Thursday, October 17, 2019


Mariachiara Franceschini, Attische Mantelfiguren : Relevanz eines standardisierten Motivs der rotfigurigen Vasenmalerei. Zürcher archäologische Forschungen Band 5. Rahden/Westf.: Verlag Marie Leidorf, 2018. Pp. 354; 15 p. of plates. ISBN 9783867576659. $65.00.

Reviewed by Geralda Jurriaans-Helle, Allard Pierson Museum, University of Amsterdam (

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Table of Contents and abstracts

This voluminous study by Mariachiara Franceschini focuses on the 'mantle figure' depicted on Attic red-figure vases. Owing to its frequent appearance the mantle figure has often been dismissed as decorative filler of empty space. The author contends that the significance of the mantle figure has been seriously underestimated and that in fact it "serves as a pivot in the relationship between producer, observer, object and imagery" (p. 229). To prove this, she analyzes 8,817 mantle figures on 3,532 vases.

After an introduction to the topic, the first chapter (Forschungsstand, pp. 17–21) gives an overview of the different ways scholars have looked at mantle figures, both in specific contexts (funerary, sport, erotic) or, more often, in general. These views vary from seeing them as purely decorative or a way to avoid horror vacui, to identifying them as Athenian citizens by interpreting the action depicted on the vase like a theatrical chorus. Because scenes with multiple mantle figures are often described as 'conversation scenes', she also examines the history of this term and specifies the way she defines it in this study.

In the second chapter (Methodische und theoretische Grundlage, pp. 23–53) Franceschini defines mantle figures as male figures of various ages, characterized by their garment, the himation. She limits her corpus to scenes from daily life on Attic red-figure vases painted between 530/520 BCE and the beginning of the 4th century BCE. Since the himation is also worn as part of the standard iconography of gods, Franceschini includes mythological scenes only when the interpretation of a mantle figure as a god is not certain. In the second part of this chapter she describes the way she classified and analyzed the data using two different databases. In the third part of this chapter she explains the typology she made based on the figures' gestures. Here, too, an overview is given of earlier scholars' classifications of gestures and mantle figures. This section concludes, like many parts in the book, with a short and useful abstract.

As the author is interested in the reconstruction of the narrative and therefore in the interaction between the mantle figures, she treats the two-dimensional figures in her typology as if they were represented three- dimensionally; she focuses only on the poses, making no distinction whether figures are seen from the right or left or frontal. This is an interesting point of view, but one may wonder whether—at least in many cases—the painters were not simply choosing an easy-to-paint view of the figure. In spite of this way of simplifying the classification of the figures, the typology still consists of 39 types, each subdivided into variants. The long list with descriptions of the types (pp. 38–44) would have been easier to read if the table with small depictions of the gestures (now on pp. 336–340) had been printed next to it. I made photocopies of both the list and table and found them very useful during my reading. The many abbreviations used to describe the positions and gestures are explained in different places (in a note on p. 38, in the text on p. 45, and finally in a table on p. 342), which also makes the comprehension of the text less easy for the reader. One may wonder whether the division into so many types is necessary. While it certainly is solid methodology to notice as many details and varieties as possible when setting up a typology, it is often better to focus on the differences that matter most and to combine types that are very similar in detail and in use. Here, the many types vary greatly in frequency: type 11 consists of more than 1400 figures, while there are only six examples of type 34. Furthermore, in many cases the type of gesture is (at least for the untrained viewer) not irrefutably depicted as 'stretched' or 'hooked', for example. In these cases one has to trust the decision of the author; I am aware that after studying so many vases, one gets a sharp eye for small differences.

However, all the tables and statistics serve a higher purpose: the author is completely correct to oppose the negative characterization of 'standardization' as a mark of a low quality. The motif of the mantle figure with its standardized details made it possible for the painter to communicate with the contemporary public that was familiar with the figure types and recognized their meanings. For the modern viewer the only way to enter the world of red-figure vase-painting and understand the role of mantle figures is by analyzing a large corpus of paintings.1 Mantle figures—often represented as viewers of the action—form the connection between the world of the images and the world of the polis, between the viewer on the vase and the viewer of the vase. The way that Attic painters represented the first viewer—the mantle figure—makes it possible to study the individual and collective identity of the second viewer—the Athenian polites.

In the third chapter (Die Mantelfiguren in Attika: Genese eines ikonographischen Motivs, pp. 55–150) all of the mantle figure types and subtypes are systematically discussed, and each group of types is followed by an abstract. Tables chart the frequency of each type and its subtypes from early red-figure to the late 5th century. In the text and notes references are made to the catalogue of the vases on pp. 232–301, but there is no list by type with all of the vases on which each is found. Since the types are not mentioned in the descriptions of the vases in the catalogue, it is difficult to find out on which vases a certain gesture is found in order to examine the depictions. Here again we have to trust the sharp eye of the author. In the second part of this third chapter the development of the iconography of the mantle figures is discussed, starting with black-figure predecessors. Then the author describes how in the 5th century BCE the mantle figure was standardized, in what contexts it is found, and which types are frequently found together. The chapter closes with a description of the development of the mantle figure in the 4th century BCE and an analysis of the process of standardization. The fourth chapter (Das Himation in der schriftlichen Überlieferung, pp.151–155) then describes the literary tradition of the himation and how it developed into the polis-uniform.

The fifth chapter (Neue Vorschläge für eine Hermeneutik der Mantelfiguren, pp.157–220) gives the conclusions of this comprehensive study. In the first part the focus is on what active roles the mantle figure could play in specific, idealized moments of daily life, from the education of young boys to the farewell of the deceased. Discussing education, Franceschini notes that often both teacher and pupil are shown as mantle figures. Since teachers were often slaves, the himation was clearly not the characteristic garment of a free citizen of Athens but rather that of a polites, someone who is participating in the polis. It became a symbol of controlled behavior. In homoerotic scenes both erastes and eromenos often wear a himation, and the eromenos may hide himself in it or open the mantle to his lover. In komoi men often wear their himations loosely on the shoulder or over the arm: for the moment they take off that symbol of controlled behavior, but the presence of the mantle shows that it is only temporary. In funeral rites mantle figures walk quietly in the procession in contrast to the wailing and uncontrolled movements of the women. Mantle figures are also found in departure scenes of the army, representing the polis saying farewell to its warriors. In mythological scenes Greek heroes may wear a himation, but so too do Orpheus, who is a Thracian, and the wise centaur Cheiron. Mantle figures are also found as bystanders in mythological scenes, giving the context of the polis to the world of the gods and heroes. These bystanders are part of the action, even when they are standing aside or separated onto the other side of the vase. The first 'conversation scenes' appear in 490–480 BCE. After the third quarter of the 5th century the groups become simpler, and there is not always a clear connection to the scene on the other side of the vase. The mantle figure, seeing and being seen, belongs both to the world of the image and to that of the viewer. He invites the external viewer, who recognizes himself in the mantle figure, to think about the depiction, and involves him in a way comparable with the chorus in a tragedy.

