Saturday, December 10, 2011


Rosario Moreno Soldevila (ed.), Diccionario de motivos amatorios en la literatura latina (siglos III a. C.-II d. C.). Exemplaria classica, Anejo II. Huelva: Universidad de Huelva, 2011. Pp. 529. ISBN 9788415147190. €30.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Francis Cairns, Florida State University (

Version at BMCR home site

This large and large-format volume covers both Latin erotic motifs in the narrower sense (i.e. as represented in lyric and elegy) and the obscene motifs associated principally with epigram, satire and the novel. It lays under contribution most Roman poets from Ennius on, as well as Roman comedy and tragedy and some prose authors, notably Apuleius, Cicero and Petronius.

The layout of the Diccionario is as follows: an 'Indice' listing the dictionary articles with their initial page numbers, a brief 'Prólogo', a 'Nota preliminar' explaining reference conventions, the articles (some 150) arranged alphabetically from 'Aborto' to 'Zoophilia', a bibliography, three indexes (Verborum Latinorum, Verborum Graecorum, and Rerum Memorabilium), and biographical notes on the 21 authors (affiliated to various Spanish Universities) responsible for individual articles.

The Prólogo (by Luis Rivero García) describes in detail the genesis and progress of the project that brought the Diccionario to fruition. Its prime mover was Prof. Antonio Ramírez de Verger, who has led the research initiatives that have brought Classics at the University of Huelva to prominence over the last twenty years. 'Motivos amatorios' are one of his long-standing interests (his editions of Ovid include indexes of erotic motifs); and the project developed under the umbrella of long-term research projects directed by him and funded by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science. Work on the Diccionario proceeded as follows: the relevant Latin literature was distributed to a number of collaborators (including the eventual authors of the articles) whose task was to extract the relevant material from each Latin author or work, This material was then categorized on the basis of a list of motifs drawn up by the collaborators after repeated consultations. Finally, it was homogenized and handed over to the scholars mandated to write articles on specific motifs.

Each article follows a standard formula: its title (in Spanish), usually glossed immediately by the Latin (and sometimes also the Greek) equivalent; cross-references to other articles of the Diccionario; the body of the article, starting with general information about the Greek precedents (where they exist) and then the Roman content, and continuing where necessary with appended subheadings in alphabetical order (cross-references to other articles may also appear anywhere in the body); a list of relevant Latin terms with their sources; and (usually) a bibliography of secondary works referred to. A concrete example will illustrate: the article title RUPTURA is glossed with renuntiatio amoris, and then cross-referred to the articles DESENGAÑO, HASTÍO, RECONCILIACIÓN, SEPARACIÓN. The body of RUPTURA lists examples of the genre renuntiatio amoris and treats its topoi; the subheadings which follow are 'causas de la ruptura', 'desenamoramiento', 'dificultad de la empresa', 'divorcio', 'reproches y amenazas', 'ruptura definitiva'. The appended lengthy list of relevant Latin terms begins 'ab aliqua se expellere (Ter. Heaut. 261)' and ends with 'valere' (with a number of references). Eleven items of secondary literature constitute the concluding bibliography. RUPTURA is a brief, two-page article, but others are longer, and some are very long indeed. MILICIA DE AMOR, for example, extends over eleven pages, and has over fifty subheadings. Since all the sub-headings relate to different aspects of warfare, this arrangement is both logical and easily graspable. But the same format does not lend itself so easily to some other long articles, e.g. AMADO and AMANTE (which get two entries apiece, one for each gender) and AMOR, and the problems of classification which faced the compilers become more visible, both in the frequency of internal cross-references throughout these articles, and in the comparative brevity of their bibliographies (and in one case the absence of a bibliography).

Especially given the difficulties inevitably inherent in the creation of any multi-authored work such as this and the classificatory problems presented by its subject-matter, the Diccionario is a remarkably success. Its coverage is more than ample. On the sexual side every distinguishable form of activity has a separate article devoted to it, in addition to the general article SEXO, which cross-refers to many of them. In the erotic sphere, apart from the major articles listed above and others of a more general nature such as AMOR EN LA VEJEZ, there are individual entries for most of the major topoi, character types, and events of Roman literary love. The mix can be seen in the entries under most letters: D, for example, contains DECLARACIÓN DE AMOR, DEFECTOS FISICOS DE LA AMADA, DEFINICIÓN DE AMOR, DESCRIPCIÓN DE LA BELLEZA DE LA AMADA, DESDÉN, DESENGAÑO, DESEO, DESNUDEZ, DILEMA, DIOSES DE AMOR, and DUEÑA.

