Greek Mythography in the Roman World

By Alan Cameron | Go to book overview

Appendix 5
Source Citations in the Origo Gentis Romanae

Although this book is devoted to Greek rather than Roman mythography, the much-discussed question of the authenticity of the citations in the Origo Gentis Romanae (OGR) demands brief reconsideration in the light of the results obtained in chapters V and VI. Justifiably suspicious of the wealth of learned citations in so late and trivial a piece, Niebuhr condemned the work in its entirety as a renaissance forgery, and others, more moderately, have seen it as a late antique forgery. An influential study by Arnaldo Momigliano found “suspicious features, but no certain proof of a forgery.”1 Subsequent critics have gone much further in the direction of credulity. Nicholas Horsfall praised J.-C. Richard’s edition (Paris 1983) for “decisively and rightly” accepting the authenticity of both text and citations,2 and had no doubt that it preserves “material of the highest value.”3

With one or two reservations I would be prepared to stipulate that the author did not fabricate his citations—or at any rate not many of them. The OGR is no HA. But in a work of this nature, eliminating outright forgery does not get us very far.4 We are still left with fundamental questions: where did the compiler find his fourhundred-year old citations (none later than the age of Augustus); and do they really provide any genuine information about the works cited? To take the obvious parallel in this context, the Ovidian Narrationes is no forgery, and all the sources it cites certainly existed. But only one of them preserves vestigially genuine information about an ancient text (Phanocles). The OGR is surely closer to the Narrationes than (as most current critics seem to assume) Aulus Gellius or even Macrobius.

It is a work of mythography, not history.5 No one who has read the preceding pages is likely to believe that the compiler came by these references to such ob-

1. “Some Observations of the Origo Gentis Romanae,” JRS 48 (1958), 56–73 = Secondo Contributo alla storia dei classici (Rome 1960), 145–76 at p. 167.

2. See his learned contribution in CR 37 (1987), 192–4.

3. J. Bremer and N. Horsfall, Roman Mythography (London 1987), 11.

4. For example, Martine Chassignet’s new edition of the Roman annalists includes OGR citations without further comment on the grounds that they are no longer held to be forgeries (Lannalistique romaine i [Paris 1996], ci-cii). In a later paper (reprinted in his Settimo Contribute [1984], 451) Momigliano simply repeats his belief that OGR quotations “are, as a rule, authentic.”

5. And Roman mythography, as distinct from a handbook of Greek mythology that happens to be written in Latin, like Hyginus.

-328-

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