Monday, November 29, 2010


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Alison Sharrock, Reading Roman Comedy: Poetics and Playfulness in Plautus and Terence. W.B. Stanford Memorial Lectures. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009. Pp. xi, 321. ISBN 9780521761819. $99.00.

Reviewed by Ariana Traill, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


It is hard not to like a book that starts with the author admitting, "I hated Roman comedy as an undergraduate" (p. ix). Plenty of others did too, and some may still consider the genre "a stereotype-ridden exercise in lamentable literary secondariness". This book is written to convince them otherwise.

Alison Sharrock is well known for her work on Latin elegy and classical literary criticism. This book, originating in a series of lectures delivered at Trinity College in 1999, looks at comedy from the vantage point of Augustan poetry, to ask whether its poetic concerns might find resonances in the earlier, humbler genre. Sharrock focuses on issues prominent in contemporary Latin literary studies: liminality, programmatic language, intertextuality, closure. The plays are treated as texts, rather than performance scripts, although she recognizes that readers can be audiences "by projection and imagination". Her purpose is emphatically not to ferret out traces of the Greek source plays but rather to show Plautus and Terence as literary artists, not "fundamentally different from respectable poets like Virgil" (p. ix). Plautus is stylistically original and Terence is very aware of his "Uncle Plautus". This book differs from other work staking out the Romanness of Roman comedy in its focus on literary issues, especially those tied to the Latin language. It is written to be accessible to an audience with some Latin, but not much comedy. Summaries are provided when arguments hinge on plot details and all quotations are translated. It is a strength that the book says something about virtually every extant play, but this will make demands on readers who need to be coaxed into cracking the spine on their Plautus and Terence.

The book's many different topics have been dovetailed into an elegant structure that mimics a play: chapters cover beginnings, plottings, repetitions and endings. An introduction on "Art and Artifice" usefully sets out the vocabulary comedy uses to refer to its own intrigues: dolus, ludus, fallacia, mendacium, etc. These are largely uncontroversial, with the possible exception of architectus – serviceable enough to describe playwright-like figures who mastermind plots, but not marked for genre in the same way as consilium or callidus (architectus is largely confined to one play). Discussion of the lexical items is situated within a larger argument that deceit is "a programmatic signifier of the play-making process itself". The concept of programmatic language is a productive and useful loan, which might be better defined. Its meaning is relatively clear for elegy,1 but less transparent in comedy, which does not limit deception words to introductions or use them polemically. A distinction between programmatic and metatheatrical language would also be helpful.

The second chapter challenges misconceptions about "Beginnings": that the audience was a disorderly rabble, that Plautus was incapable of cleverness in his prologues, and that Terence bored everyone with "arcane literary polemics"2. Sharrock asks what the openings are trying to accomplish as ways of starting plays. Yes, they have to grab attention but so does all literature; comedy is distinct in that it jokes about the process. Plautus' prologues know that they are supposed to provide background and get things started, but they often make a joke of doing neither. They provide far more or far less information than we need or delay the start of the plot so long that the delay itself becomes the entertainment. Sharrock shows brilliantly that exposition in Plautine prologues is "mostly a pose", whereas the real content – the digressions, postponements and getting-started jokes – is a legitimate literary technique with a name (the "hysterically deliberate" opening, from Said) and some reputable descendants (e.g., Tristram Shandy). The trick of blurring the distinction between the fictional and real worlds provides an additional link between the plays and the religious rituals of which they formed a part. Prologues can include quasi-ritual calls for silence, prayer-like invocations, and some linguistic features of ritual language (alliteration, formulaic reduplications, legalism).

Terence is treated separately throughout, in part to show that he worked with a close eye on Plautus. An examination of the prologues turns up a few commonalities: alliteration, subordinate-clause openings, storytelling, a contractual relationship with the audience, and programmatic content that can work as a trailer, emphasize conventions the plays will up-end, or accomplish the "thematic imbrication of the audience into the plot".3 Sharrock's larger argument is that the prologues really worked: they drew the audience into the play's world ("composition, performance and all", p. 64) while entertaining them ("conflict is comic", p. 76) – like Old Comic parabases, with a hint of Roman flagitatio. Here she proposes the radically original idea that Callimachus also lies behind the use of a personal quarrel to articulate ideas about literature. Specifically, Andria 1-7 echoes Apollo's rebuke to the poet in the Aetia prologue. Not all will agree (Sharrock acknowledges that the allusion is understated), but she is certainly right that this was a period of increasing interest in Greek literature. If Ennius read Callimachus, Terence could, too.

Whether Terence's prologues captivated ancient audiences is probably unanswerable. Sharrock rejects any idea of a Callimachean appeal to an elite, which seems at odds with an illuminating comparison to prefaces Henry James wrote for an "upmarket New York edition" of his novels (p. 26 n. 14) and with the book's overall purpose of demonstrating the plays' literary sophistication. It is unlikely that the quarrel-with-critics angle was as effective as claimed (when they heard "Phormio open with our old friend the poeta uetus, the theatre would immediately erupt into the applause of recognition, as when a popular singer begins a favourite golden oldie unannounced", p. 63). Terence's career was short for golden oldie status, and the Vita suggests that popularity only came with Eunuchus (161 BCE).

The chapter on "Plotting and Playwrights" explores how deception functions as a metaphor for theatrical performance. Theories of humor as release are cited to explain its ubiquity: Roman comedy thematizes deception in order to offer reassurance about the stability of personal identity; it lets us identify with a controlling figure (the "plotter," sometimes a god) who gives us what we want – restoration, recognition, certainty. One particular metaphorization of deception is prominent in Mostellaria and Miles: the location of misunderstanding in faulty vision and the equation of duping with the creation of visual illusion (i.e., theater). These are not entirely new ideas, but Sharrock offers a nuanced discussion of the theme of vision in these plays and its connection with knowledge of identity. Further, the participation of gods in Amphitruo sets comic visual errors in a direct line of descent from tragic hamartia. This leads to discussion of a second common metaphor: the plotter as playwright, exemplified in Epidicus. (The equation of plotting with play-writing is somewhat lost here in the lengthy review of the complicated plot.)

To explain why the master plotter is so often a slave, Sharrock borrows another motif from later genres, the "pose of lowness" (e.g., Horace, in the satires), which serves as a captatio benevolentiae, cloaking the playwright's god-like power within the play and also reflecting his real world status. Hence, the requisite altruism of the slave's plotting. This reading captures the ambiguity of the clever slave's power (high on the artistic axis, low on the social one) but the argument for godlike elements rests entirely on Mercury in Amphitruo (a "hapax play", as Sharrock notes) and it is difficult to see how humility works as a captatio benevolentiae if it is a generically coded assertion of power. That Terence's clever slaves fail as playwrights while other characters succeed is read as deliberate opposition to Plautus. Sharrock makes a provocative case for seeing a critique of Terentian realism embedded within the plays themselves. Characters who fancy themselves sophisticated viewers, like Simo in Andria ("a kind of determined and slightly paranoid audience of comedies, seeing plots everywhere", p. 147) miss that the artifice of theatrical performance consists of making lies seem like truth, not of simply presenting "the truth". As Pseudolus puts it, the business of the poeta is to make illud veri simile quod mendacium est.

The chapter on "Repeat performance" uses repetition as a clever way to group phenomena not usually treated together: verbal excesses, running jokes, comic echoes (an inspired coinage to describe the unconscious repetition by one character of another's lines), "pop-ups" (recurring comic bits), parody, intertextuality, and even instauratio. After citing theories about why repetition is funny (Freud, Bergson, Frye, Eco), Sharrock surveys Plautine repetition devices and effectively shows that they are well-established comic techniques – not signs of lowbrow taste, laziness or inattention. The section on Terence revisits the issue of the prologues and intertexts. A thematic purpose is claimed for the Hecyra prologue, namely, that the history of failed performances mirrors failed attempts at establishing the marriage at the center of the play, both rituals gone wrong and both "informed by the ideology and practice of" instauratio (neither is technically an instauratio). Sharrock's interest is not in historicist readings, but this argument would be stronger if the ideological import of an instauratio were discussed in more detail. "Repetition," in a Kristevan sense, can certainly include intertexts, and Sharrock proposes two new ones for Eunuchus: Bacchae (already suggested for Amphitruo)4 and Sappho fr. 31. There can be no general answer about how active either was for Roman audiences, but both are worth considering. For Bacchae, Sharrock identifies situational and thematic parallels between the disguising of Pentheus and of Chaerea. The issue here may be how large Pentheus looms in cross-dressing scenes and how effectively the Eunuchus scene signals tragedy (versus, for example, Atellan farce). The Sappho allusion is verbal: ὠς γὰρ ἔς σ' ἴδω βρόχε' and τρόμος δὲ / παῖσαν ἄγρει (fr. 31.7, 13-14), behind totus, Parmeno / tremo horreoque, postquam aspexi hanc (83-4). This is quite close (arguably as close as a passage in Miles I have argued is also an allusion to fr. 31)5 and there is certainly reason to look beyond the palliata for models for Phaedria's unusual emotional state.

The final chapter ("Endings") concentrates on a few closural moves: moralizing, celebration, and metatheater. Final sententiae function as a kind of sphragis, affirming or mocking conventional values, in keeping with the tradition of farcical endings (under which Sharrock classes the Eunuchus and Adelphoe endings). The character with the last word gains the play's tacit backing (if Micio gets plaudite, as Sharrock argues, his come-uppance is slightly rebalanced), while metatheatrical techniques help move the audience back into reality. The book's own ending is a bit abrupt and, in general, there could be more definite conclusions to sections and summations of central ideas to match the very helpful introductions setting out theoretical assumptions and terms.

There are definite advantages to the book's novel approach. "Weak" intertexts receive more attention, how comedy articulates its identity as a genre is given priority, and Terence is shown to have a more complex relationship with Plautus than straightforward opposition on a binary scheme. Sharrock makes a compelling case that Roman comedies do the same things as other works whose status as literature is uncontested. She gives us a Plautus who is more literary and a Terence who is more popular. The disadvantages of this approach are some odd, backwards readings (e.g., animum ... adpulit in And. 1 against the opening of Ovid's Metamorphoses, p. 80). A project to rescue Roman comedy from the 'philomenandrist critics' can hardly be faulted for not citing Menander (the Index Locorum has no New Comic playwrights, though the short General Index does). Being one, however, I must admit to seeing some missed opportunities (e.g., Sik. 343-62 Arnott behind Milphio's scheme for Hanno to impersonate a father seeking his lost daughters in Poenulus, p. 162).


1.   For a good working definition, see W. Batstone, CP 93.2 (1998), 126. n. 5.
2.   Quotation from S. Goldberg, Understanding Terence, Princeton: 1986. p. 32.
3.   Quotation from J. Henderson, in A Benyamin, ed., Post-structuralist classics, London and New York: 1988. p. 199.
4.   Z. Stewart, TAPA 89 (1958), 348-73.
5.   CQ 55.2 (2005) 524-7.

