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Studies in Philology
THE SITE OF CICERO'S VILLA AT ARPINUM
By G. A. HARRER
Since the time of the Renaissance the location of Cicero's ancestral home at Arpinum has been the subject of many a study. . Scholars have interested themselves in it because the villa was the birthplace of one of the most distinguished Romans, and was a favorite residence. This interest is increased by the fact that many references to the place are found in Cicero's writings, among which a long passage in the De Legibus seems to offer the possibility of locating the site with certainty. And yet two or three sites have been selected. The city of Arpinum itself has often been named. A spot near the confluence of the rivers Liris and Fibrenus has been suggested, and the island Carnello, about two kilometers up the Fibrenus from the Liris. Some have tried to include both Carnello and the mouth of the Fibrenus in the estate, or to assume two estates. Centuries gone there was quite a lively rivalry between the cities of Sora and Arpinum, both claiming that Cicero had been their townsman. The rivalry was due to the fact that the site near the mouth of the Fibrenus has long belonged to Sora, while in Roman literature Cicero is known as a man of Arpinum, and it led finally to a trial by combat between champions of the cities, under the patronage of a Count Federico of Segni, some three hundred years ago. With the result of that combat, so far as the question settled by it is concerned, we may rest content, for the champion of Arpinum won the day! But
1 The ancient forms Fibrenus, Liris, and Arpinum are used in this paper instead of the modern Fibreno, Liri, and Arpino. Questions of identity are considered later. The map printed herewith has been adapted from that used by F. d'Ovidio; see below note 82. : D. Bernardo Clavelli, L’Antica Arpino, Naples, 1623, p. 229.
even now some local feeling of pride or jealousy is apparently indicated by the fact that a few years ago the people of Sora had an inscription cut, which informs the visitor that Cicero once lived at this spot " which then belonged to the territory of Arpinum and now is in the district of Sora."
Not only have there been differences of opinion due to varying interpretations of the evidence, but actual, and unnecessary, errors.
. Mommsen, in the Corpus of Latin Inscriptions, and later Jung, in Müller's Handbuch, identify Isola del Liri, a little town on an island in the Liris, and some distance below the confluence of Liris and Fibrenus, with the Insula Arpinas which belonged to Cicero, though from Cicero's own words his island lay wholly in the Fibrenus. Forsyth informs the reader of his life of Cicero that Cicero was born “at a point where the Liris and Fibrenus met, amidst hills and rocks and woods." He was in good company in his error, however, for Cicero's friend Atticus, before his visit to the estate, had expected to see nothing but rocks and mountains, and had been led into that error, he says, by Cicero's orations and verses. As a matter of fact the section of country in the vicinity of the confluence of the rivers is quite level and not at all rocky. There are a few hills not far off, and in the distance round about, where Sora lies to the northeast, and Arpinum to the southeast, are hills and mountains as rugged and rocky as one can imagine.
Since the solution of the problem of the site depends primarily on evidence found in the De Legibus, I shall give the description at length. At the very opening of the book the three friends, Cicero, his brother Quintus, and Atticus, are walking in the territory of Arpinum. Atticus says:
I recognise this as the very grove, and this oak, too, as the oak of Arpi. um, about which I have often read in your poem on Marius. If that oak still exists, this must certainly be it; and, indeed, it appears extremely old. (Quintus): Yes, my dear Atticus, it does exist, and always will exist, for it is a nursling of genius. No such long-lived stock can be planted by the care of the farmer as may be sown by the verse of the poet. (Atticus): How can that happen, my dear Quintus ? And what sort of seed is that which poets can sow? For you seem to me, in praising your
• Vol. x, 1, p. 558.
• Vol. III, 3 (1897), p. 38. These errors have been noted by 0. E. Schmidt; see below note 66.
• W. Forsyth, Life of Marcus Tullius Cicero, 1863; ed. of 1892, p. 12.
brother, to be putting in a word for yourself. (Quintus): You may say that if you please, but as long as the Latin language is spoken, an oak which will be called Marius' oak will never be wanting in this place."
A little later Cicero says:
You are inviting me to enter on a long discussion, my dear Atticus. However, I will undertake it, unless Quintus prefers some other subject. If not, I will speak about it, since we are at leisure. (Quintus): I shall listen to you with the greatest pleasure, for what better subject can be discussed, or how can the day be spent more profitably? (Cicero): Why don't we go, then, to our own promenade, and to the seats? And when we have walked enough there we may rest. Nor shall we lack entertainment while asking one another different questions. (Atticus): Let us go, then, and this way by the Liris, if you please, along the bank and in the shade. And now begin to explain, please, your opinion on the nature of Civil Law.
