- The Republican Aventine and Rome’s Social Order by Lisa Marie Mignone
In the introduction (1–16) the author sets up the straw man that she pulverizes in the following five chapters: Alfred Merlin’s L’Aventin dans l’antiquité (Paris 1906), in which he maintained that the ancient Aventine was the plebeian district par excellence.
Chapter 1 (17–47) concerns the three secessions of the plebs in the much later historical tradition. Mignone makes the obvious points that the first [End Page 287] secession was generally placed on the Sacred Mount, and the third on the Janiculum. Piso’s placement of the first secession on the Aventine is explained by the author’s variation of the reviewer’s contention that it was influenced by the Gracchans fleeing to the Aventine in 121.
Chapter 2 (48–76) concerns the Lex Icilia de Aventino of 456. The author rightly dismisses Dionysius’ characterization of the law’s provisions as being anachronistically reinterpreted in terms of an agrarian law of the Late Republic. Mignone surveys the later historical traditions surrounding Icilii of the fifth century and points out their stereotypical portrayals, but then strangely concludes that this late historical material testifies to the existence of an Icilian dynasty of the fifth century. It is far more reasonable to conclude that these fifth-century Icilii are the imaginings of the late historical tradition, excogitated from a single historical figure, the author of the Lex Icilia de Aventino. The author’s rejection of the law’s survival on bronze in the temple of Diana from the fifth century goes too far. The survival of the cippus of the Lapis Niger, the Foedus Gabinum, the Foedus Cassianum, and Rome’s earliest treaty with Carthage renders quite plausible the survival of an archaic bronze text as specifically stated by Dionysius.
Chapters 3 and 4 (77–116 and 117–37) leave the dark age of early Rome and move to the last two centuries b.c. The author brings together scanty literary, epigraphic, and archaeological evidence to suggest a heterogeneous residential pattern on the Aventine for that period. The analysis involves the poet Ennius, the Sulpicii Galbae, persons mentioned by Livy in connection with the Bacchanalian affair of 186, and the remains of a substantial residential structure.
Chapter 5 (138–79) is wide ranging. The author first considers ancient Rome’s urban planning (or lack thereof) in connection with twentieth-century theories of premodern and modern city planning and residential patterns. She next uses evidence from Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Rome’s regionary catalogue of Late Antiquity to argue convincingly that the houses of the well-to-do were scattered throughout all districts of Rome and were surrounded by the residences and small shops of numerous commoners.
The epilogue (184–202) is an interesting survey of how the idea of plebeian secession and the Aventine entered the political thought of dissidents of the modern era: Simon Bolivar, Parisian revolutionaries of 1871, parliamentary opponents of Mussolini in 1924, and scholars characterizing the actions of Cola di Rienzo.
The text ends with two appendices (205–13). Students of ancient Roman topography should find appendix 1 of interest. It concerns the location of the temple of Ceres, Liber, and Libera. The author wishes to locate the shrine not on the Aventine itself, but nearby at the Circus Maximus.
The book is well written and displays the author’s considerable erudition and breadth of knowledge, although there are occasional factual lapses: 396 for the Gallic capture of Rome (29); lex de pecuniis repentundis (43); Piso Frugi proposed a grain law (43); 276 as the date of the Lex Hortensia (75); Porcius Licinius (79); confusion of Q. Fabius Maximus Rullianus with his son Gurges (106); five (instead of three) and a half centuries (139); 494 as the date of the second secession (195); and 443 as the date of the dedication of Ceres’ temple (212). The last item reveals Mignone’s apparent ignorance that Ceres’ temple served as an archive for...