Wednesday, December 29, 2010


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Costas Panayotakis (ed.), Decimus Laberius: The Fragments. Cambridge Classical Texts and Commentaries 46. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Pp. xxix, 512. ISBN 9780521885232. $135.00.

Reviewed by Vincent Hunink, Radboud University Nijmegen (

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Mime may be called one of the most challenging genres in Latin literature, because of its popularity during the Roman Republic on the one hand, and the lack of complete Latin texts of mimes on the other hand. Roman mimographers seem to have suffered the same fate as most of Rome's archaic authors: important as their texts may have been in their own time, they were frowned upon or neglected in subsequent periods (notably the Augustan era), and were not consistently copied for future generations, with oblivion and loss of texts as the sad result. All that remains from such lost texts are scattered fragments, found in ancient authors, either literary prose writers, or, more often, scholarly writers such as grammarians eager to quote curious words, word forms, or phrases.

Whereas modern, scholarly collections of such fragments are available for most Roman archaic poets such as Ennius or Pacuvius, the case for mime was less fortunate for a long time. There was no helpful recent monograph in English, nor were the fragments of the most important author of mime, Decimus Laberius, available in English at all. In fact, the Italian critical edition Romani mimi by M. Bonaria from 1965 was almost the only relevant modern book on the subject.

The situation has now dramatically changed for the better, due to the publication of Costas Panayotakis' long awaited edition with translation and commentary of Decimus Laberius in the well known 'orange' series of Cambridge Classical Texts and Commentaries. Panayotakis worked some twelve years on this ambitious and laborious project, but the result was well worth waiting for. His edition is a truly great achievement, combining the best traditions of classical scholarship with a fresh and modern approach to these scanty remains as fascinating literary texts. It contains an ample, general introduction to the genre as a whole and of the fate of Laberius throughout the centuries, as well as accurate studies of the individual plays by Laberius of which we know anything at all, with highly detailed commentary on every single line and word of all the extant fragments. Thus Panayotakis' study is a mine of information, a monumental edition, that will no doubt remain the standard for decades to come.

Some 100 pages are devoted to the general introduction. After an interesting preface on the origin of the project, a full list of abbreviations, and a bibliography, Panayotakis manages to present a helpful description of the genre on the very first page: 'Mime in Roman culture was primarily a type of popular entertainment which covered any kind of theatrical spectacle that did not belong to masked tragic and comic drama, and in which actors and actresses enacted mainly low-life situations and used words in their performances' (p. 1).

Although Panayotakis does not present this as a definition and carefully develops his analysis in the next few pages (pointing e.g. to the 'conceptual fluidity and dramatic flexibility' (p. 2) of Roman mime, and a possibly problematic difference between 'popular' mime and literary mime), it may stand as a proper working definition that contains some basic elements: Roman mime belongs to the stage, is connected with low-life subjects, employs male and female actors, and contains spoken text. Hence, it is not hard to understand why the genre was held in low esteem by Roman elite writers such as Cicero. Mimes were scorned and attacked for their style, their contents, and their morality. Nonetheless, the genre was very popular and could even exert strong influence in Roman politics, an interesting point made by Panayotakis (pp. 13-15).

Next, Panayotakis traces back the history of mime to Greek culture. Mime already flourished in the Hellenistic kingdoms of the Eastern Mediterranean. Little is known about 'early mime' in Rome, and as Panayotakis rightly argues, we can learn more about it from other forms of comic drama, notably the plays of Plautus. It is the first century BC which appears to have been the period when mime became popular and also acquired its literary identity. The genre also blossomed from the 1st to the 3rd centuries AD, as appears from numerous insciptions for mime-actors from that period, and seems to have lasted until late antiquity.

The introduction then zooms in on Laberius, first with a list of testimonia (pp. 33-36), which raise a number of questions and problems (pp. 36-57). It seems fair to say that Laberius remains a rather shadowy figure after all. As Panayotakis acknowledges at the start, all we know with certainty is that he was a composer of mimes, and that he was a contemporary of Caesar and Cicero (p. 36). There follow brief surveys of Laberius' themes, language, and prosody, including some convenient lists of e.g. Laberius' hapax legomena and other special words (pp. 63-65), and of his various metres (p. 68). (For practical purposes, the alphabetic notation by Gratwick is used, making a normal senarius look as follows: ABCD A/BCD ABcD; all is duly explained on pp. 68-69).

The rather technical section on metre is followed by a learned section on the history of the text of Laberius' mimes, a history that is, understandably, rather complex, if only because of the problems involved in manuscripts of the authors quoting his lines, such as Gellius, Macrobius, and Bede. The introduction is completed with a section about later anthologies of Laberius' fragments, the earliest one dating from 1505 (pp. 90-99), and a long list of sigla codicum.

Impressively erudite as Panayotakis' general introduction already is, his presentation of the fragments is even more admirable. Taking into account that all we have from Laberius is 44 titles and about 150 lines (divided into 96 fragments), the nearly 400 pages devoted to this scanty material seem almost overwhelming. In advance, one might say, Panayotakis' book can be expected to include almost everything that any reader might wish to know about any given word attributed to Laberius.

Panayotakis' method adopted for every play, and the depth and wealth of his analysis, may best be illustrated with one or two case studies.

As an example, I take the mime called 'Ephebus' (Fr.28-29, pp. 247-254). The section opens with the relevant documentary material: a testimonium in Macrobius with a quotation of Fr.28 licentium ac libidinem ut tollam petis/togatae stripis, and another one, equally from Macrobius, with Fr.29 idcirco ope nostra dilatatum est dominium/togatae gentis. The Latin texts are followed by English translations (testimonia and fragments). First comes a general commentary of nearly 2 pages on the title and general aspects of the mime in question, with some interesting observations on 'young men' in Middle and New Comedy, and, in another context, as the objects of (usually male) sexual desire. Panayotakis is not misled,however, into adding overhasty suggestions about the possible plot of the 'Ephebus'.

Four pages then discuss the two Laberius fragments, starting with general observations on the key phrases togata stirps and gens togata, and their possible influence on passages in Virgil (e.g. Aeneid 1.282 gentemque togatam, and metrical analysis. Next, nearly every single Latin word is discussed in separate lemmata, with e.g. a cautious and convincing case being made for the form licentium rather than licentiam, and good questions about who exactly is speaking in the first line (a god or goddess perhaps?), the solemn tone of togata gens and the resulting stylistic tension with the 'wantonness' of the start of Fr.28. All is abundantly documented with parallel texts and references to standard works. Having read all of this, a reader will not easily feel disappointed by Panayotakis: this seems really all there is to know.

What we definitely would like to know more about is, of course, Laberius' play and its actual contents, which in this case (and regrettably in most Laberian mimes) remains almost completely in the dark. What was the play really all about? Were any women involved? Could any homo-erotic tones be heard? Was this funny and 'Latin' in a Plautine way, or rather more refined and polished like New Comedy? We shall never know, it seems. Needless to say Panayotakis is not to blame for that.

A particularly strong point in Panayotakis' commentary is his unbiased attention to sexual elements and Latin obscenities, matters that were often rather obscured than clarified in early studies on mime. The 21st century reader now simply receives all the relevant information and discussion. For instance, in the commentary on the 'Catularius' ('The mime of the puppy') (Fr. 14-15; p. 168-179), there are truly fine notes about mammae, neque aliter hunc pedicabis, caedes (here a verb form denoting a sexual activity), and the obscure noun hillam ('an intestine').

Here too, the commentary seems exhaustive, and the reader's desire to know still more concerns the rest that has now been lost. It is almost painful to read so much about so few and scanty remains without the faintest of ideas about the general plot and atmosphere of this mime, let alone its actual performance. In spite of the rich material provided by Panayotakis, we hardly have anything to go by if we wish to assess Laberius' qualities as a playwright. Again, Panayotakis can only be blamed for whetting our appetite.

The volume is concluded, not surprisingly, with some learned and helpful extras: a concordance of the fragment numbers, a list of Laberius' vocabulary, and separate indexes of passages and topics.

One or two minor complaints perhaps on what is so great an achievement, both concerning typographical decisions. The first concerns the actual presentation of the Laberius lines. I found it surprising that the Latin lines and English translations are set in a font that is smaller than the surrounding text of the testimonia and accompanying secundary material. (Only the apparatus criticus, wherever it is added, is even smaller). In such a fine book, it would surely not have mattered to include a few extra pages for a proper presentation of what is, after all, the essential textual material about Laberius that we possess.

Secondly, and less importantly, sections in the commentary are not, as a rule, divided into paragraphs. This often result in blocks of text that seem less attractive to read (for an example I refer to p. 261: an entire page set as a block of text).

Admittedly, if this is all that a reviewer can complain about, it may rather be taken as another compliment to this excellent piece of scholarship. Panayotakis has rendered classicists a great service, one that may make them feel proud of what classical philology can achieve in our time. It is to be hoped that the book will also serve to inspire others in the field.

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Elaine Fantham, Latin Poets and Italian Gods. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009. Pp. xii, 229. ISBN 9781442640597. $55.00.

Reviewed by Bill Gladhill, McGill University (

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

[My apologies to the editors and readers of BMCR for the long delay on this review.]

Elaine Fantham's Latin Poets and Italian Gods aims "to outline the evidence for the survival of these cults [to rustic demigods] and contrast the patterns of Roman worship of country gods like Pan, or the nymphs of Italy's springs, with the fuller picture left to us of such cult in Greece" (vii). She hopes to recapture those rural, religious experiences which declined in the face of the cosmopolitan culture of Rome and the Augustan renewal of Italian religion that "replaced piety with fantasy and emotional detachment from Italy's countryside and its gods" (xi). Generally speaking, the work of Feeney, Wiseman, and Larson sets the scholarly parameters for Fantham's analysis of the representations of country religious experiences in literature.1 The first three chapters, consisting of her three reworked Robson Classical Lectures (2003), reconstruct "the natural and supernatural world of these countrymen in central Italy, and provide historical and epigraphic evidence of actual cult offered to the country spirits" and reveal "the emotional importance of the same local deities of land and water to the sophisticated poets of the Augustan age" (5). The last three chapters reassess the material through a close reading of these gods in the Metamorphoses, carmina Priapea, and Statius' Silvae. The book also maps out the processes by which the worship of numinous springs and groves gives way to the "quaint superstitions" and "charming fictions" that arise with "post-classical Greek storytelling and the decorative arts" (7).