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Andrej Petrovic, Kommentar zu den simonideischen Versinschriften. Mnemosyne, bibliotheca classica Batava. Supplementum, 282. Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2007. Pp. xv, 345. ISBN 9789004151536. $134.00.

Reviewed by Massimo Magnani, Università degli Studi di Parma

This 2004 Heidelberg PhD dissertation of Andrej Petrovic was published in 2007 (the bibliography, with some exceptions, does not go beyond 2004). The core of the volume, which shares many point of interests with L. Bravi, Gli epigrammi di Simonide e le vie della tradizione, Roma 2006, regards 15 epigrams, edited and commented,1 a selection from the 89 edited and commented by D.L. Page (Epigrammata Graeca, Oxford 1975, pp. 8-39; Further Greek Epigrams, Cambridge 1989, pp. 186-302) and from the 107 variously assigned to Simonides by the Greek Anthology and other witnesses (see p. 55 and Anhang I, pp. 293-297). This part is preceded by a thorough introduction (Kapitel I-V, pp. 1-210) and followed by two appendices (Kapitel VIII: Anhang I: Forschungsresultate zur Echtheit, pp. 293-297; Anhang II: Konkordanz, pp. 298-299), by the bibliography (Literaturverzeichnis, pp. 301-322), the Incipit-Liste (p. 323) and the indices (locorum, pp. 325-338; verborum, pp. 339-341; nominum, 342-343; rerum, pp. 344-345).

Whereas the assessment of Simonidean authorship was essential for previous scholars, Petrovic initially puts it aside: in Ch. 1 (Einleitung: Ziel, Gegenstand, Methode, pp. 1-12), he focuses around origin and development of the Sylloge Simonidea and, before this, on the features of the inscriptional epigram in the archaic period, whose evolution as a literary genre Petrovic follows in Ch. 2 ([1]Zum Epigramm als literarischer Gattung in der spätarchaischen und klassischen Zeit[i/], pp. 13-24).

Ch. 3 is devoted to the history of the Echtheitsfrage (Echtheit: Simonides, [Simonides] und "Simonideisches". Probleme der Echtheit der ihm zugeschriebenenen Epigramme und ihre Konsequenzen, pp. 25-51). Before resuming the debate from the all-Simonidean attitude of Schneidewin and the stylistic criteria of Erbse,2 Petrovic rightly underlines the predominance of the poet's charismatic figure, and the fact that is the corpus of the epigrams -- despite the problems of authenticity – and neither the victory odes nor the threnoi, which represents the most vital part of Simonides' legacy since Hellenistic times. In accordance with the current interest in "generische Entwicklung", literary appreciation has to be devoted to Simonidean, 'Simonidean' and [Simonidean] epigrams. The chapter ends with an evaluation of the usefulness of linguistic – statistical and comparative -- and stylistic analysis: for Petrovic both methods are difficult to apply to epigrams, since they vary greatly in tradition and dialectal form.

Ch. 4 (Quellen der simonideischen Epigramme, pp. 52-89) aims to complete the work of M. Boas, De epigrammatis Simonideis. Pars prior. Commentatio critica de epigrammatum traditione, diss. Groningen 1905,3 but only, as said, on selected epigrams. These texts must meet the following conditions: a) to be preserved on stone and dated during Simonides' life (ca. 556-468 BC) according to the textual content and/or the antiquity of the inscription; b) to be transmitted by literary sources datable before the end of the third century BC with explicit Simonidean attribution. Concerning Herodotus (7.228) and the three Thermopylean epigrams (FGE VI, XXIIa-b), that Petrovic considers implicitly attributed by the historian to Simonides, he does not believe in their oral tradition (Page and S. West), because this at least forty years-lasting Spartan tradition would hardly have been able to preserve the Ionian dialectal facies. Petrovic rightly emphasizes the role of the Amphictyonic League, which controlled the Thermopylae. Herodotus could have exploited its archives for the information concerning the stele's commission. For FGE XVIIa and XXVIa-b, Thucydides is also based on oral tradition and autopsy, but with no attribution to Simonides. The first to mention him as author of epigrams is Aristotle (again FGE XXVIa and frr. 2, 290 Poltera [= PMG 515, 572]), who will have taken advantage of a Simonidean sylloge, unknown to Thucydides.

After a digression on the early collections, Ch. 5 (Sammlungen der simonideischen Epigramme, pp. 90-109) shifts its attention to the Hellenistic period and to the auktorial organisierten Epigrammsammlungen (e.g. the new Posidippus). Petrovic argues for an early origin of the Sylloge Simonidea and the antiquity of its literary tradition; consequently, he examines in detail the mixed (papyrological, grammatical and literary) evidence for that.

Ch. 6 is devoted to Petrovic's selection of texts (Text, Übersetzung und Kommentar der simonideischen Versinschriften, pp. 113-279). Every epigram is edited, translated, commented on with reference to the epigraphical and literary evidence; finally, Petrovic addresses the issue of authenticity.

Ch. 7 summarizes the previous contributions (Abschließende Überlegungen, pp. 280-290). Some epigrams may be Simonidean (epp. 1, 3, 7, 9-12), some probably are not (epp. 5, 8, 13, 15), others (2, 4, 6, 14) are of uncertain paternity. This leads Petrovic to dwell on the political and social function of the epigrams. With a deep theoretical understanding, Petrovic enters the realm of reception studies, in order to restore "die Rolle der poetischen Epigramme im öffentlichen Leben einer Polis" (p. 286).

Briefly, Petrovic's book has many chapters that can be warmly recommended as sound basis for further research (e.g., 3-5) and everywhere displays learning and common sense. The commentary, especially on the epigraphical matters, constitutes a major upgrade of FGE, even though Page's edition will continue to be the reference work. If there is a deficiency, it lies in some inaccuracy or lack of clarity concerning the critical apparatus and matters of detail. Some observations: p. 5 n. 13: "Pherekrates Fr. 153.7K" corresponds to fr. 162 (152 + 153 Kock),10 Kassel-Austin (also, on p. 135 n. 13 "Sappho frg. 60B" is 128 Voigt). Pp. 17ff.: Petrovic concludes from the Vita Aeschyli (TrGF test. 3.27-30 R.) that a public contest between epigrammatists already existed in Athens since Simonides defeated Aeschylus ἐν τῶι εἰς τοὺς ἐν Μαραθῶνι τεθνηκότας ἐλεγείωι. Against the interpretation of ἐλεγεῖον as 'epigramm' see now H. Bernsdorff, CR 59.2 (2009) 347-349: 348; with more evidence, again A. Petrovic, Epigrammatic contest, poeti vaganti, and local history, in R. Hunter-I. Rutherford (edd.), Wandering Poets in Ancient Greek Culture: Travel, Locality and Pan-Hellenism, Cambridge-New York 2009, 195-218 (reviewed by R. Rocha, BMCR 2010.01.55). J. Lougovaya (JHS 129, 2009, 142-144 at 144) points to SEG 49.370N and 51.425 as both referring to "a stele [425: "'Pentelic' marble, 1.20 x 0.60 m., letters of the late 6th/early 5th cent. B.C."] associated with the polyandrion at Marathon" with a casualty list, that "is said to be preceded by five 'introductory' lines that include the word ἀρετή - perhaps a heading and four lines of an epigram?", and she cautiously suggests that the epigram may be Simonidean. "The casualty list of Erechtheis, found in the villa of Herodes at Loukou of Arcadia in the Peloponnese" and the epigram are now properly published by G. Steinhaouer, Στήλη πεσόντων τῆς Ἐρεχθηίδος, Horos 17-21 (2004-2009) 679-692 (email of Angelos P. Matthaiou); at first glance, the epigram may sound 'Simonidean'. P. 29: the opinion of E.A. Junghahn (De Simonidis Cei epigrammatis quaestiones, Berlin 1869: only the epigram for Megistias, FGE VI, was genuine) "sollte mit wenigen und eher unbedeutenden Ausnahmen bis heute als communis opinio gelten" (p. 29), but see M.L. West, Simonides redivivus, ZPE 98 (1993) 1-14 at 1.4 P. 58: here, De Herodoti malignitate is regarded as genuinely Plutarchean (see also p. 73 n. 75), according to the communis opinio (see G. Lachenaud in Plutarque. Œuvres morales, t. XII 1, Paris 1981, 114-117), but elsewhere Petrovic thinks it is spurious.5 P. 62 n. 28 (and p. 63 n. 29): Herodotus is always cited according to the OCT edition of K. Hude (but his third and last edition was published in 1927, not in 1954 [the Danish scholar died in 1936 in Copenhagen]). Because Herodotus is often a unique or relevant source (see FGE III, IV, VI, XXIIa and b), the edition of H.B. Rosén (I-II, Stuttgart- Leipzig 1987-1997) or the "Lorenzo Valla" edition (I-VI, VIII-IX, Milano 1988-2006 [VIII-IX were already edited by A. Masaracchia, 1977-1978]) probably might have been useful. P. 104 n. 72: before and after B. Bravo, Pannychis e simposio, Pisa-Roma 1997, 43ff., on the Elephantine poems (M.-P.3 1924) see also F. Ferrari, P. Berol. inv. 13270: i canti di Elefantina, SCO 38 (1988) 181-227 and the CEDOPAL bibliography (the papyrological reference is always with the old Pack2 or LDAB). Pp. 108s.: on P. Oxy. 31.2535, cf. also D. Sider, Simonides epigram 3 FGE in P.Oxy.31.2535, ZPE 162 (2007) 5-8 and, on behalf of Lobel's cautious reading of col. I l. 2, myself in RFIC 136.3 (2008) 368-377 at 373. Pp. 121ff.: I join Bernsdorff (o.c. 348) in praising Petrovic's contextualization, but also in doubting his interpretation of FGE I as celebrating Harmodius and Aristogeiton "as mystic hierophants of liberation" (their becoming μέγα … φόως is Homeric). Pp. 132ff.: among the sources of 'Anacreon' FGE XV, read "post A.P. 6.213". P. 149: relating to what survives of FGE XI 1 in IG I2 927, especially ποκεναιομεσθορινθο, it is probable that at the beginning of line 1 the stone had χεν', not χεῖνε, even though the reader was obliged metri causa to understand the Homeric form. P. 150: it seems daring to suppose that here, in line 2, the eulogistic apposition "island of Ajax" for Salamis implies a parallelism Odysseus-Athenians vs Ajax-Corinthians. P. 178: there are some inconsistencies in the apparatus of FGE XLIX 4 (μαρνάμενοι is also in APl and C, μαχόμενοι in P1) and, in line 3 ΠΑΤ]ΡΙΔΟΣ, CEG 4 attests uncertainty for rho, not for iota. P. 185: in fact (see app., p. 178), the Ionic-Attic form ἱπποσύνῃ is attested not only in APl, but, with the omission of the iota mutum, in AP (FGE XLIX 2, epitaph on the Athenians fallen in battle). To support West's ἱπποσύναις (ΙΠΠΟ]ΣΥΝΑ[Ι Wilhelm, IG I3 1181.2), the Homeric parallels for the plural are two, not three (Il. 16.776 = Od.24.40); Page and Hansen's reasons for keeping the singular are worthwhile (see nn. 37-39). P. 189 and n. 72: it is not completely right that "mit dem Dativ ist es [scil. ἀντία] z.B. bei Simonides in den lyrischen Fragmenten wie auch bei Pindar bezeugt": in Simon. PMG 581,4, it is an emendation of Bergk, accepted by Diehl and Page, not by Poltera (fr. 262,6), who prefers the transmitted ἀντιθέντα. P. 209: in FGE III 1, Petrovic prints ἀχνύεντι between cruces, but this is a conjectural reading; another emendation of Petrovic, the hapax ἀλυόεντι, seems to me difficult to derive from ἄλλυτος (p. 215; Od. 8.275 reads in fact ἀρρήκτους ἀλύτους κτλ.); in commenting on vv. 3f., Petrovic uses the square brackets, in the edition the semisquare ones; finally, the ultimate epigraphical reference is IG I3 501 (with "ἀχνύεντι (?)"). P. 235: Petrovic does not discuss H. Stein's emendation ἡγεμόνα to FGE VI 4 (see Page, p. 196 ad l.). Pp. 237ff. (and 63ff.): on the historical problems put forward by FGE XXIIb, see now V. Parker (Zu dem ersten Epigramm auf die Schlacht bei den Thermopylen als historischer Quelle Herodots, C&M 60, 2009, 5-26), who does not take note of Petrovic's book. P. 249: the parallel between the v.l. ῥήμασι πειθόμενοι in FGE XXIIb 2 and Sol fr. 4.6 W.2 χρήμασι πειθόμενοι is interesting , but Petrovic's interpretation of ῥήματα ("die Worte" or "das Gesagte") is more asserted than proved. Then, Petrovic proposes una tantum not his own translation but the -celebrated- Schiller's one (p. 245), even if Schiller translates "das Gesetz" (from νομίμοις?).