Although mantle figures are depicted in many roles and functions, they do not represent a political or social reality, but rather an intentionally idealized self-representation of Greek society. In the 5th century BCE aristocratic attributes such as weapons and the richly decorated chiton were replaced by the stick and the undecorated himation. The himation-mantle was worn not only by citizens but also by all men participating in the life in the polis. It expressed the values of society—equality, homonoia and sophrosyne. Over the 200 years of its existence, representations of the mantle figure became more and more standardized; details became superfluous to the culturally conditioned eye. The mantle figure was part of a coherent iconographical system, connecting not only the representations on various parts of one vase, but also on different vases. Even in a rather formless isolated mantle figure, the contemporary viewer recognized the ideal of the polites.

In this last and most interesting chapter lies the importance of this study. The enormous effort of analyzing of the figures and their context makes it possible to understand the mantle figure as part of the pictorial language of the vases and to connect them with life in Athens in the 5th century BCE. This study shows that analyzing standard scenes or figures, which have often been treated by scholars with disdain or not treated at all, is worth the effort. It is precisely because there are so many examples to study and because they are standardized that they can provide us so much information about the society that made them.

At the end of the book there are abstracts in German, Italian and English; the catalogue of all vases used in the study, ordered by painter (on p. 278 Paersephone-M. should be Persephone-M.); the bibliography; registers; tables; and plates.


1.   In my dissertation "Composition in Athenian black-figure vase-painting: The 'Chariot in profile' type scene" (to be published in BABESCH Supplements), I examine the imagery of more than 1,200 Athenian black-figure vase-paintings of this type scene, focusing on mass-produced vases and applying semiotic methods for the study of literary texts to the imagery. The investigation reveals that the painters composed the paintings according to a commonly understood system of pictorial language; knowledge of this system will help the modern viewer to understand the deeper meanings of paintings.

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Bénédicte Delignon, La morale de l'amour dans les Odes d'Horace: poésie, philosophie et politique. Rome et ses renaissances. Paris: Sorbonne Université Presses, 2019. Pp. 391. ISBN 9791023105766. €25,00 (pb).

Reviewed by Julie Giovacchini, Centre Jean Pépin CNRS-ENS-PSL (

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L'ouvrage de Bénédicte Delignon affronte le corpus des Odes érotiques d'Horace, qu'elle souhaite analyser de façon à en faire ressortir à la fois la cohérence et la richesse. Posons d'ores et déjà que ce pari est rempli: on ressort de cette lecture bien informé sur les enjeux aussi bien stylistiques que culturels et philosophiques de ces textes et à ce titre ce livre constitue sans nul doute un moment important dans les études latines francophones.

L'Introduction pointe le choix du point de vue moraliste comme l'originalité principale d'Horace; originalité motivée par l'idée de rehausser dans le monde romain le statut de la poésie lyrique. L'autrice impose via cette interprétation un axe de lecture général assez efficace pour la totalité du corpus, en croisant l'hypothèse de la filiation stylistique élégiaque et celle de l'actualisation par l'infusion d'une vulgate philosophico-morale à même aussi bien de renouveler l'objet littéraire que de l'acclimater à un contexte romain (cf. p. 17).

Le plan de l'ouvrage suit parfaitement ce programme herméneutique: dans une première partie est abordé le statut de la philosophie dans les odes érotiques, principalement l'épicurisme, le stoïcisme et la philosophie de l'Académie; la deuxième partie traite des enjeux sociétaux et politiques qui parcourent les Odes; la troisième partie enfin décrit la poétique même d'Horace en tant qu'elle s'alimente de ce contenu moral, culturel et politique.

Cependant, la position morale d'Horace est en elle-même un objet complexe, qui touche ensemble, comme l'autrice le rappelle régulièrement, à l'éthique philosophique, au respect social du mos maiorum, et à la prise en compte de considérations proprement politiques. C'est peut-être sur le premier de ces trois éléments que les analyses de Bénédicte Delignon se révèlent le moins convaincantes; si elle démontre fort bien à quel point la prise en compte de l'arrière-plan philosophique des Odes éclaire non seulement leur contenu mais leur forme poétique, l'explicitation de cet arrière- plan demeure à nos yeux insuffisante. Un symptôme inquiétant de cette superficialité est d'une part la faible mise à jour de la bibliographie en ce qui concerne les doctrines philosophiques mentionnées dans le livre, d'autre part la maigreur des renvois aux textes mêmes des auteurs épicuriens, stoïciens et acédemiciens—ce qui apparaît immédiatement à partir d'une consultation de l'Index locorum: si Properce, Sappho et Tibulle sont abondamment cités, une seule référence à Philodème, trois à Sénèque, deux à Chrysippe. Lucrèce et Cicéron sont en revanche et comme de juste les deux auteurs les plus sollicités, ce qui soulève une question de méthodologie: l'arrière-plan philosophique des Odes est-il véritablement épicurien, académicien ou stoïcien, comme l'indique l'autrice ? Ne devrait-on pas souligner qu'il s'agit plutôt de la réception latine de ces doctrines philosophiques, exploitées par Horace en dehors de leur lieu d'exercice habituel—l'école philosophique ? La question de l'obédience philosophique réelle des poètes augustéens (Horace mais aussi Lucrèce et Virgile) est un thème de débat actuel et important des études latines, auquel l'autrice elle-même fait allusion p. 30. Il nous semble qu'il est possible d'établir une voix moyenne entre d'une part la récusation radicale de toute ambition philosophique dans les textes latins, d'autre part la croyance en un décalque à peine remodelé des thèses grecques dans la langue latine. Ce n'est pas parce qu'un auteur latin s'intéresse à des doctrines philosophiques, les discute ou les utilise, même sérieusement, qu'il doit donc lui-même être catégorisé en fonction de ces doctrines.

