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Sun, 23 Aug 2009 12:44:17 -0500
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Blood in the Forum: The Struggle for the Roman Republic. By PAMELA MARIN. 
Cornwall: Continuum Books, 2009. Pp. xix + 198. Cloth, $29.95. ISBN: 

Order this text for $22.76 from Amazon.com using this link and benefit 
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Previously published CJ Online reviews are at 

CJ Online 2009.08.07

Pamela Marin’s (hereafter M.) book promises to tell “the story of the 
last decades of Rome—what succeeded, and why the Republic ultimately 
failed” (p. 3). Springing in the most part from her PHD dissertation on 
Cato the Younger, M.’s book seeks to provide “a new perspective” on 
the period from 133–43 BCE (jacket). She follows the standard 
chronological approach to the late Republic, and works throughout to keep 
the focus on what she views as Cato’s critical role.

Unfortunately, two major problems prevent the book from reaching its goal. 
First, far from providing a “new” look at the fall of the Republic, 
there is really nothing new here. M.’s work reads as a standard history, 
and in places is little more than a summary of names and dates. I am unable 
to discern how M.’s argument advances the study of the late Republic in 
general or Cato specifically. This is due in part to the absence of any 
academic discussion in either the text itself or the notes. M. never 
engages with current scholarship, beyond quoting scholars such as Millar 
and Lintott, and the lack of dialogue leaves me wondering where she herself 
places her book. Second, though perhaps not entirely the fault of the 
author, the text is plagued by an appalling lack of editing, 
inconsistencies in citation content and style, and a number of factual 

The overall thrust of M.’s argument is that the death of the Republic was 
not inevitable; rather, Octavian’s machinations were the sole cause (p. 
175). But Octavian is absent from the text, save in a solitary paragraph at 
the very end (p. 171), and M. provides no evidence of how he was able to 
destroy the Republic when Marius, Sulla and Caesar had failed. The omission 
of any such discussion renders the rest of the text puzzling. If we accept 
M.’s assertion, despite the lack of supporting evidence, that Octavian 
was the sole cause, what is the point of such detail about the political 
alliances and individual accomplishments of the Late Republic? And if the 
fall of the Republic was “a cumulative process” (p. 175), can we say 
that Octavian alone was responsible? M. seems torn between these two lines 
of reasoning, and a definitive statement promoting one or the other would 
have been a welcome addition, with the added benefit of providing a 
definitive framework for her discussion.

As for Cato, he is presented throughout as the leader of the boni, and his 
death becomes “a viable political weapon against Caesar” (p. 162). This 
treatment, however, is imbalanced. Cato’s speech concerning the fate of 
the Catilinarian conspirators, which should offer prime evidence of his 
position as leader of the boni, is given a mere two sentences (p. 103), 
while M. devotes a full three pages to proving that there was no personal 
animosity between Clodius and Cato (pp. 123–6). M. also seems to 
attribute strange motivations to Cato, as when she says that he accepted 
the mission to Cyprus because “he needed something significant to do” 
with Caesar gone and the praetorship still several years away (p. 125). 
Overall, Cato, far from looking like the driving force behind senatorial 
politics, comes off as a lone voice crying out against the inevitability of 
the Republic’s demise. His intransigence in the face of Caesar’s 
demands in the 50s seems more the result of a loathing of Caesar than of a 
grand devotion to the Republic (a fact M. alludes to several times, as on 
p. 122). Instead of proving Cato’s importance, she proves his 
ineffectualness. He is constantly thwarted by the dominant personalities of 
Pompey and Caesar, despite his leadership of the boni, and M.’s assertion 
that “Cato, in death, would perhaps be even more powerful than in life” 
(p. 162) highlights his lack of effectiveness while alive.

