December 18, 2008

Camillus's Character

We discussed earlier Camillus the dictator as an archetype of why Livy beleived that Rome needed a dictator. What we also have to realise- again using Camillus as a model- is that Livy believed that offices did not guarentee stability, officers guarenteed stability. Camillus's dictatorship did not harm the Republic because of who Camillus was. Camillus, Livy says, was ready to delegate power- in the war against Antium (closely following the wars that I described in my earlier post) he delegated half his own authority to Publius Valerius, the disposition of a reserve force to Quintus Servilius and a force to protect Rome to Lucius Quinctius as Lucius Horatius was appointed to govern the munitions and Servius Cornelius put in charge of domestic policy (VI 6). The key point here is that Livy argues that Camillus wanted these people to serve as his equals with himself as primus inter pares, relying on his reputation to maintain his ascendency.

Camillus, Livy argues, understood the role of office. He argued that military leadership and service was a 'perpetual opportunity for you to show your mettle and win glory' (VI 7). He clarified his own role as leading commander to his soldiers in a Republican way: 'I have no wish for absolute authority over you' he told them (VI 7). But particularly interesting is what he said to his soldiers about how they should see him:

you should see in me nothing but myself: my resolution has gained nothing from my dictatorship, any more than it lost anything through exile. Nothing in any of us has changed and we bring the same qualities to this war as we brought to earlier ones. Let us then expect the same outcome. At the first clash everyone will act in accordance with his training and habit, you will win, they will run away. (VI 7)

There are two key political points that Camillus makes here. Firstly he denies any pride or ambition based on the offices he holds: he sees them as recognition of his merit rather than as an avenue to further power or to pride. He argues to his soldiers that they ought to obey him from recognition of his merit. What he secondly argues is that Romans in general should behave according to 'training and habit'- their constitution here fits with their military training and leads them to victory. The key point running through Camillus's arguments, whether about honour, himself or the training of his troops, was the argument that Romans should always behave in accordance with their ancestors: their history should be a check upon them.

For Livy, all these things define a virtuous Roman politician- someone granted power over his fellow citizens, occasionally arbitrary power, but aware of the ways that that power fits into a mosaic of historical custom. It also demonstrates a possible use for Livy's history- this is a guide to the princeps about how he should behave to preserve the 'training' of the Romans which has given them empire- then the Princeps, the Emperor, can become like Camillus, a temporary Republican sovereign, rather than a tyrant.

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