Il nous est ainsi difficile d'accepter la présentation faite par Bénédicte Delignon de l'«éclectisme» d'Horace, et son ralliement à l'hypothèse datée de Pierre Hadot qui l'identifie à une forme atténuée du probabilisme de l'Académie (p. 29). S'il est certain que la division carnéadienne a bien des conséquences sur la doxographie philosophique pratiquée par l'Académie, il est dangereux d'identifier cette position au probabilisme lui-même—qui correspond à un moment de l'histoire de l'Académie et qui a des implications éthiques avant tout. Et la décision de Bénédicte Delignon de considérer que le traitement cicéronien puis horatien des questions philosophiques est strictement dicté par cette forme d'éclectisme cherchant des compromis trouve assez rapidement ses limites. L'éclectisme n'est qu'une étiquette pour catégoriser ce qui finalement est une application assez classique de la méthode dialectique platonicienne la plus classique qui soit, afin d'établir par distinctions et divisions une position acceptable.

L'autrice est bien sensible à cette difficulté; mais faute d'une information suffisante sur les doctrines qu'elle mentionne, elle ne mène pas à bout cette réflexion, ce qui nuit à la première partie de l'ouvrage. Bénédicte Delignon décrit avec aisance la rupture d'Horace avec le modèle érotique élégiaque, par le choix de la Vénus vagabonde contre l'asservissement à une seule aimée, également par le refus de la douleur comme thème principal, auquel s'oppose l'éloge de l'amour joyeux; elle insiste avec pertinence sur les nombreuses différences, interprétées comme des héritages de la tradition lyrique, avec le modèle épicurien revendiqué—sans mentionner le modèle épique, étudié récemment par Monica Gale, qui aurait pu être avantageusement confronté à cet héritage lyrique. Mais la liste des philosophèmes épicuriens sur l'amour souffre d'une lecture trop rapide qui conduit l'autrice à de nombreuses inexactitudes. Bénédicte Delignon confond, notamment dans le chapitre consacré à la temporalité (ch. 2), des positions épicuriennes et cyrrénaïques sur l'instantanéité. Le cyrrénaïsme est absent de la première partie, ce qui autorise l'autrice à écrire p. 71 que «l'épicurisme est la seule doctrine à faire du plaisir le souverain bien». Or cette affirmation, si elle est objectivement fausse au regard de l'histoire de la pensée grecque, pourrait être légitime dans le contexte culturel augustéen, dans lequel la prévalence de l'hédonisme épicurien réécrit à proprement parler la doxographie en imposant la figure d'Épicure au détriment d'Aristippe.

Toujours dans le chapitre 2, p. 91 et suivantes, on regrette aussi que l'analyse du rapport éthique au temps et de son lien avec la tranquillité de l'âme ne tienne pas compte de la place du modèle divin dans l'hédonisme épicurien – et que l'analyse du modèle lucrétien de la vie rustique se concentre sur le livre II, alors que le livre V fournit un contre-modèle intéressant dans lequel les premiers âges de la vie sont une période rude, dans laquelle la fête champêtre est un répit vite troublé. Enfin nous déplorons l'absence de références aux textes de Philodème, alors même qu'il est probablement le véritable chaînon entre Horace et l'épicurisme grec.

Au ch. 2 encore, refuser aux stoïciens la notion d'anticipation est problématique; certes l'éthique stoïcienne enseigne à se méfier des représentations positives ou négatives et incline à ne rien attendre de l'avenir; mais l'avenir peut être l'objet d'anticipations rationelles et de prédictions. Si le seul temps qui existe pour nous est bien le présent, ce n'est pas «au nom de la conception chrysippéenne du temps» que «l'anticipation des plaisirs» est condamnée (p. 104) mais pour des raisons éthiques, parce qu'il est déraisonnable d'investir une affectivité dans quoi que ce soit qui ne dépende pas de nous. Par contre il est tout à fait rationnel pour un stoïcien d'anticiper logiquement ou physiquement à des fins scientifiques ou politiques.

Mais paradoxalement, la doctrine dont l'exploitation est peut-être la plus décevante est celle de l'Académie, à laquelle pourtant l'autrice, via Cicéron, consacre le plus de pages. Les évocations du contenu réel de l'enseignement de l'Académie tel qu'il a pu être reçu par Cicéron (dont on aimerait appeller qu'il a suivi deux états adverses de cet enseignement, celui de Philon et celui d'Antiochus, ce qui n'est pas sans conséquence) s'en tiennent à des généralités qui reprennent pour l'essentiel les éléments présentés en introduction sur la notion d'éclectisme et l'anti-dogmatisme. Par contre, les emprunts d'Horace à des concepts plus spécifiquement cicéroniens sont bien plus fouillés – les p. 121 à 132 éclairent ainsi de façon remarquable la présence dans les Odes des notions de persona et de decorum.

La deuxième partie de l'ouvrage, bien plus satisfaisante à nos yeux, examine une autre clef de lecture du corpus: la clef socio-politique. L'autrice assume (ch. 4) sur ce point sa filiation avec la thèse de M. Eicks d'un continuum entre morale érotique et morale sociale, thèse qu'elle applique à l'analyse suivie des livres II et III des Odes. Elle montre ainsi comment Horace construit une figure générale de «l'amant-citoyen» dont la conduite est à la fois réglée par l'appropriation de règles politiques et d'intuitions philosophiques sur la nature du temps et du désir. La question du mariage devient centrale dans une telle perspective, et les différents personnages féminins des Odes sont abordés par l'intermédiaire de cette thématique, et de la façon dont ils sont situés dans le paysage matrimonial romain. Le rapprochement avec le topos philosophique de l'éloge du mariage chez Lucrèce et Musonius Rufus est particulièrement réussi.

