Thursday, September 13, 2018


J. Carlos Iglesias-Zoido, Victoria Pineda (ed.), Anthologies of Historiographical Speeches from Antiquity to Early Modern Times: Rearranging the 'tesserae'. International studies in the history of rhetoric. 7. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2017. Pp. xi, 546. ISBN 9789004321793. $165.00.

Reviewed by Kyle Conrau-Lewis, Yale University (

Version at BMCR home site

Authors and titles are listed at the end of this review.

The past decade has seen a significant surge in interest in anthologies and various other forms of textual miscellanies.1 The edited volume under review addresses a much more particular and novel topic: anthologies of excerpts of speeches from historiographical narratives. It therefore contributes not only to a burgeoning interest in miscellany and the history of the book, but also to the history of rhetoric and education. The book ambitiously spans the premodern and early modern worlds, offering a number of case-studies both of how rhetoricians and commentators critiqued historiographical speeches and of how scholars, scribes and readers compiled excerpts from historiographical narratives into anthologies.

The Introduction offers a helpful typology for thinking about anthologies of historical speeches as well as providing a sturdy apology for the study of anthologies. Beginning in antiquity, anthologies were important to education, reading and rhetorical training. As the Introduction makes clear, while few examples of prose anthologies survive from antiquity, Romans regularly compiled anthologies of speeches from histories (e.g. Metius Pompusianus' speeches of kings and generals from Livy's histories, Suet. Dom.10.3). Collections from antiquity to the Renaissance could comprise speeches of a single author or multiple authors; in the early modern period they were typically divided by chronology, rhetorical genre (forensic, deliberative or epideictic) or context (ambassadorial speeches, military harangues, forensic orations), but other anthologies strove to be "transversal", that is, to group speeches from different periods, authors and historical genres to make cohesive collections of timeless exempla, sententiae and model rhetoric. 2 In addressing the classical period, the editors encouraged a broad conception of anthologizing, and contributors look more generally at commentaries and epitomes to suggest what purposes anthologies may have served in rhetorical education.

Chapter 1 by J. Carlos Iglesias-Zoido offers a broad overview of testimonia concerning excerption and compilation in antiquity as well as some of the formal characteristics of anthologies. This chapter is particularly interesting also for its novel proposal of 'implicit anthologies', suggesting that writers like Thucydides and Xenophon composed speeches to offer exemplary models of political leadership, perhaps with the expectation that a later reader might copy these out alone. The chapter concludes by broadly sketching the goals of anthologies: to provide rhetorical exempla, to inculcate civic and political virtues and finally to canonize authors worthy of mimesis.

Chapter 2 by Roberto Nicolai surveys how historians composed speeches in much the same ways as orators, and how imperial rhetoricians—in particular Dionysius of Halicarnassus—critiqued historical speeches on criteria of verisimilitude, consistency and appropriateness for the persona of the speaker and the circumstances of the speech. Critics such as Dionysius and Lucian stigmatized excess and hyperbole; historical speeches ought to serve as rhetorical models beyond their narrative context. Similarly, in Chapter 3 José María Candau looks at how Timaeus and Polybius composed speeches in their histories with different motivations and "authorial commentaries": Timaeus' speeches (as inferred from testimonia) were intended as demonstrations of oratory, while Polybius criticized their lack of truthfulness and instead composed speeches as didactic aids for the politician or aspiring politician. Both chapters miss the opportunity to reflect on how anthologies of such speeches might disrupt this rhetorical appreciation: how could a student assess a speech's appropriateness for its context if it was decontextualized in an anthology? How would a reader appreciate the veracity and political lessons of a Polybian speech divorced from its narrative context and authorial commentary?

Chapter 4, a study of Justin's Corpusculum Florum by Luis Ballesteros Pastor, notes that speeches in fact are one of the central components of his epitome and can in some ways be thought of as an anthology. This chapter challenges us to think about the porousness between epitome and anthology. In part, Justin encourages his reader to think of his work as something like an anthology (breve veluti florum corpusculum, Pref.4), though this should not be over-interpreted.3 Justin excerpts but also manipulates Trogus' original: abbreviating speeches, displacing them in the narrative as well as adding material. Ballesteros Pastor argues that Justin imitated Sallust (rather than excerpting Trogus' imitations of Sallust). Indeed, the differences between verbatim excerpts, paraphrases and epitomes were not clearly delineated in antiquity.4 This chapter therefore blurs our own modern demarcation of author, editor and anthologist and our hierarchies of literary genres.

