Rome's Best Man: The Vir Optimus Debate of 204 BCE and the Study of Roman Masculinity.

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  • Author(s): Goldberg, Charles1
  • Source:
    Classical Philology. Jan2022, Vol. 117 Issue 1, p79-98. 20p.
  • Additional Information
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    • Abstract:
      This article scrutinizes the Senate's choice of the young P. Cornelius Scipio Nasica as vir optimus ("best man") in Rome in 204 BCE, and the ancient historiographic tradition regarding his qualifications. While a certain explanation about Nasica's credentials is not possible, later authors attributed a range of moral qualities to him, especially pietas , manifested as youthful patriotic duty. I read this historiographic tradition as an exercise by ancient authors in defining ideals of masculinity. Then, I situate these findings within current scholarship on Roman masculinity that typically emphasizes violence and sexual penetration. The tradition about Nasica's selection suggests a more nuanced ancient understanding of elite manliness that accounts for the necessity for elite men to couch aggressive imperatives within the bounds of republican consensus and cooperative politics. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]