Thursday, July 10, 2014


Paulo Farmhouse Alberto, David Paniagua (ed.), Ways of Approaching Knowledge in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages: Schools and Scholarship. Studia classica et mediaevalia, Bd 8. Nordhausen: Verlag Traugott Bautz, 2012. Pp. 348. ISBN 9783883097886. €40.00 (pb).

Reviewed by A.E.T. McLaughlin, University of Michigan (

Version at BMCR home site

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

This eighth volume of Studia Classica et Mediaevalia presents the proceedings of an International Meeting held at the Centro de Estudos Clássicos at the University of Lisbon in October 2011. In the short preface, the editors, Paulo Farmhouse Alberto and David Paniagua, call attention to late antiquity and the early middle ages as a period characterized by "an interest in preserving that [classical cultural] heritage and in transmitting it to posterity" (7). The book's thirteen contributions take this same attitude toward the time period, each interpreting "transmission" in its own way: some explore the transmission of classical Roman literature and texts, and others study the transmission of more abstract elements, such as rhetorical features or cultural phenomena. The scope is western, focusing on texts from Spain, Gaul/Francia, and Italy, from the sixth through tenth centuries. What most clearly links the collected essays, besides a shared interest in the transmission of Roman culture in the early middle ages, is a decidedly philological approach. It is refreshing to see scholars undertaking this necessary work for texts that are often overlooked by philologists in favor of earlier, more traditionally "classical" works. This book will surely interest students of late antique and early medieval literature and textual traditions, as well as students of classical literature interested in studying the transmission of certain works in early medieval manuscripts. Furthermore, the scholarship presented in this book contributes to the formation of a larger infrastructure of textual study that is useful to historians and scholars of other disciplines interested in late antique and early medieval Western Europe.

In addition to the collected essays, this book contains a short introduction by the editors and an index of manuscripts and an index of authors and works appearing at the end. Individual essays vary in length, subject matter, and language, with Italian, English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese all represented.1

In the first essay, Carmen Codoñer looks at the relationship between the formidable Carolingian compilation, the Liber Glossarum, and its possible relationship with shorter Spanish and Visigothic glossaries. Through a rigorous textual analysis of manuscripts of these other glossaries, often considered to be fragments or epitomes of the Liber Glossarum, Codoñer demonstrates that many variations among them were not taken from the Liber Glossarum but rather from other, earlier sources and concludes that they could not have been based on the Liber Glossarum.

The next four essays discuss the use of various classical works in late antique and early medieval (possible) school texts. Luigi Pirovano looks at the fourth of four chapters of "Emporius," a seventh-century rhetorical textbook, commonly thought to be a unified work, arguing, through analysis of the fourth chapter's engagement with Cicero's rhetorical theory, that while the first three chapters are typical of progymnasmata manuals, the fourth is a higher-level rhetorical text that probably was not originally part of the same work as the first three . David Paniagua studies the use of Roman surveyors' texts, such as Frontinus, in the possibly sixth-century Commentum of Pseudo-Agennius Urbicus. Seeking to complicate the prevailing view, that late antique surveying manuals responded to a need for practical surveying knowledge,2 Paniagua argues through an analysis of the clear and simple explanations of Frontinus' technical terms in the Commentum that it also (and possibly more significantly) had a schoolroom application, to teach geometry as part of the quadrivium. Lucio Cristante provides a critical edition with apparatus criticus of Pseudo-Censorinus' fragments 9-11 on music and rhythm, which can be traced to the third century, around the time of Censorinus, and were possibly merged with the rest of Censorinus by the sixth century owing to their similarly encyclopedic or didactic content. Massimo Gioseffi analyzes the early medieval prefaces to the Aeneid, noting that they exhibit similar qualities and can be considered a literary genre of their own, but most likely were not intended to summarize the Aeneid for someone not already acquainted with the poem.

The next two essays deal with the transmission of less concrete elements of classical culture in late antiquity. Marisa Squillante discusses the reception of the onomatopoetic animal "voices" used by Lucan, Vergil, and Ovid, in the late antique "list" literature, as exemplified by Ausonius and Sidonius Apollinaris. Giovanni Polara deviates from the philological focus of the rest of this book and takes a historical approach to studying the transmission of Roman theater practices in the sixth century. He looks specifically at Cassiodorus' Variae 4.51, a letter of Theoderic asking the Roman notable Memmius Symmachus to repair the crumbling theater of Pompey, exploring possible reasons that Theoderic would have wanted to restore the theater, and why he approached Memmius Symmachus in particular, in an age when Roman theater was (supposedly) viewed as immoral and pagan.