The first chapter, "Rustica Numina: The Country Gods of Italy and Their Reception in Roman Poetry," ranges across a number of deities. It begins with the Augustan literary images of an ancient, pastoral Rome overgrown with groves sacred to the likes of Pan and Saturn. Such Augustan fantasy does not quite capture the religious reality of demigods in Rome during the middle Republic as testified by the establishment of public cult to the enigmatic god Faunus in insula and to nymphs whose aedes Nympharum housed Rome's censorial records until its destruction during the incineration of Clodius in 52 BCE. Evidence of the worship of medicinal springs and their nymphs can be found throughout Roman poetry and in a number of representative inscriptions. Connected to these water spirits is the worship of fontes, most famously in the context of the ritual events of the Fontinalia, which provided the festive opportunity to perform religious rites to rivers and lakes en masse, with pride of place given to the god Tiberinus. The chapter returns to evidence for the worship of the aniconic deity Faunus who is encountered only as a disembodied, prophetic voice heard in uncultivated landscapes for man's benefit, hence his contested folk-etymology from fari, favere or fanum (left unmentioned by Professor Fantham, Servius auctus' in Vergilii Georgicon libros 1.10.10). Professor Fantham suggests that Faunus was relegated to a position equivalent to that of satyrs (as in Horace, Epistle 1.19.4) after the appropriation of Pan into the Lupercal cave and the Lupercalia, the (contested) incorporation of Jupiter into his temple in insula, and the proliferation of the iconic sickle-bearing Silvanus in uncultivated landscapes. Professor Fantham then moves to "The Country Gods in Augustan Elegy and Lyric," in which she focuses on Faunus in the poetry of Tibullus, Horace and, most significantly, Calpurnius Siculus, while also offering some comments on Pales, satyrs, nymphs and, in particular, Silvanus, to whom amateur poets offered artificial verse inscriptions often borrowed from lines of the Georgics and Metamorphoses. The chapter ends with a short appendix, "Inscriptions Honouring Faunus or Mentioning Faunus."

"Virgil's Gods of the Land" follows, which studies rustic deities in the Eclogues, Georgics and Aeneid. In the Eclogues the Alexandrian pull of Theocritus' Idylls results in a blending of Greek and Italian divinities. Pan, Apollo and Bacchus stand center stage in the work, while nymphs are omnipresent actors and often friends of and audience for the shepherds. Priapus, Pales, Ceres, and Silvanus each make an appearance, and even when in Eclogue 7, where Corydon invokes the Olympian deities Alcides, Iacchus, Venus, and Apollo (61-2), the gods are defined in relation to their favorite trees, an act of rustic incorporation of the Olympian hierarchy into pastoral parlance. In Fantham's view, the apotheosis of Daphnis is the only formal act of religious worship in the text. The presence of the other deities is owed more to artifice and bucolic sentiment. After a brief discussion of the Georgics, the chapter turns to the pseudo-Virgilian Culex in which "the author has absorbed the country atmosphere of both the Eclogues and Georgics." The chapter ends with the narrative role of holy landscapes in the Aeneid. Fantham argues that the Aeneid magnifies an ancient Italian religion that has suffered "the spiritual loss which must come with the onset of the new order in the suppression of the old country gods" (62). While this is surely an important theme in the Aeneid, the case could be made that this epic (in particular book 8) also re-inscribes the urban environment of Rome with its rustic religious origins, grafting onto the brick and streets of the city that imaginary landscape prior to its foundation, activating the kind of idea we find articulated by Augustine in the City of God 6.2, quoting Cicero's statement to Varro that "nos…in nostra urbe peregrinantes errantesque tamquam hospites tui libri quasi domum reduxerunt, ut possemus aliquando qui et ubi essemus agnoscere".

The first half of chapter three, "Ovid's Fasti and the Local Gods of the City," is unified by the analysis of various gods who either inhabited a wilderness Rome or are themselves autochthonous beings--representations of the landscape itself. The discussions of Janus, Saturn, Carmentis, Mater Matuta and the Tiber emphasize the repeated westward migration of gods to Rome up the Tiber, in effect repositioning the central theme of the Aeneid within the progressive development of Rome's religious foundations. Furthermore, issues related to the Carmentalia, Vestalia, Lupercalia, and Parentalia and rituals like the straw dummy sacrifice to Tiber are addressed. The second half of the chapter, "From the Friendly Tiber to Rome's Urban Groves," studies the role of groves in the context of the Lupercalia, Numa and Egeria, Faunus and Picus, and the rites of the Fordicidia. The chapter ends with mention of the Sementiva, the Caristia and Terminalia, along with a coda on the Consolatio ad Liviam and its relationship to the Fasti.

The second half of the book, "Counter-Examples, and the Triumph of Artistry over Fading Devotion," begins with "Ovidian Variations: From Friendly Flora to Lewd Salmacis and Angry Acheloüs," which is itself divided into three sections. Part one ("Flora, Vertumnus, and Pomona: Agricultural Deities Revived") discusses the goddess Flora in the Fasti, where she is associated with the titillating, mimed strip teases during her ludi. Omitted by Virgil and Livy, Ovid reintegrates the goddess into the religious experience of his text, emphasizing the very aspect of her divine persona that warranted Augustan (and Catonian) disapproval. After a brief discussion of the narrative of Pomona and Vertumnus, Fantham engages with the role of "River-Gods in Greek and Roman Poetry." After spanning rivers in Greek poetry from Hesiod to Callimachus, the lusty and violent rivers Acheloüs and Alpheus in the Metamorphoses are characterized as inversions of the Tiber and Anio, designed to magnify the purity of Italian rivers. The final section of the chapter, "Hylas and Hermaphrodite: Gender Reversal and Sexual Agression," turns away from aggressively sexual river gods to the equally aggressive nymphs who seize Hylas or mingle with Hermaphroditus.

Chapter Five, "Gods in a Man-Made Landscape: Priapus," studies a diverse range of texts--from a lost poem by Caesius Bassus to the collection of Carmina Priapea --that all approach different qualities of this virile divinity, erected in privately cultivated gardens to guard against thieves and birds or to punish transgressors with his phallus. However, the sophisticated poetry of pseudo-Virgil, Horace, Tibullus, Ovid and Martial presents a Priapus who is known for his obscenity, sexual potential, and the generic formalities cultivated in his garden. Working from Richlin and Grimal,2 Fantham reveals the range of religious and cultural activity ascribed to this god.

The final chapter, "Gods in Statian Settings," begins with a short history of villa gardens before it follows the nymphs and river gods discussed in the previous chapters into the ecphrases of the gardens depicted in Statius' Silvae. While the various villas in the poems (1.3, 1.5, 2.2, 2.3, 3.1, 4.3) are "as varied as are their settings…[they] all share the motivation of bestowing compliments on his patrons and friends…based on the interpretation of Nature herself, or on appropriate, if lesser, gods as paying homage to the villa and its owner" (165-6). This merging of the natural landscape and the villa achieves a wonderfully cosmic impression, for example, in personifying plumbing as nymphs (166) or on Pollius' estate, described at Silvae 2.2, "where the sea once flowed, the cliffs are steeped in the juices of Bacchus, and the demigods of sea and land compete to pluck the grapes and grow tipsy with the vintage" (171). Such insight by Fantham illuminates Melior's villa in Rome (2.3) and the praise to Domitian by the river god Volturnus for channeling his course through feats of engineering (4.3). The chapter and book conclude with "Country Gods in the Pastoral World of Statius' Thebaid." In the Thebaid the pastoral world of Nemea is filled with nymphs and river-spirits, but their position in the narrative is an afflicted one. They suffer as the epic moves through their natural spaces, often found sharing in the violence performed against their rivers and woods.

Latin Poets and Italian Gods is written for a general audience, in keeping with the book's genesis from a series of public lectures. The sparse documentation of secondary material in the endnotes is more aimed at further study than the detailed bibliographical edifice that one might expect in a book written for academics. Latin texts are accompanied by translations. Only translations of the Greek are included. The book includes a general index and an index of passages discussed. One leaves the book having a more sensitive appreciation of the religious and poetic associations that grant rustic deities their various forms. As Fantham states, this book is a diptych (ix). The last three chapters are very different from the first three. The second half of the book is more focused, as each chapter tackles a single problem. The first three chapters retain much of the oral character of their original performance. In them, the material on the rustic gods, even when studied in the context of a single author, sometimes reads like a summary of primary texts. The reader moves from one episode to another without clear signposts that might allow for a more satisfying appreciation of the interesting material outlined. In this sense, the first three chapters are rather a tour of Italian literary landscapes and the minor deities who fill them than an analysis of these landscapes for the sake of argument. This organization allows the reader to engage with the second half of the book with the kind of necessary literary and religious background that reveals important insights into the character of Italian divinity.

Table of Contents

Part One: Honouring the Italian Gods
Chapter One: Rustica Numina: Country Gods of Italy and Their Reception in Roman Poetry
Chapter Two: Virgil's Gods of the Land
Chapter Three: Ovid's Fasti and the Local Gods of the City

Part Two: Counter-Examples, and the Triumph of Artistry over Fading Devotion
Chapter Four: Ovidian Variations: From Friendly Flora to Lewd Salmacis and Angry Acheloüs
Chapter Five: Gods in a Man-made Landscape: Priapus
Gods in Statian Settings

Principal Editions Cited
General Index
Index of Principal Passages Discussed


1.   Feeney, D. (1998) Literature and Religion at Rome. Cambridge, Wiseman T.P. (1995) Remus. Cambridge and (2004) The Myths of Rome. Exeter, Larson, J.L. (2001) Greek Nymphs: Myth, Cult, Lore. Oxford.
2.   Grimal, P. (1943) Les Jardins romains. Paris, Richlin, A. (1992) The Garden of Priapus. 2nd ed. New Haven.

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Giulio Vannini (ed.), Petronii Arbitri Satyricon 100-115. Edizione critica e commento. Beiträge zur Altertumskunde Bd. 281. Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2010. Pp. 377. ISBN 9783110240917. $140.00.

