Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Lucio Cristante, Luciano Lenaz, Martiani Capellae De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii. Vol. 1, Libri I - II. Bibliotheca Weidmanniana, 15.1. Hildesheim: Weidmann, 2011. Pp. xciv, 406. ISBN 9783615003918. €68.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Danuta Shanzer, Institut für Klassische Philologie, Mittel- und Neulatein, Universität Wien​ (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

This collaborative edition and commentary with an Italian translation of Martianus Capella's De Nuptiis 1-2 began in the 1990s with a translation of Books 1-2 by Lenaz with annotation for the general reader. A change of press followed that enabled it to be re-written at greater length with a different focus. Lenaz's notes on Books 1-2 formed the nucleus, but were updated and expanded by Cristante and his then doctoral advisee I. Filip (attributions on p. 94). The commentary on Book 2 is presented as a light revision of Lenaz's magisterial work of 1975 (with a nicer layout than the original).1 P. Ferrarino's "La prima, e l'unica, Reductio omnium artium ad philologiam, Il De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii di Marziano Capella e l'apoteosi della filologia"2 plus two unpublished membra disiecta of Ferrarino's on "Philosophy and Philology" and on the "Continuity of the Method" are (re)printed at the end. The volume is considered provisional, and there are plans for a web site of the text and commentary that will enable ongoing updates (ix). Since much of this material has been previously published, I will concentrate on the new material related to Book 1. A version of this review longer than fits the parameters of BMCR will appear in Wiener Studien.

This is neither a critical edition with apparatus, nor a "virtual edition" (where departures from a known standard text are noted in a negative apparatus), but a composite text furnished with a collation of Willis' and Dick's texts. The hitch: while departures can be clearly seen if one looks at the table on pp. lxxxvi-xciv, their ontological status is at first unclear. Both manuscript readings and conjectures are reduced to one level, and one cannot discern the authority behind, or nature of, any given reading without recourse to the notes.3 Sometimes even there the source of a conjecture is unclear.4

The text is deeply conservative. There are dark hints in the introduction (vii "interventi;" l "peggiori servizi") about excessively interventionist textual criticism, presumably a backlash against Willis (and perhaps myself). The editors do not feel that the paradosis is as hopeless as previous editors all the way back to Securus Melior Felix in late antiquity had suggested. (There are moments when one wonders whether "stato della tradizione" means essentially Dick's edition!)5 And they rarely saw an emendation they didn't dislike. Only occasionally is a reading of the archetype labeled "absurd."6 The authors at lxxxiii say that there is no reliable edition or acceptable translation, thinking presumably of Willis, Stahl-Johnson-Burge, and Ramelli.7 The latter, after being reviewed rather summarily in one journal,8 here suffers damnatio memoriae, banished even from the bibliography.9 There is likewise, we are reminded, no comprehensive commentary. While Books 1 and 2 have, it is true, not yet appeared, the authors do not mention the editions of other books (4, [Ferré, 2007] 7 [Guillaumin, 2003]); appearing in the Collection des Universités de France. The implication is clear: Martianus has been going to hell in a hand-basket since Kopp in 1836.

This reviewer cowers sheepishly as the author of a previous translation and commentary on Book 1 (1986).10 But Martianus is difficult, and times have changed. Digital resources have considerably simplified certain sorts of research. This review provides an opportunity to revisit and rethink Martianus more than two decades later. After all, Wissenschaft, as Max Weber rightly said, is the profession in which one's work is meant to be superseded, surpassed, and outdated.11 And we should thank the authors for trying to bring the bibliography on the text up-to-date12 and working new material into Lenaz's commentary on Book 2.13

The introduction touches on historical problems such as dating. It does not take account of Hays, B.G. "The Date and Identity of the Mythographer Fulgentius." JMLat 13 (2003): 163-252 for a new, and much later, dating of Fulgentius. The authors date Securus' subscription early (498) with Cameron, arguing (lix) that many decades would be needed before the text became mendosissimus, thereby presumably seeking to push back Martianus' date to earlier in the 5th C. Plausible sounding — but, from what one can observe in medieval traditions, where autograph and earliest witnesses are contemporary, not a "slam dunk." The issue is not intervening time, but the quality of the first copyings.

In 1986 I argued that Dracontius, Reposianus, the Aegritudo Perdicae, and Martianus were contemporary.14 Since Dracontius has known chronological coordinates, this suggested a date under the Vandals in the later 5th C. The authors fail to discuss or take on these arguments in the appropriate place, namely at lviii-lvix, and coyly date the work to the 4th-5th centuries (liii), alluding at l to a "presunta età tarda." Cristante had already passed over my discussion in his Reposianus (1999), though he did mention Martianus, as of uncertain date.15 He is, however, inclined, to follow16 his compatriot Gualandri, who, argued that Dracontius used Reposianus!17 My argumentation is swatted aside in the commentary to 1.1 at p. 97 "non sembrano probanti." Where is the "because . . ." that we regularly exhort our graduate students to include?

