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Fabius Pictor, Ennius and the Origins of Roman Annalistic Historiography

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Chapter Summary

This paper considers when and how annalistic organization by the consular year came to be established in the Roman historiographical tradition. It argues that Fabius Pictor gave a year-by-year account of events from at least the early third century bc, but narrated only selected years in the early Republic, that Ennius followed this example, and that Piso was the first Roman historian to provide a narrative organized by magistrate years for the whole of the Republic. The annual record kept by the pontifex maximus will have been used as a source by Fabius and perhaps some of his successors, but did not play the dominant part in shaping the character of Roman historical writing with which it has often been credited. The term annales was invented by Ennius as the title for his epic, and then taken over as their title by Piso and some of his successors. It thus became established as a designation for a history of Rome organized by magistrate years, and so came to be applied by extension also to the Pontifex Maximus’ record, under the distinctive title of Annales maximi. These conclusions have important implications both for the credibility of early Roman history and for the character of Roman historical writing.



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