Tuesday, May 5, 2015


Lucia Floridi, Lucillio, Epigrammi: introduzione, testo critico, traduzione e commento. Texte und Kommentare Bd 47. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2014. Pp. x, 662. ISBN 9783110336160. €129.95.

Reviewed by Niek Janssen, Yale University (niek.janssen@yale.edu)

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

In this book Lucia Floridi offers an excellent new text and translation of the skoptic epigrams of Lucillius, as well as a thorough introduction and a copious, learned, and user-friendly commentary. The volume will be of use for (graduate and advanced undergraduate) students and veteran scholars alike, providing insights not only for those interested in the development of the epigrammatic genre or humor and satire in antiquity, but also for students of ancient athletics, education, conceptions of the body – the list goes on.

The Lucillian corpus, consisting of around 130 skoptic epigrams, is largely preserved in book eleven of the Greek Anthology. The poems are of a humorous nature and joke at the expense on generic 'types' of humans (thin or tall or miserly people) or professional caricatures (doctors, grammarians, athletes), "qualcosa di analogo ... ai giochi anglosassoni del tipo 'my wife/mother-in-law sure is...'" (p. 22).

For chronological reasons, Lucillius was not included in Gow and Page's Hellenistic Epigrams, nor in their Garland of Philip. Scholars looking for a dedicated commentary until recently had to make do with microfilms or PDFs of Burton Jay Rozema's 1971 doctoral dissertation, which was helpful but limited in scope, and was moreover never published as a book.1 The only available texts were in the Loeb, Budé, or Tusculum series, or indeed nineteenth-century editions, of the Greek Anthology. Floridi's Text und Kommentar in De Gruyter's homonymous series is therefore a most welcome addition.2

Floridi's edition is prefaced by an introduction in five sections (pp. 3-93) that demonstrates Floridi's enviable control over both the ancient epigrammatic corpus and its scholarship. She covers major themes of earlier scholarship on Lucillius and skoptic epigram and the key themes of her own commentary, providing ample bibliographical references. This introduction should become a starting point for any future study of this author and his genre.3

Section one (pp. 3-8) analyzes and ultimately rejects the many biographical speculations of earlier Lucillian scholarship. With appropriate conservatism, Floridi concludes that little is certain about the epigrammatist's life, other than that he was active during Nero's reign and that he received some kind of support from the emperor. She argues as untenable the view that Lucillius was a politically subversive author.

The second section (pp. 9-39), in which Floridi sketches a brief history of the skoptic epigram and Lucillius' place in the tradition, is probably of greatest general interest. She demonstrates how Lucillius perpetuates and reinvigorates earlier trends of satiric epigram: parodying and ironizing epigrammatic conventions, incorporating aspects of iamb and comedy, and directing the mockery against generic character types. Particularly attractive and convincing is Floridi's suggestion that skoptic epigram is a more 'literary' relative, both structurally and thematically, of jokes like those in the Philogelos (pp. 22-25). Floridi argues that the epigrams were principally composed for written consumption, although she also sees internal evidence that some of the poems could have been performed at symposia; it would have been helpful here to point out more explicitly that epigrammatists often consciously evoke a sympotic context in written compositions.4 Lucillius' colloquial style is convincingly interpreted as a conscious effort to match content and form.

Section three (pp. 40-55), a thorough and clear discussion of Lucillius' versification, offers few surprises. Lucillius' corpus does not share elegy and epigram's clear preference for the trochaic caesura, and the poet allows himself much inconsistency in the application of prosodic phenomena like elision, epic correption, nu ephelkystikon, and Attic correption. For Floridi, these characteristics suggest a deliberately plain and informal style, consistent with Lucillius' "colloquial" subject matter. Reading this kind of iconic analogy between form and meaning into the epigrams is tempting. One worries, however, whether this suggests too teleological an appreciation of Greek meter and prosody, especially since all epigrammatists of this era apparently display a similar "scarsa accuratezza metrica" (p. 55).

In the fourth section (pp. 56-82), Floridi discusses Lucillius' transmission. The respective virtues of the Anthologia Palatina and Planudea, as well as the Syllogae minores are discussed at length. Based on a close analysis of Lucillian sequences in AP 11, Floridi argues that Lucillius' poems arrived in the anthology in two different ways. A small number of poems may have come down to Cephalas through an alphabetic anthology, like that of Diogenianus, but the great bulk of Lucillius' epigrams seems to be drawn from a tradition of thematically organized collection, possibly even going back to a thematically organized authorial edition.

Finally, section five (pp. 83-93) covers Lucillius' Nachleben. Floridi compiles a wide range of Imperial Greek, Roman, and Byzantine epigrams which seem to display Lucillian influence. Most examples are clear enough, and Floridi is careful to avoid using terms like 'imitation' too freely, but it would have been worth noting that in a genre so reliant on comic tropes and stock types, influence is difficult to prove. Although Floridi understandably deems it beyond the scope of this section (p. 83n278), some discussion of the later (especially humanistic) reception of Lucillius would have been welcome. While Martial's popularity among humanists is well known,5 the Nachleben of the closely related Greek skoptic epigram is – to my knowledge – a scholarly story yet untold.6

The core of Floridi's volume is of course the edition with commentary (pp. 100-577). Each poem is printed on a new page, followed by an apparatus, a translation, (usually) a paraphrase, a general introduction of themes, parallels, and other issues, and finally a lemmatic commentary.