Le ch. 5 interroge l'ancillarité de cette morale sociale par rapport à un propos politique plus ambitieux de légitimation de l'idéologie augustéenne. Bénédicte Delignon souligne à ce titre l'audace d'Horace qui fait de l'érotisme un motif non pas de désengagement politique, à la manière de l'élégie de Properce, mais d'adhésion à un programme. De même le trope poétique de la guerre et de la paix au ch. 6 est étudié à la lumière de cette intrication du politique et du philosophique, la guerre décrite à la fois comme ingrédient de l'érotisme (exercitatio) et comme devoir moral et civique dont l'amour est susceptible d'éloigner; ce qui crée une nouvelle tension, plus inattendue que dans le thème conjugal, entre désir et morale. Mais sur ce thème il est dommage que l'autrice n'ait pas opéré de rapprochement avec le prologue du chant I du De Rerum Natura, et les amours de Mars et Vénus. Mais notre déception quant à ce rapprochement intertextuel manqué ne doit pas ici nous aveugler: la matière choisie par Bénédicte Delignon est si riche qu'il est probablement impossible d'en faire le tour en un seul volume.

La troisième partie de l'ouvrage, la plus strictement littéraire, est aussi la meilleure. Bénédicte Delignon démontre comment Horace, en introduisant un matériel d'édification morale dans un domaine (la poésie érotique) qui en était dépourvu dans son modèle grec, opère une subversion des genres (qu'elle désigne par le terme de «transgénéricité») et un jeu sur la «pragmatique des formes»; cette poétique singulière étant rendue possible par le retrait de la pratique de la performance publique. Bénédicte Delignon propose ici des explications limpides et précises, qui éclairent véritablement les textes. Une analyse particulièrement remarquable est celle de l'ode III, 11 et du mythe des Danaïdes qui en est l'objet principal; analyse développée une première fois p. 189-194 dans une perspective historique et politique puis p. 251-255 à partir d'une réflexion sur les genres poétiques.

Le tout dernier chapitre est consacré à l'homoérotisme traité comme une catégorie à part malgré des mises en gardes bienvenues quant à l'anachronisme de la notion d'homosexualité. Bénédicte Delignon y applique à nouveau les grilles de lecture dégagées dans les chapitres précédents; on comprend donc mal l'intérêt d'en faire un chapitre à part, mais les conclusions n'en sont pas moins convaincantes pour autant.

Comme Bénédicte Delignon le rappelle dans la conclusion: «les enjeux de la poétique érotique des Odes sont nombreux et c'est leur interaction au sein de chaque poème que nous avons voulu étudier ici» p. 349; ce choix entraîne une écriture nécessairement répétitive, et la cohérence très profonde de l'ensemble du livre de Bénédicte Delignon aboutit à des redites. Mais cela n'empêche pas un véritable plaisir de lecture. Les quelques réserves que nous avons exprimées ne doivent pas invalider un livre remarquable et dont tous les spécialistes d'Horace pourront faire leur profit.

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Christine Schmitz, Juvenal. Studienbücher Antike, Band 16. Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 2019. Pp. 248. ISBN 9783487157412. €22,00 (pb).

Reviewed by John Godwin, Shrewsbury, UK (

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Table of Contents

This excellent book is the perfect introduction to Juvenal, intended for 'students and teachers of Classics' as well as readers in other subject areas. All texts are translated into clear German, and Schmitz goes out of her way to clarify her argument and explain terminology in a manner which is at once helpful and inviting to a student reader—although the discussion of verbal effects in Latin would probably go over the heads of a reader who knew no Latin. Schmitz tells readers what they will find if they read Juvenal, and also makes a persuasive case for why reading him is so gloriously enjoyable.

The first section (11-43) looks at the man behind the work. Schmitz weighs up the arguments for and against the persona theory which was the dominant view of the relationship between author and 'author' in the latter half of the twentieth century but which is now being heavily qualified and developed.1 When Juvenal says 'we', is he speaking for his own group or is this just a pose to add persuasive power to his rhetoric? Juvenal does hand the microphone to others (Umbricius in 3, Naevolus in 9) and he also adopts different roles for himself (host in 11, friend in 12)—and yet they all end up sounding like Juvenal, suggesting that the relationship between author and his voice is going to be complex rather than any simple hand-on-heart outpouring of personal feelings: as she puts it, the satirist is a shadowy figure in his own text (p. 22). Schmitz proposes (p. 25) a middle way between the extreme autobiographical reading of (say) Highet and the extreme persona reading, presenting 'ein satirisches Rollen-Ich, das auch autobigraphische Momente enthalten kann.' Juvenal is, for one thing, a poet speaking as a poet in a literary tradition—and so his language is anything but natural and the text is obviously a construct. The verse is his, but the indignatio is (perhaps) put on—the pretence that anger makes verse as instantly as the snappy words facit indignatio versum (1.79) would suggest is obviously not true. The apparent spontaneity is 'inszeniert', and Schmitz helpfully discusses the view of Juvenal as dramaturge, the ring-master of the circus around him (e.g. 4.1-2). The persona theory has been found useful to distance the author (and thus his readers) from the politically incorrect and rabidly xenophobic views expressed in the poetry, but (as Schmitz points out (p. 32)), this is all anachronistic assumption of what Romans may or may not have found (un)acceptable.

Section 2 (pp. 44-71) deals with Juvenal and the genre of verse satire, giving the essential facts about his predecessors and how he places himself in the tradition of Lucilius, Horace and Persius. This could have been relatively humdrum material but Schmitz spreads the net wider and takes the opportunity to look at what she calls the generic polyphony of Juvenal and his 'literary and metapoetic' stance. Her analysis of the word satura for instance—always a good place to start—is lively and ends with a tentative and witty definition of the Juvenalian form as 'eine deftige Mischkost'. A tiny phrase (1.164 multum quaesitus)—is opened up into a much wider debate on the poet's literary self-awareness and ironic stance. Juvenal's (ab)use of tropes from other poets is well-known but is here clearly and coherently demonstrated with key examples from such devices as: recusatio, paraklausithyron, epic diction and tragic motifs. This polyphony is often seen in the bathetic drop from the 'sublime to the everyday' (p. 62): 6.634-40, for instance, implicitly tells us that what was the stuff of Sophoclean tragedy is now everyday life,2 and this move is expressed in the style as much as in the simple meaning: 'gewaltige Verbrechen verlangen eine gewaltige Darstellung' (p. 67). Juvenal has it both ways: he makes full use of the persuasive power of epic and tragedy while still stressing that his themes are not simply dead myths and legends (a contrast which goes back to 1.1-18).

