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CHAPTER 2 CURSUS AND CAREER The inscription of rehabilitation begins, as almost all Roman honorific inscriptions do, with a formulaic prescript which provides a dedicatory statement, reasons for the dedication, and an account of the career of the person honored, in Latin a cursus honorum. In this chapter I will use the word cursus (pl. cursus) to describe such a specific, selective account. I will use the English word ‘‘career’’ to refer to the general sum of honors and offices actually held, so far as they can be known. The cursus is a selective statement in a particular historical context. The ‘‘career’’ is compiled by looking at the total of all cursus; it is more complete, but it is also divorced from the historical context. This rehabilitation honors two individuals. Its preamble includes the cursus of both Flavian and his son. A third member of the family, Appius Nicomachus Dexter, is mentioned after the end of the imperial letter. Consideration of these cursus will be useful for the general historical and political background they provide. In addition, however, the display of these cursus is central to the function of the rehabilitation, and poses important problems of internal consistency, of omission and inclusion—all particular manifestations of the more general difficulties created by the damnatio memoriae and subsequent rehabilitation of the elder Flavian. The interpretation of these cursus is complicated. The inscription has been revised: so much is stated in its preamble. Consequently the cursus provide not so much an account of the lives of Flavian the elder and Flavian the younger as a restoration of an earlier account of those lives. In considering the careers every detail becomes subject to doubt. Are the various cursus of these individuals complete and accurate? Do they provide lists of all offices actually held, or only a list of the offices regarded as legitimate after the rehabilitation ? Was the rehabilitation thoroughgoing, or are certain aspects of the careers still suppressed? In this chapter I will provide a general account of the careers of the elder Flavian, his son, and Dexter, and I will survey the controversies they have provoked. While I hope this account is clear and even interesting, I have not been concerned to simplify and solve the difficulties in these careers or to iron out the scholarly controversies; to the contrary, I have attempted to emphasize them to the extent possible. In evaluating the rehabilitation, it is not so important to resolve ambiguities and omissions as it is to identify them and understand their motivation. Here it is the problem that is important, not the solution. The cursus that are presented in the rehabilitation insist on their own literary character in unusually emphatic ways. This literary character is made obvious because they are represented as revisions. They are not imagined as accounts of the ‘‘real lives’’ of Flavian and his son; instead, they are conceived as altered, corrected citations of other texts. Consequently, they resist treatment as straightforward descriptions of reality, and they insistently raise fascinating questions of addition, omission, and implication; issues of representation and rhetoric. THE IDEA OF THE CURSUS The cursus honorum is severely economical and formulaic: a list, an ordered juxtaposition of details. As a rule, the cursus will be organized either in ascending or descending order: it will proceed chronologically, from less important to more important offices, or in the reverse order.1 The offices of both the elder Flavian and his son are listed in ascending order. Most studies of this inscription have concentrated on the two cursus and have neglected the imperial letter. Since 1970 there have been no fewer than six studies of chronological problems in the cursus of the elder Flavian, and virtually nothing on any other aspect of the inscription.2 This pattern is signi ficant. Roman epigraphers have always given particular attention to the cursus, and for very practical reasons.3 The cursus honorum is a common feature of Roman inscriptions; in fact, many inscriptions consist of little but a cursus. These provide a wealth of information about general administration, specific magistracies, and individual biography.4 Their content and organization is formulaic and regular, so they invite systematic comparison with those found C U R S U S A N D C A R E E R 䡠 7 in other inscriptions: it is not only possible but reasonable, for instance, to speak of ‘‘the typical cursus’’ of a senator or equestrian...


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