"The remains of my books": Cicero's Library at Antium

T. Keith Dix

Cicero speaks explicitly of a bibliotheca at three of his residences, the villa at Tusculum, the house on the Palatine at Rome, and the house at Antium.  He speaks of the library at Antium only after his return from exile in 57, when he employed library-slaves borrowed from Atticus and supervised by the Greek scholar Tyrannio of Amisus to arrange and repair the remains of his books (Att. 4.4a.1, 2; Att. 4.8; Att. 4.5.4).  Cicero's mention of librorum meorum, quorum reliquiae multo meliores sunt quam putaram (Att. 4.4a.1) has led to the suggestion that the house at Antium, like the Palatine house, the Tusculanum, and the Formianum, was attacked by Clodius' gangs in 58.  If so, it is odd that Cicero makes no mention of it.  He received no compensation for damages at Antium, as he did for the other three properties (Att. 4.2.5); and when he writes to Quintus, in March 56, tribus locis aedifico, reliqua reconcinno (QFrat. 2.5 [4.3-7].1), the three places must surely be the Palatine, the Tusculanum and the Formianum, and Antium must belong among "the rest."

If the house at Antium went undamaged during Cicero's exile, why then does he speak of "the remains of my books"?  We might suggest that Clodius' gangs did, in fact, attack the house, causing some damage to furnishings, but leaving the structure intact, or we might point to general neglect of Cicero's properties during his exile, as reasons for the apparent disrepair of his books at Antium.  The phrase, however, probably has a wider significance than just the books at Antium: that is, Cicero's entire collection of books, wherever housed before his exile.  Cicero probably gathered up all his remaining books upon his return and deposited them in one place.  The repair and arrangement of the books would have been easier to accomplish when they all had been assembled in one spot.  The house at Antium was the logical choice for the temporary storage of his damaged collection, for it was not seriously damaged and was therefore able to provide storage space during the reconstruction at Rome and Tusculum; and it was near enough to Rome so that Cicero could use the books stored in Antium (by having books sent from Antium to Rome), but far enough from the political turmoil at Rome to avoid new attacks on the property like that which befell the Palatine house.  Antium was also close to Troia, where Cicero was considering the purchase of a villa to replace his Tusculanum.  Thus, Cicero would have had continued access to a library while at a suburban villa.  His announced intention to sell the Tusculanum might also have led him to remove any books remaining there.

Cicero’s correspondence with Atticus on the subject of the Antium library provides interesting evidence for technical aspects of Roman library practice.  Cicero asked Atticus to send two librarioli to Antium; these two slaves, Dionysius and Menophilus, were to be employed as glutinatores, "book-binders."  Cicero mentions one task performed by the "book-binders": attaching small tags of papyrus or parchment (quos vos Graeci, ut opinor, sittubas  appellatis) bearing the book title to the papyrus rolls.    Dionysius and Menophilus were also to assist with other tasks, which seem to have included the installation of beautiful bookcases provided by Atticus and the painting of the room.

T. Keith Dix, University of Georgia

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