Reviewed by Benjamin Todd Lee, Oberlin College

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Giulio Vannini's previous articles and monograph on the scholarly tradition and manuscripts of Petronius will have made him known to Petronian scholars.1 This book presents a new critical text and commentary on 16 chapters of the Satyricon (100-115), containing the sea voyage and naufragium of Lichas' ship, as well as the famous Widow of Ephesus tale. It presents a full and learned introduction to many literary aspects of this important episode of Petronius' work, and is perhaps most noteworthy for its reconsideration of the complex manuscript tradition underlying the constitution of the text. The commentary itself is learned and thorough, and the work in its entirety presents a scrupulous and useful contribution to Petronian scholarship. The book also compares favorably with the recent and well-received commentary on Satyricon chapters 79-141 by Peter Habermehl (also published by de Gruyter, though in the Texte und Kommentare series), since Vannini's text is based on a new collation of the manuscripts, while Haberhmehl's commentary is based on the text from Müller's Teubner.2 Vannini is also able to consider the literary texture of the naufragium episode and Widow of Ephesus tale on a closer scale than would have been possible in Habermehl's commentary.

The commentary begins with a clear overview of the evidence about the author and early history of the text. Vannini advances a new hypothesis on the number and length of books in the original Satyricon, suggesting that our surviving fragments all come from a second volume containing books 13-24, while the first volume of books 1-12 has been completely lost. He would approximate the book lengths of Petronius' original work to those found in Apuleius (4,000-6,5000 words). This represents an important revision and alternative to Bücheler's reconstruction advanced in the editio maior of 1862, and often followed since, which claims that all our excerpts come from books 14-16, and that the original Satyricon was a behemoth eight times the length of Apuleius' novel; Vannini's reconstruction envisions a book twice the length of Apuleius, and suggests that our surviving fragments include nothing drawn from books 1-13 or 22-24.3 In the introduction Vannini also provides a discussion of the literary genre of the Satyricon, specifically on the intertextual relationship of this shipwreck scene to that appearing in the Odyssey; and after a discussion of the previous scholarship on the question of the genre of the Satyricon, he rejects the notion that it is a parody of the Greek Romance, and would rather assign it to a pre-existing strain of "low" prosimetric Greek erotic tales (8-11).

Vannini dedicates a chapter of the introduction to the Widow of Ephesus tale, a miniature study in its own right, focusing on the complex question of what the sources were for the account in Petronius and other versions appearing through the Middle Ages. Here Vannini makes significant revisions to the source studies of Thiele and Weinreich, and provides a new stemma on page 35. He argues that the versions appearing in Petronius, Phaedrus, and Romulus all derive from a lost Latin archetype, itself derived from the same source as the Vita Aesopi. Vannini also sheds light on the date of a later witness in the Widow-tale tradition, a codex from Lucca (Biblioteca Statale 1432).

The remainder of the introduction (pages 39-63) is devoted to the tradition of the text, where Vannini makes a series of important refinements to the highly complex stemma of Petronius. The most important for the constitution of the text and apparatus criticus are: 1) he notes that Mz, codex Parisinus Mazarineus 4319, is an important testimony for Satyricon chapters 111-112, just as important as B, R, and P (see pages 44-46). 2) Particularly significant is his demonstration (pages 50-53) that the readings attributed by preceding editors (including Bücheler and Müller) to the Memmianus codex (owned by Henri de Mesmes, a friend of the sixteenth century editor Pithou) are none other than readings from 'r' (the codex Rogertianus, Londinensis Lambethanus 692), corrected with readings drawn from the Thuaneus (Parisinus lat. 7647).

Hence Vannini's text includes a number of salubrious revisions of Müller's Teubner, although I was surprised not to find a table listing divergences from Müller or other editions. In general, Vannini aims to restore manuscript readings over editorial conjectures, especially when they improve the colometry of the resulting clause. The most obvious improvements include page 71 line 18 (Satyricon 102.4) et utcumque imponi vel dormienti posset for Müller's et utcumque ei imponi posset ; but in chapter 112.6 (page 85 line 17), Vannini provides an attractive conjecture: sacraret (for the MSS reading faceret or Fraenkel's pateret). Other divergences in the text and apparatus criticus can be found at page 72 line 14 (tam in app.); page 72 line 18 vincula for vincla (Müller); p. 73 line 11; 74 line 6; 76 line 18; 79 line 20; 86 line 19; 87 line 10; 88 lines 3-4; 88 line 14; and finally 90 line 22.4

The commentary itself is a model of thoroughness, and makes good use of having a great deal of space to devote to a relatively small amount of Latin text (the ratio is 21 pages of Latin text to 216 pages of commentary). This is a case where one can learn a great deal about Petronius' style from a careful treatment on a smaller scale. The notes on chapter 108 can serve as a sample to give a good sense of the overall composition of the commentary.

The 15 pages of commentary devoted to chapter 108 (pages 193-208) show above all a clear presentation of careful research into Petronius' style, with special attention to: the position and arrangement of words (e.g. the note on post-positive ego in 108.1, and on the initial position of accenditur at 108.6); on prose rhythm, which often provides the basis for rejecting or accepting emendations (e.g. 108.9 veluti ex proelio, expunged by Fraenkel and adopted by Müller 1961 and 1963; Vannini argues that expunging the phrase would ruin the resolution of the epic clausula into a hypodochmius [= anapestic dochmius]); grammatical quiddities, such as the use of the pluperfect for the perfect in narrative (Vannini suggests that for obstupueram at 108.1 and amiserat at 100.5, clausular rhythm was probably the reason for the choice over the perfect); nuanced lexicography, illuminating erotic, legal, and military resonances in Petronian diction (e.g. perditorum at 108.8, relicta mea causa at 108.6, and referunt…pedem at 108.9); and finally, a sophisticated treatment of intertextual echoes and parallels for the narrative (e.g. the general note at page 196 on the "interstyles" of 108.3-13 at 108.3, which identifies the heavy influence of Livy's style of battle descriptions on the "battle" between the factions of Encolpius' and Tryphaena's supporters; cf. also the notes on the Vergilian and Lucanian bases for the poetic pastiche at 108.14).

In conclusion, this is a serious work of philology that makes an important advance in the textual and interpretive tradition of the Satyricon (albeit for a small part of the larger text). Vannini's edition will have to be taken into account for any future texts or translations that include this section of Petronius. I enjoyed this book and learned a great deal from it, particularly about Petronius' style and manuscript tradition. Some readers will be disappointed by a relatively scant application of literary or critical theory from outside classical philology, particularly in the analysis of the genre and narrative (with the exception of full references to Conte, who does make use of such discourses);5 but clearly theory is not Vannini's primary interest. My other criticism (mentioned above) is that I could not find a table listing textual divergences from Müller's most recent Teubner; this makes it difficult for the reader to distinguish the new from the old. Nevertheless, this is an admirable work by a master of the subject.


1.   See especially his volume 49 of Lustrum, "Petronius 1975-2005: bilancio critico e nuove proposte" (Göttingen, 2007), and articles on the textual tradition of Petronius: "Note a Petronio (Sat. 100,4; 115,12; 115 19)," MD 54 (2005), 213-219, "Quattro note a Petronio (15,2; 23,1; 29,4-5; 97,4)," RhM 149 (2006), 272-286, and "Nove note a Petronio," MD 59 (2007), 215-225.
2.   P. Habermehl, Petronius, Satyrica 79-141. Ein philologisch-literarischer Kommentar: Bd. 1: Sat. 79-110 (Berlin and New York, 2006); K. Müller, ed., Petronius Satyricon Reliquiae (Leipzig, 1995).
3.   On the history of this question see especially Vannini page 7 note 24.
4.   This does not pretend to be a complete collation of differences. On the diminishing influence of Fraenkel's conjectures on Müller's successive Teubner editions see Coccia, M., "Konrad Müller e le Interpolazioni in Petronio," RCCM 38 (1996), 319-328.
5.   Conte, G.B., The Hidden author. An Interpretation of Petronius' Satyricon (Berkeley, 1996).

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David Hopkins, Conversing with Antiquity: English Poets and the Classics, from Shakespeare to Pope. Classical Presences. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. Pp. vii, 343. ISBN 9780199560349. $99.00.

Reviewed by Dan Hooley, University of Missouri (

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This is a welcome and in fact valuable publication that will be widely appreciated by those interested in classical reception in England in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. That observation covers a lot of ground, both in terms of the matter of this book and its potential audience. The matter first: introduction and twelve chapters, each of which, "in a substantially corrected, revised, and updated form," was (or will be) published elsewhere, from 1976 through "forthcoming" in 2010. Although the essays in their earlier incarnations are generally not difficult to find, several in fact having appeared in widely available, major press collections, the argument implicitly and at points explicitly made for consolidated re-publication is their updating and placement within a conceptual frame, literary reception as "conversation." How satisfactory that framing is will be briefly discussed below, but one could hardly object to the ready availability of revised versions of already important studies focusing on Dryden, Pope, Cowley, Shakespeare, and a good many others.

The potential audience for this book is obvious, as noted above, with some qualification. Hopkins writes as an English scholar well versed in the classics rather than as a classicist looking at British literature, and so stands in a long and rather venerable line of scholars of the classical tradition. That term might seem mildly pejorative to some these days, and probably to Hopkins too since he insists strenuously on "reception" as the appropriate descriptor of his work. Yet the his critical universe, in which his sometime teacher H.A. Mason is pre-eminent, does not much speak the critical language of the Konstanz school, of Jauss, Iser, Habermas, and Gadamer. Readers will not find much reference through the bulk of these essays to the theoretical side of reception--though Hopkins's introduction makes clear that he is familiar with much of it. Rather, as did Mason, Hopkins writes a poised, deliberate, expansive, intensely literary "essay." Its manner is one of carefully wrought conclusions woven through with a plenitude of quotations from his subjects--and others--in the Restoration and eighteenth century literary universe. Hopkins's prose, punctuated by a fair number of italicized emphases, can be at times a little too earnestly "instructive"; on the other hand, it is prose made to last: intelligent, scrupulous, unstinting of detail, and informative. Readers with a yen to learn something about the classics in the the literature of the long eighteenth century in England should turn, perhaps first, to this book.