The text is based on Floridi's own inspection of all manuscripts. Floridi is very faithful to the manuscripts and almost completely avoids scholarly conjectures (except those metri causa). This is a good approach, especially since the apparatus is very comprehensive, and major points of textual contention, whether in the manuscripts or in the scholarship, are exhaustively accounted for in the commentary. Floridi prints 127 Lucillian poems in the order in which they appear in the Palatine Anthology, followed by five dubia and nine spuria; she wisely avoids any attempt at reconstructing an original order.

Floridi's translations are "traduzioni 'di servizio'" and have no literary pretense (p. 98). They serve this purpose well, and stick to the Greek as closely as possible; occasionally, Floridi adds ellipses or quotation marks to emphasize the point of a poem.

The commentary is rich, clearheaded, and helpful. Floridi combines her control over her material with a user-friendly style and a keen eye for the needs of her audience. Most of the jokes are easy enough to understand; when they are not, Floridi avoids the notorious trap of explaining the joke by offering a paraphrase.

Comprehensive introductions to each poem cover macro-interpretations, crucial intertexts and parallels, poetic and rhetorical structure, and relevant previous scholarship. Poems are often related in meaningful ways to the issues raised in the general introduction. Special attention is paid to ways in which these epigrams play with generic conventions. Users will greatly benefit from these overviews, and for many they will provide all the information they need. If not, helpful references to specific points in the lemmatic commentary are included.

The lemmatic commentary is exceptionally learned, yet user-oriented – in this reviewer's experience, the old complaint that commentaries provide everything except what you are looking for does not apply to Floridi's Lucillius. Floridi's target audience of advanced students and scholars will have little trouble reading Lucillius, and so grammatical and lexicographical help is only provided where absolutely necessary. Realia are clearly explained. The great majority of comments, however is geared towards integrating specific words and phrases into the poem's macro-interpretation. Many cfr.s and e.g.s are included, but not for learnedness' sake: Floridi consistently makes an effort to explain why a particular parallel is relevant. Of course, no commentary is ever truly complete; in particular, this reviewer would have liked to see more about Lucillius' interaction with the Latin-speaking world and Roman influences on Skoptic epigram. Floridi leaves tantalizing remarks about e.g. the poet's knowledge of Latin (p. 8n15), Latin wordplay (p. 28), and familiarity with Catullus (p. 417) and Ovid (pp. 131-132) but never really follows up.7

The nature of the corpus makes it so that few users will read the commentary from cover to cover, and Floridi understands this. She is not afraid to repeat information when necessary, and cross-references are typically accompanied by concise explanations.

The volume is concluded with an extensive bibliography (pp. 578-621), a tabula comparationis (pp. 622-625) and several indices (pp. 626-662). The bibliography is split between reference works, editions and translations, works on Lucillius, and other scholarship, while the index consists of 11 subsections.8

In short, this is a copious, learned, and user-friendly book. Floridi has produced the volume Lucillius needed, and it is to be hoped that many will make grateful use of the excellent foundation she has laid for future Lucillian scholarship.


1.   Rozema, B.J. (1971), Lucillius the Epigrammatist: Text and Commentary, PhD Diss. Madison. Of course, editions of the Palatine Anthology in the Loeb, Tusculum, Budé, and Classici Greci series did offer some scattered notes.
2.   Floridi's work is part of a growing wave of scholarship on the ancient epigram over the past fifteen years, following the 2001 publication of the 'New Posidippus.' Lucillius, however, has thus far mostly gone under the scholarly radar, despite new developments in the field of skoptic epigram: the recent discovery of two skoptic papyri (Nicarchus, P.Oxy. LXVI 4501; and Palladas, P.CtYBR inv. 4000); Gideon Nisbet's efforts to bring attention to skoptic epigram (Nisbet, G. (2003), Greek Epigram in the Roman Empire: Martial's Forgotten Rivals, Oxford [etc.].); and a number of recent commentaries on other skoptic authors (Schatzmann, A. (ed.) (2012), Nikarchos II: Epigrammata, Göttingen; Schulte, H. (ed.) (2004), Die Epigramme des Ammianos, Trier; Floridi, L. (ed.) (2007), Stratone di Sardi: Epigrammi, Alessandria; Giannuzzi, M.E. (ed.) (2007), Stratone di Sardi: Epigrammi, Lecce; Wilkinson, K.W. (ed.) (2012), New Epigrams of Palladas: a Fragmentary Papyrus Codex, Durham, NC).
3.   Readers may want to consult the excellent introduction to Schatzmann's Nicarchus edition (2012, pp. 19-124) in conjunction with Floridi's introduction, as they supplement each other in many ways.
4.   See Schatzman 2012, pp. 71-88.
5.   See e.g. Sullivan, J.P. (ed.) (1993), The Classical Heritage: Martial, New York/London; and Sullivan, J.P. (1993), Martial: The Unexpected Classic, Cambridge [etc], pp. 253-312; also the entry 'Epigram' in Grafton, A., G.W. Most, & S. Settis (eds.) (2010), The Classical Tradition, Cambridge, Mass., pp. 324-325.
6.   References to Lucillius and other skoptic authors in the works cited by Floridi (Hutton, J. (1935), The Greek Anthology in Italy to the Year 1800, Ithaca/New York; and Hutton, J. (1946), The Greek Anthology in France and in the Latin Writers of the Netherlands to the Year 1800, Ithaca/New York) are minimal.
7.   Schatzmann (2012), pp. 101-116 offers some interesting preliminary remarks in this regard.
8.   Greek words; passages; animals; linguistics; locations; metrics and prosody; mythological characters; historical figures; poetics and style; and victims of the poems, split between stock types and specific individuals.

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