Instances of direct involvement are certainly extremely rare. We cannot be sure there were none. Let us look first at those cases where it has been argued that senators did own vessels used for large-scale trading.

In 67 bc, Cicero was eagerly awaiting delivery of some Megarian statues and herms in Pentelic marble, with heads made of bronze, which Atticus had bought for him in Athens. ‘Lentulus’, Cicero wrote, ‘promises his ships’. A few days later, he reverts to this: ‘If a ship of Lentulus’ is not available, put them aboard any you think fit’ (trans. D. R. Shackleton Bailey).[1] It should be noted that Dressel 1 amphorae bearing the stamp L. Lentuli P. f. have been found at different points along the Mediterranean coastline and in Gaul,[2] as well as in the Santa Severa wreck near Pyrgi. There the name of Lentulus is accompanied by a series of slaves’ names, most of which also turn up in the Dramont A wreck near Frejus.[3] It is concluded from this that the Dramont amphorae also came from the workshop on the estate of L. Lentulus P. f. even though his name does not figure on them. It is very likely that we are dealing with L. Cornelius Lentulus Crus, consul in 49 bc, a major landowner at Minturnae; and it is almost certain that Cicero’s Lentulus is the same man. Were the wrecks of Santa Severa and Dramont A those of ships that belonged to this Lentulus?

Amphorae from the Dramont A wreck are stoppered with the name of Sex. Arrius; and an anchor from the ship bears an inscription with the same name.[4] From this it is concluded that Sex. Arrius was a trader and shipowner who had bought the wine from Lentulus and was conveying it on a vessel either that belonged to him or that he had at least fitted out. It was actually this discovery that largely settled the interpretation of the names on stoppers of pozzolana as being the names of traders.[5] In this particular case, the idea that Lentulus was transporting his amphorae on his own vessel is not tenable. For the Santa Severa wreck, the same question may remain an open one.

The case of Sestius is somewhat analogous. In July 44 bc, Cicero was understandably worried. He explains to Atticus that, along with Brutus, he is planning to leave Italy by sea. So he gives a brief list of Brutus’ naval forces, which are better than he believed: ‘He and Domitius both have some first-rate double-banked craft, and besides those there are some decent vessels [lucu- lenta navigia] belonging to Sestius, Bucilianus, etc.’ (trans. D. R. Shackleton Bailey).[6] Attention has focused on Sestius’ luculenta navigia, because the Sesti stamps on Dressel 1 amphorae made at Cosa are the best known of all, attested at some fifty sites, from Athens to Toulouse and Poitiers, and even as far away as the Titelberg (Luxembourg), the vast majority of them being in Gaul.[7] Amphorae bearing this stamp made up the cargo found in the Grand Con- gloue 2 wreck, which was the subject of the first underwater retrieval by scuba divers. This stamp, which has been much studied, refers to the gens Sestia, whether to P. Sestius, on whose behalf Cicero was to speak, or to his father L. Sestius, if not to both of them.[8] A point of some contention is whether Cicero’s letter refers to P. Sestius or to his son, called Lucius after his grandfather, who began the work on the Settefinestre villa near Cosa. Whomever it refers to, it is tempting to see the luculenta navigia as ships belonging to a wine-grower-cum-trader exploiting the whole chain, from production to sale in independent Gaul.[9] But several of the amphorae of Sestius on Grand Congloue 2 have their stoppers made of pozzolana and bear the name of L. Titius C. f, a trader’s name, as we have just seen.[10] L. Titius had bought the wine from Sestius and was responsible for conveying it.[11] There is no reason for the Grand Congloue ship to have belonged to Sestius. More importantly, in Cicero’s letter, Sestius’ ships are for fighting,[12] along with other vessels belonging to several great personages who were on the side ofBrutus. These ships were now added to his dicrota (vessels with two banks of oars) and those of Domitius. Though not specialized warships, they could be transformed for that purpose. So, clearly, they had to be long ships, powered by oars, quite different from the Grand Congloue vessel and from all wrecks with Dressel 1s so far investigated. It should not be forgotten that Cicero’s letter mentions not only Sestius and the little-known senator Bucilianus, but also ceteri, all the others, showing that quite a lot of people could have owned boats like this one and giving no indication at all that they were all landowners-cum-traders.

