Roman Heroic Reciprocity

in The Commerce of War

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2009 | ISBN: 9780226111872
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226111902 | DOI:
Roman Heroic Reciprocity

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This chapter reports the socioeconomic relations in the Aeneid, arguing that Vergil presents reciprocal practices as choiceworthy and effective in bringing social solidarity. Vergil provides his epic world with a socioeconomic dimension that is aligned with the dominant aristocratic view offered by Cicero. Violated hospitium and deadly gifts are the main themes of failed reciprocity that run through the poem. In characters such as Sinon and Dolon, greed is the desire that impels the individual forward and commodity exchange the form of action the individual takes to attain the desired object. The cases of Polydorus and Camilla show that greed can undo reciprocal bonds when it is acted upon directly, without the mediation of a socioeconomic type such as the merchant. That Vergil limits himself to exemplifying a subset of the attitudes and behaviors comprehended by Roman economic morality is not to say that he avoids confronting its potential contradictions.

Keywords: reciprocity; Aeneid; Vergil; Sinon; Dolon; greed; Polydorus; Camilla; Roman economic morality

Chapter.  11813 words. 

Subjects: Classical Literature

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