Saturday, November 1, 2008


Balbo on Ferri on Balbo. BMCR 2008.07.10.)
Response by Andrea Balbo, Università di Torino (

Rolando Ferri’s review of my book I frammenti degli oratori romani dell'età augustea e tiberiana. Parte seconda. Età tiberiana (BMCR 2008.07.10) has suggested to me some considerations.

I thank the reviewer for his careful reading of the book and for all his remarks. I was aware that there could be some problems in a book of over 600 pages, and I take responsibility for them, even if I do not always agree with Ferri’s objections. In this response I do not intend to answer each of the statements advanced by Ferri; of course, they can help me (as well as the suggestions of other reviewers) to improve and correct my book. Nevertheless, reading Ferri’s interesting review gives me the chance to reflect about some methodological questions.

1) In his review Ferri is concerned about the planning of my edition, which he suspects “to be wholly absent.” I wish to reassure Ferri that my work has known a lot of phases during more than ten years of drafting.[[1]] I had the opportunity to exchange ideas with many scholars and obviously with the editors: during these years, I arrived at some methodological beliefs that are shared also by the editorial board and that I can summarize as follows: a) the most important factor is adherence to the same format for both the first and the second volumes; b) the two volumes should be internally consistent and coherent in their structure.

2) Ferri writes that it would be better to devise a continuous numbering system of fragments for my first book about the Augustan age and my second work about the Tiberian age. As a matter of fact, the unity of the project does not necessarily mean the unity of the two books. I decided that consecutive numbering between Augustan and Tiberian part would result in unwieldy numbers, creating a user-unfriendly situation.

3) Ferri’s review raises two main problems: a) the conflict between inclusivism and selectivity in the choice of testimonia and fragmenta; b) the distinction between testimonia and fragmenta. Let us examine the two questions.

a) As I wrote in the Introduction,[[2]] the inclusivism policy is a choice that had a clear aim, i.e. to show how many indications of the lost oratory from Tiberius’ times remain against the common view of the disappearance of all these works. Obviously, the risk of my choice is hypertrophy, but, as I emphasized in quoting Gabriele Giannantoni, I preferred to provide more rather than fewer fragments. This was also the aim of Enrica Malcovati's ORF, which was my main model in preparing my edition.

b) The statement that "one reads philosophers for their views, orators for their words" sounds a bit reductive. It is not true in general, particularly not in this context where it is so difficult and quite impossible -- except in a few cases -- to find the ipsa verba of orators. In the specific domain of oratory, I consider that it could be hazardous to make an excessively strict distinction between testimonia and fragmenta. In my book I maintained an enlarged definition of ‘fragment’: any text that gives information about the content and the existence of an oration is a fragment, not a testimonium.[[3]] If I had not done this I would have had another problem, namely, if I accept Ferri’s suggestion, a large number of testimonia that do not have always the same value. In fact, some of them tell us something about the contents of the speeches, or the occasions on which they were delivered, and these are different from others that, for instance, give us information about the oratorical skills of the author. In brief, of course some material I included could also be differently evaluated and excluded as well, but I do not believe that an exclusive policy would be more useful than mine.

4) I have to agree with Ferri on one issue. In my subsequent research -- about the end of the Julio-Claudian Age and so on -- I will give more space and details to the verbatim fragments. In the volume under discussion I chose a short examination for reasons of space and homogeneity with the other fragments. A little brick in the wall for this work could be an article entitled Alcuni esempi di interazione oratori-pubblico tra il I secolo a.C. e il I d.C. for the next issue of the "Cahiers du Centre Gustave Glotz", which will be the starting point of some rhetorical evaluations of Germanicus text.

The aim of this response is not to carry on a controversy with my reviewer, but only to point out some elements of my work that, in my opinion, deserve more attention. I believe that research is very far from final in the domain of fragments, and methodological discussions can only improve scholarship.


[[1]] I started to work with oratorical fragments during my PhD studies, and I continued through the defence of my dissertation in 1999 until the publication of my first book I frammenti degli oratori romani dell'età augustea e tiberiana. Parte prima. Età augustea in 2004 (second edition 2007).

[[2]] Pp. XI-XVIII, where I quoted pp. 9-14 of my book of 2004; this section remains unchanged in pp. XIII-XVI of the revised edition of 2007.

[[3]] The difference between testimonia and fragmenta is a much discussed question. M. Gigante in E. Flores (a cura di) La critica testuale greco-latina, oggi. Metodi e problemi, Atti del convegno internazionale (Napoli 29-31 ottobre 1979), Roma 1981, p. 125 pointed out some years ago, “il discrimine fra testimonianza e frammento e\ sottilissimo e, a volte, non percepibile”. Later I. Kidd added "Even in this collection confined to attested fragments, the term ‘fragment’ has been used in a wide sense to cover all variations from what would seem to be a verbatim quotation to a reported statement of doctrine" (Posidonius. 1: The fragments edited by L. Edelstein and I. G. Kidd, Cambridge 1972, XIX). As a matter of fact, these examples come from the domain of philosophy, but what would we think, for instance, of some fragments of Malcovati’s ORF4 as 72. M. Livius M. F. Drusus fr. 7 (= Cic. De or. III, 2 senatus frequens vocatu Drusi in curiam venit. ibi cum Drusus multa de Philippo questus esset, rettulit ad senatum de illo ipso, quod in eum ordinem consul tam graviter in contione esset invectus) or of 86. C. Scribonius Curio pater fr. 9 (=Suet. Iul. 50, 1 Pompeio et a Curionibus patre et filio et a multis exprobratum est, quod cuius causa post tres liberos exegisset uxorem et quem gemens Aegisthum appellare consuesset, eius postea filiam potentiae cupiditate in matrimonium recepisset)? It is difficult for me to find a clear difference between them and many fragments I have included.

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