I don't see Horsfall arguing "in detail" why we should accept the event as historical, though he does say that it would be without precedent for the Romans to turn a historical victory into a memory of a defeat. That's a classic illustration of begging the question, is it not?andrewcriddle wrote: ↑Thu Mar 09, 2023 10:07 am The criteria of Embarrassment (If X didn't happen no one would want to claim it did) is an important tool in study of the Historical Jesus. It has been claimed that this criteria is not used outside religious studies.
I came across recently a counter-example. In M. Manlius and the Geese by Horsfall there is a discussion of the traditions of the Gothic sack of Rome c 387 BCE.
In the standard account the Goths failed to take the Capitoline Hill and an attempt to do so was foiled by the warning given to the Roman sentries by geese. However there is a minority tradition that the Goths did seize the Capitoline Hill and hence held briefly all Rome. Horsfall argues in detail that this minority tradition is prima-facie credible and is found in Roman as well as Greek sources. He then argues that we should believe this tradition because if it didn't happen Roman sources would never have claimed it did, while if it did happen there would be a strong tendency for a less humiliating version of the sack too develop.
This is in effect a use of the criteria of Embarrassment .
If that's an argument for historicity it is, of course, circular -- or at the very least an argument from lack of imagination. It assumes there was a historical event (a defeat) behind the late traditions in the first place and that that could be the only reason for the legends arising some hundred years after the event -- at least as far as the actual evidence tells us when it arose according even to Horsfall.
But ancient historians before and since Horsfall's article have noted the moral lessons of those legends that indicate the capture of Rome by the Gauls as opposed to its salvation by the honking geese. In other words, there were cultural-social reasons for inventing stories like that.
Mary Beard, for example, demonstrates in her 2015 book that Horsfall's passing opinion has had no serious effect on Roman historiography or constructions of early Roman history:
. . . . [more moralizing tales outlined here] . . . .
. . . A less honourable telling of the story has the Gauls triumphantly carrying off the ransom.
This is another case of Roman exaggeration. The various stories, which became commonplaces of Roman cultural memory, offered important patriotic lessons: in placing the claims of country above family, in bravery in the face of certain defeat, and in the dangers of measuring the worth of the city in terms of gold. The catastrophe became so much a part of the Roman popular imagination that some diehards were using it in 48 CE as an argument (or a desperate gambit) against the emperor Claudius’ proposals to admit Gauls into the senate. There is, however, no archaeological evidence for the kind of massive destruction that later Romans imagined . . .
Mary Beard. SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome (Kindle Locations 2009-2014). Profile Books Ltd.. Kindle Edition.
In other words, Horsfall fails to consider the context in which the first myths and legends about the capture of Rome made their appearance in print and, through lack of imagination in this particular case, cannot imagine any explanation other than "it happened". (He could have been a theologian!)
It may have happened, of course. But it's not a secure historical datum. It is more commonly found in stories of Roman myths and legends than as part of certain historical reconstructions of history. Horsfall in the same article acknowledges that he is the odd man out in his view and that the general view is that the story is legendary.
As the renowned classicist Moses Finley wrote when he took up this problem with some of his classicist peers for their naivety in their approach to their sources -- published about 4 years after Horsfall's article appeared so one may wonder if H's article was part of the problem Finley was addressing:
The ability of the ancients to invent and their capacity to believe are persistently underestimated.
Finley, M. I. Ancient History: Evidence and Models. ACLS History E-Book Project, 1985. p. 9