Monday, May 6, 2013


Andrea Cucchiarelli, Alfonso Traina, Publio Virgilio Marone. Le Bucoliche. Lingue e letterature Carocci, 141. Roma: Carocci editore, 2012. Pp. 533. ISBN 9788843055302. €48.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Richard F. Thomas, Harvard University (

Version at BMCR home site

Three opening pages of Andrea Cucchiarelli's impressive commentary on the Eclogues set the collection in their political and Roman context, as in that of the Hellenistic genre in which they find their origin. The introduction proper begins 1) with the mandatory question of dating, seeing three phases of composition, with a sampling of the earliest poems before a select audience in 42–41 BCE, with further composition and revision in a three-year period down to 39, and final publication between 38 and 37. Both here and on Eclogue. 8.6 (addressee Pollio) there is little room for the late dating of 35 BCE (addressee Octavian). Next 2) comes a short section on the biographical question, generally sceptical on allowing Tityrus to stand for Virgil, for instance; then 3) a section on poet, shepherds and mimesis, followed 4) by "Arcadia, escapism and Epicureanism." Section 5, on the bucolic book, treats 5.1) title—Virgil called it Bucolica, while ecloga, post-Virgilian but ancient, should be permitted for individual poems, also called in antiquity by the name of main shepherd, or other character e.g., 1 Tityrus, 4 Pollio, etc.; 5.2 order and structure, the chief principles being those of continuity (Eclogue 5 cites 2 and 3 for instance) and balance, with the sum of the verses of the sets quite close: Eclogue 1 + 9 = 150 verses, 4 + 6 = 149, 2 + 8 = 183, 3+7 =181. It is not clear what such numerological reflection really amounts to, and not all (e.g., some to be found in p. 31, n. 40) will be happy with this section; 5.3 language and style; 5.4 meter. Section 6 briefly treats the textual tradition.

On p. 85 Cuchiarelli notes that his text concurs with Mynors' OCT in all but four places, the exceptions being: Eclogue 2.7 coges for cogis , mostly under the influence of Theocritus 3.9 (ποήσεις). On balance Clausen's defense of cogis looks right: "the reading of the better MS, less obvious, and more dramatic"; Eclogue 4.52 laetantur for laetentur, also preferred by Clausen (in his commentary; his text is that of the OCT): "lectio difficilior, and conforms to Virgil's practice"—that is aspice, + ut and indicative as direct exclamation, rather than indirect with the subjunctive (true also of the other three examples in Virgil); Eclogue 6.33 exordia, the vulgate (in Macrobius and DServius and in R), over ex omnia (P,V and M are not witnesses for this line). Cucchiarelli acknowledges this as one of the most difficult textual choices in Virgil, and while he opts for exordia, allows the possibility that ex omnia is authentic. The case of the latter is strengthened by the parallel instances in Clausen of Lucretian anastrophe that make Virgil's his ex omnia primis quite Lucretian; Eclogue 8.43 duris for nudis, correctly I believe. Eclogue 1.15 silice in nuda supports Mynors (also Ribbeck and Geymonat), while Aeneid 4.366 duris . . . cautibus supports Cucchiarelli's choice (MS support on both sides), with the context (hardheartedness of Cupid and Aeneas in Eclogue 8 and Aeneid 4 respectively) clinching it for duris. Otherwise Cucchiarelli, following the vulgate (DServius, a corrector of P, and the Carolingian MSS), assigns Eclogue 9.46–50 to Moeris, while M and P assign 44–50 to Lycidas, with the older Moeris breaking in at 51–55 to lament his own lack of memory and inability to continue the song. Though I favor the choice of the OCT there are legitimate arguments on either side, and none of the preceding suggests that Cucchiarelli is otherwise than a judicious editor with whose judgment one can differ, but never with complete confidence.

There is a facing translation into lively Italian by Alfonso Traina, which characterizes itself (p. 87) as trying to reconcile semantics/meaning and rhythm without being either poetic or literal. In fact, the translation has a poetic feel to it and yet is a faithful representation of the poetry of the Eclogues. It follows Virgil line for line, and even enjambment for enjambment, but unlike Ahl's extremely close English hexameter version of the Aeneid (Oxford 2007), which like Virgil's has between thirteen and seventeen syllables per line (spondaic lines asidfe, or Ruden's ten-to-eleven syllable iambic pentameter version of the same poem (New Haven 2008) Traina's syllabic count goes from the low teens to the low twenties. He is thus permitted to attend more freely to meaning, nuance, ambiguity and the like.