The book's introduction seeks to organize the chapters that follow into a kind of methodological coherence. Briefly, after discussing some of the fundamental ways in which reception differs from studies in the classical tradition, Hopkins goes on to raise (some) issues in reception theory, notably the "rift" as he sees it between historicist, ideologically self-conscious reception ("ideology critique") and the Kantian "reception aesthetics" advocated by Charles Martindale (Latin Poetry and the Judgement of Taste: An Essay in Aesthetics). This is not the place to expand on that discussion, though it does strike me that Hopkins's treatment is fairly superficial, which may not be terribly inappropriate in that it seems intended chiefly to introduce Hopkins's own theoretical compromise, reception figured as "conversation." It is an agreeable enfiguration of the interactive process taking place when an earlier text is invoked or engaged by a later author/text: it eliminates both the one-sidedness implicit in conventional descriptors like "influence," "tradition," "adaptation," or "appropriation" and the passivity implicit in "reception." And Hopkins makes a sound if limited case for its critical viability, though the notion is of course less a theory than a metaphorical way of thinking of reception, and particularly translation, one of Hopkins's primary interests in this volume. It is a little odd (to register a minor quibble) that, in adumbrating the several features and dimensions of receptive conversation, he observes an "intuitive sympathy" between respective (conversing) authors without noting here in the conceptual introduction the "friendship" model of translation conspicuously raised by Roscommon in the later 17th century, though substantial mention of the latter's 1684 Essay on Translated Verse does appear in Chapters 4 and 9 of this book. Other important contributions to the long history of translation theory go unremarked here as well, though he does home in critically on Lawrence Venuti's recent advocacy of "foreignizing" translation.

Whatever the limitations of its exposition here, the "conversation" model does raise interesting conceptual ideas and Hopkins is right to pursue them. The question is whether the rubric really does theoretically inform or describe the essays that follow, and the answer to that is I think largely negative. Even in the introduction's illustrative examples of Dryden and Pope on Homer, where Hopkins shows the two Englishmen re-presenting Homer's "fiery" Achilles in a triangulated conversation between original, scholarly/critical reception (which Hopkins often sets out in enormously helpful detail), and translation, Hopkins's reading might well have been expressed in other language. That is to say, while the process of rendering a text is complex, entailing historical, political, and personal circumstance, available critical discourse, available models, the dispositions and powers of the translating poet, none of this is in any rigorous sense "conversational," nor is it clear that Dryden or Pope ever thought of their translating in these terms. Yet weaker, perhaps, is the link of this model to many of the essays that follow, most of which are intellectually acute, even exemplary, expositions of relationships between certain classical and English texts; where the language of the conversation model appears, it seems to be an ex post facto addition to an otherwise motivated essay. Yet such a conclusion is in part unfair. Hopkins does make a reasonable case for thinking in these terms about classical reception and the essays that comprise the book may be read in that light, even if they do not consistently and explicitly invoke the analogy. Hopkins closes his introduction with an extended quotation from H.A. Mason on literary reception that does in more general terms reflect notions one sees in Jauss and Gadamer and is entirely relevant to the project of this book. Requoting just a little: "the spiritual reality we both meet and create in reading a poem occurs in a no-man's land, neither the present nor the past. It is the only for-ever-land we can know" (35).

A few descriptive and summary comments on the twelve chapters that follow--and here, I may say, is where the treasure is hid:

Ch. 1: "'The English Homer': Shakespeare, Longinus, and English 'Neoclassicism.'" Hopkins re-examines traditional assumptions about 'neoclassical' hostility to Shakespeare's generic irregularity, violation of the unities, and the rest by reading some 17th and 18th century Shakespeare reception in light of Boileau's (1674) translation of Longinus, which in turn led to the characterizations of Shakespeare as a "fiery" poet of (Homeric) sublimity. An eye-opening essay and utterly persuasive.

Ch.2: "Cowley's Horatian Mice." A revised republication from C. Martindale and Hopkins, eds. (1993) Horace Made New. This is an important essay on Cowley's 1663 "A Country Mouse," a partial imitation of Horace Sat. 2.6, English Horatianism, and English Epicureanism (via Gassendi's version of Epicurus). Hopkins's remarks throughout are judicious and observant, only falling short, since he comments on Horace's original (quoting only minimally from the Latin), in neglecting recent critical work on the satire (Oliensis, Freudenburg, others). Current scholarship on the classical side, apart from classicists working in reception, does not in fact regularly appear in the earlier-published of these essays.

Ch. 3: "The English Voices of Lucretius, from Lucy Hutchinson to John Mason Good." One of the more recent essays here, originally published in S. Gillespie and P. Hardie, eds., The Cambridge Companion to Lucretius (2007). A very helpful survey of Lucretius translations, versions, and adaptations, with nice observations on Dryden's version and the use of Lucretius in Milton (PL and Pope's Essay on Man.

Ch. 4: "If He Were Living and an Englishman: Translation Theory in the Age of Dryden." Revised from 2005 and 2008 versions. Superb brief survey, placing of Dryden's evolving thoughts on translation in the context of later 17th century discussion. Virtually all of the authors touched upon, Denham, Soame, Roscommon, and others might have enjoyed more attention, and I missed connections between Dryden's pivotal thinking and translation theory before and after, but both desiderata are clearly beyond the scope of this essay.

Ch. 5: "Dryden and the Tenth Satire of Juvenal." First version from 1995. This is an essential read for students of Dryden's rendering of Juvenal, sensitively treating Dryden's political and personal investment in the translation.

Ch. 6: "Dryden's Baucis and Philemon." This is the earliest original publication (1976) of the book, and is the first of three chapters on parts of Dryden's Fables Ancient and Modern (1700), all from Ovidian selections. Hopkins describes Dryden's extensive intertextual engagement with earlier translations, noting how allusions to Milton and Genesis serve to modulate tone into registers of seriousness not seen in other roughly contemporary versions.

Ch. 7: "Nature's Laws and Man's: Dryden's 'Cinyras and Myrrha.'" Another earlier piece (1985); this one more substantial. Here Hopkins skillfully explores the emotional complexity of the incestuous situation in the context of discussions of natural law and, in particular, as appearing in Dryden's sensitive rendering. A remarkable essay (but, again, there has been recent work on incest in Ovid that has gone unremarked here).

Ch. 8: "Dryden and Ovid's 'Wit out of Season': 'The Twelfth Book of Ovid his Metamorphoses' and 'Ceyx and Alcyone.'" Originally published in 1988, this expansive essay addresses the common reaction to Ovid's rhetorical mannerism in certain passages of violence or pathos. Noting that Dryden along with others had voiced the criticism that Ovid "is frequently witty out of season," Hopkins goes on to show, in select passages and their translations, Dryden's full engagement with a descriptive manner that is both sympathetic and distancing, so to allow, Hopkins contends, a broader and more complex perspective on human suffering.

Ch. 9: "Translation, Metempsychosis, and the Flux of Nature: Dryden's 'Of the Pythagorean Philosophy.'" From 2001, this chapter considers Dryden's translation of the Pythagorean excursus in Met. 15. 60-478. Hopkins takes very seriously Dryden's engagement with Pythagoreanism on the political, personal, and even religious levels, which may be further than some readers will want to go, at least in the terms raised. But this is one of the more interesting essays in the volume.

Ch. 10: "Some Varieties of Pope's Classicism." A recent piece (2006) from C. Gerrard, ed, The Blackwell Companion to Eighteenth Century Poetry. As might suit such a publication venue, the chapter covers a lot of ground fairly concisely. After a few pages of general introduction, Hopkins focuses on three texts of Pope: Eloisa to Abelard, his translation of Horace Epistles 2.1, and (a few comments on ) the Iliad. Despite the necessarily cursory treatment of each, Hopkins offers here valuable commentary on a number of points.

Ch. 11: "Pope's Trojan Geography." This, the most recent of the collection (2010), looks at the two maps and geographical discussion that accompanied Pope's original publication of his Iliad, then considers subsequent reactions (Robert Wood) and counter-reactions (Jean-Baptiste Lechevalier, Jacob Bryant, and others. Debate centered on the historicity of Pope's or any representation of Homeric geography, with Hopkins coming down on the side of Pope's fidelity to the landscape as imagined in the Homeric text.

Ch. 12: "Colonization, Closure, or Creative Dialogue? The Case of Pope's Iliad." From 2008, ed., L. Hardwick Companion to Classical Receptions. This chapter resumes some of the dialogic conceptualizing of the introduction. The chief burden of the piece is to make the case for the "assimilative" or "domesticating" translation seen in Pope's Iliad (as championed by H. A. Mason), over against other models (Venuti's "foreignizing" and Jan Parker's "glossed text"). Hopkins credibly makes the case that the engagement represented by Pope's version is significantly more complex than the colonizing domestication it has sometimes been seen to be, and that is a service here. On the other hand, one can without much difficulty imagine plausible responses to his strenuous criticism of the other translational modes.

The chief value of this book lies in its twelve related but definitely discrete chapters. They are all worth attention, and while readers may well take exception to some of Hopkins's conclusions and even the manner of his argument, they stand to learn much from this scholar who knows of what he writes.

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Andrew Feldherr, Playing Gods: Ovid's Metamorphoses and the Politics of Fiction. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010. Pp. x, 377. ISBN 9780691138145. $49.50.

Reviewed by P. J. Davis, University of Adelaide (

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Since the 1960s there have been numerous books in English devoted to Ovid's Metamorphoses. For a new book to be worthwhile it must, presumably, add to our understanding of the poem by offering fresh and stimulating interpretations of key episodes. Feldherr's book certainly does that.

But the inclusion of the word 'politics' in the title marks the fact that Feldherr is dealing with contentious material and that his views are bound to provoke vigorous debate. His theoretical position is outlined in the Introduction. Feldherr endorses the position outlined in Duncan Kennedy's famous 1992 paper '"Augustan" and "Anti-Augustan": Reflections on Terms of Reference' (p. 6) and states his goal as follows: 'My project in this book is informed throughout by these new readings of Ovid. The "politics" of Metamorphoses it addresses does not mean the same thing as Ovid's politics, and readers will find no explicit discussion of the attitudes of the poet to the emperor. Rather my goal is to expand our understanding of the modes by which the work facilitates the audience's reflection on and redefinition of the hierarchies operative within Roman society' (p. 7).