Section 3 (pp. 72-161) is the longest part of the book and offers brief summary readings of each of the sixteen individual satires in turn. For several of the satires (2, 3, 6, 8, 10, 14) Schmitz also adds a more detailed literary analysis of a short passage. This poem-by-poem detail is essential in any introduction to the poetry and (again) could have turned out as something of a routine exercise, but Schmitz has her own take on every poem and brings each one deftly to life. A few highlights (out of many) are: Umbricius in Satire 3 is seen as a reverse Aeneas, leaving Rome for Cumae (whereas Aeneas left Cumae for Rome): this tiny point is by no means essential to the understanding of the poem but lets the reader glimpse the writer at work in his poetic tradition. The putative parody at work in 4 is well discussed—pinning the joke on Statius is not really adequate—and she neatly smooths over the structural problems of this poem. The description of Satire 6 brings up the misogamist/misogynist persona issue again and Schmitz wisely warns (p. 106) against assuming that the poem is an 'Ausdruck eines konservativen Zeitkritikers namens Juvenal'. For one thing the women depicted are often literary and/or historical archetypes—although one could riposte that Juvenal is using any ammunition available to make his point, as with Lucretius' use (1.80-101) of Iphigenia as an exemplum. Satire 7 ought to be a strong candidate for an autobiographical reading with its depiction of the rotten life of poets, but in fact it satirises pathetic clients as much as stingy patrons. Schmitz looks at the crumbling statues of ancestors in Satire 8 and makes this poem memorable in her reminder of Juvenal's concluding remarks that we are all descended from peasants.3 Naevolus in Satire 9 is presented as a defrauded worker and also as abandoned lover (p. 127), and Juvenal both humours and mocks the deluded fool. In 13 the usual themes of consolatio are radically rewritten for the topsy-turvy world in which lost money causes more grief than dead people. Schmitz is especially good at restoring coherence to poems which have been written off in the past as disjointed and poorly structured: 14 seems to be unsure whether it is about education or auaritia but is in fact all about one thing, namely the social havoc which auaritia causes and how this only multiplies as new generations imbibe it with their mother's milk. Even the inordinate length of 14, she suggests interestingly, is itself an expression of nil satis est. The 'digression' in 15.65-71 is in fact part of the argument: J., as often, masks his formal design with apparent conversational flippancy.

Section 4 (pp. 162-177) looks at social criticism in Juvenal, focussing on themes such as clients and their patrons, the life of luxury and the cena. The same question crops up again—is this man a reliable narrator? Obviously the satirist uses the weapons of 'exaggeration and generalisation' (p. 162), and yet his literary construct must have some relationship with the world it purports to describe: and (as always) the narrative voice is itself subject to critical judgement and may be the target as well as the medium of the satire.

Section 5 (pp. 178-202) examines 'Juvenal's virtuoso technique' at work. Juvenal is, she reminds us, an artistic poet and for him 'the choice and placing of words are of greatest importance'. In this light she examines verbal artistry such as oxymoron and the satirical use of παρὰ προσδοκίαν utterances: hyperbole is well discussed, Schmitz showing both simple verbal forms of the device and also the more complex satirical use of universal generalisations involving mythical references (such as the overblown 6.656) and the cumulative use of exempla. From the overstated to the undersized, Schmitz next discusses the poet's use of diminutives: the Eppia passage (6.82-113: pp. 189-90) is revealing, as the narrator both focalises and satirises the woman's affection for her gladiator hunk Sergius with the amusing diminutive Sergiolus—a diminutive which is all the more amusing as this muscle-bound man is in fact getting on in years (6.105-6). Schmitz (rightly) argues against other recent commentators' more literal and biological understanding of ocellus here and sees it as 'Ausdruck emotionaler Verbundenheit'. She points out that the objective truth of the fighter's face—rubbed raw with his helmet and with a huge lump on his nose—is ironically contrasted with Eppia's idealising view of her man and his 'darling little eye', conveyed in the language of love-elegy and thus adding a further parodic twist to the satire. Schmitz analyses the verse technique with enthusiasm and with her own virtuosic authority, in such cases as the bathetic use of golden lines to describe what is anything but golden (e.g. 11.80), and the wonderful use of elision at 3.207 where the word opici eats verbally at the divina carmina as the mice nibble the books. Enjambement is shown to be a powerful satirical tool (e.g. 15.10-11) as the word emphasised is often as surprising as a punch on the nose. Metrical effects are everywhere if you know where to look, and Schmitz points out some striking ones: elision (e.g. 12.18 where the nube una becomes a single item) and the use of spondaic rhythm (e.g. 10.332-3).4

The final section (pp. 203-232) looks at the reception of Juvenal, beginning with the manuscript tradition and ending with Asterix. The sections on the manuscripts are a model of clarity, and the quick tour of Juvenal's imitators and admirers over the last sixteen centuries has some faces which are familiar (Johnson, Dryden, Victor Hugo) and some less so (Konrad von Hirsau). The command of secondary literature is very impressive and there are twelve pages of invaluable bibliography. There is a Stellenregister but no general index.

In summary this is a splendid introduction to Juvenal and ought to be placed into the hands of anybody wondering why increasing numbers of us are spending years of our lives reading this poet. The book is superbly proof-read and produced. It is a hugely helpful and warmly written guide to one of the most interesting poets in Latin: anyone who reads it will certainly want to read more.


1.   As shown for example in James Uden's The Invisible Satirist (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015) and Tom Geue's Juvenal and the Poetics of Anonymity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017).
2.   As he does in a different way at 15.30-32.
3.   Add to the bibliography: John Henderson: Figuring out Roman Nobility: Juvenal's Eighth Satire (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1997).
4.   One could add to the bibliography on Juvenal's poetic skills the essay 'Juvenal the Poet' in Richard Jenkyns Three Classical Poets: Sappho, Catullus and Juvenal (London: Duckworth, 1982).