1.   Kapitel VI, pp. 211-290: Epp. 1-15 Petrovic = Simon. FGE I, Anacr. FGE XV, Simon. FGE XI, XXa-b, XLIX, XVI, III, IV, VI, XXIIa, XXIIb, XXVIa, XXVIb, XVIIa, XLI.
2.   F.G. Schneidewin, Simonidis Cei carminum reliquiae, Braunschweig 1835; H. Erbse, Zu den Epigrammen des Simonides, RhM 141 (1998) 213-230, see H. Molyneux, Simonides. A Historical Study, Wauconda, Ill. 1992, pp. 13-23.
3.   Cf. Molyneux, o.c. 29 n. 42.
4.   "Of his epigrams we have precisely two whose authenticity is reasonably assured", and n. 2: "The epitaph for Megistias, Hdt. 7. 228. 3 (Epigr. 6 Page); IG I2 673 + 850 (CEG 270)". I shall treat this topic in a forthcoming paper.
5.   On pp. 153f., the phrase "Der Zeitabstand zwischen Ps.-Plutarch [with reference to the De Herodoti malignitate] und Favorin beträgt ungefähr 30 Jahre" sounds odd, if the pamphlet is not believed to be Plutarchean. Some errata: p. 14 "Entlapidisierung"; p. 49 n. 119: "interventions"; p. 67 n. 49: "Apollodors"; p. 76 n. 94: "μανδρόκλεω; p. 77 n. 101: "complecterentur"; p. 79 l. 7 f.b. "Tyrannen"; p. 82 n. 127 l. 15 f. b.: "Aristotele"; p. 86 nn. 142s. "δὲ" bis; p. 103 n. 68: "Fogelmark"; p. 118 l. 7: "([Thuc.] 6.56,1)"; p. 168 n. 46: "Aspekt"; p. 231 (translation of FGE VI 2): "Spercheios"; p. 235: "elegischen", n. 19 "donc".

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Sunday, November 28, 2010


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BMCR's 20th Anniversary.

Editor James J. O'Donnell

The first issue of Bryn Mawr Classical Review was released for internet distribution twenty years ago today. We thank our many colleagues who have joined in the editorial process, our very many colleagues who have reviewed for us, and our many, many readers and friends over the years. There were only a handful of "e-journals" back then, and the only journal in the humanities that is senior to us by a few weeks is Postmodern Culture. We are one of the oldest (if not indeed the very oldest) e-journals to offer complete "open access" (in the jargon that has evolved since), that is, we have made every word of our publication freely available over the net from the first day. We are particularly grateful to another (overlapping!) set of colleagues and friends who have helped produce and make use of our textbook series, Bryn Mawr Commentaries, on whose revenues BMCR depends for its free distribution. (When you assign a Bryn Mawr Commentary, in other words, you support BMCR.)

If you lift a glass in our honor on this anniversary, savor as you do the irony that this grave and senior pioneer of electronic publishing is devoted to chronicling and assessing the publication of the printed book. We do not prophesy the future, when e-books and p-books settle their relations with one another. But we persist.

James J. O'Donnell
Richard Hamilton
Camilla MacKay
Rolando Ferri

Date: 28 Nov 90 21:54:35 EST
From: James O'Donnell [JODONNEL@PENNSAS]
Subject: new classics review (e-)journal

Bryn Mawr Classical Review

A new review journal has begun publication. Hard copy subscriptions are available, but this notice announces that subscriptions to e-mail distribution is also invited. Details of access at the end of this message.

*Bryn Mawr Classical Review* will survey new books in `classics' (Greek and Latin literature, Greek and Roman history, broadly construed), offering concise and informative reviews within 6-12 months of publication. Our editorial policy is to have as little editorial policy as possible. Boundaries are kept loose (though on the whole, strictly archaeological publications are excluded). Over the course of the first year, we expect to assemble a board of regular contributors representing as many competences and approaches as possible: their jobs will be to review regularly and to scout new titles wherever they can be found. The founding editors are Richard Hamilton of Bryn Mawr College and James J. O'Donnell of the University of Pennsylvania.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010


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Henriette Harich-Schwarzbauer, Petra Schierl (ed.), Lateinische Poesie der Spätantike: Internationale Tagung in Castelen bei Augst, 11.-13. Oktober 2007. Schweizerische Beiträge zur Altertumswissenschaft 36. Basel: Schwabe, 2009. Pp. xvi, 316. ISBN 9783796524110. €68.50.

Reviewed by Roald Dijkstra, Radboud University Nijmegen

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

In their introduction, the editors Harich-Schwarzbauer and Schierl explain the aim of Lateinische Poesie der Spätantike: they intended to bring together scholars from different countries and traditions in order to shed more light on the poetry of late antiquity. Moreover, participants were invited to connect their topics to modern theories in particular. The book at hand testifies for the success of this congress and indeed represents research towards a variety of late antique authors in articles written in French, German, Italian and English. Many authors tried to put their analysis of late antique poetry in a methodological framework.

The first three articles are about Claudian. Jean-Louis Charlet examines which audience Claudian had in mind when he wrote his poetry. He distinguishes three addressees: the person to whom a poem was dedicated, the audience present when a poem was recited (like senators and dignitaries from the court) and the people who would read the written version. Charlet considers Claudian to be a pagan, which can be deduced, among other things, from the absence of Christianity in his first panegyric in honour of the Roman consuls of 395. This is in contradiction, however, with his statement that Claudian adapted himself to his public. Poem 32 of the Carmina minora is Christian because it was written on demand, according to Charlet. Although Charlet agrees with Cameron who considers Claudian a propagandist of Stilico,1 he emphasises that the poet also had a message of his own. He aimed at reconciling the East and West of the Roman Empire. Charlet also points to the importance of the city of Rome in Claudian's oeuvre. At the end of his career, Claudian's ideas about the empire did not correspond to Stilico's anymore: the panegyric to Honorius on the occasion of his adventus in Rome was the last poem in which Claudian was able or allowed to give his own opinion (albeit in guarded terms).

Henriette Harich-Schwarzbauer proposes a serial reading of some of Claudian's Carmina minora. She assumes that Claudian wrote his poems for special occasions in order to be read aloud in public. He did not conceive his Carmina minora as a whole; nevertheless, some poems seem to create a fictive context, which was not unusual in Roman poetry. Claudian might have been inspired by Martial in this respect. Poem 1 seems to form a bridge between the carmina maioraand minora. Poems 2-7 are connected by the theme variatio and function as the actual preface to the Carmina minora. Harich-Schwarzbauer could have analysed poems 6 and 7 more thoroughly. She also links Carmina minora 29 and 33-39 to the Orphic Lithika: crystal and magnetite are the key-words. In the Lithika they bind the cosmos together, in Claudian's poems they form the core of his minor poems. Two poems to Serena (30-31), Claudian's muse, are enclosed by them. Harich-Schwarzbauer remains vague about the function of the Christian poem 32 in this framework, but her analysis is convincing.

Marie-France Guipponi-Gineste concludes the Claudian cycle with an article about metapoetics and self-reflection in Claudian's poetry. The basic elements in an investigation of this topic are, in her own words, "rapports entre autoréférence et représentation du monde, besoin de légitimation, conscience aiguë de l'intertexte". Claudian often connects ars and ingenium, the two elements which constituted a poet's legitimacy in Roman antiquity. The phoenix in Claudian's poetry is a symbol for poetic inspiration, as the secrets of nature are an allegory for the creations of the poet. Ornatus is also important in Claudian's oeuvre. By discussing the reliability of representation, Claudian calls into question the capacity of poetry to represent the real world.

Alexandre Burnier concentrates on the position of the narrator in the Mosella of Ausonius and the ninth Natalicium of Paulinus of Nola. These two poems both have a first-person narrator who stands somewhere between reality and fiction. Burnier analyses the function of the narrator by examining (in the prefaces of both poems) the three main factors which contribute to the narrator's construction: the genre, the mise-en-scène of the narration and the mixture of biographical and literary elements.

Nils Rücker also compares Ausonius to Paulinus. He discusses Ausonius' poetic letters 27.21,22 and 24 (and 23, which might be part of 24) and Paulinus' replies (carmina 10 and 11). In letter 21 the intertextuality with Ovid's Tristia 3.7 and 4.7 and Epistula ex Ponto 4.3 contributes to the reader's understanding of Ausonius' message. Whereas the beginning of 21 and the end of 22 allude to Ovid, the last part of 21 and the first part of 22 primarily refer to Vergil. These intertexts are not only decorative, but also determine the structure of Ausonius' letters. It remains difficult to draw the line between reality and fiction, as Rücker himself admits.