Chapter 1 ('Metamorphosis and Fiction') is concerned with 'the distinctive nature of Ovidian fictionality' (p. 16) and focuses primarily on the nature of metamorphosis. Feldherr takes issue with the views of Galinsky (1975) and Solodow (1988), who both concentrated on Ovid's refusal to spell out the moral consequences of transformation, and with 'anti-Augustan readers' who 'have focused on the process of metamorphosis more than the product' (p. 33). Indeed Feldherr rejects both pro-Augustan (Galinsky, Habinek) and anti-Augustan (authors unnamed) readings, resisting the assumption that 'the poem articulates a specific view of what metamorphosis is' (p. 34). Feldherr then considers a number of examples (Lycaon, Daphne, Arachne), emphasising the differences between the kinds of metamorphosis involved in these stories. In my view, Feldherr is right: metamorphosis is so varied a phenomenon in the poem that it is impossible to define in any useful way.

Chapter 2 ('Wavering Identity') focuses on Ovid's representation of a number of artists: Arachne, Marsyas, Daedalus and Augustus. Feldherr states the chapter's aim as follows: 'I hope to replace an old model of Ovid's self-representation as enacting a clear-cut, indeed timeless, battle between the resistant artist and all-powerful tyrant with a more specific and complex picture of the pressures and constraints acting on the writer in a society where the emperor was already an artist and the artist uses his text as a way of pursuing an immortality very like that sought by the princeps himself' (p. 61). One difficulty with this thesis is the claim that Augustus is an artist. He was certainly a promoter of images, but that is hardly the same thing. (Note that Feldherr denies that Augustus is an artist on p. 314: 'the first similarity to stress between the emperor and the hero [Perseus] is that neither one is himself an artist'). Second, as Feeney and Hardie point out (both cited to this effect on p. 81), the immortality to which Ovid aspires in Book 15 is different from the apotheosis that Augustus seeks. Third, while the discussions of Arachne, Marsyas and the temple of Palatine Apollo are excellent, the account of Daedalus is flawed. Central to Feldherr's interpretation is the 'ambiguous social status of Daedalus' (p. 112). That status is ambiguous because while Daedalus' art brings him close to the gods, his occupation is servile: 'Yet that same ability also marks him out as a faber (ingenio fabrae celeberrimus artis, 8.159), an un-epic word for craftsman that was also, the designation for a common slave occupation – as indeed the name Daedalus is also attested for slaves' (p. 112). Feldherr refers to 'Daedalus's servile relationship to Minos' (p. 113), calls him 'a rebellious slave' (p. 115) and a 'servile craftsman' (p. 125). The phrase fabrae … artis, however, does not establish that Daedalus is a slave, because it is also used at Fasti 3.383 (Mamurius, morum fabraene exactior artis), in a context in which a craftsman is in a position to demand a particular kind of payment for his services and therefore is clearly not a slave.

Chapter 3 ('Homo Spectator: Sacrifice and the Making of Man') explores Ovid's treatment of sacrificial themes in the Lycaon episode in Book 1 and Pythagoras' discourse in Book 15. Feldherr's discussion rightly emphasises the interpretive complexities involved in understanding the place of Pythagoras in the poem. Here Feldherr's central contention is that readers who want to use his speech in support of an anti-Augustan reading of the poem must also acknowledge the risks involved in treating Pythagoras as a mouthpiece for Ovid's philosophy of change.

Chapter 4 ('Poets in the Arena') begins with Tristia 4.2 and then examines the death of Orpheus in Book 11 and the story of Pentheus in Book 3, with the aim of relating Ovidian fictions to imperial spectacles taking place in the theatre and the arena. That Ovid invokes the amphitheatre in depicting Orpheus' death at Met. 11.25-27 is undeniable: structoque utrimque theatro (11.25). Feldherr cites Rosati's view that such references highlight the visual quality of his own work and Hinds's that Ovid deliberately blurs literary landscapes and contemporary settings (p. 170). Next he brings to bear Coleman's discussion of 'fatal charades' (p. 172), re-enactments in the arena of mythical events with real and not fictional deaths, and argues that 'the juxtaposition of the two representations of Orpheus in the arena, rather than manifesting the superiority of poetic making over imperial display, creates a far more complex effect because there is no way of assigning priority to present reality or to the myth its illustrates' (p. 175). Feldherr argues the case brilliantly, but, as he knows, there is no evidence for 'fatal charades' in the Augustan period. That 'the possibility cannot be ruled out' (p. 172) is, in my view, not good enough. The case for reference to the theatre in the Pentheus episode is not strong, for as Feldherr knows, the narrative owes more to the Homeric Hymn to Dionysus than to Euripides' Bacchae (p. 183). And the only link that Feldherr can find to imperial spectacle is the fact that nauale (here used as a noun: 'dry dock', 3.661) could also be used as an adjective and applied to the artificial lake used by emperors for staging mock sea battles (stagnum nauale).

The title of Chapter 5 'Philomela Again?' suggests that, like Ovid and his epic successors, Feldherr is aware of his own belatedness. This is indeed a much discussed episode. Although Feldherr expresses concern that he 'may have jolted his audience's fides' (p. 236), the chapter is both brilliant and persuasive. Feldherr's aim here is to correlate 'a tragic view of the narrated events with other discursive frameworks: in particular, the rape of Philomela is read against the foundational historical episode of Lucretia' (p. 199). It is well known (especially since Carole Newlands's Playing with Time. Ovid and the Fasti [1995]) that Fasti 2's allusions to Metamorphoses 6 are important constituents of its meaning. The reverse, however, does not hold, for Metamorphoses 6 does not allude to Fasti 2. Feldherr makes his case by exploring the differences between the stories of Lucretia and Philomela, arguing that the key difference is the 'absence [from Philomela's story] of male relatives to transform the quality of the revenge enacted for the rape' (p. 234).

The centrepiece of Chapter 6 ('Faith in Images') is a discussion of Pygmalion. Taking his cue from current discussions concerning the nature of the Roman experience of viewing art and, more specifically, Elsner's discussion of Pygmalion, Feldherr concentrates on Pygmalion as viewer rather than artist. This is a fruitful way of examining the episode. I have to disagree, however, when Feldherr argues that dressing the statue, offering it gifts and laying it on a couch do not 'unequivocally imply personification' (p. 262) on the grounds that these are religious practices. It should be pointed out that Pygmalion does more than this, for he admires the ivory statue's nudity (10.266) and calls it tori sociam (10.268, 'partner of my bed'), a phrase commonly used in marital contexts (OLD socia §b). The issue here is sex, not religion. But my point actually strengthens Feldherr's argument that 'Pygmalion and the reader-spectator are at once more distinguishable at the beginning of the episode than Elsner implies and closer together at its conclusion' (p. 263).

The final chapter (Chapter 7: '"Songs the Greater Image"') analyses how 'Ovid places his text in dialogue with the public display of images by the emperor' (p. 294), concentrating on Niobe and Perseus.

At the outset a qualification is needed. Feldherr claims that 'mourning allegorical figures, taking the form of a female captive … featured on… triumphal monuments like the Forum of Augustus' (pp. 293-4). Such figures do occur on early imperial monuments, but not in the Forum of Augustus. If Feldherr is referring to the caryatids, then it should be noted that Vitruvius (1.1.5) associates such figures with triumph, not mourning.

That Ovid's Niobe might be connected with imperial imagery is a possibility, given that a mourning Niobe was represented on a door of the temple of Palatine Apollo (Prop. 2.31.14). Feldherr accepts Schmitzer's argument that Niobe is a figure for Cleopatra (pp. 298-9). He also argues that Niobe is a figure for Augustus on the grounds that the princeps loses 'countless' heirs (p. 301). That Ovid should be concerned with Cleopatra nearly forty years after her death seems implausible. Equally unlikely is the idea that Niobe should be viewed as figuring both Cleopatra and Augustus. Note too that, unlike Niobe, Augustus was remarkably un-prolific. And while it is arguable that 'Niobe herself becomes a work of art' (p. 306), it is hardly true that she is 'an artist in her own right' (p. 302). The case for Perseus is weaker, since Perseus has virtually no role to play in Augustan iconography.

The new readings that Feldherr's book offers are certainly stimulating and provocative. They are sometimes brilliant, but not always convincing.

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Ellen Greene, Marilyn B. Skinner (ed.), The New Sappho on Old Age: Textual and Philosophical Issues. Hellenic Studies 38. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies, Trustees for Harvard University Press, 2009. Pp. vii, 213. ISBN 9780674032958. $19.95 (pb).

Reviewed by Elisabetta Pitotto, University of Turin (

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Table of Contents

The New Sappho on Old Age, edited by Ellen Greene and Marilyn B. Skinner, is a valuable collection of essays on the recently published Cologne papyrus 21351+21376 (III cent. B.C.).1

As was already the case for two previous volumes on the same subject,2 The New Sappho on Old Age turns its multi-authored nature to its full advantage: different approaches result in a complete, detailed and thorough survey on the new fragments and on the problems they raise as far as their text, textual transmission, contents and performative context are concerned.

After an introduction by Marilyn B. Skinner (pp. 1-6), who aptly summarizes the main issues at stake, the book begins with two essays on textual and papyrological features.

In "Sappho Fragments 58-59. Text, Apparatus Criticus, and Translation" (pp. 7-16), Dirk Obbink illustrates the Cologne lines and compares them to the ones registered in the previously known P. Oxy. 1787 (II-III cent. A.D.): the two scraps coincide in their middle sections ("Tithonus poem" = Sapph. fr. 58 V., ll. 11-22) but differ in their respective beginnings ("New Fragment" in P. Köln, ll. 1-8 col. I;3 "Success Poem" in P. Oxy. = Sapph. fr. 58 V., ll. 1-10) and endings ("Continuation 1" in P. Köln, ll. 9-21 col. II; "Continuation 2" in P. Oxy. = Sapph. fr. 58 V., ll. 23-26).

