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4.2.Lobur

The study of Nepos (for summary see Pryzwansky 2009/10) has recently begun to recover from a deprecation (culminating in Jenkinson 1967, 1973 and Horsfall 1982) that has hampered our understanding of his work. Scholarship now emphasizes Nepos' connections among Rome's cultural elite (Wiseman 1980, Geiger 1985 a, Hallett 2002 and 2003), his originality (Bradley1967, Geiger 1985 b Tuplin), and the merits of his biographical technique when paired with his moral purpose (McCarty 1967, Titchener 2003, Anselm 2005, Stem 2009, Benecker 2009). Moreover, Dionisotti (1988) Millar (1988) and Anselm (2005) have explored his work as illustrating contemporary political and ethical concerns. Yet the fact that that the surviving Liber de Excellentibus Ducibus Exterarum Gentium provides loaded subject matter for a triumviral work (for dates see Geiger (1985 b) 84 ff. Anselm (2005) 43ff), as well as the author's own sensitivity to the political influence of cultural experts like Atticus (Att. 4.1-2; 19-20) prompts deeper exploration of its involvement in the ideological activity facilitating the transition from republic to empire. Our understanding of this can and should be radically extended through attention to triumviral and early imperial sources, and I suggest three ways this can be done.

First, biographies of commanders have salience in an era when many still received triumphs (see the Fasti Triumphales, and the gap of approximately 7 entries between 34 and 28 BCE (Degrassi 1968)). Moreover, while it is true Nepos reserves highest praise for tyrannicides, and emphasizes a commander's proper deference to his state (Dionisotti 1988)), he also demonstrates remarkable sensitivity to situations when commanders must act on their own initiative, without authorization, or against orders (e.g Cim. 3.3, Alc. 8, Chab. 4.1, Epam. 7.1, 4 cf. RGDA 1), and even furnishes patriotic motives for those who must oppose their country, for example by joining the Persians (e.g. Alc. 9.4-5: ad patriam liberandam; Con. 2.1: — n.b. the republican Quintus Labienus invaded the Roman East with a Parthian army in 40 BCE). Moreover, the language involved in the description of comprehensive commands in general, even in democratic city states, is salient (e.g. Alc. 7.1 ei . . totaque res publica domi bellaque tradita, ut unius arbitrio gereretur). One can also see the author quite preoccupied with demonstrating the singular, and indispensable nature of individual generals (e.g. Milt. 1.1, Them. 5.3, Cim. 3.1, Alc. 1.4, 4.6, 11.6: princeps poneretur habereturque carissimus, Ep. 10.4 : unum hominem pluris quam civitate fuisse, etc.), something that finds resonance with sources as diverse as Catullus 29 and 54, Livy (Santoro L'hoir 1990), and the shift in Octavian's nomenclature to make "Imperator" his praenomen (Syme, 1958).

Second, Nepos depicts stories of loyalty, betrayal and fugitives (e.g. Them. 8-9, Alc. 10) that echo the proscription narratives embedded in Appian (BC 4.1.1-6.51) and Dio (47.1-19.4, C.f. Syme (1939) 190ff), as well as exemplary conduct when faced with treachery (e.g. Ages. 6.2, Dat. 6.3-8). The life of Datames portrays a subject who consistently yet ethically manages court intrigue and several unfaithful family members.

Finally, there are clear and startling resonances between Nepos' lives and the early imperial language of "restoration" and power. Perhaps the most salient example is Timoleon, who, in ending tyranny in Syracuse exhibited noteworthy clementia (2.2.(cf. RGDA 3.1), rebuilt cities and temples (cf. Att. 20.3, RGDA 19-21, 24), restored government (3.2: civitatibus leges libertatemque reddidit), and finally abdicated supreme power, but, notably, we are told: nullus honos huic defuit, neque postea res ulla Syracusis gesta est publice, de qua prius sit decretum quam Timoleontis sententia cognita. Nullius umquam consilium non modo antelatum, sed ne comparatum quidem est. This reflects not only Augustus' eventual position as princeps senatus, but alsoimperial speeches in Dio (53.3.1-53.10.8; 56.35.1-56.41.9, probably derived from Augustus' autobiography) and, notably, the RGDA 34: auctoritate omnibus praestiti, potestatis autem nihilo amplium habui quam ceteri . . . etc. Nepos, a decidedly pre-restoration author, prefigures essential constructs of imperial authority.

Bibliography

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