Thursday, September 13, 2012


Alberto Canobbio (ed.), M. Valerii Martialis. Epigrammaton liber quintus. Studi latini, 75. Napoli: Loffredo editore, 2011. Pp. 634. ISBN 9788875645045. €36.60 (pb).

Reviewed by Nina Mindt, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

With Alberto Canobbio's commentary on Martial's fifth book the exegesis of Martial's epigrams that began with Mario Citroni in 1975 on book one can be regarded nearly finished (only book twelve is still looking for a published commentary).1 The work of Peter Howell from 1995, also on Martial's book five,2 is considerably smaller and shows its origin for school teachers (BMCR 97.9.07). With Canobbio's new commentary the many questions remaining after Howell are finally answered. Canobbio is much more detailed (the book is over 600 pages!) and up to date, also in his methods and theoretical approaches. Moreover he gives a new, mostly convincing critical text – although without revolutions for interpretation – often in matters of punctuation and quotation marks.3 Comparisons withwith Lindsay, Heraeus and Shackleton Bailey (1990)are listed on pp. 60-63.

This commentary is the result of Canobbio's long occupation with Martial that has its beginnings with his PhD thesis on the epigrams in book five regarding the lex Roscia theatralis(1995-1999), published in 2002,4 which has generated a series of important articles. The reader of the commentary will recognize and appreciate Canobbio's profound knowledge and the balanced representation of current opinions in the growing body of scholarship on Martial.

The introduction (pp. 12-58) discusses Martial's fifth book in content, form, relation to Domitian, arrangement, date and Saturnalian context (Canobbio decides convincingly for a publication in December 89 C.E.), transmission and modern textual criticism. The presentation of the arrangement and 'cycles' introduces well the main topics of these epigrams: the relation, established by various strategies, to Domitian and to the reader, to other patrons and friends. Canobbio shows how Martial's recuperation of Augustan models,5 mixed with his typical epigrammatical humor, leads to an explicit demand of patronage addressed to the new Augustus Domitian, invited to become a new Maecenas – and, we may add, to see in Martial the poet who is able to represent the new age like the Augustan classics once did.

The commentary itself gives first each epigram with Canobbio's critical text and an Italian prose translation, the main aim of which is helping the reader. Then Canobbio provides a survey of the epigram before he begins the ad- locum-commentary. There he examines Martial's language use with lexical explanations and parallels as well as the tradition of literary motifs and poetics in which Martial stands (or sets himself) and, in doing so, offers – within the limits of a commentary – an interpretation proper with nearly the quality of a short article. Canobbio never forgets the (socio-) historical background and sets the epigrams in their context. Sometimes he also takes account of the Nachleben (e.g. Sidonius Apollinaris in Late Antiquity or Walter Map's De nugis curialium, 12th century), although – understandably – not systematically. He integrates actual bibliographical references regarding special discussions ad locum. Studies mentioned more than once can be found in the bibliography without important omissions (pp. 595-611). A useful general index (of expressions, topics, names) concludes the book.

Perhaps this book should have been translated into English. Although Italian is an important research language in the fields of Classics, an English version would undoubtedly reach a wider audience – especially university students who need more detailed information than Howell 1995– a readership it (and Martial's book five) deserves.

Table of Contents

Premessa: 9
Introduzione: 11
1. Il libro quinto: hoc tibi, … Caesar: 11
2. Metro, lunghezza e ordinamento degli epigrammi: 20
3. Datazione del libro: 32
4. Tradizione del testo: 40
5. Edizioni critiche precedenti: 46
6. Criteri della presente edizione: 49
7. Testimoni utilizzati: 51
8. Conspectus siglorum: 59
9. Tavola comparativa: 60
M. Valerii Martialis Epigrammaton liber quintus: testo critico, traduzione e commento: 65
1. Edizioni di Marziale: 595
2. Abbreviazioni bibliografiche: 596
Indice generale: 613


1.   We have only the unpublished PhD thesis of M.N.R. Bowie, "Martial Book XII. A Commentary", diss. Oxford 1988.
2.   Howell, Peter (ed.). Martial: The Epigrams Book V. Warminster 1995.
3.   For example, Canobbio decides to set the lines 3-17 of 5.6 in quotation marks to make clear that the Muses, not 'Martial' speaks to Parthenius; thus Martial's clever way to pay compliments to Domitian becomes more obvious. In 5.14.2 he prefers the tradition recentior 'licebat' to 'liceret' chosen by the other editors and attested in the codices antiquiores but contrasting with Martial's usus scribendi: after tunc cum he usually uses the indicative mood. Therefore Canobbio follows testimonia of several humanists.
4.   Canobbio, Alberto. La lex Roscia theatralis e Marziale: il ciclo del libro V. Introduzione, edizione critica, traduzione e commento . Como 2002.
5.   On Martial searching for an Augustan identity in book eight see Canobbio, Alberto. "Il libro VIII di Marziale e la ricerca di una identità augustea". In: Modelli letterari e ideologia nell'età flavia. A cura di F. Gasti / G. Mazzoli. Como / Pavia 2005, 127-162.

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