Instead, the only information about the date that the authors countenance is (lviii) Schievenin's idea18 that 9.999 proconsulari vero dantem culmini must refer to the Byrsa. Now the Byrsa is occasionally called an arx, but never a culmen, mons, or collis. But proconsulari . . . culmini might best be seen within the context of late antique bureaucratic honorifics, where high offices (e.g. prefectures and consulships) are frequently designated as a culmina.19 The text is probably corrupt,20 there were proconsuls (Victorianus of Hadrumetum and Pacideius are known, probably serving as judges), under the Vandals, and one fails to see how a terminus ante quem of 429 follows inevitably. Yet the commentary is multivocal (at 308 Symphosius, Vandalic, is said to be contemporary of, or slightly later than Martianus!). Fortunately the evidence for the date with a full bibliography can now be found in C. O. Tommasi's fine new, Bee-Orchid.21 (On a related question, at lxxv the commentators sound curiously skeptical about the metrical tractate in Oxford, Bodleian Addit. C. 144 that Mario de Nonno attributed to Martianus, pending the publication of the full text.22)

The commentary is annoying if one doesn't know the text by heart because the authors have not provided references for every lemma, only discreet running heads that might easily be taken for page numbers. Kopp chapters are too long, and some subsystem of reference, such as sentence-numbers, would have been desirable.

Some general points. Imagine that Position A used to be standard. Scholar B then came and argued for Position B. Should Commentator C ignore or dismiss B without refutation? Or has the onus probandishifted with B's argumentation, so that C needs to take account of B rather than just reasserting A? This reviewer believes that once a non-risible argued counter-opinion is "out there," it needs to be responded to. One cannot just shovel sand over it and hope no one will notice, or dismiss it with "pace" or ignore it. There is a considerable amount of the silent treatment here,23 which detracts from progress. That is one pole. At the other end comes what seems like compulsion to disagree for disagreement's sake.24

Profound philosophical differences divide the approach of the Italian team and those of Martian scholars from the Anglo-American tradition. The former tilt against pretty much each and every emendation from Grotius' to my own. The invariable answer: "non è necessario," or "né è necessario."25 The attitude to hapax legomena is schizophrenic. Some must be removed; 26 some defended even at cost to the relationship between text and translation.27 What can one say? Part of the work of the commentator and textual critic is to point to, or discern problems, even if they can't be solved. Diagnostic conjectures can approach problems humbly but constructively. The work would be more useful if it addressed divergences from Willis directly and discussed the underlying issues in places where Willis and others have offered emendations that the editors here reject. But the nonchalance of the notes merely displaces problems to the translation.

The translation can be ad sensum rather than ad verbum. The authors will defend some reading peremptorily, only to glide over it or elide it in the translation. Many of these re-assertions of the paradosis raise greater questions than they solve.28 There is often fuzziness and lack of precision about which word means what and what work it is doing in the sentence. In one place the translation and the note seem to have been written by different people who had not communicated.29

New parallels can be very helpful, and there are some nice contributions in this area: e.g. 1.2 Porph. Abst. 4.9.5; 1.10 Symm. Ep. 4.33; 1.11 Indicus mons: Apollo allegedly lured to Colophon (Lact. Inst. 1.7), but what of the tone? ; 1.17 risum Iovis and its possible relation to creation in Hermetic texts; 1.39 proximo contiguoque as legal language with parallels from the CTh. 2.123 cui panditur . . . tonantis: citation of CIL 6.1779 epitaph of Praetextatus; 2.133 lectica: information about imperial litters.

Someone sat down at the Library of Latin Texts and went iunctura-hunting, a laudable modern luxury. But the results, about which we are incessantly informed ('il nesso non è altrimenti attestato"), fail to meet the "So what?"-test. This iunctura only occurs here30 or in multiple places ("here" and "here" and "here.")31 The information's function is unclear.32 These iuncturae do not demonstrate anything, but seem to be information for information's sake. Occasionally their indiscriminate inclusion undermines the argument in the note.33 Electronic information repositories seem to be excessively popular in many contemporary commentaries.34

This volume yearns for yesteryear's snows and wars. It beats a dead horse about Martianus' Greek (lv) and also his lowly cultural niveau, speaking (lii) of "pregiudizi duri a morire: l'autore sarebbe troppo tardo e quindi troppo ignorante e maldestro per presentare consapevolezza della propria operazione culturale." Hell no! Martianus has come a long way, baby. See now (amazingly!) J. Henderson reviewing Schievenin in this very venue.35

When the author of one commentary reviews another one on the same text, the situation can feel uncomfortable or invidious. Commentaries should identify problems, attempt to solve them, present new ideas and future lines of research. Much of this commentary tells us that there are no problems; it is hard to pinpoint new solutions to problems in the new material here,36 and likewise new constructive ideas. Immense progress was made by Robert Turcan's dissertation,37 by Lenaz's 1975 commentary, and by James Willis' 1983 Teubner edition. Unfortunately I cannot say the same of the new material in this commentary.