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Tuesday, October 15, 2019


Roz Kaveney, Catullus. The Poems of Gaius Valerius Catullus: Some English Versions. Bristol: Sad Press, 2018. Pp. 154. ISBN 9781912802227. $15.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Tori Lee, Duke University (

Version at BMCR home site

Roz Kaveney's Catullus joins a number of English translations and reimaginations of the Catullan corpus that women have produced in recent years. Josephine Balmer's 2004 Catullus: Poems of Love and Hate takes ownership of the poems by regrouping them thematically. Anne Carson's 2010 Nox is a personal scrapbook of grief based on Poem 101; Catullus's mourning over his brother's death inspires her to create her own mixed-media collage after the death of her own brother. Tiffany Atkinson's Catulla et al. (2011) and Daisy Dunn's The Poems of Catullus (2016) both bring a female perspective to traditionally "masculine" poems.1 Kaveney gives the speaker of the poems a voice that is irreverent, colloquial, and at times entirely female; she goes so far as to give the poetic "I" a woman's voice. Her collection upends traditional understanding of what Catullus—in all his aggression, obscenity, and sexuality—represents.

Kaveney provides no introduction or Latin text, although a brief afterword describes the inspiration for the collection. Rather than set out with the sole purpose of creating a new English version of Catullus, Kaveney began translating his poems as a way to "win [an] argument" about countercultural views in the Classical world. Catullus, she believes, provides a more nuanced view of the "standard assumptions about penetration of inferiors and sexuality as subjugation" (153). Though she admits to an "imperfect command of Latin" and an "extensive reading of cribs," one can hardly detect this in her translations. Her command of the language, doubtless enhanced by her poetic dexterity, captures a speaker who is, as she describes, a "bitchy sentimental brilliant twerp" (153).

This voice is clear from the opening lines of the first poem, which Kaveney uses as her own dedication: "Who gets first dibs on this cute little book / fresh from the printers all shiny and new? Neil, you encouraged it. It goes to you." This is Catullus, certainly—but updated for a contemporary reader. Kaveney captures Poem 1's flippant, self-deprecating tone in her final couplet: "Anyway, here's my Catullus. Its pages / have filth, love and death. It is built for the ages." This first poem, as well as many of the following, takes the form of sonnets; poems that are too short to constitute full sonnets still maintain an ABBA rhyme scheme, lending the entire volume a playful lilt and a familiarity that hendecasyllables no longer offer a modern reader.

Kaveney's language is at once poetic and precise, casual and slangy. In Poem 3, the Latin pipiabat (line 10) becomes "chirrup pipip," and the sparrow is "darkling" as it descends to the Underworld. Yet two lines later, grief loses its eloquence, as the speaker exclaims, "So fuck you, greedy death" (at vobis male sit, malae tenebrae / Orci, quae omnia bella devoratis). Rather than try to translate the Latin verbatim, she updates references for a modern audience while preserving the playful tone: In Poem 13 (Cenabis bene, mi Fabulle, apud me), Kaveney writes "Just bring some takeaway, perhaps Chinese / with rice and noodles. Chopsticks, if you please / …We could / play Cluedo, or Monopoly, or Chess, / if you could bring them round." Similarly, the speaker tells the puella in Poem 43 (Salve, nec minimo puella naso) that her "fingers are quite stubby, and the nails / bitten and badly painted."

In Poem 50, which describes a poetic exchange between Catullus and Calvus and the resulting sleeplessness that afflicts Catullus that night, Kaveney again brings the scene to the modern day. Hesterno, Licini, die otiosi / multum lusimus in meis tabellis, / ut convenerat esse delicatos becomes "We were up late. Our keyboards nearly burned / from all the jokes and bitching, even verse." These changes make Kaveney's poems accessible and appealing to contemporary readers.

Kaveney goes yet further in Poem 50. While the Latin alludes to a potential romantic, sexual relationship between Catullus and Calvus, it leaves the details ambiguous, steering clear of obscenity and letting readers decide just how incensus Catullus is (line 8), whether his limbs are literally or metaphorically semimortua ("half-dead," or "exhausted"). But Kaveney eliminates any uncertainty. Starting at line 8, she writes, "Why is our conversation always tame / the nights we're fucking? Lying in your bed / legs wrapped around each other pretty boy, / this simple verse is beating in my head." She relocates Catullus from lying lonely in his own empty bed to lying intertwined with his lover. And by adding "fucking" where no such Latin equivalent is present—as she does in Poem 3—Kaveney introduces profanity into a poem that originally had none.

This over-profanation of neutral language, dysphemism, has become somewhat of a trend in recent translations of Catullus, perhaps to preserve Catullus's reputation as a "dirty poet" for a modern audience inured to the usage of explicit language in everyday conversation and media.2 In Poem 50, no profane words are present in the Latin; in Poem 42 (Adeste, hendecasyllabi, quot estis), however, Catullus demands back writing tablets from a putida moecha ("filthy whore"), calling her by this insulting title repeatedly. Kaveney introduces more dirty language to this poem right at the outset:

Fuck, felch, quim, rim—I need you at my side,
you dirty little words. She thinks it's smart
to pad her tits with verse, to take my art
and wipe her arse. And I've already tried

to ask her nicely; she is now fair game.

In Kaveney's version, the opening line slaps the reader in the face with a list of obscene words, striking an irreverent tone that continues throughout the poem and the rest of the volume. Such a string of obscenity can remain in the minds of readers as they progress through the remainder of the book—even into Poems 61-68, which remain free from explicit language in Kaveney's translation.

Catullus's Poem 88 accuses Gellius of cuckolding his uncle, "quid facit is patruum qui non sinit esse maritum?" ("What is he doing, he who doesn't let his uncle be a husband?"). Kaveney's takes this a step further, writing that Gellius "pulled his uncle from a bridal bed, / he slapped him silly and then gave him head." Here, Gellius's poor uncle is not only a cuckold, but also the recipient of forced oral sex. Catullus's 88 closes by asserting that Gellius's crime is so wicked that nothing can surpass it, not even if he were to perform oral sex on himself. Kaveney's 88, however, asserts that Gellius is, in fact, doing just that: "He's practising a swivel of the hips / to get a blow job from his own sweet lips." There is no hypothetical element here.

