Sunday, October 23, 2011


Lucio Cristante, Simona Ravalico (ed.), Il calamo della memoria. Riuso di testi e mestiere letterario nella tarda antichità. IV (Raccolta delle relazioni discusse nel IV incontro internazionale di Trieste, Biblioteca Statale, 28-30 aprile 2010). Polymnia, 13. Trieste: Edizioni Università di Trieste, 2011. Pp. xxii, 364. ISBN 9788883033193. €35.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Ioannis Deligiannis, Academy of Athens (

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The book is a collection of essays presented during the fourth international conference on the classical tradition and literature in late antiquity, organized by the University of Trieste. Its various essay topics, the up-to-date bibliography that follows each essay, and the helpful indices make it a valuable contribution to the study of this period.

Giancarlo Mazzoli ("Presenze di Seneca nell'in Rufinum di Claudiano") traces the ideological and stylistic use of Seneca's writings by the fourth-century poet Claudian. After an account of the latter's use of Seneca's De clementia in two of his panegyrics (de quarto consulatu Honorii Augusti and de consulatu Flavii Manlii Theodori) and other texts of his, Mazzoli focuses on Claudian's invective In Rufinum. After placing Claudian's work in its historical context, Mazzoli provides a thorough analysis of the proem of Book One and the end of Book Two. He underscores the Senecan influences on Claudian's poem, especially those deriving from Seneca's De Providentia, his tragedy Phaedra, and his satire Apocolocyntosis.

Jean-Luc Fournet ("Omero e i Cristiani in Egitto secondo due testi agiografici (Panegirico di Macario di Tkôw e Sofrone di Gerusalemme, Miracoli di Ciro e Giovanni)") offers a convincing interpretation of the presence of Homer in two hagiographic texts from sixth and seventh-century Egypt, the Panegyric of Macarius of Tkôw by Ps.-Dioscorus of Alexandria and the Miracles of Cyrus and John by Sophronius of Jerusalem. Fournet convincingly argues that the figure of Homer had become the symbol of classical/pagan culture which the Christians of Egypt in late antiquity considered incompatible with their faith and culture, so that his works became the main target of their polemic against it.

Taking Sophronius's healing from blindness by Cyrus and John as his starting point, Gianfranco Agosti ("Le brume di Omero. Sofronio dinanzi alla paideia classica") looks at the use of Homeric mist, ἀχλύς, and blindness in various texts from the time of Homer up to Christian authors in the seventh century CE. Agosti outlines the course of the term from its literal meaning (a medical term and in reference to death) to its metaphorical ("mental obscurity") and allegorical use ("ignorance", and even "sin" in Christian authors) with examples from, i.a., Homer, Plato, Lucian, Plotinus, Proclus, Clement of Alexandria and George of Pisidia. Playing with the meanings of ἀχλύς, Sophronius wrote not simply a hagiography, but a polemic against paganism and classical παιδεία; his miraculous healing symbolizes his liberation from it and his total dedication to the Christian faith.

Through a careful examination of a passage from the prologue of Fulgentius's Mythologiae (10.19-11.18), Martina Venuti ("Allusioni ovidiane nel Prologo delle Mythologiae di Fulgenzio") identifies the multilayered presence of Ovid (especially his Metamorphoses) in Fulgentius's text and discusses how the late antique writer re-used classical myths. Venuti identifies Fulgentius's references to certain myths and their similarities with those in Ovid. She refutes the "anti-Ovidian" interpretation of Fulgentius's intentions in using Ovid proposed by J. Relihan and rectifies the latter's identification of a reference of Fulgentius (senior deus) with a certain myth, while she offers well-justified explanations of her interpretation and identification.

A comment in one of the myths in Fulgentius's Mythologiae, Fabula de Tricerbero, provides Massimo Manca ("Testi aperti e contaminazioni inestricabili. Il (Tri)cerbero tardoantico fra simbolo e ragione") the incentive to explore the use and origins of Tricerberus. Manca looks at the interpretation of the stem τρι- added to Cerberus and the rational explications given, e.g., by Hecataeus, Heraclitus, Palaephatus, and Plutarch to the traditional image of the three-headed dog. He posits that the term first appeared in Fulgentius and Byzantine authors contemporary to him and compares the comment in Fulgentius's myth to similar comments found in Mythographi Vaticani. He identifies Servius as its source and makes an attempt at sketching out the course of the image of (Tri-)Cerberus.

Lellia Cracco Ruggini ("I dittici tardoantichi nel Medioevo") offers a captivating examination of diptychs, their original provenance (places of production) and use (gifts to individuals or ecclesiastical institutions), their re-use during the Middle Ages (manuscript cover-plates, for liturgical purposes, decorative or exhibition elements), their routes and circulation (from East to West and vice-versa), the content of their inner faces (registries, prayers, excerpts from the gospels), and other aspects related to them (scripts, reading). Her article focuses on specific diptychs of which she provides reproductions.