This partial overlapping is further discussed by Jürgen Hammerstaedt in "The Cologne Sappho. Its Discovery and Textual Constitution" (pp. 17-40). Before assessing the most debated readings with the help of photographic reproductions,4 this essay focuses on "Continuation 1": it displays a different hand from that of the "New Fragment" and the "Tithonus Poem" and, unlike the preceding Sapphic lines, features un-Aeolic dialect and meter. "Continuation 2" – which reflects upon abrosuna, light and beauty as means of enduring the prospect of old age and death – is also taken into account. Thus, some questions are posed around which a large part of the book will revolve: mainly, the very nature of the Cologne sequence and the reasons why it differs from the Oxyrhynchan one.

The three following essays – "The New Sappho Poem (P. Köln 21351 and 21376). Key to the Old Fragments" (pp. 41-57) by André Lardinois; "Tithonus in the "New Sappho" and the Narrated Mythical Exemplum in Archaic Greek Poetry" (pp. 58-70) by Lowell Edmunds; "No Way Out? Aging in the New (and Old) Sappho" (pp. 71-83) by Deborah Boedeker – deal with a possibility, which is particularly rich in implications, raised by the discovery itself of the Cologne papyrus: that of fr. 58 V. ending right after l. 22 (= "Tithonus poem" only) and not including the last four lines (= "Continuation 2").

Lardinois explains that different variants of a given song are likely to emerge especially in pre-Alexandrian testimonies such as the Cologne papyrus. Nonetheless, the comparison with the structure of frr. 16 and 31 V. seems to imply a longer version, with "Continuation 2" as part of a consolation song whose performance context is identified, exempli gratia, in the (semi)public occasion of a wedding banquet.

Narratological data and conventions become the main focus in Edmunds' essay. With the help of a whole set of appropriate comparanda the usual structure of exempla mythica is illustrated: the exempla start from the hic et nunc, tell the myth and then return to the present situation, on which the exemplum itself allows to shed more light. While such a circular scheme would be perfectly completed by "Conclusion 2", the functionality of the Tithonus story as closure remains questionable.

Boedeker's essay is centred on the performative context and its influence in determining variants of a same song . She argues that the Oxyrhynchan final stress on the satisfaction gained from abrosuna, light and beauty suits celebrations of divine benevolence, while the sadder note on which the "Tithonus poem" ends when taken alone, as happens in the Cologne papyrus, results in a poignant sympotic reflection on the difficulties of getting older. Neither sequence can claim to be the "original" one; they both represent "authentic variants" of a single Sapphic song, reperformed in different contexts and modified accordingly.

With the following four essays, the volume turns to investigating in depth the content of the Cologne texts. In "Acceptance or Assertion? Sappho's New Poem in its Books" (pp. 84-102), Joel Lidov stresses that, just like other poems supposedly coming from Books 3 and 4 of the Alexandrian edition of Sappho, the "New Fragment" is concerned mainly with the immortal glory that poetical activity grants to singers, both in life and after death. The identification of common thematic features in fragments sharing the same meter suggests further reflections: it is highly likely that the "Aeolic meter with choriambic expansion"5 was perceived as the most traditionally appropriate to celebrate poetry and its everlasting gifts.

Meter is the main focus of Lidov's second essay as well: in "Meter and Metrical Style of the New Poem" (pp. 103-117), the analysis of cuts and punctuation preserved in the "Tithonus Poem" unveils a carefully built construction, which moves from a variable beginning to an ending rhythmically articulated in full accordance with the expected patterns and therefore very clear in transmitting its message.

""Once" and "Now". Temporal Markers and Sappho's Self-Representation" (pp. 118-130), by Eva Stehle, points out the subtle interplay between the "Tithonus Poem" and the "New Fragment" created by the well crafted repetition of pota and nun. While the "Tithonus Poem" keeps one eye on the past and portraits the persona loquens as once young and swift, the "New Fragment" reflects upon the performance taking place now and describes it as a fundamental means of reaching immortal glory, in the present state as well as in future afterlife.6

With "The New Sappho in a Hellenistic Poetry Book" (pp. 131-146) by Dee Clayman, the volume faces a very complex issue: the relationship between "Continuation 1" and the preceding lines. Common references to music, afterlife and everlasting poetical glory should not be overlooked, in spite of "Continuation 1"'s un-Aeolic meter and dialect. On the contrary, the Cologne sequence as a whole might represent the remains of an Hellenistic anthology, based as such on the strong thematic connection between the texts which form it (see as a possible parallel the so called "new Posidippus", P. Mil. Vogl. VIII 309, end of III B.C.).

Last come three essays focusing on a more general reading of Sapphic corpus and tradition. In "Sappho 58. Philosophical Reflections on Death and Aging" (pp. 147-161), Ellen Greene sets Sapphic poetry against the broader background of pre-Socratic speculations on transience and permanence: Sappho too reflects upon these major philosophical issues, as is demonstrated by her dealing with death and poetic glory (see the analysis of fr. 58 V.) or with beauty, love and desire.

"A Reading of Sappho Poem 58, Fragment 31 and Mimnermus" (pp. 162-175), by Marguerite Johnson, argues the specific influence of Mimnermus on Sappho's frr. 31 and 58, even in a context such as the Ancient Greek one, based on a traditionally defined set of themes, images and formulae.

Finally, "The "New Sappho" Reconsidered in the Light of the Athenian Reception of Sappho" (pp. 176-199) by Gregory Nagy analyses the two sequences registered in the Oxyrhynchus and in the Cologne papyrus respectively as variants stemming from the reperformance of the same Sapphic poem in different times, places and contexts. The longer Oxyrhynchan song fits in a choral singing and dancing event such as the public festivals in Lesbos; the shorter Cologne version is more appropriate for relay performances in symposia and/or during the monodic competitions at the Panathenaia. Noteworthy in this respect is the feeling of truncation created by the somewhat open Cologne-ending on Tithonus: the final exemplum could be seen as an effective clue for the subsequent singer to step in, thus exemplifying that attitude of competition-in-collaboration which regulates the relay between different performers.

To sum up, each paper succeeds both in making brilliant points about the so far most debated questions related to the Cologne papyrus and in prompting further reflections, especially about the whole Cologne textual chain – "Continuation 1" included – as performative text, about the criteria underlying the compilation of both Cologne and Oxyrhynchus papyri or about the different conception of authenticity and authoriality perceivable in each scrap.

As a whole, The New Sappho on Old Age represents a very welcome contribution for scholars interested in different issues, from papyrology to textual restoration and from the interpretation of Sapphic poetry to the complex interplay between performance, performative context, variants and written registration.

Therefore, this book cannot but be highly recommended, all the more so if we consider three further reasons: the editing is very accurate, notwithstanding some minor inconsistencies unavoidable in a multi-authored volume;7 an index nominum et locorum (pp. 204-213) helps finding the passages of one's interest with ease; the price of the printed format and the forthcoming free version online make the volume very accessible.


1.   Editio princeps by M. Gronewald and R. W. Daniel: see "Ein neuer Sappho-Papyrus", ZPE 147, 2004, pp. 1-8; "Nachtrag zum neuen Sappho-Papyrus", ZPE 149, 2004, pp. 1-4; and "Lyrischer Text (Sappho-Papyrus )", ZPE 154, 2005, pp. 7-12.
2.   G. Bastianini – A. Casanova (a cura di), "I papiri di Saffo e Alceo". Atti del convegno internazionale di studi, Firenze, 8-9 giugno 2006, Firenze 2007; A. Aloni (a cura di), Nuove acquisizioni di Saffo e della lirica greca, Alessandria 2008.
3.   The first three lines, which preserve just two faded letters each, are not included in the given text.
4.   A survey which proves especially useful in the much debated question of l. 18: Hammerstaedt clarifies the surviving text and evaluates the proposed restorations accordingly, thus providing firm ground for further attempts at completing the passage.
5.   Lidov, p. 89, and Skinner p. 3; but for a different metrical approach, see B. Gentili – L. Lomiento, Metrica e ritmica. Storia delle forme poetiche nella Grecia antica, Mondadori 2003, pp. 172-173, and B. Gentili – C. Catenacci, Polinnia, G. D'Anna 2007, pp. 166-167.
6.   And indeed, as mentioned by Clayman on p. 132, so strong is the (narrato)logical connection between the two texts that, from the editores principes onward, many have believed they form one only song articulated in a proem and the subsequent reflection on old age: see e.g. M. Gronewald – R. W. Daniel, "Ein neuer Sappho-Papyrus", ZPE 147, 2004, p. 3; V. Di Benedetto, "La nuova Saffo e dintorni", ZPE, 153, par. 3; Aloni 2008, par. 2.3. and 3.2.1.
7.   E.g., not every contributor sticks to the naming used by Obbink in the first essay, which could generate initial uneasiness for readers unfamiliar with the Cologne sequence; or in the discussion of the already mentioned l. 18, Obbink (pp. 11-12) suggests a phi incompatible with extant traces according to Hammerstaedt (p. 26).

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Thorsten Fögen, Wissen, Kommunikation und Selbstdarstellung: zur Struktur und Charakteristik römischer Fachtexte der frühen Kaiserzeit. Zetemata 134. München: C. H. Beck, 2009. Pp. ix, 340. ISBN 9783406592591. €78.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Nicolas Wiater, Bonn University / University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (

Version at BMCR home site

[All translations of quotations from Fögen's book are mine.]

The aim of Thorsten Fögen's study is to explore the self-presentation of Roman authors of technical literature (I am aware that this is a somewhat unsatisfactory translation of the German "Fachtexte") and its interrelation with "the discourse of knowledge and power" (p. 5).1 The (undoubtedly correct) assumption underlying this book is that works of technical literature do not simply provide "objective" and "neutral" discussions of a given topic. Rather, the authors' statements, their selection of material, and their different "strategies" in presenting it are inextricably bound up with other social-cultural discourses: knowledge is not acquired, processed, and passed on in a void but interacts with the social context in which this process is taking place. Technical literature has "political-ideological implications" (p. 8).