[For a response to this review by Lucio Cristante, please see BMCR 2013.08.25.]


1.   There seems to be more than light revision.
2.   IMU 12 (1969): 1-7.
3.   E.g. My conjecture (virago for vertigo at 2.170) is listed as Willis' reading with no further clarification (324). The same happened to Grotius' cunctamento at 1.6.
4.   2.125 Platoni[s]: p. 287 "si propone di leggere . . ." Comparison with L. Lenaz, Martianus Capella: De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii liber secundus. Introduzione, traduzione e commento (Padova: 1975), 196 suggests that McDonough had already chosen this reading ("lezione"). But neither Willis' nor Dick's apparatus show any variant in the MSS.
5.   E.g. the assertion (100) that my "nugales ineptias" is a "doppia emendazione," despite the fact that ineptias is a transmitted reading. Nugales is the emendation: Dick read "nugulas ineptas."
6.   1.37 limata, 177.
7.   Ramelli, I. Le nozze di Filologia e Mercurio: testo latino a fronte. (Milano: 2001).
8.   Schievenin, Romeo. "Trappole e misteri di una traduzione." BStudLat 33.2 (2003): 581-90.
9.   She may be the target at p. L, n. 14 on "disconcerting recent attempts to translate."
10.   D. R. Shanzer, A Philosophical and Literary Commentary on Martianus Capella's De Nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii Liber 1 (Berkeley: 1986).
11.   "Science as a Profession and Vocation," in H. H. Bruun and S. Whimster, eds., Max Weber: Collected Methodological Writings (London: 2012), 341.
12.   Important omissions noted: Fontanella, V. "Mercurio alla ricerca di Apollo-Sole. La teoria geoeliocentrica di Eraclide Pontico nel De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii di Marziano Capella, libro I 8-26." AIVeneto 135 (1977): 305-22. And the more recent Fontanella, V. "L'apoteosi di Virtù : (Mart. Cap. 1, 7-26)." Latomus 51 (1992): 34-51. Also Shanzer, D. R. "Augustine's Disciplines: Silent diutius Musae Varronis?" In Augustine and the Disciplines, ed. K. Pollmann and M. Vessey. 69-112. Oxford, 2005, would have been relevant for lv, lxvii-ix, and 271. At 95-96 I argue that the debate is about whether the liberal arts will be presented by personifications or not.
13.   E.g. Turcan [op. cit. at n. 37 infra] on initiation at 251; the material on the Oracula Chaldaica in the commentary on 2.202-206, pp. 343-44.
14.   Shanzer, A Philosophical and Literary Commentary, 17-21.
15.   L. Cristante, Reposiani Concubitus Martis et Veneris, Bollettino dei classici. Supplemento (Roma: 1999), 8-9.
16.   ibid., 9. "tendo a concordare con Isabella Gualandri nel considerarlo imitato."
17.   I. Gualandri, "Problemi draconziani," RIstLomb 108 (1974): 882: traces a line from the Pervigilium Veneris to Reposianus and thence to Dracontius.
18.   Schievenin, R. "Marziano Capella e il proconsulare culmen," Latomus 45 (1986): 797-815.
19.   Amm. Marc. 28.4.3 ex magistro officiorum, ad proconsulatum geminum indeque multo postea ad praefecturae culmen euectus; Paul. Pell. 34 illic, ut didici, ter senis mensibus actis/sub genitore meo proconsule rursus ad aequor/expertasque uias reuocor, uisurus et orbis inclita culminibus praeclarae moenia Romae. Aus. Praef. 1.35 cuius ego comes et quaestor et, culmen honorum; Cass. Var. 1.42 ad praefecturae urbanae culmen erigimus; Cod. Theod. 6.6.1; 7.4.32; 14.16.1 a tui culminis indagine; Ruf. HE 9.1.2 praefecturae culmen regebat; Paul. Petr. 2.655 Arborius, mundi eximio perfunctus honore, /clarus praecelsae qui culmine praefecturae, etc.praefectus Gallis et Libyae et Latio.
20.   At least as regards vero. Schievenin notes that vero is one of the weakest adversatives and translates "generazioni ignoranti ti hanno visto, rabbioso, soppesare nei processi blateramenti canini e rivolgerli inoltre al culmen proconsulare."
21.   C. O. Tommasi, The Bee-Orchid: Religione e cultura in Marziano Capella, ed. C. Moreschini, Storie e Testi (Napoli: 2012), 19-32, supporting the later dating.
22.   M. de Nonno, "Un nuovo testo di Marziano Capella : la metrica," RFIC 118 (1990) 129-44. Their skepticism dates back a while. See Cristante, L. 1997: «Dal Tardoantico al Medioevo: il De Nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii di Marziano Capella e la tradizione delle artes nella scuola carolingia», in H. Schefers (ed.), Einhard. Studien zu Leben und Werk dem Gedenken an Helmut Beumann gewidmet, Darmstadt, 57-66, at 64.
