Sown Men and Rome’s civil wars: rethinking the end of Melinno’s Hymn to Rome

Thomas Biggs*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Melinno’s so-called Hymn to Rome was composed sometime between the third century BCE and the third century CE. Nearly all scholars judge the poem to be a relatively straightforward panegyric of Rome’s power. The final stanza compares the Romans to the Sown Men. This article argues that the appearance of Theban or Colchian Spartoi could have evoked a more complex response from many probable readers of Melinno’s poem in antiquity, especially those who were well versed in Latin literature and Rome’s harrowing histories of civil war. It proposes that the closing comparison underscores the Romans’ fatal flaw: their inborn compulsion to engage in internecine strife. By concluding the hymn with a destabilizing reference, Melinno’s linking of Rome and Thebes points to a more nuanced evaluation of Roman power than scholars have yet to recognize.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
VolumeAdvance Articles
Early online date18 May 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 May 2022


  • Melinno
  • Rome
  • Thebes
  • Sown Men
  • Civil war
  • Reception
  • Vergil


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