Ennius’ Annales, a poem that positions itself squarely at the intersection between epic and historiography, represents a challenging test-case for the question of how intertextuality differs among the genres. Recent discussion has centered on the idea that historians, unlike poets, were circumscribed by their commitment qua historians to transmitting the truth about the past, whether they chose effectively to reproduce a text unaltered or covertly and productively to toy with it (Levene 2010: 82–163; 2011). This paper explores how Ennius’ epic largely meets such criteria for historiographical allusion, not only in the respects which it is generally conceded that historiographical allusivity shares with its poetic analogue but also in what is claimed as largely if not exclusively (Damon 2010: 375, n. 4;Levene 2010: 84–6; Pelling 2011: 5) distinctive to the historiographical genre: the claim to representation of the truth, including “hard core” historical fact, was no less fundamental in the Annales than in the Ab urbe condita, asallusions to the epic in its prose descendants in part testify. Moreover, the reality the Annales claimed to be representing only derived conviction and persuasive power from the Greek epic and historiographical accounts it extended and re-enacted, so that here too the poem can be seen to share its prose competitors’ technique (for the latter, see e.g. Pelling 2011). The question that thus presents itself is whether the Annales were something of a special case or whether the poem is in fact representative of other epic, or even of other poetry more broadly, in its modes of allusion and their relation to the truth-claims it had to make about its presentation of the past. The claim this paper makes is that there is every reason to posit a history in the Annales for the behaviours of allusion as they appear in the Roman historiographical tradition.
In the vision of historiographical allusion here at issue, apparently inert reproduction of the material of preceding tradition in particular signals a commitment to a transhistorical, transtextual reality that can trump allusion’s other possible functions. Thus, summary accounts of previous texts, such as the periochae or Justin’s version of Trogus, crystallise what is true in part of all historiographical accounts: there exists a notional core of historical ‘fact’ to them (however imperfectly it may in any given instance be represented), and this core transcends the political and ideological refinements or re-interpretations that literary authors may super-impose onto it (Levene 2011). Here too it is worth considering the role of the Annales in contributing to the ability of these latter-day arrivals on the historiographical scene to appeal and to stand their ground: they are fraught with phrases that point back by the specificity of their language to Ennius, via Livy, Sallust, and Vergil. These phrases include Sallustian varia victoria at HP 2.5.4–5 and 44.2.7, Sallustian-Livian suis eos opibus, suis viribus, suis armis . . . at HP 31.5.6, and Ennian-Vergilian somno ac vino sepultam at HP 43.4.7 (quoted here in their mutated Trogan/Justinian iterations). The phrases are sometimes comfortably integrated, elsewhere curiously at odds with the context in which they appear. This paper argues that, especially in the latter case, they work in concert with the texts’ claim to transmit the notional core of history by abetting the texts’ claim to carry the authority of tradition, linking their new textual homes, however tenuously, back by means of pointed recall to the epic granddaddy of Roman historiography, Ennius’ Annales, via its most famous progeny in the prose historiographical tradition.