In a nicely written article, James Uden investigates the influence of contemporary culture on the fables of Avianus. In opposition to the tradition of the genre, Avianus states that truthfulness in general is not obligatory in a fable. Uden is nevertheless able to show that Avianus' fables do reflect real late Roman concepts of justice. The lugubrious physical suffering which is often described in his work can be explained by the deterrent effect punishment was considered to have in late antique Roman society. Misuse of power is also depicted, e.g. in the exemplary fable 30, which lets Uden to conclude: "Law in this fable is inconsistent, partial and excessive."

The Laudes Domini, one of the earliest Christian poems in Latin, are discussed by Petra Schierl. She also investigates the milieu in which some of the first Christian poems, the poetry of Optatianus Porfyrius, Juvencus and the author of the Laudes Domini, could arise. Unfortunately, she does not share her point of view regarding Commodianus, who probably wrote in the third century already. In the Laudes Domini, the author incorporates praise for Rome, Constantine and the land of the Haedui (probably his homeland), in which he situates a miracle: a widower who remained unmarried was rewarded for his chaste behaviour by seeing his wife one last time before his death. This story might be connected to the author's praise for Constantine's legislation. Cod. Theod. 8,16,1, promulgated by the emperor, lifted the legal discrimination of widow(er)s and childless people which dated back to Augustan times. In an "Anhang", Schierl concludes that the poem was written between 317 and 324 (which is communis opinio).

Franca Ela Consolino provides a detailed study of Juvencus' 3,33-72. She argues that John the Baptist is compared to Priam and Pompey by several intertexts. As is, unfortunately, often the case in articles about Juvencus, she does not mention which biblical text she uses as a reference (printed in an appendix), but it seems to be the Vulgate. However, Juvencus could only use the Vetus Latina, since he published his epic around 329/330.

Karla Pollmann examines the concept of decadence linked to the passing of time in the pseudo-Hilarian poem Metrum in Genesin or Carmen de Evangelio. Lucretius' De rerum natura is an important intertext for this poem. The author of the Metrum in Genesin considers human culture to be part of God's spirit and therefore to be essentially good. Pollmann ingeniously detects a reference to the Eucharist in the description of the Golden Age, which is itself based on Lucretius. She also soundly discusses the way the author of the poem sees the Fall of man and the Redemption by Christ. "Pseudo-Hilary" adapts the Lucretian model of time to the Christian dogma: instead of Epicurus, he presents Christ as man's moral guide.

Nicole Hecquet-Noti analyses the presence of the narrator (who in this case is rightly not distinguished from the author) in the biblical epics of Juvencus, Sedulius and Avitus. She applies methods used in the study of Roman historiography to biblical epic. Among other things, she examines the use of the first person singular and plural and distinguishes two kinds of the latter (the "nous dilutif" and "nous involutif"). She also discerns two types of "auctorial intrusions" which she considers necessary at the beginning or end of an epic, but optional in the rest of the text. Whereas Juvencus "vanishes" behind his text, Avitus frequently gives his opinion while the story is going on ("évaluation"). Both Sedulius and Avitus sometimes interrupt the story in order to intrude into it ("exhortation"). Although the analysis is carefully conducted, the method does not result in new insights in the versification technique of the poets.

Danuta Shanzer discusses two case studies. The first is about Claudius Marius Victorius' description of Eden (Alethia 1,224-269) and the motive of trees singing hymns to God (245-251). She distinguishes parallels with Lucianus' Verae historiae, the Byzantine story of Barlaam and Josaphat (6th or 7th century), the Passio Perpetuae, the Quaestiones in Genesin, Vergil and Philo of Alexandria. This proves, according to Shanzer, that Victorius was more aware of the exegetical tradition than has often been thought. Including a bizarre footnote mentioning that the Mormons believe that Christ was in the Americas between his crucifixion and resurrection, the second case study focuses on Luke 23,43 ("hodie mecum eris in paradiso"). The place where Jesus stayed after his death and before his resurrection was much discussed in late antiquity. Shanzer presents this debate and also shows Sedulius' and Avitus' wordplay on the stealing thief.

Lavinia Galli Milić meticulously shows how Dracontius' Satisfactio (an appeal for clemency to the Vandal king Gunthamund) fits in the classical theories about rhetorical texts and argumentation. Dracontius praises the king via references to Ovid (Gunthamund is equalled to Augustus). Milić also detects some influence of Claudian. Dignitaries around Gunthamund would have drawn his attention to these flattering allusions.

Laure Chapuis Sandoz comments on Venantius Fortunatus' Carmen 4,26 and its environment. The poem is an ode to the Merovingian Vilithute, who died in childbirth. Venantius Fortunatus has often visited Merovingian aristocrats; the eminent positions of many women at the court are reflected in his poetry. About Vilithute nothing is known. Within the 28 epitaphs of which book four of his Carmina consists, four are about women. Sandoz shows that the hierarchy of the deceased is carefully depicted in the order of the poems. Poem 4,26 is arranged as a traditional consolatio. Sandoz argues that Vilithute is represented as a symbol of marital chastity. However, due to our lack of knowledge regarding Vilithute, it remains unclear whether she merely was a symbol or whether a real woman had served as a model.

The last contribution is also about Venantius Fortunatus and is written by Michael Roberts. Following Jerome's definition in his letter 108.8.1, Roberts distinguishes four travel reports in Fortunatus' poetry and chooses to analyse three of them: 10.9 and 11.25 – which describe journeys Fortunatus made himself; consequently, personal feelings play an important role in these poems – and the final part of book 4 of the Vita Martini, about the fictive journey of the Vita. Roberts compares Fortunatus' poems to other poems by Ausonius, Namatianus and especially Sidonius Apollinaris, whose carmen 24 reveals some similarities with the Vita Martini. However, Sidonius' book traveled among intellectual aristocrats, whereas the Vita Martini went from shrine to shrine.

Lateinische Poesie der Spätantike is an inspiring collection of articles which approaches late antique poetry from several different perspectives. Many authors have tried to put their study in a clearly stated methodological framework, which often, though not always, leads to new insights. The book has been very carefully edited (I noted only one typing error) and contains a useful Index locorum of relevant passages at the end. A subject index would have made the book even more accessible. This book will undoubtedly stimulate new research to the poetry of late antiquity.

Einleitung vii-xi

Angaben zu den Autorinnen und Autoren xiii-xvi

Verzeichnis der Abkürzungen xvii

Jean-Louis Charlet: Claudien et son public 1-10

Henriette Harich-Schwarzbauer: Prodigiosa silex. Serielle Lektüre der Carmina minora Claudians 11-31

Marie-France Guipponi-Gineste: Poétique de la réflexivité chez Claudien 33-62

Alexandre Burnier: Décrire a/ la première personne: L'instance d'énonciation dans la Moselle d'Ausone et le neuvième Natalicium de Paulin de Nole 63-81

Nils Rücker: Ausonio possis considere portu (Verg. Aen. 3,378). Ausonius, Paulinus, Ovid und Vergil: Spätantike Briefdichtung neu gelesen 83-108

James Uden: The Failure of Fable: Art and Law in Avianus 109-127

Petra Schierl: Tu casti rectique tenax. Gottes- und Kaiserlob in den Laudes Domini 129-158

Franca Ela Consolino: Priamo, Pompeo e Giovanni Batista. Caratteri e limiti dell'allusività in Giovenco 3,33-72 159-177

Karla Pollmann: Populus surgit melior? Dekadenz und Fortschritt im pseudo-hilarianischen Doppelgedicht Metrum in Genesin - Carmen de Evangelio 179-195

Nicole Hecquet-Noti: Entre exégèse et épopée: Présence auctoriale dans Juvencus, Sédulius et Avit de Vienne 197-215

Danuta Shanzer: Poetry and Exegesis: Two Variations on the Theme of Paradise 217-243

Lavinia Galli Milić: Stratégies argumentatives dans la Satisfactio de Dracontius 245-266

Laure Chappuis Sandoz: "Ci-gît la gracieuse Vilithute...". Construction sociale et religieuse de la femme dans les épitaphes de Venance Fortunat (carm. 4) 267-291

Michael Roberts : Venantius Fortunatus and the Uses of Travel in Late Latin Poetry 293-306

Index locorum : 307-316


1.   Cameron, A. (1970). Claudian. Poetry and propaganda at the court of Honorius. Oxford, Clarendon Press.

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Pedro Barceló (ed.), Religiöser Fundamentalismus in der römischen Kaiserzeit. Potsdamer altertumswissenschaftliche Beiträge Bd. 29. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2010. Pp. 250. ISBN 9783515094443. €53.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Pieter W. van der Horst

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of this review.]

This volume contains the text of thirteen contributions to a colloquium held at the university of Potsdam in 2008. Most of the papers are worth reading; some are even of high quality; but as a whole the volume is a very mixed bag. That is partly caused by the fact that apparently the organizers of the conference did not make clear what exactly they understand fundamentalism to be. In his preface, the editor states that in contemporary parlance fundamentalism has become almost a synonym of fanaticism and radicalism, often accompanied by violence. But that is not enough, for the fact that fundamentalism almost invariably is bound up with a particularly static view of a holy book is of paramount importance, and that relation is neglected here. For that reason, several of the contributions deal with various forms of religious radicalism or fanaticism that have little or nothing to do with fundamentalism as I see it. Moreover, the religion that initiated the idea of a sacrosanct book, post-biblical Judaism, is totally ignored in this volume.