The following chapters deal with historical speeches from the medieval and Byzantine periods to early modernity, and I will treat these selectively. In chapter 5, Immacolata Eramo considers how speeches of generals were anthologized and how this reflects an ancient and Byzantine emphasis on generals' harangues and military exhortations in strategic thought. The chapter revolves around a case-study of Ambrosianus MS B 119 sup., which contains paraphrases of Polyaenus' Strategemata, Onasander's Strategikos and various Byzantine treatises on military rhetoric and collections of tactics. The codex is interesting not only because of its miscellany of speeches but also for its pairing of speeches with military treatises (of Onasander and Syrianus in particular). The chapter invites us to think about how anthologies of speeches might have been understood and interpreted alongside other theoretical materials. One might here also think of Frontinus' Strategemata, a collection of military exempla, including some speeches, which was preceded by a now lost treatise on military tactics.

Chapters 6-8 all concern late medieval anthologies of speeches in Spanish (the Crónica Troyana and Tucídides of Juan Fernández de Heredia, the Contiones Thucydidis of Lapo de Castiglionchio and two collections of speeches from the chronicles of Fernando de Pulgar). These case-studies show different Iberian proto-humanists and humanists working with anthologies in their vernacular for rhetorical instruction. Chapter 9 by Joaquín Villalba Álvarez looks at anthologies of historical speeches in 16th-century printed volumes. The chapter is primarily interested, however, not so much in the anthologies themselves as in their prefaces: how—aside from praising their dedicatee—these offer programmatic ways for thinking about anthologies and historiography more generally. In contrast to the prefaces of historical texts, the prefaces of these anthologies emphasize not the enduring virtue of history but the mastery of eloquence.

Chapters 10-17 look at collections of speeches primarily from classical sources. Many of the anthologies discussed in these essays are in the tradition of Remigio Nannini's Orationi Militari, first published in 1557. Chapter 10 discusses Nannini's "encyclopedic" anthology, which also forms the topic of chapters 14-16; chapter 11 examines Henri II Estienne's Conciones, chapter 12 François de Belleforest's Harangues militaires, chapter 13 Melchior Junius' anthologies of speeches. These chapters draw attention to the selective reception of classical and contemporary historiography with a view to teaching eloquence; together they give a sense of the early modern development of this genre. A particular strength of these chapters is the focus on paratexts, looking at how titles, tables and indices sought to present speeches in an encyclopedic format and guide the reader through the anthology.

The concluding appendix provides a useful catalogue of printed anthologies of speeches from 1471 to 1699, a very substantial catalogue encompassing speeches not just from histories but from all genres (including poetry). This should prove a welcome resource for the reception of classics in early modern print, showing how speeches circulated in different types of anthologies (whether poetic anthologies, progymnasmatic collections or philological collections of fragments).

This volume is an important defence of compilations and anthologies as fundamental to premodern and early modern text culture and rhetorical education. Anthologies should not be dismissed as marginal or sub-literary. Yet I would also caution against overestimating their significance. As Iglesias-Zoido notes (pp. 32-33), Plato railed against anthologies – but he was not alone. The author of the ad Herennium writes that the mediocriter litteratus should not think himself eloquent simply because of his collection of oratorical excerpts (4.7), while Plutarch unfavorably compares the anthologist weaving together desiccated flowers with the reader who is more like a bee collecting pollen (Mor. 41F).5 A reappraisal of anthologies should not mask their controversial place in elite pedagogy. While defending anthologies and reinvigorating academic study in them, the volume could also fruitfully have explored why they have been marginalized since antiquity. The editors in the introduction suggest that early modern anthologies might have been regarded as a problem (p. 13), obstructing the reader's understanding of the source-text, but clearly anthologies were a pedagogical concern from antiquity. Some chapters (such as that of Roberto Nicolai) tacitly suggest why some rhetoricians may have been averse to anthologies: because decontextualization jeopardizes an appreciation of context and argument.

