Monday, October 11, 2010


Version at BMCR home site
Alessia Bonadeo (ed.), L'Hercules Epitrapezios Novi Vindicis. Introduzione e commento a Stat. silv. 4,6. Studi latini 72. Napoli: Loffredo editore, 2010. Pp. 318. ISBN 9788875644048. €27.00 (pb).
Reviewed by John Henderson, King's College, Cambridge

Mehercule! Two decades plus of polysemic, metaliterary, intermedial, cultural-historical Silver and Silvan Latinity separate this fine new non-Anglo-German style commentary from Kathy Coleman's scarily distinguished Oxford edition of Silvae Book 4. There, 22 pages of austere brevitas did for the 109 hexameters of 4.6—not 149 accommodating pages of introduction plus 122 of theory-friendly comment (in smaller but still agreeable font). Cui Bonadeo? Riding on revaluation of Statius, the Preface emphasises synergy between the multi-dimensional interplay of Statian artistry and a critical hermeneutic systematically open to semiotic ambiguity and amphibology: Bonadeo has picked the poem that does art history—'Statius' Statue', if you will—the ekphrastic poem that hooks verbal play onto plastic icon in its interactive work of description, but fills this out suggestively and invitingly by embedding the challenge to evoke graphic representation within a multifaceted staging of art culture that brings together ideology, history, politics, and aesthetics, in a self-referential and self-promotional microcosm of Flavian Italy just aside from the heat and glare of Domitian's court.

Ex pede Herculem:1 4.6 is also the poem that brings to the table the multum in parvo basis of the self-deprecating poetics of minor, occasional, off-parade, un-epic verse most clearly by unpacking the world of meaning embodied in a table-ornament statuette less than one foot tall. Boogying away sul piano 'linguistico-stilistico, retorico-grammaticale, compositivo-strutturale' for all she's worth, Bonadeo 's every packed page vindicates her new-wave critical idiom by zooming and panning her way through big issues and minute details. Very little is plain superfluous;2 what beats me, in fact, is why there's something missing—namely an illustration, of the giant 'Alba Fucens' Hercules (suitably reduced) and/or one of the many miniature figurines that could sit in for a, or the, Lysippan/Statian Hercules. This doesn't help plug the art history side of the deal one bit, when the poem ought to be essential required reading and pondering, and help rub in the necessary interdisciplinarity of classical studies. But no doubt the scale of exegesis flat rules out most imaginable cliente\les, and (though the pricing is considerate) the patient teasing out of each layered implication that is required to let polysemia 'breathe' (p.267 on v. 95, spirat) both enables consultation ad locum as an omni-competent work of reference and spells out too many basics too often to encourage unbroken reading through. In terms of consistent and sustained quality, this welcoming commentary is some achievement, misses scarcely a trick: as an aggiornamento on how to close-read the Silvae here now, if you ask me, Bonadeo 's got the lot.

The introduction sets up where the detailed work will be heading: 1. The first section sets the scene by dealing with the status of the statuette's, if not Statius', owner Vindex, assessing the 'imputation' in the book's preface, and in the course of 4.6, of 'patronage' or 'commission'. Then the statue-type is documented iconographically and set within Hellenistic-imperial Roman copy production and culture. Play with scale, naming and art connoisseur expertise ('Epitrapezios' = 'at table' and 'on table'? Cult-title? Then riddle for critics ...) entices us to join in, and distribute knowledge and speculation, hype and con, between poet, collector, and sculptor. Bonadeo gets the party going, before suddenly reining in free fun by going formal on us and bracketing gleeful sarcasm at the expense of our cast of operatives as off-limits: somehow she manages momentarily to sign up to the rule of 'strict literary conventions' that create a 'textual reality' in which Vindex knows his onions and his is an authentic Lysippus (p.42). 'Dialogue' between 4.6 and Martial's pair of epigrams on the 'same' topic (9.43-44; with the Vindex of 1.86?) digests differences in scenario and mood that may showcase competition to welcome a new bravura acquisition in the winter months of 94/95 CE; it certainly sets off the Horatian 'lifestyle' setting featured in the elaborate silva against Martial's double whammy of crisp elegiacs deflated by minimalist hendecasyllabic put-down a treat. And here, just as the Epigrams' second take writes suspicions of false attribution and bogus authentication onto the menu, so B's admission of likely fictional status for Statius' moodsetting dinner-date (pp.49-50, 156) straightaway kick his poem off with a frame wide open for fiendish through foolish misrepresentation to come, whatever the formalities: the tease of not knowing what to know is the poet's hex on the power amassed in the poem, making fun with us all. As with all make-believe, what's going to matter is what we make of the kidology, what we buy with the toy and the toy does for us. O Superman ...