I very briefly summarize the contents of the chapters. In ch. 1, Jörg Rüpke argues that problems with the role of the priesthood in republican (not: imperial!) Rome had to do with conflicts between patricians and plebeians. In ch. 2, Christiane Kunst shows that the priests of Cybele in Rome, in spite of their radical self-presentation (ecstaticism, self-castration etc.) and the foreign origin of the cult. succeeded in becoming fully integrated into the Roman 'Staatskult.' Ch. 3 is a somewhat rambling theoretical piece by Jaime Alvar in which occasionally Spanish words and phrases of the original have curiously been left untranslated (the piece is in German). Alvar too deals with the integration of oriental gods into Roman imperial religion, and he rightly stresses that there was no potential for fundamentalism in these cults because they had no holy books. 'Es existiert nichts Gleichartiges in der römischen Welt mit Ausnahme des Judentums, das den Ursprung der anderen Religionen mit fundamentalistischem Potential bildet' (44). So he saw the problem. Ch. 4 by Peter Herz has the title 'Gab es eine religiöse Grundüberzeugung?' In it the author sketches several elementary ideas that the ancients had in common with people(s) of many other times and places (the importance and power of religious places; the belief in the transfer of power, negative and positive, by physical contact with other people; etc.). Again, this has little to do with fundamentalism in the Roman Empire. In ch. 5, Babett Edelmann tries to demonstrate that since Augustus one can discern a 'Theologisierung der Kaiserapotheose,' which implied that the Empire required not just the participation in the rites of the ruler cult but also an active belief in the divinity of the Roman Emperor. This belief, Edelmann argues, became both a 'fundamentum religionis' and a 'fundamentum rei publicae.' But is this the same as religious fundamentalism? In ch. 6, Peter Eich engages in a debate with those (such as Michael Frede) who claim that it is justified to speak of 'pagan monotheism' in the second to fourth centuries. He argues that 'henotheism' (as used by Henk Versnel) is a more adequate nomenclature and that the influence of the administrative structure of the Roman Empire on the concept of the heavenly world should be taken into account. It is a fine contribution, with some remarks about religious violence as a kind of lip-service to the main theme of the conference. In another fine study, Pedro Barceló shows that the violent measures against Christianity by the Empire had nothing to do with the contents of the Christian faith but rather with the wish to forge national unity and coherence in times of crisis, a wish that also motivated later the similar measures of the Christian Emperors against paganism. In the latter case, however, the contents of pagan faith did matter. Manfred Clauss argues that the development of the exclusive claim to possess the absolute truth in early Christianity led to 'eine fanatische Rechthaberei' (139), over against not only pagans and Jews but also non-orthodox Christians, often with violence as a consequence. Johann Hafner sees the origins of Christian fundamentalism in the introduction of the regula fidei in the second half of the second century and demonstrates this by pointing out the widely differing approaches of 'heretics' and 'heresy' in Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. In a sympathetic but theologically very naïve contribution Bertram Blum tries to demonstrate that fundamentalism and Christian faith are fundamentally irreconcilable; no word about the Roman imperial period. The contribution by Eike Faber on early Christian monasticism begins with a mistake: he states that the addressee of Jerome's Epistula 22 was a man, whereas Eustochium (sic) was the daughter of the famous Paula. Eich wants to demonstrate that the ascetic movement was 'the fundamentalism of the rich,' for "wer nichts hat, kann nicht demonstrativen Verzicht üben" (195). For the rest, this is a short study of ascetic fanaticism, not fundamentalism. In a very good contribution, Almuth Lotz concedes that the use of the term 'fundamentalism' in our days suffers from "definitorische Unschärfe" but that fundamentalists are usually characterized by "die buchstäbliche Auslegung heiliger Texte und das kompromisslose Festhalten an deren absoluten Wahrheiten" (197). Thereafter she demonstrates, in a case study of the murder of Hypatia by Christians in Alexandria in 415, that this act of Christian fanaticism had little to do with fundamentalism but much with the struggle for power of the local bishop. "Diese Fallstudie zeigt meines Erachtens deutlich, wie problematisch eine Übertragung des Fundamentalismus-Begriffs auf spätantike Verhältnisse ist" (206). Would that these wise words had been heeded by the editor. Finally, the longest contribution in the volume, by Johannes Hahn, deals with the destruction of pagan statues and temples (and other sacred sites) by fanatic Christian monks and bishops, with special emphasis on Northern Syria, Lower Egypt, and Alexandria (esp. the destruction of the Sarapis temple in 392 CE). He emphasizes that these acts of violence often had not only a religious background, but also a political and socio-economic one.

The last two chapters are the best in this volume, but they stress that 'religious fundamentalism' is a category that is hardly applicable to the Roman Empire. Most of the contributions in this volume deal with aspects of what might better have been called "Religious Fanaticism and Extremism (or: Intolerance) in the Roman Empire." Some do not even come close to the main theme of the book. The present title of the volume is a misnomer and quite misleading. The editing of the volume also leaves much to be desired. There are no indexes whatsoever, which is a shame. There are too many errors in the Greek quotations. The fact that here is no chapter on Judaism, the religion which laid the foundation of fundamentalism, is a glaring and incomprehensible omission. In short: this book contains several good and instructive essays, but its incoherence, ill-chosen title, and sloppiness left this reader very unsatisfied.

Table of contents:

Radikale im öffentlichen Dienst.
Status und Individualisierung unter römischen Priestern republikanischer Zeit

Die Priester der Kybele

Henotheismus und Essentialismus in den Kulten der orientalischen Götter

Gab es eine religiöse Grundüberzeugung?

„Wie kommt der Kaiser zu den Göttern?"
Was die Kaiserapotheose über religiöse Grundeinstellungen antiker Kulturen offenbart

Theismus und Fanatismus.
Überlegungen zur Entstehung, Bedeutung und Konfliktträchtigkeit des sogenannten heidnischen Monotheismus im zweiten und dritten Jahrhundert n. Chr.

Fundamentalistische Tendenzen in Heidentum und Christentum des vierten Jahrhunderts

Der Weg zur Wahrheit kostet Leben.
Zum frühchristlichen Selbstverständnis

Vom Lehrhaus zum Lehramt.
Häresie-Begriff und Glaubensregel als Ursprünge des christlichen Fundamentalismus

Die Unvereinbarkeit von Fundamentalismus und Christentum.
Anmerkungen aus theologisch-praktischer Sicht

Armut als Ideal.
Der Fundamentalismus der Wohlhabenden

Religiöse Intoleranz und Gewalt in der Spätantike

„Ausgemerzt werden muß der Irrglaube!"
Zur Ideologie und Praxis christlicher Gewalt gegen pagane Kulte
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Monday, November 22, 2010


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Anthony Kaldellis (ed.), Prokopios: The Secret History: With Related Texts. Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2010. Pp. lxxix, 195. ISBN 9781603841801. $12.95 (pb).

Reviewed by Conor Whately, University of Winnipeg


The publication of Kaldellis' translation of Procopius' Secret History in a series that includes such classical stalwarts as Homer's Iliad (BMCR 97.07.20 and Odyssey BMCR 2000.07.06), not to mention the heavyweights of ancient historiography, such as Tacitus and Thucydides, is surely a good sign. If there is a text of Procopius' that is most likely to reach a wider audience this is it. Not only is the text filled with the pornographic exploits of an empress in her youth, but it also has a scene that is reminiscent of the television programme "Dexter", and another scene, and character, that one student of mine likened to Star Wars and Darth Vader.1 Consequently, the time is ripe for this important author to reach a broader audience, and Anthony Kaldellis is as a good a candidate as any to tackle such a project.2

Internet translations aside, there are two widely available English translations of Procopius' Secret History already in circulation: the Loeb and Penguin editions.3 The Loeb and Penguin editions both include a brief introduction, short index, and a couple of maps, although the former has the Greek text, while the latter has a genealogical table. Kaldellis' edition also includes an introduction, but his is much more substantial and consists of a number of subtopics including, among others, "The Roman Empire in the Sixth Century" (x); "The Works of Prokopios" (xxiv); "The Style and Images of The Secret History" (xxxv); "Prokopios and Justinian: A Conflict of Ideologies" (xl); and "The Reliability of the The Secret History and the Case of Theodora" (xlix). We also find a timeline (lxiii); a helpful – though disappointingly short – glossary (lxv); genealogical tables (lxvi-lxvii); three maps (lxviii-lxxi); and overviews of the ancient sources (lxxii), and a bibliography of modern scholarship on Procopius (lxxvii). These inclusions, and the lengthy introduction in particular, which is reminiscent of the Spanish translation of The Secret History by Signes Codon~er, should make this edition particularly valuable for students.4

Given the occasionally combative nature of some of Kaldellis' writing, one might expect hints of this here, that is, if one expected it to appear anywhere in this book. Thankfully, it does not, and Kaldellis has provided readers with a sensible and insightful overview, all the while remaining relatively objective, no mean feat given the divergences in opinion with regard to the nature of Procopius' texts and his presumed political and religious leanings. There are, unsurprisingly, points where scholars such as myself disagree with Kaldellis' overview. For example, the suggestion that the Romans possessed the most powerful nation in the region at the time strikes me as a bit misleading, particularly considering the difficulties they had with the Sasanid Persians. In addition, to call Procopius courageous (x) is to read too much into the limited evidence, particularly since it seems that the polemical Secret History was not published in Procopius' lifetime. On the other hand, Kaldellis' discussions of the literary milieu (xii-xiv) as well as the style and images of the Secret History (xxxv-xl) make for stimulating reading. His choice of what to discuss, from structure to reliability, is also sensible. All in all, then, the reader gets an interesting overview of the principal text and its context.

The Secret History is Procopius' vehicle for venting his frustrations, and vent he does. Procopius is clearly quite angry with Belisarius, and for a number of reasons, of which, perhaps, the most significant is his slavish loyalty to Justinian. In Procopius' eyes, it seemed that Belisarius provided him and the state at large with their best opportunity to remove the tyrant, only he failed to deliver. The theme of slavery and control pervades the text.5 On a related note, in the opening chapters and sections Procopius is largely concerned with the problems posed by Justinian's and Belisarius' failures to take control of their women; the reversal of gender roles here shakes up the natural order and leads to many of the state's ills.6 Procopius, like many of his peers, was a conservative fellow and many of his complaints, like those with regard to gender, are concerned with the radical innovations that Justinian implements.

Thanks to the careful organization of the text, sifting through Procopius' complaints is fairly straightforward. Kaldellis has divided the Secret History into three sections, so reflecting the natural division of the work itself. There are many subsections such as "the Emasculation of Belisarius" (p. 17; SH 3.30), "Taming the Hippodrome Fan-Clubs" (p. 44, SH 9.29), and "the Destruction of the World by the Demon Justinian" (p. 80, SH 18.1). There are also ample footnotes in the text that highlight interesting and important details, while sending readers to other passages of relevance as well as, occasionally, other important ancient texts (p. 46, n. 59, 60, 61, and 63). What these footnotes do not include is references to the modern literature. This might have been quite useful, even if it simply referred readers to the scholarship outlined in the introduction. The footnotes, however,are filled with interesting comments (p. 30, n. 10), including, on occasion, some humour (p. 45, n. 56). If there is a complaint it is that I wish there was more discussion of the issues raised by the text in the footnotes.

Kaldellis states that he "kept the prose blunt and precise, as it is in the original" (lx). Indeed, his translation differs markedly from those of Dewing and Sarris, not least of all in his strict adherence to Hellenic spellings. Although the translation of Sarris might be the most readable of the lot, Kaldellis' is no slouch; his attempts at precision, are usually, but not always successful, so making this edition more useful to someone without Greek than the former.7 On the other hand, Dewing's remains the closest to the original Greek, despite Kaldellis' protestations (lx). There is the occasional blemish and awkwardness, though the only tangible problem, and it is a rare one, is with Kaldellis' word choices. The translations of the Greek word 'myriad', for example, are inconsistent: at 3.31 we read "many myriads of Romans", where we find μυριάδας…Ῥωμαίων πολλάς ; at 6.20 we read "countless thousands", where we find μυριάδας πολλὰς ; at 11.29 we read "ten times ten thousand men", where we find μυριάδες ἀνθρώπων δέκα ; and at 18.6 we read "numbered 80,000", where we find μυριάδες ὀκτὼ. Although this is a very minor thing – and my comments reflect my own obsessions more than any significant problems – a stricter adherence to accuracy, or at least, greater consistency, might be of help to those unfamiliar with the nuances of this term.

