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: . . - : 2 . . 2: . . 2-, . . , - -, 1994.

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CHERNYSHOV Ju. G.

THE SOCIAL-UTOPIAN IDEAS AND THE MYTH OF THE GOLDEN AGE IN ANCIENT ROME.

Pt. 1. UNTIL THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE PRINCIPATE.
Pt. 2. EARLY PRINCIPATE. 2-nd ed. NOVOSIBIRSK, 1994

SUMMARY1

Both parts of this book are devoted mainly to the problem of the specific features of the utopian (or, as some scholars suggest, antiutopian) mentality in ancient Rome. Simultaneously .151 the development of the Saturnia regna popular legends and their connection with the respective development of the social-utopian ideas are examined. From the authors point of view it is hard to admit that the Romans did not know an Utopia: more exactly would be to say that at present Roman utopian ideas (or Roman utopia in a wide sense), unlike the Greek ones, have not experienced a serious and profound investigation.

One may recognize the relative weakness of the Roman political Utopia, which spread only in the second half of the 2-nd century B. C., when the civitas crisis had begun. Before this period the Romans had been usually satisfied by the image of the ideal Rome, bequeathed by their ancestors. During the epoch of the civil wars some attempts were made to cure the Roman state with its ideal mixed constitution (democracy, aristocracy and monarchical power) by either the smaller .152 or bigger strengthening of the last, i. e. monarchical element. In accordance with the general evolution tendencies of political life there was the great world empire which had come to replace the former ideal polis projects, and ideal ruler must be suprema lex in it. The image of ideal Rome after the establishment of the principate was expressed in the official propaganda approximately by the formula: RES PUBLICA RESTITUTA  PAX ROMANA  ROMA AETERNA  AUREA SAECULA, and the golden age was declared in many cases as already advanced. Non-official interpretations were more various. For example, the idea of the OPTIMUS PRINCEPS seemed reasonable for those, who preserved their hopes on the terrestrial Roman state; and only COSMOPOLIS  the world perennial state of the gods and mankind  did not seem senseless for the anarchists. In any case AUREA SAECULA took an important place. So, perhaps the main result of the political utopia evolution was the conception of the world state, which will bring the blessings of the golden age for all peoples and at all times.

The Roman literary utopia contains very many praises of this happy being blessings, often associated with the life of the barbarians or with the simple life in any idyllic country like Arcadia. At the same time a gradual deprimitivisation and patriotisation of the Saturnia regna myth developed. An ideal of simple life was no more connected with the wild (bestiarum modo) being of the first man, but associated with the mores majorum, which were yet in honour among the Italian peasants, heirs of Saturn. During the principate semi-official writers and poets presented Rome of the emperors as the highest stage of the cultural and military development, giving its blessings to all the nations. In non-official versions more traditionalistic and primitivistic views were expressed. They ordinarly placed the reign of Saturn in the patriarchal past or, rarely, in the future times, which must come after the eshatological ruin of the old world. In any case the descriptions of the golden age in semi-official and in non-official literature were stylised: these topoi were often used as a form for the praising of the ruler or for the blaming of the contemporary moral degradation.

The most interesting and important changes are to be found in the religiousmythological utopia. Just in the Roman period eshatological and messianic ideas of the coming blissful epoch were spread, and just at that time FIRSTLY the golden age (not golden race) conception appeared. According to Hesiods version of the myth the special .153 golden race (chryseon genos) had remained in the past not to return, and for the modern iron race only destruction by Zeus is prepared. Yet in the I-st century B. C. expectations of Romes ruin had brought not only the calls to escape by sailing to the islands of the Blessed, but also the optimistic prophecies of the coming worlds renewing. Firstly in the classical literature proclaimed in the 4-th eclogue of Vergil, this idea was then developed in the Aeneis, where we find the very term golden age  aurea saecula. Since this time history was represented like a change of the ages, not of the races. There was an Etruscan secular conception, and various (mainly Stoic) philosophical theories about apokatastasis, and Judaeo-hellenistic prophecies of the Sibylline books that had been laid in the foundation of this new version. Two religious phenomena of this period  the emperor cult and the early Christianity  both reflected an evolution from the cyclical to the linean conception of historical time. They had both overcome an idealization of the past  characteristic element of the polis ideology, they were both using the idea of a Saviour as a mediator between the heaven and the earth, they were both propagating providentialistic ideas of the blissful epoch as the final aim and the final result of the whole historical evolution. But if for the official imperial ideology mainly presentism (with the growing present happiness idea) was characteristic, according to Christian doctrine a new paradise must begin only in the future, after the second arrival of the Christ.

It should be stressed that even in the quite different golden age descriptions the same blessings were often repeated: these are the peace among the living creatures, the abundance of natural products, the soft climate, the absence of sin etc. These universal paradisical motives were the main ingredients of the myth archaic versions, and only later they were supplemented or substituted by the various private interpretations. The old sacral-archaic contents of the myth were gradually being squeezed out by the new social-utopian interpretations, which were often using only the form of the popular myth. Some utopiologists say that the place of utopia is between the myth and the science. If it is so, we may call the myth of the golden age as the most utopian ancient myth, as the myth-utopia, as the initial point and the concentrate expression of the ancient social utopia. But there is no reason to discuss the indispensable communistic or socialistic tendencies of this myth and these utopias. In Rome, for example, the criticism of luxury and the praise of .154 community of possessions were, mainly, the natural social reaction to the destruction of the patriarchal civil collectivism with its traditions of the civitas and its property on the ager publicus. Besides it was the wide-spread rhetorical locus communis that was used by many authors (such as Ovid, Germanic, Seneca the Philosopher etc.), actually very far off from any communism.