In the Verrine speeches, Cicero makes much of a cybaea that Verres had been given by the Mamertines. This was a very large vessel, comparable to a trireme, very handsome, very well fitted out.[13] One is reminded of the adjective luculentus applied to the ships of Brutus’ supporters. Although Cicero describes this vessel several times as an oneraria navis maxima, a very large freighter[14] (which fits with his accusations), it was an oared ship, a trading galley, as Lionel Casson says,[15] a bireme.[16] So here we have a vessel that could be adapted for naval combat; those of Sestius, Bucilianus and all the others must have been more or less of the same kind, and possibly those of Lentulus as well. It is amusing to note that the purpose Cicero had in mind for Lentulus’ ships, transporting works of art, was the very one for which Verres himself had used his cybaea. The arguments structuring his speech for the prosecution lead him to define the uses to which a senator could legitimately put such a ship, and there are only two of them: his own travel; and the transporting of products from a maritime estate belonging to him, in accordance with the spirit of the plebiscitum Claudianum, which would later be enshrined in law by the lex Iulia de repetundis.[17]

The importance of personal travel has been underestimated. For landowners with estates by the sea, travelling by boat was convenient and commonplace. On such trips, a well-appointed vessel with oars was quicker and more regularly reliable than a boat with sails. Travel of this type may look like recreational boating; but for some itineraries it was just the most comfortable and easiest way of getting from one point to another. In fact, it must be assumed that every rich landowner with an estate or a villa on the coast would have had boats like these. They could be used for conveying freight as well as passengers. Were they used for long-distance trade? Technically, this cannot be ruled out, although underwater archaeology has so far not discovered any hull of this type under the amphorae. There was such a thing as recreational boating. The slave in Plautus’ Rudens who thinks he has come upon a treasure and imagines he will be rich for ever, sees himself at the height of his fortune, having earned as much as he wants from trading with large ships, able to buy another vessel animi causa, solely for his own pleasure and for sailing from one port to another. Cicero himself, with all his fear of the sea, had his son sail on a Rhodian galley. He was extremely worried.[18]

Another approach would be through identification of individuals. Stoppers of Dressel 1 wine amphorae, dating from the last years of the Republic, have yielded the names of more than forty traders; and we have more than 400 others from the first and second centuries AD, painted on the sides of Dressel 20 oil amphorae from Baetica. From a milieu in which freed slaves rub shoulders with freeborn men of lowish or middling rank, three names stand out in a problematic way,[19] because they may belong to men of importance. I examine them briefly.

A stopper in a Dressel 1B amphora from the Foce Verde wreck (on the coast of Latium, not far from Torre Astura),[20] bears the stamp Ti. Clau(di) Ti.f. At the time of the Republic, there is a strong chance that this means a member of the great family of the Tiberi Claudii Nerones, ancestors of Tiberius.[21] No more can be said with accuracy.

The name of C. Sornatius C. f. was read long ago on a plaster amphora stopper, now lost, found near Castrum Novum, south of Picenum, in the Ager Praetutianus on the Adriatic side of Italy.[22] The name was deemed by Mfinzer, Ronald Syme, T. P. Wiseman, and more recently M.-P. Guidobaldi to be that of Lucullus’ legate, C. Sornatius, of the Velina tribe and thus hailing from Picenum, who was also a benefactor of the slave traders at Acmonia in Phrygia.[23] If C. Sornatius was engaged in the wine trade with the East, there is nothing at all surprising in his having enjoyed good relations with the slave traders of Asia Minor: bartering wine for slaves was the core of the period’s economy. It seems most plausible that he was an owner of vineyards who participated in the distant distribution of his wine; and this he did in the most visible way, with his name placed in the position usually reserved for a trader’s.

