Roman Honor: The Fire in the Bones

By Carlin A. Barton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE
The Spirit Speaking

Who conquers is not the victor unless the conquered confesses. ENNIUS, ANNALES 493, VAHLEN ED.1

In the Metamorphoses, Ovid's Phineas submits to Perseus, who has overpowered him with the help of the Gorgon's head: “He turns his face away, and, stretching forth obliquely suppliant arms and hands that confess defeat, says: 'Perseus, you win. Remove those monsters of yours, those petrifying Medusa-heads—whatever they are, take them away, I beg you!…I am content to yield. Grant me nothing, mightiest of men, save this my life. The rest be yours'” (5.214–222).2 “The Romans, according to Cincinnatus, “did not require the blood of the Aequi. The latter would be allowed to depart, but they would be sent under the yoke in order

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qui vincit non est victor nisi victus fatetur. Servius, commenting on this line, remarked that “Varro and others declared the Trojans unconquered (invictos) because the Trojans were taken by ambush; they affirmed that it was those who surrendered themselves to the enemy who were defeated” (Varro et ceteri invictos dicunt Troianos, quia per insidias oppressi sunt: illos enim vinci adfirmant qui se dedunt hostibus [ In Aeneida 11.306]). Compare the remark of the late fourth- to early fifth-century Claudian: “No victory subjugates the enemy save that which the enemy confesses from the spirit” (victoria nulla quam qua confessos animo quoque subjugat hostes [ De sexto consulato Honorii, l. 248, K. A. Muller ed.]). The Roman commander ordered the Volscians to surrender their generals, lay down their arms, and, “confessing themselves defeated, to yield to his authority” (fatentes victos se esse et imperio parere [Livy 4.10.3]). Cf. Caesar, Bellum civile 1.84.5; Livy 36.45.6; Stefan Weinstock, Victor and Invictus,Harvard Theological Review 50 (1957): 219–220.
2
avertitur atque ita supplex confessasque manus obliquaque bracchia tendens “vincis” ait, “Perseu! remove tua monstra tuaeque saxificos vultus, quaecumque ea, tolle Medusae, tolle precor!… non cessisse piget; nihil o fortissime, praeter hanc animam concede mihi, tua cetera sunto!”

Cf. Ovid, Amores 1.2.19–22. Compare this scene of surrender to that in Livy 7.31.3.

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