Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Rome vs. Carthage: The Day the World Trembled

Rome vs. Carthage: The Day the World Trembled:
I subscribe to Military History Magazine and recommend it heartily. This article appeared in a recent issue and it is a very nice overview of the Punic Wars:

"That the two greatest powers of the Mediterranean should come into mortal conflict was inevitable. Both were vigorous, aggressive, exceptionally organized and well-led. As each expanded its boundaries, ultimately there was no way that a clash of arms could be avoided. The titanic struggle between the two superpowers of the ancient world lasted more than 60 years before one side emerged the indisputable victor.

The showdown came over fair, fertile and rich Sicily, which stood in the path of Rome's expansion toward the south and that of Carthage toward the north. In 264 bc the two mighty empires collided, and for nearly a quarter century, they tore Sicily apart in inconclusive combat. Gradually, Rome gained the upper hand, but several years before the end of the struggle a military genius arose on the Punic side: Hamilcar, surnamed Barca -- "the thunderbolt." His brilliant tactics restored the military balance, and the war slowly ground down to an exhausted stalemate.

In the end, the outcome was decided at sea. The Romans initially had been no match for the Carthaginians in naval warfare, but with typical Roman ingenuity they overcame their deficiency by the invention of the corvu (crow), a long plank with a heavy spike protruding from the end that, when dropped, effectively pinned two warships together. This transformed a sea battle into a land battle, and Roman soldiers -- in essence the world's first marines -- could rush over the plank and fight the enemy hand to hand. The First Punic War came to an end at the naval battle of Aegusa in 241 bc. The Roman navy won a decisive victory over the Carthaginians, and the remaining Punic strongholds on Sicily could now be blockaded."

Performing Cicero

This is an interesting website where you can view three different reenactments of Cicero's famous defense of Marcus Caelius. I particularly enjoyed version 1 since the New Zealand actor seemed to resemble Cicero more and was more flamboyant. Based on reading the actual speech in the internet archives and remembering its portrayal in one of my favorite books by Steven Saylor, "The Venus Throw", I couldn't help but enjoy the New Zealand version more.

"Impersonation, known by the general terms fictio personae in Latin and prosopopoeia in Greek, was a way to vary and animate a speech by summoning a figure to speak the orator's sentiments in his (or her or its) own voice (cf. Quint. Inst. 9.2.29-35). The device brought the orator's style of performance ever closer to the actor's and encouraged a certain grandeur of manner and style. Among the most famous prosopopoeiae in Roman oratory is a passage from Cicero's speech in defense of Marcus Caelius where the advocate, having already cast Caelius' jilted lover Clodia as the evil genius behind the prosecution, summons her distinguished ancestor Appius Claudius Caecus to shame and scold her for her conduct."

Servius Sulpicius Topic of Roman Law Lecture

In a recent lecture, Cornell University Professor Okko Behrends "explored Servius Sulpicius's powerful influence on Roman law, and discussed the overshadowing of the great orator by his better-known counterpart Cicero. Behrends outlined the two law schools of their era: the humanistic law of Servius and the pre-classical natural law, illuminating how Servius's ideas represented a major break from the latter's imposing influence on legal thought.

Servius, Behrends said, believed that law was manmade. He understood that 'the rules are laid down by human understanding ... not part of natural reason which only needs detection.' Behrends likened this debate to the phenomenon of language: is language given to mankind, or does man create it himself?

'He no longer accepted floating legal principles; law, Servius believed, should be definite. Law is realized in civil equity or distinct moral qualities inherent in man's consciousness,' Behrends said."