Because of the way in which the project was organized, little, if any, of the obvious primary evidence seems to have escaped notice or inclusion. I combed through a number of Diccionario articles on topics which I have researched in the past, but failed to find significant gaps in the textual material cited. The Diccionario's coverage of secondary literature is, however, not as complete, and sometimes seems idiosyncratic, and this can cause primary texts which are less obviously relevant to be missed. For example, the article RONDA DE AMOR, which treats the activities of the exclusus amator, cites thirteen secondary items. Of these five relate to post- classical poetry, and reflect the Diccionario's interest in (although never exhaustive treatment of) the Nachleben of genres and motifs, which unsurprisingly manifests itself largely within the Hispanic cultural sphere. All of the remaining eight references are relevant to the classical motif of the exclusus amator, and of course they include Copley's essential monograph of that name.1 But some more recent important treatments are absent, among them P. Pinotti 'Propert. IV 9: Alessandrinismo e arte allusiva', GIF n.s. 8 (1977) 50-71 and Fedeli's commentary on Propertius 1.16 (even though this elegy is frequently cited in the article). As a consequence the genre in question is more thinly represented than it could have been, with, for example, Propertius 1.3 and 4.9 making no appearance. It is not clear to me whether secondary bibliographies were part of the original plan for the Diccionario and whether a common policy on bibliography was imposed on contributors.

Overall the Diccionario offers a vast amount of information which supplements, and often supersedes, earlier reference works. Older handbooks of the C. Forberg,2 G. Vorberg,3 and P. Pierrugues4 variety can certainly be retired, although J. Henderson5 and K. Dover6 will still be needed on the Greek side, and J.N. Adams,7 C.A. Williams,8 and T. McGinn9 on the Roman side. Another old friend who will retain his place on the shelf is R. Pichon.10 Very many of the erotic terms in Pichon's Index must surely be present somewhere in the Diccionario, but how can they be found? The copious lists of Latin words and terms appended to articles are not indexed; this is reasonable in itself, since doing so would have swelled the Diccionario considerably beyond its current boundaries. But unfortunately it means that to access much of the Diccionario's lexical data it will be necessary to guess where a term or phrase appears. I was initially worried also on another score — that non-Spanish-speaking students in particular might find it hard to locate certain motifs and information. The longer and more complex articles do, it is true, set out their sub-divisions as clearly as they can, but the motifs within them are not always accessibly indexed, and finding them may require browsing. For example one of the sub-headings of AMOR is 'causa de cambios en actitudes y aficiones'. That is perfectly clear, but neither the index of Latin words nor the Index Rerum Memorabilium has an entry under a form of mutare or 'cambios' to point to it. Again the lemma of an article may not readily indicate its content: someone looking for the lover's poverty might not halt at CONTIGO, PAN Y CEBOLLA, or someone seeking the lover's devoted labours at CONTIGO, AL FIN DEL MUNDO. Eventually, however, I concluded that this inconvenience can for the most part be overcome if all three indexes are consulted, in which case the target motif can usually be located.

Any small niggles in what is said above should not conceal the real and substantial value of the Diccionario. The Diccionario is a great achievement, and those responsible deserve congratulation. It is a veritable gold- mine of erudition; and where the scope of the articles' titles allowed, they frequently provide a happy mixture of ancient references, narrative, and analysis. I cannot think that any scholar or student of Latin erotic literature who encounters the Diccionario will want to be deprived of further access to it; and since it is published at a very low price, it is well within the pockets even of graduate students, let alone scholars.


1.  F.O. Copley, Exclusus amator: a study in Latin love poetry (Philological Monographs published by the American Philological Association 17), Baltimore 1956.
2.  K.F. Forberg, Antonii Panormitae Hermaphroditus, Coburg 1821.
3.  G. Vorberg, Glossarium Eroticum, Stuttgart 1932.
4.  P. Pierrugues, Glossarium eroticum linguae Latinae, Paris 1826.
5.  J. Henderson, The Maculate Muse, New Haven 1975
6.  K.J. Dover, Greek Homosexuality, London 1978.
7.  J.N. Adams, The Latin Sexual Vocabulary, London 1982.
8.  C.A. Williams, Roman Homosexuality: Ideologies of Masculinity in Classical Antiquity. Oxford 1999.
9.  T.A.J. McGinn, Prostitution, Sexuality, and the Law in Ancient Rome, New York and Oxford 1998.
10.  R. Pichon, Index verborum amatoriorum (=De sermone amatorio apud Latinos elegiarum scriptores, Diss. Paris [1902] 75-303), repr. Hildesheim 1966.

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