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The Comings and Goings of Scipio Africanus: Locating the Arch of Scipio in a Livian Profectio

Jordan Rogers

University of Pennsylvania

Livy’s discussion of Rome’s topography has garnered a significant amount of attention from scholars interested in the role that monuments play as receptacles of cultural memory, even after their destruction or decay (Kraus 1994, Jaeger 1997, Gowing 2008, Lushkov 2014). Recently, the investigation of Livy’s descriptions of manubial monuments in particular has led to a sudden burst of scholarly activity regarding the Republican triumph, both as an institution under continuous contestation by the members of the aristocracy and therefore always evolving in terms of its rules and regulations (Pittenger 2008, Bastien 2008, Popkin 2016), and as the anticipated counterpart to the ritual profectio, marking the end of a temporal cycle of war (Feldherr 1998, Meister 2013, Westall 2014).

            In this paper, I argue that Livy’s description of the ritual profectio throughout his history both reveals an institution, like the triumph, under constant negotiation between members of the aristocracy and begins a narrative cycle that colors how the reader is meant to interpret subsequent events. Central to my analysis is Livy’s description of the construction of the Arch of P. Cornelius Scipio Africanus in 190 BCE before his departure for Asia. Not only is this the only surviving reference to Scipio’s arch, but it is also only the second time in Livy’s narrative that an arch is constructed, the first being Stertinius’ three arches from 196 BCE after his Spanish campaign, commonly interpreted as substitutes for triumphal honors (Ridley 2014). The purpose of Scipio’s arch in Livy’s narrative, however, is left ambiguous, leading both the reader and the characters of the ab Urbe Condita to contest its precise monumental identity.

            Livy describes Scipio’s first departure as a privatus cum imperio in 211 BCE by alluding to rumors of his divine parentage and his special relationship to the Capitoline. When he reaches Rome in 206 BCE, victorious over the Carthaginians in Spain, Scipio, after failing to obtain a triumph, is nonetheless elected consul and ultimately returns to the Capitoline to sacrifice a hecatomb (28.38.4-8). Scipio’s second departure, his naval profectio from Sicily to Africa in 205 BCE, is marked by an extended and significant intertext to Thucydides’ description of the Sicilian expedition (Saylor Rodgers 1986; 29.25; Thuc. 6.31-2). Yet where the reader might expect Scipio’s recall due to his indirect involvement in the religious scandal at Locri, as with Alcibiades and the mutilation of the Herms, he is absolved of any responsibility by the Locrians and reaches Africa, defeating Hannibal at Zama and returning to Rome in triumph in 201 BCE. Scipio’s dedication of his arch on the Capitoline in 190 therefore should be considered as yet another marker of narrative importance in Livy’s text, creating a sense of suspense concerning the resolution of this narrative arc (37.3.7).

            While Scipio does return to the Capitoline for official business when he dedicates a statue of Hercules in the Capitol in 188 BCE (38.35), it is not until his arraignment in 187 BCE that he abandons the rostra, and his defense, and finally ascends the Capitoline, with the people of Rome following closely behind (38.51.12-14). Livy’s verbal echoes between his initial description of the arch (adversus via qua in Capitolium escenditur) and this later ascent of Scipio (ab rostris in Capitolium escendit) evoke the arch and signal the triumphal nature of Scipio’s movement to the Capitoline. Yet Livy presents Scipio’s procession as a reverse triumph, beginning within the walls of the city and processing from the Capitoline to all of the temples in the city before ending, eventually, in Liternum. For Livy’s audience, who had witnessed the dedication of two arches by Augustus in 29 and 20 BCE, for victories at Philippi and over the Parthians, respectively, the triumphal connotations of the arch of Scipio signal a claim to triumphal status (Kleiner 1988). Viewing the arch as part of Scipio’s profectio is therefore critical to understanding the monument’s place in Livy’s narrative.

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Livy and Tacitus

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