It might be easier to assess M.’s argument if she made it clear for whom 
the book is intended. In her acknowledgements she indicates that she is 
writing for both general readers and scholars. But since all primary 
sources are cited as translations, usually from the Loeb or Penguin 
Classics series, and the bibliography, while both relatively current and 
curiously brief, is entirely in English, a school text or an introductory 
survey would appear to have been intended. Yet the vast number of names 
that flit in and out of the narrative may force even a specialist in the 
field to reach for a favorite reference work.

If M. was hoping to produce a more general survey of the Late Republic 
accessible to the non-specialist, my second complaint is all the more 
serious. The text is rife with factual, typographical and syntactic errors, 
and the rudimentary nature of these mistakes is troubling. I will provide 
only a few examples, though others could be noted. It is asserted that L. 
Junius Brutus assassinated Tarquinius Superbus in 509 BCE (pp. ix, 168, 
169); that 100 BCE was the last of Marius’ seven consecutive consulships 
(p. 41); that Cicero, as the successful prosecutor, was able to confiscate 
Verres’ fortune and assume his rank as ex-praetor in the senate when 
Verres went into exile (p. 75); that Asconius is a contemporary source for 
the Catilinarian conspiracy (p. 88); that Clodius’ funeral pyre burned 
down both the senate-house and the curia (p. 140); and that Brutus did not 
leave Crete between the years 44–42 BCE (p. 171). Furthermore, we read 
“cursus honorem” for “cursus honorum” twice (pp. 11 and 57); 
“leges Plotia” for “leges Plotiae” on p. 72; “Allrobroges” for 
“Allobroges” on p. 103 (it is spelled properly five lines later); “C. 
Crassius” for “C. Cassius” on p. 139; and that the Second Punic War 
lasted from 218–204 BCE (p. 37). I could go on, but the point is clear. 
Hyperbole runs throughout the text (e.g. Rome is “the greatest city that 
has ever existed” on p. 3), and sentence fragments are common (e.g. p. 
74: “Cicero, overcoming a challenge from Q. Caecilius, who had been a 
quaestor under Verres and was appointed a prosecutor.”; and p. 103: 
“The issue of Catiline dominated the rest of the month as the newly 
elected officials, including Caesar as praetor and Cato, along with 
Metellus Nepos, as tribune.”).

The endnotes are also problematic. They are used merely for citation of 
sources and contain no discussion, and thus would have been better as 
in-text citations. Throughout the book M. consistently uses phrases such as 
“______ records/notes…” with no citation of the original source; 
“as Cicero said” on pg. 174, for example, is supported by a television 
program from 2003. Several items in the endnotes do not appear in the 
bibliography (Bryant in n. 11 in Ch. 1; Carcopino in n. 11 in Ch. 3; and 
Bickerman in n. 27 in Ch. 8). More troubling is the fact that the citations 
provided are sometimes misleading or wrong. For example, on p. 21 M. 
introduces a block quote by saying “Aristotle’s view is particularly 
astute”; yet the quote is not from Aristotle at all but from Dunn’s 
Setting the People Free. The note for M.’s statement that “many modern 
scholars have put [Cato’s] quaestorship in 65, while it is more probable 
that it was in 62” (p. 89) cites Cicero’s Pro Murena 38.37 (sic) , 
doing little to help settle the debate. Finally, the block quote on p. 92 
is attributed to a letter from Cicero to his brother Quintus, yet in fact 
the citation comes from the Commentariolum Petitionis (strangely cited as 
Q.F. 64). The problem with the citation of the Comm. Pet. brings me to 
another concern. M. relies heavily on translations of primary sources, yet 
nowhere does she indicate whether these are her own or are borrowed from 
other sources. In most cases, I believe that M. has adapted them from the 
translations listed in the bibliography, but the Catullus 57 translation on 
p. 134 comes verbatim from Guy Lee and is unattributed.

Overall, this book fails both in its quest to provide a fresh look at the 
late Republic and in its presentation. As M. acknowledges, a great deal of 
scholarship on the Late Republic exists. Because of the undeveloped nature 
of the argument and the sloppiness of the text, be that the fault of the 
author or the press, this book will not find a place of prominence within 
that tradition.
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro 

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