Fögen has divided his discussion into two major parts. The first part (pp. 9-104) starts with a general discussion of definitions of "technical literature" and "technical language" ("Fachtexte und Fachsprachen") both in modern linguistic scholarship and ancient texts (pp. 9-25). This is followed by a "synoptic discussion" of ancient testimonies on the characteristics of technical literature and their specific idiom ("Fachtexten und Fachsprachen," p. 6; pp. 26-66) and a chapter on "The Transformation of Greek Knowledge by Roman Authors of Technical Literature" (pp. 67-105).

In this part, Fögen demonstrates that ancient authors were well aware of the fact that technical language was distinguished from other forms of communication by certain characteristics, in particular by specialized vocabulary (statements of authors on morphological and syntactical aspects of their language being much less common) (pp. 26-65). He also refutes the assumption that ancient writers did not reflect upon the difficulties involved in translating Greek technical terms into Latin, although such reflections were not always systematic: there was not one "standard method for the Latinization of the Greek sources" (p. 71).

In the second part (106-295), Fögen then discusses in detail the "Authorial Self-presentation and Communication of Knowledge" ("Selbstdarstellung des Autors und Kommunikation von Wissen") in the works of four major Roman technical writers, namely Vitruvius's De architectura (pp. 106-151), Columella's De re rustica (pp. 152-200), Pliny the Elder's Naturalis historia (pp. 201-264), and Frontinus's De aquaeductu urbis Romae (pp. 265-289). The main questions guiding Fögen's discussion of these works are, apart from the authors' "rhetorical strategies" (p. 7) of self-presentation vis-à-vis their recipients, how they sought to distinguish themselves from their predecessors; how they sought to invest their point of view with authority; and how they defined the relationship of past and present, of "tradition and innovation" (p. 7). The study ends with brief concluding remarks (pp. 290-295).

This second part of Fögen's book contains a wealth of interesting and important observations which it is impossible to enumerate in detail here. Among these, I found particularly fascinating the importance of Cicero's orator perfectus to both Vitruvius's conception of the ideal architect (p. 113; cf. p. 141) and Columella's self-image of the doctus agricola, a notion highly interesting in itself (p. 164; see below); the fact that all authors present themselves not only as authorities in their field of knowledge but also as paradigms of moral conduct, thus investing their works (and the knowledge they impart) with a key role in stopping and reversing an (alleged) decline of Roman character (Columella: pp. 189-196; Pliny: pp. 262-263; Frontinus: p. 286) or, in the case of Vitruvius, in the restoration of the "Golden Age" under Augustus (p. 148); the way in which all of them, except for Columella, associated their works with the political agenda of the Roman emperor (Vitruvius: p. 148; Pliny: 264; Frontinus: pp. 278-285); and their differentiated stance towards both Greek and Roman predecessors and authorities.

Throughout the book, I was very much impressed by Fögen's profound knowledge of ancient literature and linguistic theory. However, there are some aspects of the study which I found somewhat problematic and which should be mentioned in a review. In retrospect, I found the terms in which Fögen describes the aims and methods of his book to be somewhat misleading. The reference to knowledge and power (p. 5) and the repeated emphasis on the fact that technical and scientific literature do not originate in a cultural void but always have to be read against their social-cultural context (e.g., pp. 8, 104) evoke the often complementary approaches of Foucault's theory of discourse and the sociology of knowledge, both of which explore the ways in which the production and dissemination of knowledge interacts with other elements of a larger discursive network. Such an approach requires that texts are not studied on their own but alongside texts of various other genres in order to detect, in Foucault's words, "regularities in their simultaneity, assignable positions in a common space, a reciprocal functioning, linked and hierarchized transformations."2

In less technical terms, a sociology-of-knowledge approach aims to discover which role is assigned to the same field of knowledge (for example, agriculture) in different social and cultural contexts (e.g., poetry, imperial ideology, religion, etc.) at a given period.3 Agriculture in technical literature is one, albeit important, aspect of this discursive system. Yet, exploring the role of (knowledge of) agriculture as a constituent of Roman culture and society in the first century CE, i.e. as a cultural-social factor rather than a subject of learning, it would be necessary to read the notion of agriculture offered by Columella against the way in which agriculture is contextualized in other contemporary works and to discuss how the image(s) of agriculture in these works relate(s) to such "classic" (and equally ideological) treatments of the same topic in Virgil's Georgics.

Fögen's approach, by contrast, is predominantly linguistic. "Fachtexte" and "Fachsprachen" are discussed in chapter 2 not as social phenomena but only in terms of linguistic criteria of their definition. This is particularly evident from the discussion in chapter 3, "The Transformation of Greek Knowledge." This title led me to expect a discussion of the different ways in which Roman authors sought to integrate Greek knowledge into a new, Roman framework of culture and learning: can we discern any development in the way Roman authors deal with such a transfer of knowledge from Greek to Latin culture as compared to, for example, Cicero's paradigmatic struggle to define "the Roman" within and against the overwhelming influence of "the Greek" and Horace's awareness of the issues of domination and inferiority involved in Graeco-Roman interaction as it is playfully expressed in his Graecia capta? I was rather surprised to find that the discussion itself is concerned exclusively with statements of Roman authors on the difficulty of finding adequate Latin translations for Greek terms (the "Fachwortschatz" of Latin technical treatises, p. 102). By "transformation," it turns out, Fögen actually means "translation" in the narrow linguistic sense of the word.

Such a narrow focus is especially unfortunate regarding the question of Romanness and its relation to Greek culture and learning which, as becomes evident repeatedly throughout Fögen's discussion, deeply concerned each of the authors. Fögen's discussion of Columella's De re rustica is a case in point. Fögen makes two both compelling and important observations. First, Columella portrays himself as a doctus agricola who is not only an expert in his own field of knowledge but also well-versed in many other fields of knowledge (p. 181); this, Fögen states, allows us to conclude that Columella was addressing "members of the elite who need to have a solid education in order to be able to appreciate Columella's literary agenda" (p. 181). Second, Columella, in stark contrast to Varro, does not distinguish in principle between Latin and Greek sources, let alone condemn Greek knowledge as one of the reasons for the decline of Roman agriculture, as Varro had done (Varro, De re rust. 3.3.7, cited on p. 177 n. 80); this observation is part of Fögen's discussion of "Columella's treatment of his sources" (p. 171).

One wonders whether it would not have been fruitful to connect these two individual observations. For Varro was not only important as a source of knowledge on agriculture but was also a venerated paradigm of Romanness. Columella's notion of the doctus agricola offered his readers a conception of Romanness which allowed them to combine an archetypal, genuinely Roman activity, agriculture, with the advantages of Greek learning. They could thus circumvent Varro's verdict on the exclusiveness of Greek education and Roman identity and preserve their self-image as sophisticated Roman aristocrats, a central element of which were Greek knowledge and education. This observation could then have been embedded in the larger discursive context of Romanness, Greekness, and their relation to each other which had been a vital topic for both Roman and Greek intellectuals for centuries.4 Cicero in particular, for example, to whose notion of the perfectus orator Columella's notion of the universally educated, yet profoundly Roman agricola invariably alludes (p. 164), had been deeply concerned with the question of the constituents of "being Roman" that distinguished Romans from other peoples, and, above all, from the Greeks (see only, e.g., Tusc. Disp. 1.1--2).

This also sheds some new light on "The moral dimension of De re rustica" (pp. 189--196, the quote on p. 189) which Fögen describes as having a "strange flavour to it" and therefore dismisses as a "traditional element" which Columella felt compelled to induce by the fact that Varro had done the same. But elsewhere, as Fögen himself has made clear, Columella has no problem at all with diverging from this authoritative figure of the past. Rather than as a clumsy attempt at traditionalization, it makes much more sense to read this "moral dimension" as part of Columella's attempt to offer his readers a new concept of Romanness which combines traditional (Roman) and "modern" (Greek) elements, including a less paranoid attitude towards the cultural influence of the Greeks as a potential thread to Romanness.

There is thus a surprising discrepancy between Fögen's repeated emphasis that technical literature does not originate in a cultural void and that this cultural context is crucial to our understanding of these works (see above), and the fact that he basically discusses the technical texts as self-contained entities in isolation from both their literary and cultural context and each other. As a result, the question of "knowledge and power", one of the central concerns of Fögen's study, is treated only under the aspect of how each individual author claims that his work is related to the political agenda of the emperor. This is important, but it is only one side of the story which would have to be embedded within a larger social-cultural context. As a result, the book often reads like a collection of isolated authorial statements and it is left to the reader to compare how the same topics are addressed differently by the individual authors, how this relates to their cultural and social environments, and whether they allow us to discern a development of, for example, Roman attitudes towards Romanness and its relation to Greek culture and learning.

To sum up, Fögen's book is important because it furthers our knowledge of a still undervalued genre of ancient literature through numerous highly valuable observations and novel insights. To me at least, however, there seemed to be a noticeable discrepancy between the aims of the study and what it actually achieves. Anyone interested in these technical texts from a more linguistic point of view will most certainly find it a goldmine of information. By contrast, readers interested in the sociology of knowledge and the discourse of knowledge and power in the ancient world (and I count myself among them) can only hope that Fögen's book will stimulate such an enquiry—it most definitely has the merit of making such an approach possible in the first place.


1.   The book thus belongs in the larger context of an increasing interest in ancient technical writing as literature and cultural artifacts. See e.g., Markus Asper, Griechische Wissenschaftstexte. Formen, Funktionen, Differenzierungsgeschichten. Stuttgart 2010; Christopher Gill, Tim Whitmarsh, John Wilkins (eds.), Galen and the World of Knowledge. Greek Culture in the Roman World. Cambridge 2009; Liba Chaia Taub, Aude Doody (eds.), Authorial Voices in Greco-Roman Technical Writing. Trier 2009.
2.   Michel Foucault, The Order of Things. The Archaeology of the Human Sciences. London 2002, 41.
3.   G. Karl Galinsky's Augustan Culture. An Interpretive Introduction. Princeton, NJ 1996 is an example of such a discursive approach to Augustan culture.
4.   See, e.g., Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, Rome's Cultural Revolution. Cambridge 2008; Id., To Be Roman, Go Greek: Thoughts on the Hellenization of Rome. In: Michael Austin/ J. Harries/ C. Smith (eds.), Modus Operandi. Essays in Honour of G. Rickman. BICS Suppl. 71. London 1998: 79-91; Greg Woolf (1994), Becoming Roman, Staying Greek: Culture, Identity and the Civilizing Process in the Roman East. PCPS 40, 1990, 116-143.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Stefania Santelia (ed.), Prospero d'Aquitania: Ad coniugem suam. In appendice: Liber epigrammatum. Studi latini 68. Napoli: Loffredo editore, 2009. Pp. 236. ISBN 9788875643324. €14.50 (pb).