2. The second section gives an overview of the poem by chunk: vv. 1-4, the poet as Vindex's guest—another Horatian 'pest', but teased and not, Bonadeo intercedes, sent up (p.59); 4-31, the soire/e negotiating temperance and luxury: to ease feasting on art past the censors, adjust hogging the market to fit the codes of taste as per the poem's writing (p.62). Callimachean cicadas, sing on!; 32-58, ekphrasis, from phantasia to enargeia, all that jazz, shuttled between maestro Lysippus and maestro Statius, and back; 59-98, a triumvirate of past owners, Alexander, Hannibal, Sulla, are trounced by Vindex the real hero, of loyalty; 99-109, his aretalogical hymn to Hercules, mediating between description and praise, address(es) and addressee(s) in a triangle between Statius, Vindex, and Hercules (p.96). The sequence is interrupted by a special insert, synkrisis with Silv. 1.1's equestrian statue-poem of Domitian in the Forum (pp.87-93), where Bonadeo comes a second time so close to siding with the private ennobling of friendship against its antithesis that she must stiffen her will against actually subversive mockery of the Palace by reminding us of the imperial poet's license to relativize: as throughout, she finds her protocols closely in tune with Carole Newlands' Poetics of Empire, permitting 'fault-lines' to preserve official decorum while at the same time opening up space for a range of reactions (pp.89-90). In the eternity stakes, she decides, 'true love' (v. 12) between art-loving friends through poetry outstrips brute/mere might, whether of subject or of owners—but that ..., doesn't that disrecommend an emperor's high-and-mightiness as short on the human element (p.93)?

3. The third is a rather lengthy essay collecting all the pieces of the Graeco-Roman jigsaw called Hercules, which ends up neatly identifying Statius' Hercules as, not at, the crossroads (p.122). He is the place where the unusually well-behaved guest who comes out half-against the similarly motley figure of (that other predictably unpredictable partygoer) Alexander, but then wholeheartedly against the unRoman disloyalties of Hannibal and Sulla, while showing, as in Silv. 3.1, his pacific beatific cultured and enlightened side. But, Bonadeo underlines, this multiverse icon has always incorporated oppositions, way beyond lyre and club, and fits the variegated collection at least as well as this particular outing (p.127-8).

4. The finale, on genre, rolls out all the proposals for deriving or assigning the poem. Bonadeo holds out against all attempts to contain the whole assemblage under any rubric, while allowing the basket of ideas some degree of pertinence, before successfully objecting to all varieties of appeal to notional occasion of hypothesized first performance as putative grounding for reading out supposed dynamics. She has time for the idea that poet and Vindex supply between them the poem as the object being dedicated, complete with identification, history, value, and response,3 but holds out for a dynamic of 'intersection' between this scheme and a welter of others, without 'unitary matrix' (p.144). Polyeideia obtains as much within a silva as between silvae (p.152).

A notelet briskly outlines the paradosis. The (conservative) text is based on A. Traglia's sixth edition (of 1978). Bonadeo diverges from Coleman at: vv. 10, ferat (obelized); 18, Erythraeis (-aeae, Markland); 28, Polycliteis (-eteis); 34, satiauit (-i, Phillimore); 36, uidendum (tuendum, Schrader); 43 ac spatio (obeli and lacuna, after Housman); 57, sedes, Markland (-is); 61, occasus ... ortus (-u ... -u, Heinsius); 97, feroces (-is); 98, amantes carmina (amantis tempora, Markland). There is no apparatus; discussion is provided in nn. ad locc.

The commentary, now. Particularly well inter-referred with the introduction, this now in turn does a superb job of revealing and responding to linkage between sections, moods, image-systems, and levels of inter-implication in the text (esp. p.229). Discussions star inter alia Silv. 2.2 (pp.198-9), 3.1 (p.221), 4.2 (p.224), Lucan 10's Alexander (p.242), Silius' Hannibal (p.252). Closing evocation of Odes 4.2 (p.278) neatly clinches the 'think Horace' message of the opener for this quasi-centrepiece for the mini-collection wheeled in by Marcellus's epistula 4.4, with the hexametric sermo chez cena flanked by matching Alcaic and Sapphic odae lyricae in 4.5 and 7.