The commentary to each eclogue is preceded by an essay along with bibliographical items, totalling three to seven pages for each poem. The bibliographical items are in two groups, the first including treatments of the poem in general, the second for specific questions, with line numbers or topics helpfully indicated, e.g., within Eclogue 1, "Galinsky (2006) (libertas: v. 27)."

I give samplings from Cucchiarelli's commentary, chosen at random, also at times bringing in Coleman's 1977 "Cambridge green and yellow" (222 pages of commentary), which was not superseded seventeen years later by Clausen's 1994 "Oxford blue" (282 pages)—as Clausen has not been, eighteen years later by Cucchiarelli's "Carocci orange" (381 pages). The Eclogues are difficult, complex, intensely multifarious, poems, and with the addition of Cucchiarelli, upper level Latin students (with Italian), graduate students, and scholars in particular are well served indeed.

A single line: Eclogue 1.19 urbem quam dicunt Romam Coleman: "the solemn sequence of heavy syllables with which he begins is appropriate to the theme." Clausen: "note the solemn spondaic rhythm: Rome is not mentioned elsewhere in the Eclogues." Cucchiarelli's lemma is considerably longer, also notes the solemnity, along with a new ingredient: "una solenne perifrasi in stile arcaico," comparing Dido's words from Aeneid 1.573 urbem quam statuo vestra est. No citation is given to support the claim of archaism, generally made by commentators for the Aeneid line, an instance of so-called attractio inversa—in reality "deletion of the nominative urbs from the matrix clause 'i.e. urbs vestra est] and fronting the accusative urbem around the relative pronoun in the relative clause" (C. Watkins, How To Kill A Dragon. Oxford 1995: 541, n. 2). But in Eclogue 1.19 fronted urbem is simply the normal object of putavi: urbem . . . putavi . . . huic nostrae similem—so Aeneid 1.573 is not parallel at all, and there is no reason to think of Eclogue 1.19 as archaic. Cucchiarelli is however right to tie the low register of the line to Tityrus' self-designation as stultus, a quotidian word otherwise in Virgil only at Eclogue 2.39, in the mouth of Corydon, also noted by Clausen.

An identity krisis: Eclogue 3.40 et quis fuit alter? Who was the figure accompanying Conon the Hellenistic astronomer on the cups of Menalcas? The shepherd can't remember, an exquisite way of drawing attention to the forgotten name, and part of the general riddling nature of Eclogue 3. Where Clausen named the seven possibilities listed in the Verona Scholia, then expressed a slight preference for Archimedes, whose name alone of the seven does not fit the hexameter (hence Menalcas' memory lapse), Cucchiarelli digs a little deeper: he only mentions two of the seven (Clausen is more helpful there) but with imaginative support for each: Eudoxus of Cnidus, whose prose treatise was the chief source for Aratus' Phaenomena, and Aratus himself. If Eudoxus, there is delicious irony in the forgetting of a name that means "of good fame"—and Cucchiarelli well notes that Eudoxus himself played on the etymology in fr. 6 Lasserre of his own Astronomica; or Aratus himself, whose name may be thinly concealed two lines later (41 arator), and the opening of whose Phaenomena is clearly behind the opening of the amoebean contest a few lines later (60–61). Cucchiarelli then neatly suggests Menalcas' weaknesses in his memory of Greek astronomers may motivate Damoetas' decision to put an astronomical riddle to Menalcas (which he does not answer) at the end of the poem. Here as throughout Cucchiarelli is well-attuned to the allusive learning of these poems.