If its true that historia est magistra vitae, we can find the answer to one question: is it really, as some sociologists say, that the end of utopia began in the second half of our century? In order to estimate the present situation, we must see some historical perspective. The crisis of utopia took place in the 1-st century A. D. too. Then the peoples utopia, having been turned from the feet to the head, at first became the official utopia and then  fulfilled (realized) utopia, which was degenerating to apologetism. But the true utopia, as the Phoenix, grew from the ashes and rose even on a higher level, as it was in the Christian conception of the millenial reign. So, to make a long story short, any attempts to end with utopia are certainly utopical. Utopianism is one of the main capacities of the homo historicus. And it may be a great force in crisis epochs. Augustus (that is where his difference from the many later charismatic leaders lies) used this dangerous force mainly with the creative, not with the destructive intentions. In his time, it should be added, the state had not developed into such a powerful bureaucracial system with so various technical means to influence human minds, as in the totalitarian states of the 20-th century. The modern civilized society cannot be free from utopias, but it can and should avoid the dictatorship of any single utopia or, more exactly, the dictatorship of politics speculating on such an utopia. The dream of the golden age is eternal but should be left shining in the distance for once realized the golden paint will inevitably peel away, revealing the rust of an iron age underneath.


  • 1I wish to thank Professors K. Buraselis, A. Kelesidou, V. Lambrinoudakis, E. Mikrojannakis and other Greek colleagues for discussing these conclusions during my research work at Athenian University (19911992). Besides that it seems for me necessary to cite some general investigations which were not mentioned in the notes of the book:

    Alföldi A. Redeunt Saturnia regna // Revue numismatique. 1971. P. 7699; Chiron. Bd. 2. 1972. S. 215230; Bd. 3. 1973. S. 131142; Bd. 5. 1975. S. 165192; Bd. 6. 1976. S. 143158;

    Atti del Convegno Nazionale di Studi su La città ideale nella tradizione classica e biblico-cristiana, Torino 24 Maggio 1985, a cura di R. Uglione. Torino, 1987;

    Bianchi U. Razza aurea, mito delle cinque razzà ed Elisio // Studi e materiali di storia delle religioni. V. 34. 1963. P. 143210;

    Bichler R. Zur historischen Beurteilung der griechischen Staatsutopie // Grazer Beiträge. Bd. II. 1984. S. 179206;

    Bloch E. Das Prinzip Hoffnung. In fuenf Teilen. Frankfurt am Main, 1959;

    Blundell S. The origins of civilization in Greek and Roman thought. L., 1986;

    Boas G. Essays on primitivism and related ideas in antiquity. Baltimore, 1948;

    Braunert H. Utopia. Antworten griechischen Denkens auf die Herausforderung durch soziale Verhältnisse. Kiel, 1968;

    Brisson J.-P. Rome et lâge dor: fable ou ideologie? // Poikilia. Etudes offertes à J.-P. Vernant. P., 1987. P. 123144;

    Idem. Rome et lâge dor: Dionysos ou Saturne? // Mélanges dArchéologie et dHistoire de lEcole Francaise de Rome, Antiquité. T. 100, 2. 1988. P. 917982;

    Chernyshov Ju. G. Did the Romans have the utopia? // VDI. 1992.  1. P. 5372 (in Russian with an English summary);

    Idem. From the Golden Race to the Golden Age (Some stages in the development of the ancient myth) // Archaiognosia. 1992 (in print);

    Dihle A. Fortschritt und goldene Urzeit // Kultur und Gedachtnis / Hrsg. von J. Assmann und T. Holscher. Frankfurt am Main, 1988. S. 150169;

    Freyer H. Die politische Insel. Eine Geschichte der Utopien von Platon bis zur Gegenwart. Leipzig, 1936;

    Gray L. H., a. o. Ages of the world // Encyclopaedia of religion and ethics / Ed. by J. Hastings. V. I. Edinburgh, 1908. P. 183210;

    Guthrie W. . . In the beginning. Some Greek views on the origins of life and the early state of man. L., 1957;

    Hall J. F. The Saeculum Novus of Augustus and its Etruscan antecedents // ANRW. Bd. II, 16, 3. 1986. S. 25642589;

    Koch M. Zur Utopie in der Alten Welt // Festschrift K. G. Kiesinger / Hrsg. von H. Sund  M. Timmermann. Konstanz, 1979. S. 399417;

    Kubusch K. Aurea Saecula: Mythos und Geschichte. Untersuchung eines Motivs in der antiken Literatur bis Ovid. Frankfurt am Main, 1986;

    Pfleiderer. Die Idee eines goldenen Zeitalters. B., 1877;

    Reckford K. J. Some appearances on the golden age // The Classical Journal. V. 54. 19589. P. 7987;

    Reynen H. Ewiger Fruhling und goldene Zeit // Gymnasium. Bd. 72. 1965. S. 415433;

    Schwabl H. Zum antiken Zeitaltennythos und seiner Verwendung als historiographisches Modell // Klio. Bd. 66. 1984. H. 2. S. 405415;

    Spoerri W. Spathellenistische Berichte uber Welt, Kultur und Gotter. Basel, 1959;

    Utopia. Referate und Texte des 6. Internationalen Humanistischen Symposiums 1984. Athen, 1986;

    Waerden, van der, B. L. Das grosse Jahr und die ewige Wiederkehr // Hermes. Bd. 80. 1952. S. 129155;

    Walbank F. W. Konige als Gotter. Uberlegungen zum Herrscherkult von Alexander bis Augustus // Chiron. Bd. 17. 1987. S. 365382.

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