On the other hand, Kaldellis is consistent in his translation of στασιῶται as "militants". The term itself is not an overly common one, and Procopius uses it far more than any other author: a quick skim through the TLG shows that Procopius uses it in 36 of the 86 known usages. Most of Procopius' uses of the term in the Wars hail from the military unrest that sprouted after the initial conquest of Africa (Wars 4.14-18). These στασιῶται are soldiers unhappy with their situation (Wars4.14.7), and "mutineers" perhaps conveys the sense of the word, in English, best.8 When Procopius uses στασιῶται in the Secret History it is generally restricted to his discussions of the infamous circus factions. The author/s of the Suda, following, in part, the scholia of Thucydides, suggest that the word is used for those involved in internal war ( Στάσις ) as opposed to πόλεμος (Suda Σ 1006). Consequently, the first instance in which Procopius uses the term at 7.2 is perhaps best rendered as follows: "Not all Blues were convinced by the man's [Justinian's] plan, but only those who happened to be seditious types [στασιῶται]".9 In the second instance (SH7.4.3) the meaning seems to be the same. Thereafter, however, it is not so clear-cut, though Procopius is still referring to these rowdiest of members of the two factions (SH7.8.1, 7.17.2, 7.36.2, 7.39.1, 9.33.2, 9.35.3, 9.43.2, 10.19.1, 17.2.1, 26.35.2, and 29.37.4). Thus, translating στασιῶται as "factionalists", as Dewing and Sarris often do, is misleading; here Kaldellis' use of "militant" is probably closer to the mark, for Procopius makes it clear that ordinary members of the two factions were not pleased with the actions of these violent types (SH7.17.2). On the other hand, the English word "militant" tends to connote engagement in warfare, and Procopius does not in these instances seem to be using the term quite this way. Instead they seem to be acting rather more like criminals (SH7.39.1).

The book includes a number of related texts translated by Kaldellis and others, appended to the translation of The Secret History. We find two laws from the Corpus Iuris Civilis, particularly Codex Iustinianus 5.4.23, concerned with marriage laws, and Novella 8, concerned with corruption. There is a selection from John of Ephesus' (Yuhannan of Amida's) Lives of the Saints particularly 10, 13, 36, and 47, concerned with Theodora and Monophysitism. A short extract from Simplikios' Commentary on Epiktetos is included. There are also a number of selections from Procopius' other texts, including one from the Buildings (1.9.1-10, on Theodora's monastery for reformed prostitutes), and six from the Wars (1.24 – wrongly listed as 1.2 in the book, one of the few errors; 1.25, 2.22-23, 2.30.49-54, 7.29.4-20, 7.31-32, and 8.17.1-8). The related texts that follow the Secret History complement it well, and Kaldellis has been careful to identify the relationships between them, as well as to include cross-references to them throughout the texts themselves. So, for example, on pages 91-92 in note 19 Kaldellis briefly discusses Tribonian's background, so touching on his dismissal in the wake of the Nika Revolt. Accordingly, he directs readers to the related text at the end, as well as the requisite section in the Wars.

In sum, this is a good translation and edition of the text, largely because of all of the extra material that has been included. This book would be a very useful edition for any relevant course, especially when used in conjunction with Peter Bell's Three Political Voices from the Age of Justinian, which complements it well.10 If Kaldellis does end up tackling the Wars, as he suggests he might in the preface (lxii), one hopes that it reaches the same high standards that he has achieved here.


1.   For Dexter see SH 1.27. For the Star Wars scene see SH 12.21 and Star Wars Episode V, scene 22.
2.   Some of Kaldellis' publications include Hellenism in Byzantium: The Transformations of Greek Identity and the Reception of the Classical Tradition Cambridge, 2007; "Historicism in Byzantine Thought and Literature," DOP 61 (2007) 1-24; "Classicism, Barbarism, and Warfare: Prokopios and the Conservative Reaction to Later Roman Military Policy," AJAH n.s. 3 (2004): 189-218; Procopius of Caesarea: Tyranny, History, and Philosophy at the End of Antiquity Philadelphia, 2004; and "The Historical and Religious Views of Agathias: a Reinterpretation," Byzantion 69: 206-252.
3.   Dewing, H. B. (trans.), Procopius: The Anecdota or Secret History, Cambridge, Mass. 1935; Williamson, G. A., and P. Sarris (trans.), Procopius: the Secret History, London, 2007.
4.   Signes Codoñer, J., Historia Secreta – Procopio de Cesarea, Madrid, 2000.
5.   cf.Wars see Pazdernik, C., A Dangerous Liberty and a Servitude Free from Care: Political Eleutheria and Douleia in Procopius of Caesarea, unpublished PhD Dissertation, Princeton University, 1997.
6.   Some discussion of this issue is lacking, which is unfortunate given the work of Brubaker, for example: "The Age of Justinian: gender and society," in M. Maas (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Justinian, Cambridge, 2005, 427-447; and "Sex, Lies, and Textuality: the Secret History of Prokopios and the Rhetoric of Gender in Sixth-Century Byzantium", in Brubaker, L. and J. M. H. Smith (eds.), Gender in the Early Medieval World, East and West, 300-900, Cambridge, 2004, 83-101.
7.   For example, at 1.20 Kaldellis has: "he was so infatuated with this person, his wife, that he could not bring himself to believe the evidence of his own eyes", when a precise translation would be something to the effect of: "compelled by the love of the woman he wanted to believe what was before his eyes as little as possible". The Greek says: ἔρωτι γὰρ τῆς ἀνθρώπου ἀναγκασθεὶς ἐβούλετό οἱ τὴν τῶν οἰκείων ὀφθαλμῶν θέαν ὡς ἥκιστα ἀληθίζεσθαι.. cf. SH 5.3 and 11.23 for some other examples.
8.   Note Kaegi, W., 1981, Byzantine Military Unrest, 471-843, Amsterdam, p. 49.
9.   "Troublemakers" might have been another suitable translation, given that Procopius is highlighting the most volatile of the members of the Blues (and later Greens).
10.   BMCR 2010.06.06.

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Sébastien Morlet, La 'Démonstration évangélique' d'Eusèbe de Césarée: Étude sur l'apologétique chrétienne à l'époque de Constantin. Série Antiquité 187. Paris: Institut d'Études Augustiniennes, 2009. Pp. 701. ISBN 9782851212337. €50.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Aaron P. Johnson, Lee University

Table of Contents

In spite of the fact that the last two decades have seen a good deal of scholarly industry dedicated to works of the fourth-century bishop and bibliophile Eusebius that had not yet received their due in modern discussions , his Demonstratio Evangelica had not received the critical attention it deserves until the sustained and careful treatment of the volume under review here.1 Having been published in an admirable critical edition by I. A. Heikel almost a century ago, the Demonstratio had nonetheless been translated (inadequately) into only one modern language until a decade ago, and its significance had largely been limited to investigations of the biblical text at Eusebius' disposal or (not always compelling) analyses of his interpretive approaches. Morlet's study is thus a welcome and long overdue contribution to the field of Eusebian studies as the first attempt to provide a thorough assessment of the literary and polemical context of this work. In over six hundred pages of painstaking, sometimes dense and technical, but always rewarding, investigations into the background and contours of the Demonstratio, Morlet manages to take on nearly all of the most important new (or revived) themes in the study of Eusebius: the uniquely textual nature of his literary enterprise, anti-Jewish polemic, anti-pagan polemic (especially centering around the figure of Porphyry of Tyre), pedagogical innovations, Christian universalism, and the impact and reception of Origen.

Morlet's study is divided into three major parts of three chapters each and is introduced with a hefty three-chapter long introduction, which canvases the important issues of the literary genre, date, audience and structure of the Demonstratio. The conclusions of the introduction are of great significance and built upon careful consideration of the evidence: the Demonstratio is first and foremost a pedagogical text for Christian students, not a polemical assault against Jewish (or pagan) opponents, even though the polemical element is certainly strong; a later date than usually presumed cannot be dismissed (as late as 333 AD); Porphyry of Tyre is not the target of Eusebius' Demonstratio or its earlier sister-work, the Praeparatio Evangelica; and, in spite of the fact that nearly all of the second half of the Demonstratio has been lost, much can be surmised about the missing material from evidence in the first half, fragments of the fifteenth book, comparanda in Eusebius' other writings (the Eclogae propheticae and Hypotyposeis in Psalmos), references in Jerome, comparanda from the anti-Jewish literary tradition, and later exegetical chains. Throughout, the carefully nuanced discussions and the admission of what can and cannot be gleaned from a methodical sifting of the evidence are admirable in their refusal to fall into less-defensible conclusions.

Morlet's discussion in the long introductory section of his work deserves more consideration than a review can offer; I would only like to emphasize here the importance of his refutation of the general tendency to see Porphyry as the lurking specter behind Eusebius' apologetic efforts in the Praeparatio and Demonstratio Evangelica. The authority of Wilamowitz and Harnack at the beginning of the twentieth century has supported finding "fragments" of Porphyry's Against the Christians at key moments of the apologetic argument where anonymous criticisms of Christianity are aired by Eusebius. In spite of the sage and cautionary assessments of Harnack's collection of fragments by Barnes and Benoit, it has remained unquestioned that the Eusebian material possesses a Porphyrian provenance. Morlet's investigations provide what I consider to be a devastating critique of this assumption. The formulation of pagan (and Jewish) criticisms within the apologetic "diptych" (the Praeparatio and Demonstratio) is most likely the product of Eusebius' own attempt to structure his response in such a way as to be pedagogically sound for Christian students being educated in a Christian identity and set of interpretive skills. If, however, we must look for a pagan source to those criticisms, according to Morlet, Celsus stands out as a much more plausible figure than Porphyry. Morlet does allow that Eusebius might still have had fr. 39 in mind when penning the prologue of the Praeparatio, but this would only have been a supplementary source. This reviewer would only note that a close reading of fr. 39 need not conclude that the issue at stake is the Christian apostasy from Hellenism, and hence, even Morlet's admission that the fragment might inform Eusebius here is not a necessary move. Instead, the fragment is, by my reading, a criticism of a Christian's continued practice of Hellenism after converting to Christianity; rather than adopting and defending the Jewish writings in a properly Jewish way, the Christians (Origen in particular) are blamed for continuing "to Hellenize."2 Since the issue of the anonymous Greek in the prologue to Eusebius' Praeparatio is precisely Christianity's refusal to Hellenize (to "think the things of the Greeks"), invocation of Porphyry's fr. 39 is not quite relevant and, indeed, is even misleading here. The occurrence of some terms missing in Celsus but present in Porphyry (e.g., othneios) are, to my mind, insufficient to give weight to the hypothesis of a Porphyrian provenance of the material in Eusebius.3 In other words, Morlet's characteristically cautious and even-handed approach should, in this case, be pushed further so as more firmly to exclude Porphyry as a source behind Eusebius' formulation of the problem set before him in the apologetic double-work. Doing so clears up our modern perceptions both of Porphyry's anti-Christian polemic and of Eusebius' strategic presentation of a work that stands as a monumental achievement on pedagogical and polemical fronts simultaneously. It is this last point that is made so clearly in Morlet's introductory section.

