Thursday, December 11, 2008


Franco Bellandi and Rolando Ferri (edd.), Aspetti della scuola nel mondo romano : atti del convegno (Pisa, 5-6 dicembre 2006). Supplementi di Lexis 51. Amsterdam: Adolf M. Hakkert, 2008. Pp. 345. ISBN 9025612334. €76.00 (pb).
Reviewed by John Henderson, King's College, Cambridge (

Here are ten (from an original dozen) papers from a round-table event, six of them from the home team, that tell us Latin studies are in good shape in Pisa.1 The collection avowedly2 hangs together loosely, but enough, through focus on the Latin Glossaries and their vicinity, concentrated around the preponderant paper from editor Ferri (pp. 111-77; add Rochette and Rosellini; adjacent, Bonnet and Aragosti). 'Schooling' in literary embodiments and representations occupy the other contributions (Seneca the Elder and Martianus Capella; Petronius and Juvenal,). And the joker in the pack confronts us with ancient Alexandria's 'Lecture Block A' in central uptown to make us think harder about what we think counts as a university. The volume is good-as-perfect edited, and Ferri has provided indices rerum ('argomenti') et locorum that are both thorough and thoroughly thought through.

1. Francesca Lechi, 'Greco e latino nelle scuole di retorica' (pp. 9-27).

Before settling on the vivid character Cestius Pius the Greek from Zmyrna who never declaimed in Greek (pp. 20-7), L. neatly nails the dynamics of the Roman controuersia, where the speaker engages in the First Person (as in the Athenian but not the Roman courtroom), his speech must incorporate, and release by implication, its virtual opponent, and the audience ups the required pleasure quotient. Against this background, the performance of bilingualism in early imperial declamation culture makes for a sharply etched topic and a long overdue enquiry. Teasing out the declaimers' implied presumption of limits to audience competence in spoken Greek through the Latin 'glossing' , or 'contextual paraphrase', they decide to provide gets us into grappling with the Elder Seneca's tricky texts up close; so too with Cestius' cute riffing on Virgilian epic phrasing and his tweaking of Latin idiom with aplomb. The mutilated surviving scraps from performances in Greek are convincingly ascribed to Seneca's reading--no matter what he says about his phenomenal memory bank.

2. Annamaria Cotrozzi, 'I capitoli della scuola nel Satyricon' (pp. 29-48)

First, roving commentary on the Encolpius-Agamemnon dialogue in Petronius chaps. 1-5, which provides its own samples of declamatory style to denounce, and parody. Second, examination of the dynamics of the Echion-Ganymede rap in chaps. 45-6, where oscillating deference and aggression towards the Professor -- Agamemnon -- the teacher/pontificator, 'The One Who Can Speak', threads through the clichés.

3. Franco Bellandi, 'Intellecttuali e insegnanti in Giovenale. La satira 7' (pp. 49-79)

Thirty years on from first reflections on the poem, B. refines his 'ironic' reading of the mixture of pity and scorn for the penpushers and educators around the imperial system of sponsorship/exploitation between the court and the rest of Rome's elite. This, the non-frivolous wing, of historians, orators, rhetors, grammatici, is both at the mercy of niggardly patrons and a ridiculous parade of specimens of venality, bombast, pedantry. In a rousing conclusion, 'recent Anglo-Saxon' criticism is deplored for taking it all as 'fun', as literary entertainment: once interset with the blank generalities presented by Tacitus (esp. Dialogus' Messalla), Pliny and Quintilian, Juvenal's indictment pins specific flaws to a real, concrete, establishment configuration. 'Recent'? Plenty of Juvenaliana this millennium for B. to catch up on.