Second, I would suggest that the choice to focus exclusively on historical speeches also introduces unwelcome and artificial constraints. For example, Iglesias-Zoido (pp. 33-34) denies that Gellius (who supplies many excerpts of historians) and Plutarch's Sayings of Kings and Generals should be included in the study, because Gellius draws on non-historiographical materials while Plutarch includes real sayings rather than rhetorical pieces. Yet did ancient anthologists always care to delineate authentic speeches from fictive ones or historical material from non-historical? Did they distinguish excerpts of whole speeches and shorter apophthegmata for rhetorical education? Gellius describes his miscellany as scattered with 'the flowers of history' (historiae flosculis, 17.21), imagining his miscellany in part as a historiographical anthology. Seneca the Elder (not cited in the volume) names historians alongside declaimers, while Stobaeus excerpts from any genre of poetry and prose that presents relevant material. The Variae Historiae of the rhetor Aelian (also not cited) might have provided another good example of how readers excerpted from histories for their miscellanies, collecting both anecdotes and chriae. Indeed, part of the problem is that the volume does not abide by any defined notion of 'history' (though Candau does reflect on the difficulty of defining the genre of history and its subdivisions, pp. 70-71). This is not at all to detract from the merits of the collection but only to suggest that excerpts of historiographical speeches may have been more commonly anthologized alongside other genres. Nonetheless, this volume is a cogent prompt for classicists to reflect not only on how readers in antiquity anthologized from histories, but even more importantly on how anthologizing may have been a factor in historiographical composition. Most significantly, it provides useful resources for the reception of classics through anthologies.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Old Words in New Books (Juan Carlos Iglesias-Zoido and Victoria Pineda), 1–22
1. Anthologies of Historiographical Speeches in Antiquity (Juan Carlos Iglesias-Zoido) 23–41
2. Historians' Speeches in Rhetorical Education: Dionysius of Halicarnassus' Selection from Thucydides. (Roberto Nicolai) 42–62
3. Speeches of Historians and Historiographical Criticism: Timaeus' Speeches in Polybius' Book xii. (José María Candau), 63–78
4. The Speeches in Justin's Corpusculum Florum: The Selection and Manipulation of Trogus' Historiae Philippicae (Luis Ballesteros Pastor), 79–94
5. A Word from the General: Ambrosianus B 119 sup. and Protreptic Speeches in Byzantine Military Manuals (Immacolata Eramo), 95–114
6. A Medieval Anthology: Juan Fernández de Heredia's Crónica Troyana (María Sanz Julián), 115–135
7. The Byzantine Influence: Heredia's Tucídides and the Contiones Thucydidis of Lapo da Castiglionchio. (Juan Carlos Iglesias-Zoido), 136–153
8. Speeches, Letters, and Chronicle: Fernando de Pulgar's Anthology in ms. 9–5173 Real Academia de la Historia, Madrid. (Teresa Jiménez Calvente), 154–169
9. Prefaces in Anthologies of Contiones (Joaquín Villalba Álvarez), 171–193
10. Remigio Nannini's Orationi Militari (Juan Carlos Iglesias-Zoido), 194–212
11. Henri ii Estienne's Conciones siue orationes ex Graecis Latinisque historicis excerptae (M. Violeta Pérez Custodio), 213–237
François de Belleforest's Harangues militaires (Victoria Pineda), 238–260
12. Melchior Junius: Anthologies of Historiographical Speeches in the Teaching of Rhetoric (David Carmona), 261–284
13. L'utilità che si caua d'un libro: The Culture of Compendia and the Reading of Contemporary Italian Warfare in Nannini's Orationi militari. (Carmen Peraita), 285–299
14. Modern History in Nannini's and Belleforest's Anthologies (Xavier Tubau), 300–318
15. Oratory and Political Debate in the Last Decades of the Roman Republic: Cassius Dio's Reconstruction (with Some Notes from Remigio Nannini's Orationi Militari) (Ida Gilda Mastrorosa), 319–338
16. A Humanist History in the Italian Vernacular: The Speeches in Machiavelli's Florentine Histories (Robert D. Black), 339–355
17. The Trésor des livres d'Amadis as an Anthology of Speeches (Florence Serrano), 356–377
18. From Italy to Europe: Seventeenth Century Collections of Orationes Fictae, (Valentina Nider), 378–399
Appendix: Contiones. Printed Anthologies of Speeches (1471–1699) (Juan Carlos Iglesias-Zoido and Victoria Pineda), 401–455.
Bibliography, 456–519
Index of Names, 520–537
Index of Subjects, 538–546


1.   For a select example of recent treatments of excerption, anthologies and encyclopedias in antiquity, see G. Reydams-Schils (ed.), Thinking through Excerpts: Studies on Stobaeus (Brepols, 2011); A. Blair, Too Much to Know (Yale University Press, 2010); J. König and T. Whitmarsh (edd.), Ordering Knowledge in the Roman Empire (CUP, 2007); T. Morgan, Literate Education in the Hellenistic and Roman Worlds (CUP, 1998); K. Gutzwiller, Poetic Garlands: Hellenistic Epigrams in Context (University of California Press, 1998).
2.   Though perhaps the best and most comprehensive guide to different types of anthologies, classical and late antique, is H. Chadwick, 'Florilegium,' Reallexicon für Antike und Christentum VII (1969), 1131-1160. Neither this nor Kathryn Gutzwiller's monograph (see note above) is cited in this volume.
3.   See most recently Yardley, who interprets the preface to mean that Justin excerpted from Trogus while also epitomating his contents and should not be understood specifically as an anthologist: J. Yardley 'What is Justin Doing with Trogus?' in M. Horster and C. Reitz (edd.), Condensing Texts – Condensed Texts (Franz Steiner Verlag, 2010), 469-490.
4.   P. Brunt, 'On Historical Fragments and Epitomes,' The Classical Quarterly, New Series, Vol. 30, No. 2 (1980), 477-494.
5.   Similar complaints about excerpting are found in Seneca, Ep. 33, and in Lucian's Piscator where Plato derides Parrhesiades for saying he has paid homage to philosophers by anthologizing them (6-7).

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