Friday, April 19, 2019


Brian W. Breed, Elizabeth E. Keitel, Rex Wallace (ed.), Lucilius and Satire in Second-Century BC Rome. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018. Pp. xiii, 319. ISBN 9781107189553. £75.00.

Reviewed by James Faulkner, University of Michigan (

Version at BMCR home site

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

The core of the volume under review grew out of a conference on Lucilius at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 2013. Readers no doubt will be interested to see how effective Lucilius's revival will prove and, to cut to the chase, this volume will be of great value to scholars working on Lucilius and his environs. Moreover, it is explicitly meant to complement forthcoming projects on Lucilius, including a new edition and translation of the fragments in the Fragmentary Republican Latin Loeb series by one of the volume's contributors, Anna Chahoud, who also promises an accompanying commentary.

Coverage on the whole is skewed in favor of linguistic studies, which itself is a byproduct of the expertise of the contributors. As will become apparent in the course of this review, the book is a bit of a misnomer; it is unexpected to find much of the historical context heralded by Second-Century BC Rome in the title forsworn on p. 2–3 of the Introduction, where questions about who comprised Lucilius's audience, "where Lucilius stood in the Gracchan crisis, [and] what he made of Marius" are set aside. The editors register reservations about strict historicist reconstructions—judiciously, given the state of the poetic remains of Lucilius—and instead refer interested readers to a well-known chapter by Erich Gruen on the topic.1 Yet by analogy those same objections pose problems for sociolinguistic readings of Lucilius, and so perhaps a longer explanation of these obstacles would be a desideratum. The Introduction is rounded out by a biographical sketch of the poet, a linguistic topography of Republican Italy, and a brief account of the troubled transmission and reception of Lucilius.

In the first chapter, Sander Goldberg interrogates traditional accounts of the development of the satiric genre, especially Horace's tidy version, Lucilius > me (!), which purposefully glosses over Ennius. Lucilius's status as the satiric "winner," inventor, auctor, or the like derives from the pronouncements of later literary critics who follow Horace, the very gatekeeper responsible for setting the terms of the genre. Some of Goldberg's most interesting observations regard the relationship of satire to epic, the "high" genre with which it shared a meter. In the central case study, Lucilius first redeploys Ennius' concilium deorum, only to have Vergil claim it back again.

Brian Breed dilates on the textuality of Lucilius's works. On the one hand, the written word allows for authorial claims of various kinds, as when Lucilius appropriates the wit of the praeco Granius for his own poetry. On the other, however, are concomitant anxieties about reception and the loss of control over one's work, concerns that feature in fragments addressed to the Satires' readership. Potential critics loom over Lucilius as he embarks, though how real these threats were depends on how sophisticated we think Roman literary criticism was in this period. Breed side-steps that tangent in order to focus on the materiality of satire, which the author dubs "the one Roman genre born textual" (p. 78).

Paolo Poccetti next investigates Lucilius's language variation and multilingualism, as well as his reception as an author whose style was to be appreciated, but not imitated. This wide-ranging study (50 pp.) sets the stage well for subsequent pieces that revisit many of the same fragments in further detail. Poccetti demonstrates how Lucilius varies: social registers, internalized (1st person) vs. externalized thoughts (3rd person), archaic vs. novel language use, and more.2 Jargon is audience-targeted: Lucilius and his interlocutors speak elementally to philosophers, in nautical terms to sailors, and as foodies to gourmands.

In "Verbal Mosaics"—a metaphor itself borrowed from Lucilius (fr. 84–5 M)—Anna Chahoud explores various aspects of Lucilius's stylistics, with a special emphasis on connective and disjunctive poetic devices. Phenomena treated include separation of preverb and verb, pairs marked off by preconsonantal atque, enjambment, and sets of synonyms/antonyms. Chahoud notes that these habits cannot just be chalked up to reasons metri causa, but have real poetic effect and intention.3 Of interest also is the contention that Lucilius was a trend-setter when he stretched syntactic units across the verse boundaries of the hexameter (more common and pronounced in Horace).