Franca Ela Consolino ("Recusationes a confronto: Sidonio Apollinare epist. IX 13,2 e Venanzio Fortunato carm. IX 7") persuasively compares two metrical recusationes, one by Sidonius Apollinaris and the other by Venatius Fortunatus. After a brief account of their background, she provides a close study of them, identifying metrical, stylistic and textual similarities between them and particularly Horace's Carmina, as well as allusions to Horace, Sappho and Pindar. The comparison of the poems, written at a distance of about a century, reveals similarities in content but mostly differences in the way in which the two poets handle the literary tradition of the past. These differences are attributable to the different social, cultural, intellectual and religious conditions of their times.

Silvia Mattiacci's essay ("Da Kairos a Occasio: un percorso tra letteratura e iconografia") is what would be described as the essence of the classical tradition. Making excellent use of her sources, both literary and iconographical, she illustrates the origins and development of the allegorical figure of Kairos and its transformation into Occasio from fourth-century Macedonia to the sixteenth-century Italian Renaissance. Taking Lysippus's sculpture of Kairos as her starting point, Mattiacci provides a detailed account of the descriptions of and references to it. Occasio is introduced (along with Tempus = Kairos) to Latin literature by Phaedrus the fabulist and is considered established by the end of the Roman Republic. Mattiacci continues with an epigram of Ausonius on Occasio and Paenitentia, discusses its similarities and differences from that of Posidippus, its sources and interpretation, and the introduction of the figure of Paenitentia. The author takes her study through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, when the revived interest in and the early editions of Ausonius inspired humanists (Poliziano, Machiavelli) and artists (Andrea Mantegna, Girolamo da Capri).

Bert Selter ("The Untiring Pen: Avienus' Construction of a Voice") investigates the various roles that the narrator plays in Avienus's didactic poem Descriptio Orbis Terrae, a translation of Dionysius of Alexandria's Periegesis. The author compares the two texts, places Avienus's poem in the tradition of didactic poetry, offers a very good analysis of its proem, and by thoroughly examining the role of verbal repetitions in the poem concludes that these were deliberately employed by Avienus to apply structure to his poem and effectively convey the metaphor of the text as a world.

Giovanni Ravenna ("In margine a Cassiodoro var. II 39,6") offers a persuasive interpretation of v. 4 of Martial's Epigr. 6.42 (non fontes Aponi rudes puellis) through a well-argued discussion of a problematic passage from an epistle of Cassiodorus (Var. 2.39.6). The essay draws the readers' attention to the term rudes in reference to Abano Terme's thermal waters and its unsuccessful literal and metaphorical interpretations. After commenting on the inadequate attempts at translating Cassiodorus's passage in reference to the same spring, by making use of parallel texts, Ravenna restores successfully the meaning of both Cassiodorus and Martial's texts and provides an improved translation of the former's Var. 2.39 and 9.6.

Kurt Smolak ("Beatus ille... Osservazioni sul carme 7 di Paolino di Nola") deals with the echoes of Horace in the seventh poem of Paulinus of Nola, a metrical paraphrase of Psalm 1. The author identifies phraseological and stylistic similarities between Paulinus's poem and Horace and persuasively underlines the differences of the texts in philosophical level. From the evidence of sources that Paulinus might have drawn from, Smolak justifiably suggests the deletion of vv. 30-31, which resemble the content of Paul's Epistle to Romans 2.12. His analysis shows clearly how Paulinus used Horace and his language and style, in other words a well known model, to counter pagan concepts and ideas while promoting the Christian faith.

Paolo Mastandrea's essay ("Vita dei principi e Storia Romana, tra Simmaco e Giordane") attempts to identify Memmius Symmachus as, if not the sole author, at least one of the latest revisers of Historia Augusta. After an account of Symmachus's life, Mastandrea compares a fragment of Symmachus's Historia Romana (preserved in Jordanes's Getica ) with Iulius Capitolinus's Maximini Duo. To establish the connection between the two Historiae (Augusta and Romana), the author discusses the prevailing theories concerning the scriptores Historiae Augustae, its organization, the date of its composition, and its direct and indirect tradition. This groundbreaking identification is the result of Mastandrea's thorough but occasionally overcondensed, though very detailed, analysis of textual and historical material, which would probably seem better in a book than in the necessarily limited space of an article.

Starting with the metrical annotations found in Ps.-Acro's commentary on Horace, Concetta Longobardi's essay ("Il corpus pseudacroniano e la rinnovata fortuna dei metri di Orazio") deals with the late antique interest in the Horatian metres and its revival in the Middle Ages. After a comparison between Ps.-Acro's metrical comments and those in Diomedes's De metris Horatianis, the author focuses on the former ones; on the evidence of an anthology of Horace based on metrical criteria as well as some significant palaeographical results, Longobardi persuasively concludes that the interest in the Horatian metres was connected with the Irish communities and monasteries in continental Europe and derived from their interest in using these metres in the Christian hymnology and poetry.