I would 'prefer' (p.282: key term of Statian encomium) to applaud Bonadeo 's funky and devoted gathering of all varieties of relevant analysis, comparanda, and ably synthesized scholarship, without further comment from me. But this is a review for a Review, so I'll complain that Bonadeo underplays Statius' status as latter-day Virgil in spades. With Book 4 he turns from his Herculean labours on massively oppressive Thebaid to the boyish vibe of Achilleid, while adding this extra instalment to his triptych of 'personal poetry' in Silv. 1-3 a\ la Horace Odes 4: 4.7 begins by latching the poem for its 'Maximus' on to 'heroic labours' from a nouum plectrum on a Thebes tortured by repeat filing; Apollo now comes 'late on the beat': the lyric needs contracting, too, from—Hercules' mini-epic incorporating his Labours in 4.6. These were the 'cares' that Statius was 'releasing' from, his mettle 'relieved of Apollo's oppressive possession' when the 'Barriers spread wide' and 'Vindex's dinner snatched the poet away at the dying of the day' (1-4). Nemea (41) and Molorchus (51) surely spell Thebaid, and Alexander wasn't the only one to have 'Theban triumphs' to beg off (70).4 Let Hercules himself do what he may, the cat will mew and dog will have his day.

Unlike Coleman (p.192, 'perhaps he spent it on a new statuette'), Bonadeo finds tawdry the notion that the friendship remembered for Vindex with died-young Vestinus may've involved 'a legacy' (p.267-8): I can stand tawdry, and should point out that if that's where Vindex got his Hercules, then the exotic epulae (v. 6) and the vintage uina perpetuis aeuo certantia fastis (7) may recall, what they would displace, the cruel epulae consulares (Tac. Ann.15.69) and the black year immortalized by the name Vestinus (Atticus), cos. ord. 65, the non-conspirator who, despite exclusion by the Pisonians from their plot, was forced to mock-suicidal martyrdom by a jovial Nero—immediately before the liquidation of Lucan, the died-young brother poet Statius would never be (Tacitus Ann. 15.48, 52, 68-9).5 The things Hercules has seen go down! I suggest we overload Bonadeo 's circuit of overlaid thinking and responsive gazes between the oculi of vv. 22 and of 109, to the point where we peek inside the different viewpoints of the personnel and see through what they make of art to where it is they're coming from, and what they stand for: inside Statius' head, watch Vindex see the Vestini in 'their' figurine memento; through imagination (call it research) he is, and can put us, in touch, over untouched plates, with the gaze that in the first place gave Lysippus his view of Hercules, meant for Alexander, as vadecum, exemplar and reproof, and cathected icon of selfhood, check. In time, did Hannibal know where he got his pocket Hercules? Did he learn and not learn to see what he could see there through an Alexander's eyes? So for Sulla, stealing away from Greece loaded—did he see himself standing in line, and was this pint-sized fetish his voodoo, too? Does shared taste matter more than how anyone gets their hands on treasure? What do you see yourself seeing in this gift-horse's mouth? Vestinus wanted a chance to be somebody; art buff Vindex could long to live up to his name for real, become a lion-tamer, big time; and, skipping tyrants through Nero and still nearer, behold Statius—can we see the chameleon poet eye us from where this/his matey Hercules can?


7-8 Premessa
11-159 Introduzione:
1. Realien (11-56)
2. Per un approccio analitico (57-96)
3. La silva di Eracle e l'Eracle della silva (97-128)
4. Verso una definizione di genere? (129-156)
5. Notula philologica (157-9)
162-7 Testo e Traduzione
171-282 Commento
284-308 Bibliografia
309-14 Indice degli moerni [sic] citati
315 Indice


1.   Cf. vv. 38-9, intra | stet mensura pedem. On v. 57, clauae meminit manus, I hear Virgil mutter: facilius esse Herculi clauam quam Statio uersum surripere.
2.   Bibliometrists and narcissists get their very own 6-page index of 'modern authors cited'.
3.   After Christopher M. Chinn, 'Statius Silv. 4.6 and the epigrammatic origins of ekphrasis', CJ 100 (2005) 247-63.
4.   I baulk too at some of the etymologizing, which seems to me buried from Statius, Vindex, and co. (stolidus-stereos, even toruus-torqueo, et sim).
5.   See Carole Newlands, ''The first biography of Lucan: Statius, Silvae 2.7', in Paolo Asso ed. (2011) Brill's Companion to Lucan, Leiden: Brill, chapter 23.

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