4. B. Rochette, 'L'enseignement du latin comme L2 dans la Pars orientis de l'Empire romain: les Hermeneumata Pseudodositheana' (pp. 81-109)

After outlining a bilingual Roman elite who were taught the ropes in Greek before they pitched into Latin studies between Cicero and Quintilian, R. goes on to track a shift within the 'bilateral bilinguism' of early empire culture toward late-antique selective entrenchment of Latin in eastern provinces, within the repertoires of administrative documents, inscriptions, and other apparatus of post-Tetrarchy court bureaucracy. Here Beirut becomes a special oasis and breeding ground of Latinity (pp. 88-90). So much, it proves, by way of puffing the Corpus Glossarium Latinorum, which is efficiently and lucidly characterized by R. before being probed for the light its playlets shed on the two-way street of teaching less than exalted Greeks and Romans to learn how to teach and learn each others' language, and begin to take on board some of the other culture's characteristic ways (esp. 300-500 CE). The glosses are about enabling speech through written instruction, from the ABC on up, yet they practise a translationese style of phrase by phrase rendering (kata podás, uerbum de uerbo); they list vocabulary by theme as well as alphabetically, but rise to stylized rendering of Cicero (esp. Catilinarians I-III) and Virgil (esp. Aeneid I-VI, esp. esp. I-II, esp. esp esp. I)--and of unversed Babrian fables. R. gets to grips presenting and 'marking' the effort in PapAmherst II.26 (pp. 103-07). As it must seem to us, syntax, and so making sense, is the glossers' lowest priority.

5. Rolando Ferri, 'Il latino dei Colloquia scholica' (pp. 111-77)

Staying with CGL III, we next explore a sharp selection of offerings that jumble efforts from late antiquity with materials through to the Fifteenth Century. In devising tactics for prising 'bona fide' developments in Latinity away from ad hoc precipitates of translationese, F. ingeniously hits on ways to 'mark' Colloquium Harleianum--and vice versa (pp. 114-20). Next he looks to date materials by content, before turning on the heat and grilling the language samples phonetically, morphologically, lexically, in terms of syntax, word-order and use of personal pronouns, and finally as cases of shifting pragmatic conventions (protocols of greeting, yes/no, the politesse of nice and nasty...). Fittingly this clever essay itself boasts an impressive sprawl of hermeneutic strategies, aiming to try out interpretative procedures for size rather than clinch any comprehensive take on the amassed word bites.

6. Guillaume Bonnet, 'La forme des Artes grammaticae, reflets de la pratique des maîtres' (pp. 179-88)

Surely ancient teaching manuals adapted their course materials to suit their victims as do ours? B., if anyone, knows the clamorous Artes well enough to detect different programmatic aims in Dositheus' Greek's for Greeks version as against Donatus', and to indicate why he could omit 'metre' and 'vices and virtues of speech'. Anon. Bobiensis looks to be pegged to Greek pupils insecure in Latin, where other trimmings may be down to attribution to its envisaged public of expertise in either or both grammatical analysis and Latin: a 'superior' course meant for Greek teachers converting into Latin professors? Dositheus' own redaction tools up with detailed shots at correct prepositions and conjunctions; and works in blessings from a commentary on Terence, Hecyra; whereas poor Bobiensis caters for a less advanced class still thinking in Greek when facing Latin expressions? The ambitious manual can risk suppressing elementary clarification and cultivate silently insinuated nuances; and we can detect them? Finally, Priscian on prepositions (CGL III 35.4-19) looks to smuggle Priscian's notes and marginalia into a mixed-level hybrid textbook.

7. Michela Rosellini, 'Varrone, Palemone, Prisciano: effetti di un insegnamento grammaticale sulla pratica della lingua' (pp. 189-98)

Can we pinpoint effects of grammar teaching on Roman linguistic practice? Take the future perfect indicative in -ero. In antiquity (Varro, De Lingua Latina 9.96, 99, 100 apart--no teaching manual this) this tense is a future subjunctive: see esp. Priscian CGL III 260.20-61,2 (and 251,18-23). All futures being uncertain, there is for Latin grammarians no category of 'anteriority in the future'. 'Might always never be gonna have happened.' R. reckons to catch Apuleius and Julius Valerius (Res Gestae Alexandri Macedonis) putting this Truth into their practice.

