This article explores the early history of Roman exemplary literature through the case study of the elder Cato’s account of his imitation of the parsimony and self-sufficiency of M’. Curius Dentatus. I reconstruct from Cicero, Plutarch, and other sources a Catonian prose text that unified the exemplary narrative of Curius’ refusal of a bribe from Samnite emissaries with an evocative location at the hearth of a humble Sabine farmstead, an approving “audience” in Cato himself, and a model for the replication of Curius’ virtue. The narrative itself served as the monumentum for the exemplum, and its details are often evoked in place of the exemplary deed itself. I argue that this narrative is both a very early instance of exemplary literature and a self-conscious reflection on the power of literature to transcend temporal and spatial limitations and to extend cultural models for the familial replication of elite virtues to a broader audience.
Research Article| October 01 2015
Finding Examples at Home: Cato, Curius Dentatus, and the Origins of Roman Literary Exemplarity
Classical Antiquity (2015) 34 (2): 296–321.
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Molly Pasco-Pranger; Finding Examples at Home: Cato, Curius Dentatus, and the Origins of Roman Literary Exemplarity. Classical Antiquity 1 October 2015; 34 (2): 296–321. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/ca.2015.34.2.296
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