Working Papers on Nervan, Trajanic and Hadrianic Literature 1.13
‘War and Peace in the Panegyricus: initial observations on metus hostilis‘ Katie Low, 2nd September 2013
This brief study of Pliny’s Panegyricus is intended to be preliminary to a project investigating how authors used the concept of metus hostilis (the notion that collective fear of external enemies promotes internal concord and prevents civil war, which was popularised by Sallust’s work on the late republic) to represent the relationship between the promotion of internal concord and responses to external threats in the early imperial era.
It focuses on Pliny’s praise of Trajan’s success in forestalling civil war at the time of his accession, and of his military achievements; these positive attributes are compared with Domitian’s laxness as a general and the terror that he evoked in many Romans. Pliny implies that, by dispelling domestic fear and by making foreign enemies afraid of the Romans, Trajan has restored the metus hostilis that once kept Rome united – he has even improved on it, as now foreigners fear Rome rather than vice versa. It brings Pliny into dialogue with Tacitus on this point; and this reading of Pliny’s Panegyricus may also have implications for – and be profitably read in dialogue with – texts like Frontinus’ Strategemata and some Flavian epic, which at times conflate distinctions between civil/foreign or internal/external war (on a related topic, see Buckley’s ‘Tacitus: epic successor of Valerius?’).