No examination of profanity in Catullus can pass over Poem 16, one of the most infamous in the corpus, and in Kaveney's volume Poem 16 stands out as a tour de force of poetic perspective.

Eat out my pussy while I fuck you hard
my hands up both your arses. Silly boys,
you prissy queens, because my verse enjoys
making hot love, that doesn't mean I'm tarred

with the same filthy brush. I might be chaste
as anything. A poem might say "fuck,"
dabble its fingers in all kinds of muck,
turn people on perhaps, if they've a taste

for all that sort of thing. Old men with piles
don't get hard otherwise; bored wives are wet
reading my verses. But you still don't get
to think I'm slut or virgin. Snarky smiles

will get you hurt. Oh, I will make you shout,
fistfuck your arses while you eat me out.

In a poem whose Latin version exhibits masculine sexual domination, Kaveney has written a female speaker. Yet the roles remain the same: the speaker is the violator, the penetrator, and the one who wields power; the critics are violated, penetrated, and powerless. Kaveney shows us how a woman can embody a persona just as aggressive and dominant as the male speaker of Catullus 16. This poem still shocks with its obscenity, but to a reader familiar with the Latin text, it shocks in its unexpected inversion of genders as well. It becomes an adaptation, rather than a translation: Kaveney does not simply change Catullus's Latin words to English ones; she creates her own original work.

Although Catullus's Poem 16 focuses on Roman male sexuality, Kaveney's Poem 16 is a show of female rage. Though female speakers are not consistent throughout the corpus—in Poem 56, for example, the speaker "buggers" a boy while "stiff as a spear"—her emergence in Poem 16 makes a strong poetic statement about sex and power in antiquity and in the modern world: it may be shocking to see a woman wielding it, but she wields it effectively.

There were a few typographical errors throughout the book, but none that detracted from understanding. Poem 37 is missing a final period. Poem 67, line 6 should read "Doors," not "Door's." In the third paragraph, the afterword on p.153 has a period following the phrase "Like us" when it should have a comma.

Overall, Kaveney produces a light, readable, enormously fun Catullus that will delight classicists and non-classicists alike.


1.   Richlin, Amy. 1983. The Garden of Priapus. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
2.   Atkinson 2011, Balmer 2004; see also Gallagher, Ryan. The Complete Poems of Gaius Valerius Catullus. Lowell, Mass.: Bootstrap Press, 2008.

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Paul White, Gallus Reborn. A Study of the Diffusion and Reception of Works Ascribed to Gaius Cornelius Gallus. Routledge Focus on Classical Studies. London; New York: Routledge, 2019. Pp. 76. ISBN 9780367200596. $60.00.

Reviewed by Marie-Pierre Bussières, Université d'Ottawa (

Version at BMCR home site

Que voici une étude intéressante, bien écrite et bien argumentée sur la réception de Gaius Cornélius Gallus à la Renaissance. Dans l'espace d'une plaquette concise, mais approfondie, Paul White prend le parti d'explorer les raisons qui expliquent l'influence de Gallus et de ses pseudépigraphes (les Élégies de Maximien et le Carmen ad Lydiam), la manière dont les lecteurs de la Renaissance ont transformé le personnage de Gallus, ainsi que l'impact que cette figure et ces poèmes ont eu sur l'histoire littéraire.

White explique que les raisons qui ont mené à l'attribution à Gallus des poèmes de Maximien, malgré les doutes précoces et nombreux sur cette attribution, sont multiples. D'une part, Gallus avait été célébré par ses contemporains comme un maître et le fondateur d'un genre qui chante la jeunesse; or les Élégies de Maximien montrent un homme vieillissant déplorant des déconfitures amoureuses. La figure de Gallus est devenue à la fois le modèle élégiaque imité de ses contemporains et un poète en fin de parcours. De l'avis de White, ce personnage contradictoire permettait aux littérateurs de la Renaissance de faire de Gallus à la fois le précurseur et le dernier auteur classique du genre. D'autre part, les multiples allusions aux élégiaques classiques dans les Élégies et l'Ad Lydiam, ainsi que l'image du poète revisitant (le verbe recenseo est très présent dans la poésie de Maximien) ses Amores de jeunesse—les amours et les poèmes—créent un discours métapoétique évoquant un genre déclinant détaché du passé classique de l'élégie qui trouvait une résonnance particulière chez les hommes de lettres de la Renaissance, conscients de leur propre distance par rapport à ce passé littéraire (ch. 1 et 4).

Ces affinités intellectuelles et l'autorité du poète classique ont fait des Élégies et de l'Ad Lydiam des poèmes très imités pendant tous les quinzième et seizième siècles (ch. 3).

L'association du nom de Gallus avec les poèmes de Maximien a également transformé l'image de Gallus à la Renaissance, qui, de préfet d'Égypte mort par suicide à trente-trois ans, devint un soldat vieillissant contemplant son passé. Cette image transpire dans les allusions à Gallus et les imitations des Élégies et de l'Ad Lydiam chez les poètes contemporains et les auteurs postérieurs (ch. 2 et 4), mais aussi dans l'attribution à Gallus d'un poème, Non fuit Arsacidum tanti expugnare Seleucen, mettant en scène le poète de retour de la campagne contre les Parthes de Ventidius (39-38 a. n. è.) et déjà vieilli. Ce faux fut envoyé par Didacus Pyrrhus à Achille Statius et Alde Manuce, deux éditeurs qui avaient déjà été victimes d'un faux, l'Orpheus prétendument de Cassius de Parme. White pose l'hypothèse que Pyrrhus a lui-même écrit le poème et qu'une réédition de Non fuit Arsacidum quelques années plus tard, qui parut accompagné de poèmes de Pyrrhus, avait pour but de mettre la puce à l'oreille du lecteur afin qu'il reconnaisse la supercherie (ch. 5-6).

Un appendice dresse la liste des fragments et poèmes attribués à Gallus dans les éditions imprimées depuis la Renaissance.