Reviewed by Roberto Chiappiniello (

Version at BMCR home site

The poem Ad coniugem suam (or Carmen ad uxorem as it has been alternatively called by editors and scholars), transmitted by two manuscripts (the Reginensis Lat. 230 and the Casinensis Lat. 226) is generally referred to, together with three other poems (the Epigramma Paulini, the Carmen de providentia dei and Orientius' Commonitorium), as an example of the immediate response from Gallo-Roman poets to the havoc caused by barbarian migrations in the Roman West during the first decades of the fifth century AD. The Ad coniugem is composed in the voice of a poet who urges his companion to live with him in piety and chastity and to devote their lives to God. The cause of this radical change of lifestyle appears to be a dramatic disturbance of social order and endemic wars. As a consequence of this state of uncertainty, the concord of the couple is seen as the only force to combat the external discord. The authorship of the poem is variably attributed by manuscript tradition either to Prosper of Aquitaine or Paulinus of Nola but there are good reasons to attribute the poem to Prosper.

In recent years the Ad coniugem has received increased attention from scholars of late antiquity,1 but this is the first full commentary on the 122 verses (16 anacreontic lines followed by 53 elegiac couplets) of the poem.

Santelia opens her study with nine introductory sections (pp. 7-51) in which she gives a concise overview of the historical context and the poem's authorship, structure, and linguistic and stylistic features, all of which illuminate the issues of date and authorship. The central chapters (pp. 29-48) are focused on the main themes of the poem, its intended readership and its author's cultural milieu. I shall consider these chapters in the final paragraph of my review.

The introductory section concludes with a discussion of the date and the early editions of the Ad coniugem. Regarding the dating, although Santelia agrees with previous scholars in seeing the Ad coniugem as the effort of a young Prosper, she tentatively suggests that it could have been written some years after the barbarian irruption of 407: "mi chiedo se non sia possibile pensare che l'exhortatio rivolta alla moglie risalga al periodo immediatamente precedente quello in cui Prospero si dedicò a contrastare le idee degli avversari di Agostino [i.e. the (semi-)pelagian controversy blown up in 426] (p. 49).

The Latin text follows the CSEL edition of Hartel (1894) with minor changes of punctuation. Santelia diverges from Hartel only in three cases, all clearly explained in the commentary.2

The Italian translation, which faces the Latin text, succeeds in reproducing in prose both the rhythm and the images of the poem. Santelia achieves an accurate and fluent translation and, in several instances, she improves on Ruggiero's previous, good translation.3 I generally agree with Santelia's choices although, for the rendering of lines 63f. qui Christum passum poenas crucis, ultima mortis / … vident, Ruggiero's translation overreads? the pathos in the iunctura ultima mortis. Ruggiero has "coloro che vedono il Cristo che ha sofferto le pene della croce, gli estremi tormenti della morte"; Santelia translates "chi vede Cristo sopportare le pene della croce fino alla morte". At lines 27-8, undique bella fremunt, omnes furor excitat armis, / incumbunt reges regibus innumeris. Santelia sees armis as agreeing with innumeris and interprets it as: "dovunque rimbombano le guerre; la follia sconvolge tutti, re si scagliano contro altri re, alla testa di innumerevoli eserciti". Ruggiero's translation reads: "da ogni parte fremono le guerre, tutti sconvolge il furore, con le armi i re si impongono ad innumerevoli re." Although the poet of the Ad coniugem uses enjambments very sparingly (I counted four other occurrences of enjambments but this is the only one which would link an adjective and noun pair at the ends of successive lines), Santelia's translation is more expressive and gives more emphasis to the strong image of countless armies ravaging the Roman West.

A detailed commentary (pp. 69-104), which collects relevant information including numerous parallels , follows the translation. The material collected in this section is well ordered, in-depth, and elucidates the author's textual choices. In general, it renders good service to readers. For certain entries, however, Santelia could have been more exhaustive on the intertextual impact of some resonances. For instance, in line 13 (ubi nunc imago rerum est) Santelia should have explored the force of the echo of Verg. Aen. 12.665 (obstituit varia confusus imagine rerum), as surely the author of the Ad coniugem sought to draw a parallel between his desolate sight of earth ravaged by countless enemies and Turnus struck silent in bewilderment at the picture of impending calamity in defeat at the hands of Aeneas. Similarly, line 17 (qui centum quondam terram vertebat aratris) recalls the righteous and wealthy Galaesus who had a hundred ploughs to turn his soil and who was killed as he sought to intercede for peace in Aen. 7.536ff. esp. 539 ( … et terram centum vertebat aratris). On a similar intertextual note, the image Pax abiit terris at line 30 deserves more explanation (see e.g. Hes. Erga 197ff., where Aidos and Nemesis abandon the earth and leave mankind at the mercy of war and death; in Verg. Georg. 2.473f. Justice leaves the Earth). Two final textual remarks: the expression contentus modicis (line 53) is not, as Santelia argues, seldom found but rather a proverbial tag comparable to e.g. Iuv. Sat. 9.9 (… certe modico contentus agebas) and still alive later on in e.g. Maxim. 1.53 (pauperiem modico contentus semper amavi). At line 56 (insontem vitam pacis amator agat) Santelia argues that the adjective insons is never paired with vita (p. 86). In fact, this is a laudatory cliché which can be found in funeral inscriptions such as CE 1530.5 vitam insons, integer aevum.

The volume is also equipped with an appendix on Prosper's Liber epigrammatum (pp. 106-93). The Latin text, without critical apparatus, is that printed in PL 51 and edited in 1711 by Le Brun des Marettes. The Latin poems are faced by a prose translation which is the first modern Italian integral translation of all 106 epigrams.

The book ends with a detailed bibliography4 and two indices on modern and ancient authors mentioned by the commentator.

I close with two rather fundamental issues: the use of the anacreontics and the literary genre(s) of the poem. The Ad coniugem begins with a group of 16 anacreontic lines. In her introduction (p. 29) Santelia writes, "probabilmente il poeta ricorre all'anacreonteo per conferire un tono del tutto particolare." There is no further explanation of the "particular tone" to which she refers. Later in the commentary (p. 69) on the two opening lines (Age iam, precor, mearum / comes inremota rerum) Santelia acknowledges that age iam is an exhortatory formula amply found in both prose and poetry, but only Claudian uses age at the incipit of Carm. Maior. 12 [fesc. 2] Age, cuncta nuptiali / redimita vere tellus / celebra toros eriles. I believe this is a rather telling point worthy of further consideration. In an article I published a few years ago5, I argued that Claudian's second fescenninus might have been one of the literary models for the Ad coniugem. Claudian wrote the second fescenninus to celebrate the wedding of Roman emperor Honorius in 395 AD, and the poem was soon widely known among the Roman elite. Furthermore, both the content and the distinctive metrical choice of the second fescenninus might have fostered a high degree of 'memorability'. Could the presence in the Ad coniugem of both the anacreontics and the prominent position of age be explained as an example of memoria incipitaria?6 Did the poet of the Ad coniugem, from the very outset, mean to signal to his readers to be aware of the amalgamation of topical themes of pagan epithalamia with the Christian message of spiritual marriage? If this frame were correct, his readers would probably have read the list of precepts, the image of the married couple subdued to Christ's yoke (instead of Venus's) and the leitmotif of marital concordia as an adaptation of traditional pagan themes into the new genre of Christian epithalamia.

Santelia's edition of the Ad coniugem suam is an excellent contribution to both the understanding and the interpretation of this fascinating little poem from Late Antiquity. The revised Latin text, the elegant Italian translation, the sound commentary and the affordable price make this book a worthwhile acquisition for universities and scholars' own libraries.


1.   Notably M. Cutino, 'Continuità e innovazione nella poesia Latina Cristiana del V sec. in Gallia: il protrettico alla conversione', Auctores Nostri 4, 2006, pp. 311-50; N. McLynn, 'Poetic Creativity and Political Crisis in Early Fifth-Century Gaul', Journal of Late Antiquity 2.1, 2009, pp. 66-8.
2.   At line 11 Santelia restores the reading of the Reginensis and prints cupidasque vana mentes instead of Hartel's conjecture cupidas vagasque mentes. At line 85 she opts for omitting ut (Hartel's own addition to the line) in order to make the line metrically correct: sed victum quod erat in me superaret in illo. Finally, at line 97 Santelia corrects the lectio of the mss. and prints mundi (mandus in the Reginensis, mundus in the Casinensis): non metuo exsilium mundi, domus una est. Hartel's edition reads non metuo exsilium, domus omnibus una est where omnibus is Hartel's conjecture.
3.   A. Ruggiero, Paolino di Nola, Rome 1990. The Ad coniugem appears among the appendix of poems attributed to Paulinus of Nola.
4.   Bibliography is thorough and updated but three books escaped the attention of the author: G. Halsall, Barbarian Migrations and the Roman West (Cambridge 2007) could have provided more food for thought in the introductory paragraph on the impact of barbarian disruption in Gaul. D. Trout, Paulinus of Nola: Life, Letters and Poems (Berkeley/Los Angeles/London 1999) offers invaluable insights and discussion on late antique poetry. But above all, Santelia should have been acquainted with the article of M. Roberts on the Ad coniugem and the Gallo-Roman literary milieu: 'Barbarians in Gaul: the response of the poets' in J. Drinkwater and H. Elton, Fifth-century Gaul: a crisis of identity? (Cambridge 1992).
5.   'The Carmen ad uxorem and the Genre of the Epithalamium' pp. 115-38 in W. Otten and K. Pollmann, Poetry and Exegesis in Premodern Latin Christianity. The Encounter between Classical and Christian Strategies of Interpretation, Leiden / Boston 2007.
6.   So G.B. Conte in Memoria dei poeti e sistema letterario, Turin 1974, p. 10: "specializzazione incipitaria della memoria ritmico-compositiva".

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