm down because while his name has been found on citizen ists but not on census rolls it is because he was serving in the Army in the two previous census rolls and not to mention he has made his will like that of a Roman citizen. “You miss his name on the census-rolls. But is it really such a deadly secret that at the time of the last census he was with the army, on the staff of the eminent Lucius Lucullus, and on the immediately preceding occasion he was likewise with Lucullus, on the latter’s quaestorship in Asia? During the years in question my client. ade his will on a number of occasions according to Roman law. ” (Cicero, 153).
The accusers of Archias used the fact that his name was missing from citizen rolls by claiming that he was not a true citizen. Cicero defends Archias by telling his accusers that he served in the military and adds that Archias had adopted a will like those made by other outstanding roman citizens. bringing the matter of Archias’s will into the court evidence for his citizenship he shows the Romans that he is just like them when taking care of personal matters and he also shares a love of the country with them by serving not one but two services in the Army.
An additional example to look at while etermining Rome’s greatness: Aeneas the founder of Rome. Cicero says that the greatness of Rome is preserved through the writings of poets like Archias. “Just think of the number of vividly drawn pictures of valiant men of the past that Greek and Latin writers have preserved for our benefit: not for mere inspection only, but for imitation as well. Throughout my public activities I have never ceased to keep these great figures before my eyes, and have modelled myself heart and soul on the contemplation of their excellence” (Cicero, 155).
The “valiant men of the past hat Greek and Latin writers have preserved for our benefit” (Cicero 155) Cicero talks about is Aeneas, the founder of Rome. The Roman poet Vergil wrote The Aeneid to tell of the legend of the founding of Rome by Aeneas and of the empire’s great glory. The main character of the book, Aeneas, hails from Troy. Following the fall of Troy during the Trojan War, “For years they wandered as their destiny drove them on from one sea to the next: so hard and huge a task it was to found the Roman people” (1. 6-49).
The Roman epic portrays Aeneas as a faithful, pious servant to the gods. He demonstrates his faithfulness by fulfilling his destiny by founding the great city of Rome and its people, and by extensions perhaps the greatest empire the world has ever seen on the face of this earth, the Roman Empire. In The Aeneid, after Aeneas sleeps with Dido, the Queen of Carthage, he stays in the city for a while. Jupiter, seeing Aeneas has no desire to continue seeking Italy sends Mercury to tell him to leave (IV. 300-324).
He does not want to leave Dido but he knows he has a greater destiny to fulfill and he tells her “I leave for Italy not of my own free will” (IV. 499). Aeneas already has the knowledge of a greater duty that he is destined to fulfill. That destiny does not include staying and creating a new empire in a city that is already established, but instead one that is in a land far away that has yet to be established. This displays Aeneas’s piety towards the gods in his willingness to continue on at a task that is so overwhelming, and much bigger than himself and his personal interests.
While Aeneas may seem to be shaping up to be a good guy like Archias he also has a lot of bad characteristics. For example, while he can be dutiful to the gods, as shown in pervious xamples, he also likes to do as he pleases. In Book II, when Hektor appears to Aeneas in a vision he tells him to depart from Troy immediately. While the Greeks are sacking the city. Aeneas choses to not listen, and immediately goes to join the battle against the Greeks. Aeneas also showcases more of his bad side in Book X.
After he hears of the tragic death of his best friend, Pallas, at the hands of Turnus, he “Took four sons of Sulmo, four more Ufens reared, took them alive to offer for the shades” (X. 727-729). These men are to be a sacrifice at Pallas’s funeral. He then goes on a killing rampage, temporarily orgetting the words of his Farther, Anchises, at the end of Book VI. “To spare the conquered” (VI. 1154). He comes upon a man named Magnus, who offers him gold and silver in exchange for his life.
Aeneas tells the man “Those bars of gold and silver that you tell of, spare for your sons” (X. 45-746) he refuses the offer. He then “bent the neck… and drove home the sword up to the hilt” (X. 752-753). These five deaths by Aeneas are extremely gruesome, and they go to show that he has lost his duty towards his father and honor. By killing those who are conquered and pleading for mercy Aeneas has lost his way long the path of duty and honor. Let us also not forget the last action of Aeneas, in The Aeneid, when he is fighting the Rutulian king Turnus. Turnus also asks for mercy and asks to be taken back to his people in good condition. “He shank his blade in fury in Turnus’ chest.
Then the body slackened in death’s chill, and with a groan for that indignity His spirit fled into the gloom below” (XII. 1295). In this passage the word “shank” in Latin actually means “founded”. In this way Aeneas founds the “great” city of Rome in bloodshed. Because Aeneas did this I think Rome nd its people are destined to be bad forever. An example of this is found in a speech of Cicero’s. In Against Lucius Sergius Catalina, Catalina, whom Cicero argued should be exiled from Rome for his heinous crimes casts Rome in a bad light because Cicero says he corrupts the youth of Rome.
In this case he is charged with a number of crimes ranging from extortion to assassination attempts to rebellions. When Cicero is asking the senate and the people of Rome to exile Catalina, he talks about how Catalina was prosecuted for illicit financial gains when he was governor of Africa (Cicero, 71). Cicero also tells them about the assassination attempt on his life and how he found out about the attempt and put a stop to it almost as soon as the plan was carried out by reinforcing his house with more guards.
Cicero said he also did the same with other assassination attempts on other consuls; all this without raising public alarm. (Cicero, 80- 81). Cicero is so horrified by Catalina’s possible involvement with the death of his son from his first marriage that he tells the senate “but I pass the incident over and gladly allow it to be veiled, because I cannot bear people to say that uch a horror could have been perpetrated in this country” (Cicero, 83).
In Cicero’s second speech in Against Lucius Sergius Catalina he says to the people, “if I had put him to the death he deserved, the consequent outcry against myself would have made it impossible to go on and tackle his [Catalina’s] accomplices” (Cicero, 95). Cicero shows that although taking Catalina down would have been nice, taking down his accomplices as well would be much more beneficial for the whole of the Republic. While Archias’s loyalty, honesty and other honorable characteristics show that Rome can be great city, the actions one by citizens such as Catalina and Aeneas show that this great city is destined to fall.
The way in which Rome was founded, on the killing of a man pleading for mercy, and all the corruption by just one official in the republic shows that the city actually is not that great and actually deserves to have that part of its history remembered more than the greatness that has come out of it. We always remember Rome for its greatness however, I think we should also remember it for the scandals that happened in its past so we ourselves do not fall into that trap.