Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Version at BMCR home site
Ilaria Ramelli, ALSO SEEN: Stoici Romani Minori: Marco Manilio-Musonio Rufo-Anneo Cornuto-Cheremone di Alessandria-Aulo Persio-Trasea Peto-Anneo Lucano-Decimo Giunio Giovenale-Mara Bar Serapion. Il Pensiero Occidentale. Milan: Bompiani, 2009. Pp. 2632. ISBN 9788845261961. €45.00.
Reviewed by Gretchen Reydams-Schils, University of Notre Dame

Given the current renewed interest in Stoicism during the Roman imperial era, this book is very welcome. As the title indicates, it includes the works of or testimonies about Manilius, Cornutus, Chaeremon, Persius, Thrasea Paetus, Lucan, Juvenal, and Mara Bar Serapion. This volume builds partly on Ramelli's previous contributions of the same type and in the same series, notably one on Cornutus (2003) and one on Musonius Rufus (2001). The author has made groundbreaking contributions to the scholarship, and she is an expert on Musonius Rufus.

In addition to the texts, translations, commentaries, and biographies with chronologies, this volume provides the best and most up-to-date bibliographies available, with an overview of the secondary literature in the introductions to each work. An appendix to the bibliography on Manilius also includes secondary literature pertaining to Aratus, Cleomedes, and Lucretius as well as the tradition of didactic poetry. For the bibliography on Cornutus, the author refers to her earlier work (2003) and provides here only additions. Persius and Thrasea Paetus are treated together, as two Roman Stoics of Etruscan descent, though we have no writings of the latter, only testimonies (mostly in Tacitus). Of the letter of Mara Bar Serapion, only a translation is provided, without the Syriac original. The work concludes with lists of key concepts for each author, as well as an index of names in Manilius.

Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius are not included in this volume, which focuses on the 'minor' Stoics. Cleomedes is included only in the bibliographical references. The Stoic Hierocles (2nd c. AD) cannot easily be located in any specific cultural milieu, which is probably why his work has not been added (though it makes an ideal pendant to Musonius Rufus).

In three important respects the work as a whole provides an innovative perspective. First, it keeps together different modes of expression, including both philosophical and literary, poetic works (to the extent to which this distinction applies; Manilius' work, of course, is didactic poetry). It is not an easy hermeneutical task to detect the philosophical themes in Persius, Lucan, and Juvenal (and Lucan's views, in particular, have proven difficult to pin down; see also the status quaestionis in J. Wildberger, "Stoizismen als Mittel der Verfremdung bei Lucan", in C. Walde ed., Lucan im 21. Jahrhundert, Munich 2005, 56-88, which is missing from the bibliography).

The second innovative perspective consists of the inclusion of a figure like Thrasea Paetus, even though we have only testimonia in this case. Apparently Thrasea Paetus has been grouped with Persius because both, like Musonius Rufus, are of Etruscan descent, and Ramelli argues for a specific religious sensitivity in their case, deriving from the so-called Etrusca disciplina. This sensitivity would have made them especially attuned to Stoic ideas, the author claims. Thrasea Paetus provides a window into the broader circle of Stoic Romans of the imperial era.

Finally, if Ramelli's hypothesis and interpretation hold, Mara Bar Serapion's letter to his son (added in an appendix) gives us an invaluable glimpse of potential contact between Syrian Christianity and later Stoicism at the end of the first and beginning of the second century AD.

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