(Atticus): But if you ask what I expect; since you have given us a treatise on the Commonwealth, it appears a natural consequence that you should also write one on the Laws. For this is what I see was done by your illustrious favourite Plato, the philosopher whom you admire and prefer to all others, and love with especial affection. (Cicero): Do you wish, then, that, as he conversed at Crete with Clinias, and Megillus of Lacedaemon, on that summer's day, as he describes it, in the cypress groves and silvan avenues of Cnossus, often objecting to, and at times approving of, the institutions of commonwealths, and discussed what were the best laws; so we also, walking beneath these tall poplars on the green and shady bank, but then sitting down, should investigate the same subjects at somewhat greater length than is required by the practice of the courts of law?
A remark which Atticus makes a little later shows that they continue their walk along the river
I grant you all you can desire. For on account of this singing of birds and noise of the waters I am not afraid that any of my fellow-learners will hear me."
The second book gives the essential description: (Atticus)
Do you feel inclined, since we have walked enough for the present and since you must now take up a fresh part of the subject for discussion, to
De Legibus, I, 1, 1.
'1, 4, 13-14. There is some uncertainty about the text; but it is certain that the river Liris is meant.
1, 5, 15. Perhaps crebro insistens, interdum adquiescens should be read, frequently on foot, but then again sitting.
1, 7, 21.
change our situation, and on the island which is in the Fibrenus (for, I think, that is the name of that other river), sit down while we continue the rest of the discussion ? (Cicero): I like your suggestion; for that is the very spot which I generally select when I want a place for undisturbed meditation, or uninterrupted reading or writing.
(Atticus): Indeed I, who have come here now for the first time, can not see too much of it, and I despise magnificent villas and marble pavements and sculptored palaces. Who would not smile at the artificial canals which they call their Niles and Euripi, after he had seen these? Therefore, as you just now, in our conversation on Justice and Law, referred all things to Nature, so you seek to preserve her domination even in those things which are sought for the recreation and amusement of the mind. Therefore I used to be astonished (for I thought that there was nothing in these places but rocks and mountains, and I was brought to do so by your own orations and verses), I used to be astonished, as I said, that you were so extremely pleased with this place. But now on the contrary I am astonished that you can be anywhere else, when you are away from Rome.
(Cicero): Indeed when it is possible to be away for several days, especially at this time of the year, I enjoy the charm and healthfulness of the place; but it is rarely possible. But no doubt it pleases me also for another reason which does not apply to you. (Atticus): What is that reason? (Cicero): Well, if I speak the truth, this is the native place of myself and my brother here. We are the offspring of a very ancient stock here. Here is our altar, here our family, and here still remain many traces of our ancestors. Besides, this villa, which you see in its present form, was enlarged and beautified by my father's care, for having very poor health he spent almost his lifetime here in literary pursuits. And on this very place, when my grandfather was alive and when the villa, according to the olden custom, was but a little one, like that one of Curius in the Sabine district, I should like you to know that I was born. And so there is a strange feeling in my mind and heart which makes me love this place more, perhaps. And even that wisest of men is said to have renounced immortality that he might see Ithaca.
(Atticus): I indeed think that that is a very proper reason for your preferring to come here and for your love for this place. And I myself, to speak the truth, have become more friendly to that villa and to all this land in which you were born and brought up. For somehow or other we feel a certain emotion about those spots in which there are traces of those whom we esteem or admire.
(Cicero): I am glad then that I have shown you what I might almost call my cradle. ...
(Atticus): But we have come to the island. Nothing surely is more delightful than this. For by this point, like the prow of a ship, the Fibrenus is cut, and divided equally into two branches it washes these banks, and, rapidly flowing on, it unites again and embraces just enough space for a moderate-sized palestra. This accomplished, as if it had before it just this task and duty, to make this spot for our discussion, it
immediately rushes into the Liris, and, as if it were entering a patrician
(Cicero): You are quite right; but Quintus often tells me that your
It is quite clear from these passages that Cicero's estate lay
But he who dwells along the sulphurous Liris ngling its streams with
10 II, 1, 1-II, 3, 7, with omissions. The translation used is the old one
At qui Fibreno miscentem flumina Lirim
.... nec deinde relinquet