In 1991, the name of Q. Cornelius Quadratus was found on an amphora from Monte Testaccio, painted on the part of the vessel where the names of oil traders from Baetica appear.[24] Given that the dates are right, everything points to this being the name of the suffect consul of ad 147, who was also the brother of Fronto, the orator and friend of Marcus Aurelius. Fronto was born in Cirta in Numidia; the family appears to have had connections neither with Spain nor with trade. In addition, the same name figures in another inscription, atypical this time, in red letters of different appearance, discovered ‘some distance away from the previous one’. Inscriptions in red seem to mean not traders, but rather consignees. The one in black may mean the same, if we remember the inscriptions found at Augsburg where the name of the procurator of Raetia occupies the place normally occupied by the trader’s name.[25] The inscription on the bellies of Dressel 20 amphorae means the owner of the oil at the time of lading, normally a trader, but in rare cases a customer who has bought at source via an agent and is now having the amphorae conveyed to his residence. This interpretation could be accepted unhesitatingly, were it not for the fact that two other Q. Cornelii must be considered: Fuscinus and Galenus, traders at the same period, as well as a stamp in the name of Q. Co(rnelius) Cl(emens), the owner of an amphora workshop and possibly also of olive groves in Baetica. The gentilicium (family name) Cornelius was one of the most widespread; but only a small minority used the praenomen Quintus. Let us leave open the possibility that Q. Cornelius Quadratus was, perhaps very briefly, an oil-trader in Baetica, probably a landowner-trader.

Here now is a very different case, deriving from a comment by Louis Robert. We know, from the lemma of a poem in The Greek Anthology (XIV. 72), that L. Cuspius Pactumeius Rufinus, a grand personage originally from Pergamon, consul in ad 142, consulted the oracle at Didyma to find out ‘how he would have his own skipper swear an oath’. Robert concludes from this that he was the owner of a seagoing commercial enterprise.[26] This deduction was accepted and built upon by John D’Arms and Harry Pleket, who included Rufinus in their lists of magistrates who may have engaged in trade.[27] The fact is that, if Louis Robert’s conclusion is sound,[28] this would be not only the most clearly established case of it but also the only one in which there is participation in transport by sea.

All the foregoing considered, we can now assume that, in rare cases, there may have been senators who publicly owned to being traders, most likely exporters of the produce of their estates; and in one case we may be dealing with an entrepreneur engaged in sea transport.55 As such, they would contravene custom and propriety; and they should be added to the three exceptions to the principle of separation between production and large-scale trade offered by the ‘trading landowners’ of Baetica.

They would also cast doubt upon the whole theory that there was widespread but secret participation in a dishonourable activity, in response to a temptation that was irresistible but could be yielded to only covertly. The case of the consul for 142 stands out particularly: here is a man who, in the exercise of his business activity, consults a solemn oracle and receives an answer that became famous. In so doing, he was quite overtly infringing the ban on owning ships in quaestum. Nor did he consult the oracle in secret. And the answer given involved such a peculiar procedure (have the skipper swear his oath at daybreak, while turning eastwards, with one foot in the sea and the other on the beach, and invoking such deities that the oath would bind Jupiter himself) that it was included in The Greek Anthology.[29]