The following five essays each explore the textual transmission of an earlier work or author in early medieval manuscripts. Paulo Farmhouse Alberto explores the afterlife of seventh-century Visigothic poetry, here specifically the Carmen de luna attributed to King Sisibut, as educational exempla in eighth- and ninth-century schools, by providing a rigorous analysis of several manuscripts and their traditions. Veronika von Büren takes a similar approach with the De Moribus of Pseudo-Seneca, studying the relationships among its earliest manuscripts (mostly Carolingian) in order to establish its textual tradition. Michael Reeve looks at the transmission of excerpts of Pliny's Natural History rather than transmissions of the work as a whole, finding results that differ from previous studies of these traditions. Rodrigo Furtado studies the transmission of the Histories of Isidore of Seville in eighth- and early ninth-century Mozarabic scholarship from Spain, contributing here to the larger aim of reexamining the manuscript tradition of the Histories by studying the earliest indirect tradition in three texts, the Byzantine-Arabian Chronicle, the Chronica Muzarabica, and the Ordo Gentis Gothorum. María Adelaida Andrés Sanz looks at the circumstances surrounding the composition of the Epistola ad Grimaldum abbatem of Ermanrich of Ellwangen, a student of Walafrid Strabo, by considering its use of the second book of Isidore's Differentiae.

The final essay, by Aires Nascimento, leaps forward into the later middle ages with a discussion of late antique grammatical treatises, specifically the work of the fourth-century grammarian Aelius Donatus, in the monastery of Alcobaça in Portugal. He argues that Donatus' appeal for medieval monastic schools lay in his systematization of language, which was most valuable to the type of education that Charlemagne (and Alcuin) were interested in promoting in the early middle ages as well.

These essays on the whole are well done, though not all of them deal with the transmission of "classical" culture per se. (Codoñer, Farmhouse Alberto, Furtado, Andrés Sanz, and Nascimento actually study the transmission of late antique texts into even later antiquity and the middle ages.) Many of the essays argue for new interpretations of lesser-studied texts that deserve the kind of rigorous philological treatment that they receive in this book. The book itself is generally well-produced. Typographical errors are present, but few. For the articles that reproduce black and white photographs of manuscripts (Farmhouse Alberto, von Büren, and Nascimento), the photo quality varies, ranging from very good to poor. Although the book contains no comprehensive bibliography, each essay is accompanied by extensive footnotes. At the end of the book there is an index of manuscripts and an index of authors of works, both of which add to the appeal of this book as a resource.

Table of Contents

Paulo Farmhouse Alberto and David Paniagua, Preface
1. Carmen Codoñer, "Los glosarios hispánicos y su posible relación con el Liber Glossarum."
2. Luigi Pirovano, "'Sicut M. Tullio placet': scuola (tardo)antica e scuola medieval nell'opera di Emporio."
3. David Paniagua, "Lessicologia e terminologia agrimensoria in un testo scolastico tardoantico: il commentum dello pseudo-Agennio Urbico."
4. Lucio Cristante, "Appunti su Pseudo Censorino frg. 9-11 (con una proposta di edizione)."
5. Massimo Gioseffi, "'Introducing Virgil'. Forme di presentazione dell'Eneide in età tardoantica."
6. Marisa Squillante, "La voce degli animali tra onomatopea e imitazione."
7. Giovanni Polara, "Memmio Simmaco e il teatro."
8. Paulo F. Alberto, "King Sisebut's Carmen de luna in the Carolingian school."
9. Veronika von Büren, "La transmission du De Moribus du ps. Sénèque, de Winithar de S. Gall à Sedulius Scottus."
10. Michael Reeve, "Excerpts from Pliny's Natural History."
11. Rodrigo Furtado, "Isidore's Histories in the Mozarabic scholarship of the eighth and early ninth centuries."
12. María Adelaida Andrés Sanz, "Tres notas sobre la Epistola ad Grimaldum abbatem de Ermenrico de Ellwangen y el contexto cultural de su redacción."
13. Aires Nascimento, "Gramática no claustro: regress aos manuscritos de Alcobaça em revisitações filológicas."
Index of manuscripts
Index of authors and works


1.   Thank you to my colleague Christian Axelgard for help reading Nascimento's article in Portuguese.
2.   See Thulin, Carl, Corpus Agrimensorum Romanorum (Stuttgart: G.B. Teubner, 1971) and Campbell, J.B., The Writings of the Roman Land Surveyors: Introduction, Text, Translation and Commentary (London: Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, 2000).

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.