Giorgio Cracco ("Le avventure di un testo-chiave di Gregorio Magno (tra gerarchie di Dio e gerarchie della storia)") offers a well-argued discussion of a passage from Epist. 5.44 of the Registrum of Pope Gregory the Great, which speaks of the primacy of St. Peter over the apostles Paul, Andrew and John. After refuting previous interpretations of the passage in question as well as offering an extensive analysis of the Registrum and its sources, Cracco investigates textual and iconographic testimonies to prove that Peter's primacy does not emerge from anywhere in the New Testament or the early Christian tradition. He then examines the individual roles of the apostles mentioned in Gregory's passage, and proposes for it an effective new punctuation which seems to solve the problem of the ecclesiastical hierarchy by making all four apostles equal members of the Church under Christ, its one and only head.

Isabella Canetta ("Euforione e Virgilio nel commento di Servio all'Eneide") looks at three comments of Servius on Virgil's Aeneid (2.32, 79 and 201), in which the late antique grammarian refers to the third century BCE poet Euphorion of Chalcis. After a brief discussion of how Euphorion became a standard source of mythology for Roman poets of the first century BCE, including Virgil. Her analysis shows both Virgil's freedom and his originality in handling traditional myths according to his poetical needs and Servius's use of Euphorion as the guarantor of the official mythography in cases where Homer was silent.

Massimo Gioseffi ("Per un lessico dei commenti tardoantichi a Virgilio: il caso dello Pseudo Probo") underlines the need and sets the frame for the lexicographical study of late antique authors. Basing his argument on the organization, criteria and purposes of similar lexica, he suggests a fourfold categorization/study of the vocabulary that occurs in late antique authors and applies it to Ps.-Probus's commentary on Virgil's Eclogues. Gioseffi provides a long list and analysis of examples extracted from the commentary. These examples show what vocabulary Ps.-Probus used and the way he used it to describe the author's literary intentions (e.g., the use of dicere: T020 333.12 Nec liquido pro fluenti dixit, sed pro puro), to illustrate the meaning of the text itself and/or its characters' words (T096 342.13 Haec Iuppiter Iunoni dixit comminatus), to identify or clarify the author's references to tradition (T132 330.18 quidam Hesiodum quod dixerit ita [seq. Hes. Op. 383]), and to provide the reader with the guidance necessary to understand the text (T258 332.7 Hoc quidam diffidentiae dicunt). Equally important is the comparison between Ps.-Probus's vocabulary and that of other commentaries of Virgil (extensive examples are given in the Appendix).

Although each and every essay of this book is a more or less important contribution to the studies of the reception of classical literature in late antiquity, undoubtedly those by L. Cracco Ruggini, S. Mattiacci, G. Ravenna and C. Longobardi stand out for their originality and innovative research results. As a final point, Lucio Cristante and Simona Ravalico's excellent job in editing this volume cannot go unnoticed.

1 comment:

  1. In riferimento al saggio di Massimo Manca, che identifica Servio come fonte di Fulgenzio, credo Myth. I 6, per l'espressione "Tricerberus", vorrei far notare che nel passo di Servio, ad Aen. I 133, la lezione "tricerbero" è incerta, anche se sia Thilo che l'Editio Harvardiana la pubblicano nel testo. L'apparato dell'Editio Harvardiana, benché tutt'altro che completo, è più esauriente rispetto a quello di Thilo. Si apprende che "Pluto tricerbero" è lezione del solo cod. Monacensis 6394, un manoscritto sicuramente interessante, ben noto agli umanisti, ma probabilmente non del tutto affidabile per la ricostruzione del testo genuino di Servio (vedi Murgia, anche se permangono dubbi in Marshall e Timpanaro). Gli altri mss. dell'Editio Harvardiana hanno tutti "Pluton cerbero" o "Pluto cerbero". Notevole W (cod. di Wolfenbuettel, più tardo ma importante per la classe sigma) che ha "Pluton cervero trifauci". E' dunque forte il dubbio che l'archetipo di Servio avesse "Tricerbero", è molto più probabile che leggesse "Cerbero", anche se nel contesto dello scolio (ad Aen. I 133) la lezione "Tricerbero" è più plausibile e simmetrica con "Iuppiter trifido" e Neptunus tridente". E il mio medesimo dubbio, risolto in modo ancor più radicale, ha avuto l'ottimo editore dei Mithographi Vaticani I e II, vale a dire Péter Kulcsàr, il quale a Myth. II, 3, 28-33 (vale a dire il passo ripreso ad verbum dal citato scolio di Servio ad Aen. I 133) preferisce pubblicare "Pluto Cerbero", perché così leggono la maggior parte dei codd. (compresi R S, che sono i testimoni più antichi, risalendo rispettivamente al XII e al XII-XIII secolo), eccezion fatta per due mss. umanistici (Tricerbaro M, Tricerbero E)). Insomma, i codd. di Servio leggono "cerbero" (eccezion fatta per M, almeno allo stato attuale delle nostre conoscenze, che potrebbe essere testimone di una singolare quanto intelligente emendazione) e così il testo fu ripreso dal compilatore della II raccolta mitografica Vaticana. Per sostenere che Servio sia la fonte di Fulgenzio per "Tricerbero" dobbiamo pensare che Fulgenzio leggesse un Servio diverso - e probabilmente più corretto - di quello che si è conservato nella tradizione medievale. L'idea resta affascinante, ma allo stato attuale priva di una prova definitiva.


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