  • [1] Att. I. 9, 2 (I. 4, 2); I. 8, 2 (I. 5, 2). The goods were eventually carried on a different ship;Cicero had a cargo paid for on its arrival at Caieta, which could not have been done with a vesselbelonging to a senator.
  • [2] From Athens to Sala in Morocco and at Mont-Beuvray in Gaul. See the map published byGianfrotta (1982: 21), to be supplemented by Olmer (2003: 298-9).
  • [3] Gianfrotta (1982: 17-21); Parker (1992: 165-6 (no. 371)). In a wreck dating from the sametime found off Cape Licosa in Lucania, an amphora fragment shows one of these slaves’ names(Herm). This may be a third load of produce by Lentulus (Gianfrotta 1998: 105).
  • [4] Hesnard and Gianfrotta (1989: 402, 411 no. B 8, 434 no. A 8.
  • [5] Tchernia (1986: 118); Hesnard and Gianfrotta (1989); See also p. 142.
  • [6] Att. XVI. 4, 4 (411). 2 For the most recent listing, see Olmer (2003: 310-13).
  • [7] 34 The dating of the stamps now makes it more likely that it refers to the father, L. Sestius. See
  • [8] Panella (2010: 51).
  • [9] Will (1979: 349); Carandini and Settis (1979: 97); Manacorda (1981: 31-2 (cautious)).
  • [10] Benoit (1961: 52-6); Hesnard and Gianfrotta (1989: no. B 36).
  • [11] Initially, L. Titius was considered to be a neighbour who had sold amphorae to Sestius:Carandini and Settis (1979); Manacorda (1980: 176). See the debate, briefly referred to, between,on the one hand, Carandini (1989b: 509) and Manacorda (1989: 464), and, on the other, Hesnardand Gianfrotta (1989: 427).
  • [12] See discussion in McCann (1987: 16, n. 7) and the survey of the matter by Paterson(1990: 197).
  • [13] Verr. 2.v.44: navem vero cybaeam, maximam, triremis instar, pulcherrimam atqueornatissimam.
  • [14] Verr. 2.iv.19, 150; v.46. 3 Casson (1971: 166-7). 4 Verr. 2.v.59.
  • [15] 43 See pp. 157-8. The Digest, XXXIII. 7, 12, 1 includes ships among the chattels used to
  • [16] exportare products from an estate, alongside beasts of burden, carts, kegs, and goat skins; thismay very well be referring to short trips (on an estate by the sea, a boat was indispensable forgetting to the nearest port), or to transfers to the landowner’s town house; see Whittaker (1985),Ligt (1993: 164-5) (but he gives a wrong reading of Dig. XIV. 3, 4, see Aubert 1994:, 7, n. 6). In
  • [17] another context, the same jurist, Ulpian, defines the term navis as covering river boats and evenrafts (XIV. 1, 1, 6).
  • [18] Plautus, Rudens, 932-3: Jean Bayet uses the word ‘yacht’ in his translation in Litteraturelatine, 55. Cicero, Att. X. 11.
  • [19] D. Nonnis squarely faced this problem in an extremely scholarly article (2003: 267-8):‘Weak evidence based on names, whose validity has given rise, even quite recently, to conflictingopinions’; see the contrast between his pp. 257 and 271-2. I include in my study neither thestamp Ahenobarbi on an anchor in the Palermo museum, from the Isola delle Femmine, butwithout reliable provenance (Gianfrotta 1980: 111; Hesnard and Gianfrotta 1989: 433, no. A. 6)nor the one in the name of C. Aquilius Proculus (probably the consul of 90 AD) on an anchorretrieved offPunta Licosa (Gianfrotta 1974; 1980: 112; Hesnard and Gianfrotta, 1989: 434, no.A. 7). In neither of these cases do we know what type of ship they came from. On severaloccasions, the Domitii Ahenobarbi family commanded war fleets.
  • [20] Gianfrotta (1998: 106). 3 Nonnis (2003: 271-2).
  • [21] 48 Hesnard and Gianfrotta (1989: 425, no. B. 33 = CIL XI. 6080, 21).
  • [22] 49 Syme (1964: 123); Wiseman (1971: 262, n. 406); Guidobaldi (1996). See also Zevi (2005:
  • [23] 823). Harris (1980: 127, 129-30) is more tentative. Gianfrotta (in Hesnard and Gianfrotta 1989)sees the wine merchant as either the father or the son of the legate.
  • [24] Rodriguez Almeida (1994: 120-2, nos 9, 10). Remesal Rodriguez and Aguilera Martin(2001: 51) dispute the identification (but misconstrue the Italian of their compatriot RodriguezAlmeida). Cf. Liou and Tchernia (1994: 150, n. 9); Andreau (1999a: 288).
  • [25] See p. 81. 2 Robert (1968: 598-9).
  • [26] 53 D’Arms (1981: 158); Pleket (1983: 137; 1984: 14).
  • [27] 54 It is disputed by Whittaker (1985: 58).
  • [28] 55 My conclusions more or less coincide with those of Dominic Rathbone (2003: 203-4).
  • [29] Greek Anthology, XIV. 72.
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