The first major section of the work treats the "major axes" of Eusebius' polemic: the Law/Gospel distinction, the contested status of the promises of the Hebrew Scriptures (are they for Jews or Christians?), and the person of Christ. A key component of Morlet's approach in each is the extent to which Eusebius marked an innovative stance with respect to his predecessors in the anti-Jewish literary tradition. Importantly, Eusebius maintained the distinction between the Hebrews, known for piety, and the Jews, known for ritual. These two marked progressively higher spiritual stages beyond Hellenism. For Morlet, Eusebius' conception of these spiritual stages involved what we might label "religions;" but they were never static phenomena, but rather diachronic and dynamic. In spite of somewhat favorable references to Boyarin's thesis that it is precisely in fourth century Christian authors, and especially Eusebius, that we find the invention of "religion" as a discrete conceptual category (156 n.25, 157 n. 38), this reviewer remains skeptical as to the degree to which the language of politeia and related terms could be disembedded from their framework within an ethnic discourse, or become "transhistorical" (157 n.39). As Morlet recognizes, the historical dimension to this educational and encyclopedic summa is persistent: even in Eusebius' arguments regarding Christ, much of which are indebted to Origen, the Demonstratio's approach marks a "historicizing" of Origen's theological formulations (290). Likewise, if Book 3 of the Demonstratio marked a fulfillment of the program laid out in his earlier contra Hieroclem 4 (as Morlet remarks at 241, 280-281), then comparison of these two works would only highlight further the distinctive location of the Demonstratio's placement of Christ within a carefully crafted vision of nations and their histories.4

The second major section of Morlet's work addresses the role of scriptural dossiers (that is compilations of selected passages of the Scriptures) in the Demonstratio as well as its forebears in the testimonia tradition. Morlet carefully examines the degree to which Eusebius maintained or broke from that tradition and shows repeatedly his distinctive use of biblical testimonia in the inclusion of novel passages, the greater extent of quoted material, and the general refusal to use texts not deemed scriptural by Jews. In particular, it is within Eusebius' defense of the inspired nature of the biblical prophecies that Porphyry becomes a target (though even here, the broader context remains based on material from Celsus). Indeed, Morlet argues that Porphyry may provide the explanation for differences between an analogous argument in Eusebius' earlier Eclogae propheticae and that of the Demonstratio (349-357). Significantly, if Eusebius depends on a source in the testimonia tradition for his own compilations it remains his own Eclogae propheticae (though Origen, too, may have been important, 415-417). Extensive tables comparing Eusebius' and other early Christian uses of biblical testimonia furnish a useful reference tool for all future work on the testimonia tradition.

The third section addresses the central features of what Morlet terms Eusebius' "exegetical argumentation." Here, both the polemical and scholarly (even philological) nature of the Demonstratio is investigated with a wealth of beneficial observations and comparisons. We find that Eusebius' treatment of biblical theophanies in the Demonstratio remains distinctive in its aims, emphases, and selections, in spite of similarities with earlier sources such as Justin and others, as well as his own Eclogae propheticae (442-456). Eusebius creates a historical-theological system comprised of the main themes of the "calling of the nations," the destruction of the Jews, and, in connection with this latter point, the role of Rome, whose universalism could be mapped easily onto Christianity's (or Eusebius') own universalizing conceptions.5 The polemical edge to this system is paired, however, with Eusebius' various scholarly engagements in philological, historical, scientific and text-critical areas of inquiry. This section contains valuable discussions of Eusebius' use of the other Greek translations of the Hebrew Scriptures (as well as Origen's), his use, evaluation and juxtaposition of the spiritual and literal senses, and an extensive investigation into Eusebius' relationship to Origen's exegetical approaches within his biblical commentaries and other writings.

The preceding remarks can scarcely gesture at the wide range of material in Morlet's study that mark substantial contributions to scholarly appreciation of Eusebius' literary enterprise, his role within the anti-Jewish discourse of Christian antiquity, his preservation and manipulation of the Origenian heritage, the rise of Christian pedagogical treatises, and the history of biblical scholarship and interpretation in late antiquity. Even those non-specialists in Eusebian studies who may otherwise baulk at confronting the lengthy investigations of this volume can felicitously avail themselves of the useful tables of testimonia (358-404) and the meticulous indices locorum. Morlet's work overwhelmingly sets the standard for all future work on the Demonstratio.


1.   The scholarly industry I refer to includes studies of Eusebius' Commentary on Isaiah, Commentary on the Psalms, the Praeparatio evangelica, the Chronicon, the Eclogae propheticae, and the Quaestiones evangelicae. See respectively, M. Hollerich, Eusebius of Caesarea's Commentary on Isaiah (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999); C. Curti, Eusebiana, I: Commentarii in Psalmos (Catania: Università di Catania, 1987); A. P. Johnson, "The Blackness of Ethiopians: Classical Ethnography and the Commentaries of Eusebius," HTR 99 (2006): 179-200; idem, Ethnicity and Argument in Eusebius' Praeparatio Evangelica (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006); S. Inowlocki, Eusebius and the Jewish Authors (Leiden: Brill, 2006); A. Grafton and M. Hale Williams, Christianity and the Transformation of the Book (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008); C. Zamagni, Eusèbe de Césarée. Questions évangéliques, SC 523 (Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 2008). Though slightly earlier, T. D. Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981) deserves to be noted for its illuminating discussions of all these works.
2.   See the reviewer's "Porphyry's Hellenism," in S. Morlet, ed., Le traité de Porphyre contre les chrétiens (Paris: Études d'Institut Augustiniennes, 2011), forthcoming.
3.   See the reviewer's "Rethinking the Authenticity of c.Christ. fr. 1," St. Patr. 46 (2010): 53-58.
4.   Here, Morlet should have directly addressed Hägg's doubts about the c.Hier. 's authenticity; see T. Hägg, "Hierocles the Lover of Truth and Eusebius the Sophist," SO 67 (1992): 138-150.
5.   This reviewer has called for a more cautious approach to Eusebius' attitude to Rome, based upon a close reading of the passages containing the Augustus-Christ synchronism and a reconsideration of his later "Constantinian writings" (Ethnicity and Argument, 174-185).

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Nicholas Horsfall, Virgil, Aeneid 2: A Commentary. Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2008. Pp. xl, 629. ISBN 9789004169883. $262.00.

Reviewed by Giampiero Scafoglio, Seconda Università degli Studi di Napoli

Virgilianista di grande spessore e di lungo corso, Nicholas Horsfall dal 2000 a oggi ha dato alle stampe quattro pregevoli commenti a singoli libri dell'Eneide, il VII, il IX, il III e il II, tutti pubblicati nei supplementi della rivista "Mnemosyne" (Brill, Leiden). Diversamente da altri studiosi, come Ph. Hardie e S. Harrison, che nel loro lavoro critico-esegetico hanno seguito il modello sintetico e dinamico di R. Austin (a metà strada tra analisi scientifica e divulgazione), Horsfall ha preferito un approccio più approfondito, rigorosamente specialistico, sul modello del monumentale volume dedicato da E. Norden al libro VI (Leipzig-Berlin 19163), a cui si sono ispirati in passato altri studiosi: per il libro IV in particolare C. Buscaroli (Milano 1934) e S. Pease (Cambridge Mass. 1937); per il III, più recentemente, P. V. Cova (Milano 1994). Proprio alcuni di questi lavori dimostrano che un tipo di commento così cospicuo corre il rischio di un accumulo eccessivo di materiale erudito, la cui fruizione risulta difficile e faticosa. Un rischio sfiorato ma stornato, con equilibrio e senso del limite, da Horsfall come dal medesimo Norden. D'altronde il modello (inconfessato) di Norden non è seguito fedelmente da Horsfall, la cui attenzione è distribuita sulle diverse caratteristiche della poesia virgiliana in base a una metodologia filologica tradizionale, ma aperta alla modernità. Il minore spazio concesso ad aspetti formali e procedimenti retorici è compensato da un più forte interesse per il taglio narrativo, i risvolti semantici del lessico, gli elementi di ethos.

L'introduzione (XIII-XXVII) si concentra su Aen. II, senza indulgere alla prassi consolidata ma inutile di una presentazione generale dell'Eneide. Il fulcro del libro II è messo subito a fuoco: "that wonderful blend of epic and tragedy" che si rivela caratteristico dello stile virgiliano, quasi la cifra della sua poesia (XIII). Non posso concordare però riguardo "some disorder […], some lack of expertise in the handling of simultaneous actions, over and above the evident lack of revision, as shown by the number of halflines" (XIV). Nonostante gli emistichi incompleti, il libro II mi sembra tra i più solidamente costruiti dell'intero poema: è innegabile la presenza di incongruenze e contraddizioni, che restano tuttavia marginali e non infirmano la coesione della struttura narrativa (cf. A. La Penna, L'impossibile giustificazione della storia, Roma-Bari 2005, 328-332; M. von Albrecht, Vergil. Eine Einführung, Heidelberg 2006, 112-117).

Col vigore sintetico tipico del suo stile, Horsfall riassume il senso degli eventi narrati nel libro II in tre punti, che costituiscono i cardini del racconto. I primi due (l'attenuazione della sconfitta troiana "by the rhetoric of the victors' use of deceit"; l'apertura di una prospettiva futura "by the tripartite revelation" di Ettore, Venere, Creusa) sono tanto importanti quanto pacificamente acquisiti (a partire da R. Heinze, Virgils epiche Technik, Leipzig 19283, 8-12 e passim). Il terzo punto si pone su un piano più generale rispetto all'impegno ideologico di Virgilio e, pur essendo incardinato storicamente nel pensiero romano, attinge un valore universale: "the strong Roman sense that defeat is an element (healthy, therapeutic, toughening, even) in ultimate victory" (XIV).

