Some Arval Brethren.
Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1980. VII,132p. Original blue cloth with dust wrps. Dust wrps a bit sunned to the edges. 'To the admirer of Ronald Syme's literary style, 'Some Arval Brethren' will bring unmixed pleasure: from the splendidly throwaway title to the lapidary last sentence, there is scarcely a phrase or a comma which fails to make its point. It would be hard to imagine a less promising subject for the begetting of a masterpiece. The contention is that the Flavian 'arvales' where somewaht, only somewhat, less distinguished than their Julio-Claudian predecessors. Is ounds like suitable material for a footnote; one can only protest at Muses so inegalitarian in the distribution of their favours as to allow this book to be so thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening. (...) Syme's message is conveyed by suggestion, hint, allusion, by fact piled on fact, by digressions which turn out not to have been digressions. Anyone inclined to believe that the 'arvales' of the Flavian period were mighty men, will have been battered and teased into submission long before he reaches the conclusion of the argument (96). For the last twenty pages, the theme broadens and the pace quickens. The problem is how to understand the significance of the 'arvales' in Roman society and to assess the significance of Augustus' re-establishment of the college and its rituals. (...) The main facts are not really in dispute. It seems likely that there is very little continuity between the ritual practice of the Augustan 'arvales' and that of the preceding period. (...) The tradition of republican religion is one of the introduction of new elements, of the reconstruction or re-interpretation of the old. The problem was how to reconcile change with continuity, to conceive the new as somehow traditional. It is against this background that the mixture of new and old in the Arval rituals has to be seriously interpreted. In my view, therefore, Syme's whole approach is based on a misconception of the nature of Roman religion. It would be more accurate to say that he believes that there was no religion in the religion of the 'arvales'. (J.A. NORTH in The Journal of Roman Studies, 1983, pp.216-17).