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Caesar and Sisenna: Some Debts, Some Parallels

Christopher B. Krebs

This paper will argue that Caesar was evidently familiar with Sisenna’s work. 

Caesar’s Commentarii have hardly been studied with regard to antecedent Roman historians, probably because of their generic difference from historia and, more generally, alleged overall sparseness (Cic. Brut. 262). Even though the question is compounded by the fragmentary state of early republican historiography, this paper will argue that there is ample evidence of Caesar’s familiarity with, and even imitation of, the Historiae by Lucius Cornelius Sisenna.

After a few general observations on why Caesar, who wrote a treatise de analogia, should have been acquainted with the work of Sisenna, his generation’s foremost analogist (Rawson 1979), I will argue that in four cases the former seems to owe an expression or turn of phrase to the latter’s now fragmentary work. One example: post principia paulatim recedunt atque inde cum paucis fugae se mandant, writes Sisenna (Hist. 28 [Chass., P34]), introducing the choice expression “se fugae mandare” (Cf. TLL 6.1, 1469.40-42 [Rubenbauer]). Sisenna’s expression had a very limited afterlife, which makes it all the more surprising that it has six attestations in the Corpus Caesarianum. A favorite expression with Caesar, who uses it four times, it occurs for the first time in BG 1 (12.3): reliqui sese fugae mandarunt atque in proximas silvas abdiderunt (the other three instances are BG 2.24.2, 5.18.5, and 7.67.6).

I will subsequently turn to another set of parallels, which, however, do not seem to constitute direct debts of Caesar to Sisenna: here, in this section, the most interesting case is the expression “castra maxima” (Sisenna Hist. 110 [Chass., P65], Caes. BC 3.62.2). In discussing both sets, I will pay particular attention to the potential shortfalls of the methodology applied, relate them to those addressed in intertextual studies, and reflect on possible improvements.

Ultimately, this paper also reasserts the case for a historiographical reading of Caesar’s Commentarii.

Word count: 334, excluding bibliography

Session/Panel Title

Historical Poetics and the Intertext

Session/Paper Number

17.3

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