Giuseppe Pezzini follows with an informative accounting of Lucilius's iambo-trochaics (books 26–29) in comparison to the comic practice of Plautus and Terence. In brief, Pezzini has demonstrated that Lucilius, on a prosodic level, followed the language of Terence more closely than that of Plautus—a trend which is not so suprising given the relative chronologies of the three authors. As for meter, Lucilius matches the comics closely, showing preferences for common rhythmic cadences and observing the standard metrical "laws." 4 In diction, however, Lucilius was more Plautine than Terentian; he shows a fondness for "Grecisms" of various kinds (lexical, morphological, graphical, all three in combination or severally) as well as for technical terms (cf. Poccetti above).

Angelo Mercado probes Lucilian hexameters for the coincidence of metrical beat and word accent at different positions in the line. As an aid for data collection, Mercado uses alphabetic notation for representing accentual and metrical patterns simultaneously in a scheme modified from that popularized by Gratwick's Menaechmi "Green and Yellow," only with vowels (+ y) corresponding to each foot of the hexameter and diacritics (´/`) for stress.5 In the second half of the article, Mercado applies this method to longer preserved fragments of Lucilius in order to find "responsions" of similar "ictus"-accentual alignments across neighboring lines. This is, at the least, a neat addition to the philological toolbox for close readings of Latin poetry.

The results for the collection overall inspire new questions altogether. A disclaimer first: though I am unqualified to vouch for many of the granular statistical points, I was unable to reproduce some of the raw data that underlie them.6 If Mercado's figures can be confirmed, however, they will disturb the accepted understanding of the organization of the fragments, since books 1–20, 28–30, and the group of hexameters cited without book number all appear to show compositional tendencies distinct from one another.

The last third of the volume begins with Catherine Keane's study of dialogue in books 26–30, especially in the first and last books of that series. Some arguments will not convince readers who are skeptical when dealing with fragmentary texts. Though ostensibly Keane disavows the "grouping" of fragments based on perceived thematic affinities, nonetheless the argument hinges at times on narrative structures that depend on editorial assignments.7 The sheer number of "chatty" exchanges nevertheless makes the case convincing. Keane highlights aspects of meta-sermo in Lucilian speech, that is, the self-awareness of the discussants that they are participant in games of verbal exchange, which naturally applies to the satiric "I" and their programmatic posturing.

In "Name Your Price!", Cynthia Damon examines value judgments in Lucilius's poetry. The first part of the paper demonstrates how Lucilius and his "surrogates" size up people and situations alike in material, often monetary terms. This discussion dove-tails into an inventory of Lucilian equivalences, many of which are humorous to those "readers who play Lucilius' assessment game" (p. 249): the man from Bovillae with orthodontic problems = a rhinoceros; a "food baby" is delivered as diarrhea. What Damon shows is that Lucilius cared about finding the right words (verba propria) and images, or inventing them.

Paired neatly after Damon's, Ian Goh's piece addresses Lucilius's attitudes towards consumption, views which he argues were more multivalent on the whole than derisive. Banqueting and sport featured in Lucilius's poetry to be sure, but did not necessarily reflect for better or worse upon their aristocratic participants. Goh pushes for a more nuanced role for the discourse of luxury in the first satirist when he argues that the relationship between the genre and wealth need not have always been antagonistic, especially granting Lucilius's high social stature.

In the final chapter, Luca Grillo tackles those on the ins and outs of Lucilian friendship. Grillo revisits the longest fragment of Lucilius, a passage on virtus quoted by Lactantius, and suggests that the addressee, an Albinus, is upbraided for failing to uphold the Stoic ideals current at the time. This Postumius Albinus, according to Grillo, is not to be identified with the one embroiled in scandal with Jugurtha, but the wannabe-Greek historian whom Cato and Polybius savaged (= RE 33).

