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One of the difficulties of Dickson’s translation is the use of the word ‘burgess’ where we should prefer ‘citizen.’ ‘Burgess’ sounds archaic and suggests a kind of office to English speakers, but Mommsen talked about der Bürger und der Nichtbürger, citizen and non-citizen. These definitions become clearer in chapter six when he discusses the metics (Mommsen borrows the Greek term for foreign workers) and freed slaves who made up the body of the clients of Rome’s citizens and, in time, spawned the social class known as the plebs.
He begins, as usual, with conjectures about the joining of the apparently rival communities centered around the Palatine and Quirinal, and discusses again various sorts of doubling in religion and the military. All of this strikes me as convenient for his earlier arguments but ultimately unimportant.
The non-citizens, in their position as clientes, depend upon the citizens (and despite Mommsen’s derivation from a root meaning ‘listen’, clients rather ‘lean’ upon their patrons). They depend upon them because they have no rights under the law. He’s right that the plebs referred to the multitude, and it’s reasonable to assume, as he does, that a new social class might arise when the ancient dependencies were obscured. Mommsen sees a gradual diminution of the importance of families as against the state, and a natural tendency toward an acknowledgement of the rights of dependents: as the patron-client relationship faded (along with a growing imbalance of numbers), the lack of rights would have been felt more strongly.
The Servian Reforms may have expanded citizenship and created a new class at Rome.
The famous Servian reforms
, he suggests, were the result, placing upon certain non-citizens some of the responsibilities of citizens (e.g., military service).
He follows this through with numbers and arguments for how and why these various divisions and levies occurred, but it’s enough to say that the narrative makes sense as we move from his reconstruction to the historical Rome. For example, he makes this the impetus for the census, and posits that the new classes existed as cives sine suffragio (‘citizens without the vote’).
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Mommsen continues to reveal something of his personal feelings when talks about such things as nature furnishing the Romans with the perfect order for the family: the father at the head, and all others subordinate. He loves hyperbole, again and again informing us that the Romans accomplished nationhood and the family more perfectly than any other people.
His etymological games recur as well, and often make me wince. Because of a certain fixation with numbers as the basis of so much in Roman society, he wants soldiers to be the ‘thousand’ marchers, though the root may well be connected to the Sanskrit mil-, meaning ‘assemble.’ In that case, the soldiers, milites, would be those who go in formation, just as comites (companions) simply go together.
The reason I give these off-the-cuff etymologies (cp. my derivation of Latium as ‘wetland’ from *lat-) is to show the lack of real authority for his guesses (even if I do find mine more convincing). His attempt to connect populus (people) and popla (butcher) is also unfortunate.
The real value of the chapter is what he has to say about the essential foundation of Roman society and the distinction between one’s place in his family, under the pater familias, and within the community under the law.
Law was Mommsen’s real area of expertise, and it shows, keeping in mind that the whole picture is an idealized distillation of the facts intended to give a picture of the Roman constitution at its earliest stage.
This may a good point to remind ourselves that the theoretical, conjectural, and background work should largely be done by the end of volume one, and then we’ll be on to history proper. Stickit out. I think the payoff will be worth it.
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This has been making the rounds: a remote, Muslim community has been found speaking (and notably not writing) a dialect of Greek apparently quite close to the ancient language.
From the Independent (Jason and the Argot):
An isolated community near the Black Sea coast in a remote part of north-eastern Turkey has been found to speak a Greek dialect that is remarkably close to the extinct language of ancient Greece.
As few as 5,000 people speak the dialect but linguists believe that it is the closest, living language to ancient Greek and could provide an unprecedented insight into the language of Socrates and Plato and how it evolved.
From Katimerini (Rare Greek Dialect Alive in Turkey):
A Greek professor of linguistics at Cambridge University has been credited with identifying an endangered Greek dialect which is spoken in a remote mountainous region in northeastern Turkey and is believed to be a “linguistic gold mine” because of its close similarities to ancient Greek.
Romeyka was discovered in a remote village in the region of Trabzon (Trebizond).
Romeyka is not to be confused with Romaic, a name by which Modern Greek has been known in the past. They say that the grammar of the language itself suggests a pre-Byzantine origin, showing affinities with Koine, which is very surprising (if true).
This may be one to watch.