La descrizione della struttura rispecchia le suddivisioni interne ben riconoscibili nella narrazione, la cui soglia di elaborazione formale appare alta anche per questa ragione -- se non che l'epitafio di Priamo (vv. 554-558) è stranamente considerato staccato dal racconto del suo supplizio, di cui a mio avviso costituisce un punto inscindibile, quasi la summa della vicenda. Ciò che mi risulta però inintelligibile (anche perché non c'è una spiegazione esplicita) è il riferimento ai vv. 559-566 come "proem to second or third part" (XV). Ammesso che si voglia attribuire a questo brano un ruolo strutturale, come linea di demarcazione tra due sezioni narrative contigue, non vedo come si possa parlare di "proemio", dal momento che non compare nessuno dei due elementi caratterizzanti (scil. la protasi e l'invocazione alla Musa). Si può definire "proemio" ogni brano che segni un cambiamento nello sviluppo narrativo, o che delimiti due blocchi del racconto? (cf. G. Namia, Il proemio dell'Eneide e il modello omerico, in Miscellanea A. Salvatore, a cura di E. Flores et al., Napoli 1992, 45-56).

Nel discorso sui rapporti tra i libri I e II si trova uno spunto prezioso, che meritava più spazio: le domande indirette di Didone (I, 750-752), "taking up the subject-matter of the pictures in Juno's temple" (vv. 450-493), sono seguite da "the direct request to Aeneas (1.753-6) to relate his story of the Fall and of his wanderings" (XVI). L'elemento individuato da Horsfall si presta a ulteriori approfondimenti: mi chiedo se "il suo racconto" sia soltanto quello di Enea (il processo autoptico, il coinvolgimento del narratore nei fatti) oppure si possa intendere, sul piano metaletterario, l'approccio del poeta che si confronta con i diversi rami del mito e attua un consapevole processo selettivo e creativo.

Il paragrafo sul linguaggio è un modello di rigore metodico: se gli espedienti stilistici sono descritti in termini generali, con l'aiuto di qualche esempio, i fenomeni lessicali e sintattici sono elencati analiticamente, non diversamente dagli elementi attinti dagli auctores greci e latini, tra cui alcuni non facilmente riconoscibili, come Eschilo e il filosofo ellenistico Cleante. Il discorso prosegue nel paragrafo successivo, che tratta i rapporti di Virgilio con i modelli (definiti riduttivamente "sources") e il peculiare processo che ne consegue, chiamato "Kreuzung der Gattungen" con W. Kroll. Considerando acquisito il legame genetico ed emulativo con Omero (su cui poco resta da dire dopo N. Knauer, Die Aeneis und Homer, Göttingen 19792), Horsfall si sofferma soprattutto sugli elementi tratti dal genere epigrammatico, dalla storiografia e dalla tragedia: non a torto egli afferma che "it is when Virgil is working with strong tragic elements that he reaches his greatest heights" (XXI). Sull'uso del ciclo epico Horsfall non si sbilancia e sospende il giudizio; ritiene però che Virgilio conoscesse i Troika di Ellenico, citati spesso dal suo contemporaneo Dionisio di Alicarnasso. Nondimeno quest'ultimo conosce i poemi del ciclo, ne menziona autori e contenuti, discute le varianti della leggenda tra Iliupersis e Ilias parua. Per quanto l'argomento sia difficile e sfuggente, uno studioso del calibro di Horsfall poteva permettersi più che un timido possibilismo (cf. E. C. Kopff, Virgil and the cyclic epics, "ANRW" II, 31.2, 1981, 919-947).

Il pezzo forte del volume è il commento, la cui ampiezza rivela la straordinaria ricchezza dell'analisi, lo scavo sistematico e approfondito tanto nei contenuti quanto nello stile virgiliano. L'interpretazione segue un'impostazione positivistica, che punta alla concretezza scientifica e rifugge dalle tentazioni impressionistiche o estetizzanti, senza tuttavia tarpare la sensibilità, senza irrigidire o inaridire la lettura della poesia (conseguenza non infrequente nella critica di matrice razionalistica, se non è sorretta da intelligenza e finezza di cultura). Il rigore documentario, la serietà delle argomentazioni, il rapporto costante e ponderato col testo latino non escludono un interesse ugualmente forte per elementi più difficili da inquadrare e apparentemente sfuggenti, come gli effetti stilistici, le sfumature psicologiche, gli aspetti di ethos. La raccolta delle informazioni non scade nella semplice compilazione: la bibliografia è sottoposta a una serrata e severa discussione; i dati attinti dal testo sono vagliati con vigile senso critico. Dal commento emerge un ritratto di Virgilio che non coincide tout court con quello di altri lettori (me compreso), non restituisce in modo esauriente l'aspetto del poeta (policromo e umbratile a un tempo), non lo raffigura a tutto tondo; se non che questo è un merito di Virgilio stesso, del suo genio complesso ed enigmatico, non un limite dell'interprete.

Per chi conosce Horsfall non sorprende il vigore polemico, lucido e spesso impietoso, con cui si sbarazza degli argomenti tradizionali, la cui comune condivisione non si fonda sulla loro intrinseca validità, ma sull'auctoritas della fonte e su una sorta di inerzia della critica. Per esempio, è liquidata perentoriamente l'interpretazione della lancia infissa da Laocoonte nel cavallo di legno "via the ritual of the October equus", risalente a Dumézil e accolta da Paratore (57). Ancor più della forza impiegata nella pars destruens, talvolta spicca la raffinatezza della pars construens, come in merito al sogno di Ettore (vv. 268-297), le cui lacrime sono interpretate "perhaps as some sort of substitute for the famously excluded physical contact between the dead and the living". Talvolta la sensibilità corregge e arricchisce l'impostazione positivistica: a ragione si riconosce "the formidabile role" di Andromaca nell'Eneide "in inverse proportion to her slender presence" e con "all the accumulated dignity and sorrow already lavished on her" da Omero ed Euripide (352). A Horsfall non sfugge nemmeno "the important theme of Ascanius and Astyanax as contemporaries" (354).

Su qualche punto si può discutere. Al v. 2, toro ab alto, scorgo un segnale di stile soggettivo (Enea è il fulcro dell'interesse collettivo), a prescindere dal carattere convenzionale dell'epiteto "but in keeping with the magnificence of the occasion and the status of the expected speaker". Al v. 7 (perfino i soldati di Ulisse piangerebbero nel sentire il racconto di Enea) vedo un paradosso teso a enfatizzare il dolore sofferto dai Troiani, più che "the grand idea that humanity has leaped the trenches"; si poteva citare Pacuvio, fr. 294 Schierl, Priamus, si adesset, ipse eius commiserescet. Al v. 31, innuptae… Mineruae, Horsfall pensa a un genitivo oggettivo con Henry; propenderei piuttosto per un dativo di vantaggio, come nel fr. di Accio 260 Dangel, Mineruae donum armipotenti abeuntes Danai dicant, certamente tenuto presente da Virgilio. Al v. 65, accipe, oltre che un'apostrofe a Didone "as a hint of her presence in full narrative almost unique", si può ipotizzare (almeno come risvolto secondario) un riferimento metaletterario al lettore.

Al v. 165, per quanto riguarda il Palladio, Horsfall sostiene che la variante della legenda attribuita all'Iliupersis di Arctino da Dionisio di Alicarnasso (I, 68, 2ss.), secondo cui Odisseo e Diomede avrebbero rubato una copia, mentre l'originale sarebbe rimasto a Troia, "looked to reflect a Roman claim to hold the real thing": sarebbe dunque un'elaborazione di età romana (162). Purtroppo non posso rendere conto qui del problema, che mi sembra molto più complesso: penso che, con la reduplicazione del Palladio, Dionisio tentasse di conciliare due differenti versioni presenti nell'epica ciclica, se non nella stessa Iliupersis, la cui stratificazione redazionale (a partire dalla cultura orale) non escludeva la compresenza di varianti incoerenti (cf. "GFA" 10, 2007, 1055-1068, segnatamente 1063-1064).

Al v. 282, uarios… labores, la parola-chiave labor meritava forse maggiore attenzione, anche alla luce delle sue frequenti e significative ricorrenze nell'Eneide (ma già nelle Georgiche). Al v. 293 si poteva parlare più a lungo dei Penati, citando P. Boyancé, Études sur la religion romaine, Rome 1972, 65-72; A. Dubourdieu, Les Origines et le development du culte des Penates a Rome, Rome 1989, 121-519; M. Schauer, Aeneas dux in Vergils Aeneis, Munich 2007, 72-82. Al v. 335, caeco Marte, Horsfall segue Servio che interpreta aut confusa pugna aut nocturna; a me sembra preferibile intendere caeco furore. Al v. 541, hoste… Priamo, Horsfall richiama il dipinto nel tempio cartaginese, in cui Achille restituisce il corpo di Ettore a Priamo: tuttavia occorre precisare che quell'immagine rappresenta una versione differente, in cui il feroce guerriero exanimum… auro corpus uendebat (I, 484). Al v. 663 sfugge l'allusione (anche ma non esclusivamente verbale) all'uccisione di Neottolemo per mano di Oreste, narrata da Andromaca a Enea a Butroto (III, 330-332).

La scena di Elena (vv. 567-588), ritenuta un'interpolazione composta per colmare una lacuna, è relegata in un'appendice (553-569), che ne fornisce un'analisi puntuale. La uexata quaestio, che alimenta un'accesa e interminabile discussione della critica, ovviamente non può essere affrontata in questa sede. Per la posizione opposta, favorevole all'autenticità, mi permetto di rinviare al mio libro: Noctes Vergilianae. Ricerche di filologia e critica letteraria sull'Eneide, "Spudasmata" 135, Hildesheim 2010, 31-74.

Un'altra appendice (587-591) è dedicata a una questione meno dibattuta dalla critica, ma ugualmente importante e controversa: le fonti della Tabula Iliaca Capitolina, la sua eventuale dipendenza dall'Iliupersis di Stesicoro e/o dall'Eneide, il rapporto intertestuale tra Virgilio e Stesicoro. Horsfall ribadisce quanto ha sostenuto in passato (JHS 99, 1979, 26-48): la Tabula non dipende dall'Iliupersis ma dall'Eneide; nessun rapporto tra Virgilio e Stesicoro. Nemmeno questo problema, di cui mi sono occupato anch'io con esito opposto ("RhM" 148, 2005, 113-125), può essere trattato qui. Tuttavia vale la pena di fare un'osservazione metodologica: Horsfall non usa alcun argomento 'positivo' per smentire la dipendenza della Tabula dall'Iliupersis: la esclude a priori, poiché non sarebbe sorretta da prove cogenti; sembra dimenticare però che tale dipendenza è segnalata esplicitamente da un'iscrizione presente sulla medesima Tabula, un'iscrizione da considerare attendibile finché non sia smentita da una prova, che in verità ancora non è stata addotta. Nemmeno da Horsfall. Il disaccordo su questo e su altri punti non mi impedisce però di ritenere il suo commento uno dei migliori libri mai scritti sul poema virgiliano.

For additional information on the review, see the comments in the BMCR blog.

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