8. Chiara O. Tommasi Moreschini, 'Il De Nuptiis di Marziano Capella: da manuale 'privato' a testo canonico' (pp. 199-219)

Never heard of Martianus Capella's weird version of sevenfold elevation of the soul through the curriculum of Artes? Here is a convert's induction to author and work. Date; title; name; genre/unity; paganism/esotericism; Nachleben; Christianizing allegorization. (How) Did discussion flow?

9. Konrad Vössing, 'Alexandria und die Suche nach den antiken Universitäten. Alte Fragen unde neue Funde' (pp. 221-51)

What makes a university a university? After running through and knocking out precursors in Athens, Rome, Carthage, etc, V. finds Constantinople under Theodosius II in 425 comes close to satisfying his chosen criteria (p.234). But lo! Fresh excavations published by Gregor Majcherek (University of Warsaw)3 offer a long row of twenty uniform auditoria just off a main road near the late antique city centre of Alexandria, each suite complete with stone 'professorial chair' and a 'lecturer's' stone 'desk'. Dating to c.500 and indications of use until 642 do not preclude earlier versions back into an earlier heyday, and elicit a neat roll-call of the city's scholar heroes. Yes, here is a striking talking-point, as provocative as it is unexpected: V.'s definition sets sights on a higher education establishment, the teaching phase of a syllabus to graduation, a multi-disciplinary programme, a role in the formation of the citizen with broad social acceptance, institutional connection between teachers--i.e. departmental faculty (pp. 222-5). And V.'s lively conclusion sets self-reflexive sights on his seminar paper: I bet the question he pops prompted plenty of discussion in Pisa; it deserves to wherever. 'Auf der Suche nach antiken Universitäten--wozu?' (pp. 250-1).

10. Andrea Aragosti, 'Frammenti plautini nella tradizione di Calcidio' (pp. 253-88)

'I asked for water and she gave me gasoline.' The early fourth-century translation of and commentary on Plato, Timaeusby Deacon (?) Chalcidius in the tenth- or eleventh-century Bamberg Misc. Class. 18 = Codex Bambergensis Bibliothecae publicae M.V. 15 includes on fol. 117 verso a short prose letter to some comrades, in which a certain Regulus (see pp. 285-6) is fed up when he'd asked for Plautus and was posted Plato instead. As he sends up his chagrin and twits his mates, he puts together an urbane page stuffed with phrases from the plays advertising what's missing juxtaposed against disappointments of the dialogue. A. provides text and translation before extensively annotating what is known or can be documented, paralleled, or inferred about the provenance, meaning, and presumed construal of these Plautine testimonia and fragments. Which include extant, lost, dubious, and non-Varronian plays: Asinaria, Epidicus, Dyscolus, Cornicula, Vidularia, Aulularia, Stichus, Menaechmi, Amphitryo, Artemo, Frivolaria, Synaristosae (and a note on Pacuvius). All these phrase-taking and -making jeux trace to some epitome of (Verrius-)Festus, De uerborum significatu that also fuelled a welter of matching glossary entries. The paper gives comprehensive and minute scholarly treatment of each and every literary/philological item as well as informative studies of all players, materials, and contexts. Maybe this goes back to my schooldays when an order of Theocritus was answered by the bookseller with an apology for not having the book and delivery instead of a Theophrastus, or maybe we all have some version of this whimsy; anyhow, I rate this, no contest, the gem of the collection.


1. Seven are in Italian, two in French, one in German.

2. The editors waste no time with preliminaries, prefixing a single-page notification by way of 'Introduzione'.

3. G. Majcherek, 'The Late Roman Auditoria of Alexandria: An Archaeological Overview' in T. Derda, T. Markiewitz, and E. Wipszycka (eds.) Alexandria. Auditoria of Kom el-Dikka and Late Antique Education, Journal of Juristic Papyrology, Supplement 8 (Warsaw, 2007), 11-50.

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