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Marius Matters

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  • IrenesBooks@aol.com
    For those who participate in the chat on Marius, or read the book: I just found a backup of the hayseed without Greek refutation, in Erich Gruen s Cultural
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 24, 2000
      For those who participate in the chat on Marius, or read the book: I just
      found a backup of the "hayseed without Greek" refutation, in Erich Gruen's
      "Cultural and National Identity in Republican Rome, p. 268 ff.

      "The Hellenism of a Roman aristocrat needs to be worn lightly. Its value
      rests in the advance of traditional interests.

      A final - -and notorious -- example serves to confirm the argument. The
      impression of C. Marius, fostered by himself, his supporters, his opponents,
      or some combination thereof, is that of the rugged, rural nationalist
      untutored by and uninterested in higher learning. Sallust ascribes to Marius
      a speech in which he denies any exposure to Greek literature, adding that he
      had rejected such learning because it had brought no virtue to those who
      professed it. The story that he was uneducated in Greek and deliberately
      scorned such education plainly circulated in his own day and after.

      The truth lies elsewhere. The pose of Marius is closely akin to that of
      several Roman nobiles of the previous three generations. He put weight on
      native virtus as opposed to Hellenic rhetorical overrefinement -- long since
      a standard line. Political and pragmatic purposes dictated such a stance on
      appropriate occasions. In fact, Marius was not ignorant of Hellenic matters.
      Plutarch at one point has him make reference to a line of Pindar. And after
      his victories in the German wars, it was said, Marius took to drinking from a
      Bacchic vessel in deliberate imitation of Dionysus' practice after his Indian
      triumph. Hence, Marius did not shrink from overt allusion to Hellenic myth
      and tradition. Plutarch offers the best insight into Marius' public attitude:
      he never used the Greek language for serious matters. The statement implies
      that he knew Greek but would not employ it in an official capacity or in
      situations of public import. That stance, as we have seen, has a host of
      precedents. The purpose, it need hardly be said, was to reaffirm Roman
      mastery and superiority. Marius delivered the point by explaining that it
      would be absurd to take instruction from those who are the slaves of others.

      A particular episode exemplifies Marius' attitude. The great general, after
      his second triumph, sponsored a public show in Greek style. When the
      performance took place, Marius sat down in the theater, took one look, and
      then exited. It would seem natural to infer that he arranged the incident in
      order to exhibit contempt for Greek plays and, by extension, for Greek
      culture generally. That would be a rash conclusion. If Marius' conspicuous
      entrance and departure expressed disdain, they would surely reflect disdain
      for the populace who attended -- not a polite or politic act. A more
      plausible motive suggests itself. Marius financed and produced the show for
      the edification of the public, at tended its opening, and then withdrew. Like
      L. Anicius in 167, the Roman imperator demonstrated that his nation
      controlled the cultural products of Greece and could employ them for the
      advantage of its own citizens."

      Co-host, Ancient/Classical History Forum
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