I’m really excited I get to participate in the 13-14 Oct 2017, Numa Numa Conference at UMich, Ann Arbor, MI. It’s always good to get some coins into any conversation, but especially one on Classical Receptions. Here’s my paper abstract:
The Early Flexibility of Numa’s Image
Numa has always been “good to think with” at least as early as we can identify his tradition in art and literature. This paper seeks to contextualize and explain our very earliest testimony with a specific emphasis on early material culture. In doing so it aims to problematize the later reception of any one singular or canonical ‘Roman’ tradition around this king.
Our pre-Ciceronian testimonia is very scant indeed. Only four late second century BC historians L. Cassius Hemina, L. Calpurnius Piso Frugi, C. Sempronius Tuditanus, Gn. Gellius are known to have discussed Numa. And of those from the first half of the first century only two, Paulus Clodius (date disputed) and Valerius Antias (80s-60s BC). Even more telling is that we know of these earlier references primarily through antiquarian sources, such as Pliny the Elder and Macrobius. Besides these historical tidbits of the early Numa tradition, we have just one satirical poetic reference from Lucilius (c. 100 BC; 15.485) The Ciceronian corpus is equally sparse in the early days of his career and just three references total from his numerous public speeches (63 BC, pro C. Rab. 13.10; 62 BC, pro Sulla 22.9; 57 BC, de Domo 127.2). None in his voluminous corpus of surviving letters! It is in his later oratorical, philosophical and legal treatises that Cicero helps to form our conception of Numa: four references in the De Oratore (55 BC); six references in the de re publica and de legibus (51 BC); and then four references in Paradoxa Stoicorum, De Finibus, and De Natura Deorum (46-45 BC). Thus, while we may safely assume that Numa has a place in the most influential pieces of early Latin literature, say the Annales of Ennius, and that this influenced the later traditions we know so well, we have little to no surviving evidence of the formation of this tradition.
Numa does, however, appear on Roman republican coinage of the first century BC and within certain limits this coinage can be accurately dated, just as can be done with the Ciceronian corpus. This numismatic iconography is remarkably diverse, emphasizing different regal and religious attributes of the Roman king (RRC 334/1, 97 BC; 346/1 & 3, 88BC; 446/1, 48 BC). This diversity deserves explanation as it has an extended influence over the later reception of Numa’s image and identity. A good deal of contemporary contextualization can be provided by the early (pre-Augustan) literary tradition, but the specific references to Numa in both these texts and images needs to be brought into dialogue with the evolving Roman perspective of kingship at Rome in the tumultuous last century of the Republic. To that end this paper demonstrates what is unique about Numa’s image in this early period as contrasted with other early Roman kings, Romulus, Servius, Ancius and Tarquin most specifically.
I am only slightly embarrassed that I had no idea until I was making travel plans and talking to my partner in life about the conference, that the title was a reference to the very first viral video. I do, however, look forward to figuring out how to include the viral video in my talk somehow!