23.   E.g. at xlv: Where are Willis' many textual critical articles on the De Nuptiis?
24.   E.g. the note on 1.7 diadema: the authors insist in disagreement with me that the diadem cannot represent eternity, although Jove took it from the head of Aeternitas. It must, according to them, be a symbol of royalty. Psyche's immortality is guaranteed, they say, not by the diadem, but by Jove's symbolic gesture. [[25] Exceptionally: 2.142, p. 306: an emendation of mine is characterized as 'facilior;" also 2.157, p. 317 where an interpretative suggestion of mine is argued to be, "inutile." At 2.199 a suggestion of Willis' is partially exploited.
26.   1.6 luculentas : luculent<i>tas.
27.   1.8 semivulsis, where the "semi"-element seems unexplained in relationship to vello, i.e. why not simply "avulsis?".
28.   E.g. Lvii discussing 9.931 quia eadem voce nos uti summus Iuppiter statuit (rejecting Willis' conjecture vetuit, which seems required by the sense: after all the note is called adquisitus in Latin, not proslambanomenos. "The first note is called the "proslambanomenos" by the Greeks, but among the Romans, because Jupiter ordered/forbade us to use the same word, it is called "'adquisitus.'" The construction of statuo without ut is anomalous. Also Lxxxi, n. 99 Willis' excision of visum at 6.579 'videbis istic depingi quidquid verbis [visum] non valeas explicare' is rejected. With the excision, the sentence means, "You will see depicted in it (i.e. the geometrical sand-board) whatever you are not able to set out in words. If one keeps visum, the position of verbis is awkward for construction with explicare. The commentators seem to want to construe quidquid visum together as "whatever image produced by the mind that cannot find expression in words," despite the fact that with that hyperbaton, verbis would have to modify visum (which is nonsensical). The net meaning of the sentence with Willis's expunction is the same as what the translators suggest, but without serious problems with the word-order.
29.   The note on 1.2 nictantis problematizes nictans as meaning "sleepy," (though the translation reads "mezzo addormentato") and draws attention to "blink" or "wink." The note cites Porph. Abst. 6.4.7 where Egyptian priests are said to be able to prevent themselves from blinking, even though they have stayed up all night. The point is presumably that Martianus has the unblinkingness of the good Egyptian priests in mind and that there is contrast imitation. But the note sounds garbled and could be better reconciled with the translation.
30.   For example at pp. 105 (a plethora of such notes), 116, 141, 143, 153, 154, 162, 175, 213, 295, 307, to name only a few.
31.   For example at pp. 107, 113, 115, 118, 146, 174.
32.   Typical is 1.7, p. 116 pasci foverique. Does "ripreso' mean that Verecundus knew Martianus? That Cl. Marius Victor wrote later than Martianus? If so, then these author's use of Martianus (if that is right), needs to be taken into account for purposes of dating.
33.   The note on 2.14 deorum sociari coetibus lists a few later Christian items that have angel,* not deor*. And the note on 2.132 gesticulationes consonas contains a random piece of information, that the "nesso" also occurs in Conradus de Mure. At 1.6 cuncta merito, Augustine, De Gen. ad litt. 3.16 is cited, which reads in fact cuncta merito considerata. At 1.19 the information supplied about vestigia (p. 142) in Martianus cuts both ways: both "traces," and "feet." At 1.21 mansura voluntas the parallel from Augustine simply isn't apposite: mansura does not modify voluntas in it.
34.   I am being less kind about the usefulness and purpose of such information than was D. P. Fowler, "Criticism as commentary and commentary as criticism in the age of electronic media," in Commentaries - Kommentare, ed. G. W. Most, Aporemata (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1999), 434 on the "infamous cf." For the essential problem see R.W. Mathisen in BMCR 2011.07.41.
35.   BMCR 2011.03.84.
36.   The team were braver than I and took on the sixteen regions of the heavens and the Liver of Piacenza with the expert guidance of G. Capdeville, "Les dieux de Martianus Capella," RHistR 233, no. 3 (1996): 251-99.
37.   R. Turcan, Ésotérisme et néoplatonisme chez Martianus Capella (1954).

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