Typographical mishaps occur passim; most are innocuous but some are more consequential. Such errors cause confusion in Mercado's models for tonic scansion, for example: fr. 1076 M should start À A É e , [...] on p. 190, as the same fragment does in fact when repeated on p. 203; fr. 1077 M has the opposite problem, since it appears wrongly on p. 203 but rightly as [...] í , í [...] on p. 190. Likewise, Pezzini's chapter has the mix-up, "...a heavy element (˘) contains..." in an explanation of comic meter (p. 168). The editors have made useful interventions, however, as when they include references to Marx and Warmington numbers in textual citations in order to spare readers trips to concordances. They number most block quotations also for ease of internal references.

Overall, this volume does what it does well. Although it does not really address expectations as a social history of early Satire save in its final third, this work is the most comprehensive study to date on Lucilius's language and attitudes toward language. It will serve as a handy reference and baseline for future Lucilian studies.

Authors and titles

1. Introduction: Lucilius and Second-Century Rome / Brian W. Breed, Rex Wallace and Elizabeth Keitel
Part I. Putting Lucilius' Satires in Context
2. Lucilius and the poetae seniores / Sander M. Goldberg
3. Lucilius' Books / Brian W. Breed

Part II. Lucilius' Language, Style, and Meter: Continuity and Innovation
4. Another Image of Literary Latin: Language Variation and the Aims of Lucilius' Satires / Paolo Poccetti
5. Verbal Mosaics: Speech Patterns and Generic Stylization in Lucilius / Anna Chahoud
6. The Early Lucilius and the Language of the Roman palliata / Giuseppe Pezzini
7. Accent in Lucilius' Hexameters / Angelo O. Mercado

Part III. Generic and Social Settings for Lucilian Satire
8. Conversations about sermo / Catherine Keane
9. Name Your Price! On the Assessments of Value and the Value of Assessments in Lucilius/ Cynthia Damon
10. Pikes, Peacocks, and Parasites: Lucilius and the Discourse of Luxury / Ian Goh
11. Invective, amicitia, and virtus / Luca Grillo


1.   E. Gruen, Culture and National Identity in Republican Rome (Ithaca, NY, 1992) 272–318.
2.   The work of Karin Haß deserves mention, Lucilius und der Beginn der Persönlichkeitsdichtung in Rom (Stuttgart, 2007) 105–11.
3.   These are not incompatible categories, however. In the case of unelided atque, 19 of the 24 (79%) examples from unambiguous hexameters listed on p. 149 fall in the fifth foot, and so lead a homodyne ending. This sedes is preferred in Lucretius' De Rerum Natura (63 of 98 instances of unelided atque = 64%), and relatively so in the Aeneid (10 of 34 = 29%), but is never used in the Eclogues, Georgics, or Catullan hexametrics (see D. Butterfield, "The Poetic Treatment of atque from Catullus to Juvenal," Mnemosyne 61 (2008) 388–95; cited also by Chahoud). Perhaps alliterative pairs alongside the mapping of syllabotonic onto metrical prominences had an "Italic" ring? For what it is worth, the Ennian sample size is two, one of which is the line end: sedet atque secundam (fr. 74 Sk.; cf. p. 145 n. 45). Naevius' scopas atque verbenas || sagmina sumpserunt (Bell. Pun. fr. 31 Morel) may also be relevant.
4.   The two cases of split resolution (violation of Ritschl's Law; p. 172) are obviated if one spreads Priscian's quote across lines, as Marx does (fr. 936–7 M), and if at fr. 890 M one prints the paradosis potes in lieu of Lachmann's conjecture pote.
5.   An example may help: consilium summis hominum de rebus habebant (fr. 4 M) = A á a E . É I | í i O . O . Ú u . u Ý Y
6.   I was puzzled especially by the differences reported for the prevalence of heterodyne lead-in to the caesura in the "weak" time of the second foot, also called the biceps (⏔), since strong caesurae usually guarantee this mismatch. My preliminary attempts did not discover large discrepancies in the approach to the principal caesura across the hexametric subsets of the Lucilian corpus and suggest instead much higher incidences of heterodyned 2nd bicipitia.
7.   Cf. "nearby" parallels across separate fragments (p. 227).

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