As for Cucchiarelli's treatment of that riddle (Eclogue 105 tris pateat caeli spatium non amplius ulnas "tell me where the extent of heaven is no more than three ulnae [ca. five feet]"), of the five possibilities he favors two and elaborates brilliantly: 1) an astronomical representation, but not the celestial globe of Archimedes (as suggested by Martyn), rather Eudoxus' Ἔνοπτρον ("Mirror"a work "reflecting" the sky) or Phaenomena, or perhaps Aratus' version of the latter (and what about Cicero's Aratea for that matter?); 2) the shield of Ajax, which would then provide a connection to the second riddle at 106–7, "Tell me in what lands flowers spring up inscribed with the names of kings," generally taken to refer to the design on the hyacinth (sloping lines resembling the name AIAS). This would then invoke both the Ajax aetiology and the connection between the hyacinth and the lament for Hyacinthus—so bringing in the Hellenistic poet Euphorion, who wrote on the topic, and through him Cornelius Gallus (cf. Eclogue 10.50–1). If the riddles are then asking "Where are Eudoxus, Aratus, Euphorion and Gallus" Cucchiarelli notes the implied ironic response: "everywhere!"

A famous opening passage: Eclogue 6.1–12 . Cucchiarelli like Clausen has good notes on the use of forms of primus in claims for generic primacy in Lucretius, Horace, Propertius, and in Virgil himself (Georgics 3.10–11). But he goes further, for instance on the significance of the Callimachean Cynthius at Eclogue 6. 3, and on the transformation from Λύκιος to Cynthius; Cucchiarelli is fuller on pinguis . . . ovis noting the bucolicizing of the Callimachean intertext θύος ("sacrifical offering") from Aetia fr. 1.23 Pf. Cucchiarelli on the other hand does not rehearse the evidence in Clausen, or the reference to Axelson, for the intensely prosaic register of oportet, nor does he ask why such a register is struck during refined translation of Callimachus. Clausen, citing Ross, plausibly suggests the apparent oddity may be explained by Catullus' use of oportet in Poem 70.4, itself a translation of a Callimachean epigram. Cucchiarelli does however add something in noting the alliterative triad Pingues / Pascere oPortet ovis. Length and detail are inverted in the very next note, on deductum dicere carmen, where Clausen cites Servius to the effect the metaphor is from the working of wool (made explicit by Horace Epistle 2.1.225 tenui deducta poemata filo). Cucchiarelli begins from these references—also available in Coleman—but goes beyond in useful ways, exploring the Greek background and noting the Indo-European origins of the metaphor, and returning to further discussion of the Roman engagement in Propertius, Ovid, Quintilian and others.

Parenthetic apposition/schema Cornelianum: Eclogue1.57, 2.3, 3.3, 7.21, 9.9. Cucchiarelli's treatment of this phenomenon demonstrates the more discursive nature of his commentary, which I mean unambiguously as a compliment. It also reveals in microcosm the advances in philological and literary understanding of the Eclogues and of Roman poetry that have gone on in recent decades, not least in the work of younger Italian scholars. Coleman only noticed the instance at 2.3 densas, umbrosa cacumina, fagos pointing for "the insertion of the appositional phrase"— and at 9.9, also of intratextual interest: veteres, iam fracta cacumina, fagos. Clausen on the other hand was able to profit from a valuable contribution on the topic by J. B. Solodow in HSCP 90 (1986) 129–53, listing instances from Archilochus to Ausonius. So at Eclogue1.57 Clausen produced a concise note, including not only the examples from elsewhere in the collection, but also the three instances from the Georgics and the one (defective) instance from the Aeneid, and two examples from Hellenistic poetry. His note on the other four Eclogues instances merely sends the reader back to the note in 1.57. All in all a good example of the tightness of Clausen's commentary, which repays close reading. Cucchiarelli's excellent treatment is not confined to one note, and reading each of the lemmata pays off in a variety of ways. Just to single out the note on 1.57, he is able to take advantage of a 1995 article (i.e. a year after publication of Clausen's commentary) in MD by Traina, which argues, contra Skutsch, that Ennius, Annales Dubia 6–7 Skutsch constitutes an instance of such parenthetic apposition, or "schema Cornelianum, " a term Skutsch himself had coined in a 1956 RhM contribution that argued the device must be prevalent in Cornelius Gallus. Cucchiarelli does however think the concentration of the device in the Eclogues, even if it was in Ennius, is worth reflection, particularly since it recedes in the Aeneid, is found in elegy, and is hinted at in a particularly Gallan context at Eclogue.10.22 tua cura Lycoris. So Cucchiarelli ends up suggesting Gallus matters after all.

In this detail, as in much else, Cucchiarelli has produced an excellent commentary, and one that productively embraces ongoing hermeneutics rather than finality as part of the aim of commentary.

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