Je tiens à souligner que le livre compte, outre l'introduction et la conclusion, six chapitres dont l'ampleur reproduit presque le rythme des poèmes de Maximien: un premier chapitre plus long, suivi de trois chapitres très courts et d'un cinquième plus développé. Seul le sixième chapitre échappe à cette aemulatio, mais il fallait étayer l'identité du faussaire avec soin.

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Theodore A. Bergren, A Latin-Greek index of the Vulgate New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 403. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2018. Pp. x, 261. ISBN 9783161560248. €114.00.

Reviewed by Daniel King, Cardiff University (

Version at BMCR home site

The index here reviewed consists of a straightforward list of Latin words found in the Vulgate New Testament and the early Latin versions of the Apostolic Fathers, beneath which is given the Greek word(s) that can, in each case, be assumed to have been the underlying term in the source text. The index is designed to be used in alliance with Schmoller's Handkonkordanz to the Greek New Testament1 and Kraft's equivalent concordance of the Apostolic Fathers2—both of which volumes list the Latin equivalents to all the Greek terms in their respective corpora, but give no reverse index. That is precisely what Bergren here supplies.

It is peculiar, inexplicable even, that the current volume makes no mention of the fact that an earlier version of this very index was published already some 27 years ago by the same author.3 The significant difference between the two (1991/2018) versions is that the earlier version indexed the Vulgate New Testament by itself and was followed by a further index to the older Latin translations of the New Testament known collectively as the Vetus Latina (specifically using Valgiglio's edition of the Vetus Latina and Von Soden's edition of the "African" translations). There is no explanation from the editor as to why this further index has been omitted from the updated edition, which is to be regretted since research into the texts of the Vetus Latina is substantial and ongoing.

In the present edition this data from the old Latin versions has been replaced by data from the Latin translations of the corpus of texts known collectively as the Apostolic Fathers. Moreover, the two corpora are not indexed separately but have been merged together into a single index while being distinguished by different abbreviations. For example, under induere we have the following entry:

ἀμφιέννυμι Ν33
ἐνδιδύσκω Ν168 F151
ἐνδύω Ν168 F153
N# refer to page numbers in any post-1985 edition of Schmoller's Handkonkordanz, and F# refer to pages in any post-1985 edition of Kraft's Clavis. This of course is only a first stage in researching the translation equivalents that Bergren lists. The reader must follow up the references in order to know, for example, how often the Vulgate's induere reflects each of the above three Greek verbs. This is simple enough to follow. It is a shame, however, that there is no explicit guidance on which editions of Schmoller and Kraft he has used for the index, nor which edition of the Apostolic Fathers underlies Kraft's concordance. For the Vulgate, we may assume that the Stuttgart edition underlies everything, but exactly which edition of the Stuttgart Vulgate would depend in turn upon the Schmoller edition that was used.

Unfortunately it seems that the index is not always exhaustively accurate. Continuing with the foregoing example, at least one instance of induere in the Stuttgart Vulgate reflects περιβάλλω (Luk 23:11), a rendering that has been missed in this index.

There is some unexplained inconsistency in the way in which textual variants are dealt with. Sometimes variants are given, e.g. paracletus and paraclitus, which both refer to the same Schmoller entry, though only the former will be found in the Stuttgart Vulgate (the other being a spelling variant). On the other hand, where the variation is more substantial it would be impossible to provide an entry. For instance, some mss. of the Vulgate read in error in retributione (Luk 14:14) for in resurrectione. The Greek is indeed ἀναστάσει, but it would have been strange indeed to have included an entry for retributio pointing to ἀνάστασις, and so Bergren does not have one. The variant is an error interior to the Latin tradition and hence has no Greek equivalent, but these are ultimately matters of editorial judgement.

Translation, of course, is never a simple issue of one-to-one correspondence, and it is thus especially useful that Bergren has attempted to show where a pair of Latin words is equivalent to a single Greek, e.g. under residui we are pointed to qui residui sumus as the Vulgate's rendering of περιλειπόμενοι.

It is worth noting just how often the translation equivalents in the Apostolic Fathers and those in the New Testament turn out to be the same. But there are also some interesting exceptions – e.g. ἔμφυτος λόγος is rendered as insitum verbum at Vulg Jac 1:21, but ἔμφυτος χάρις at Ep.Barn 1:2 is rendered as naturalis gratia.

In the age of digital technology in which academia now lives, it might seem a throwback to make lists such as this one, which have often become dinosaurs in the face of text-based software with powerful search features. However, co-ordinating a source text with its translation is not always an automatable process and software is notoriously poor at dealing with it. Moreover, morphologically-tagged versions of both texts would be needed, and at least for the Vulgate this is often not available to students or scholars. To return to our earlier example of induere, it takes quite some digital gymnastics to locate all the instances of induere in the Vulgate using only computer software, without having manually to remove masses of false positives. Even after this, the researcher would then need to decide in each case which Greek word was the underlying "source" of induere for each context. In Bergren's index, the editorial work has already done all this, although the editorial judgements still need to be scrutinised rather than blindly relied upon in every case.

There would, however, have been a substantial benefit to the user had the index been placed online as well as in print. A digital version could be used more readily to search for Greek terms. Without this, users must find a copy of Schmoller/Kraft before they can use the index in both directions at once. Nonetheless, for the student who is willing to place Bergren together with Schmoller and Kraft as well as the critical editions of the texts themselves, the present volume is a useful instrument of scholarship that is not entirely drowned out by the digital age.


1.   There have been many editions going back to 1913. The most recent is Schmoller, Alfred, and Beate von Tschischwitz, Handkonkordanz zum griechischen Neuen Testament: nach dem Text des Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece (28. Auflage) und des Greek New Testament (5. Aufl.). Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2014.
2.   Kraft, Heinrich, and Ursula Früchtel, Clavis patrum apostolicorum: Catalogum vocum in libris patrum qui dicuntur apostolici non raro occurrentium. München: Kösel, 1963.
3.   Theodore A. Bergren. A Latin-Greek Index of the Vulgate New Testament based on Alfred Schmoller's Handkonkordanz zum griechischen Neuen Testament with an Index of Latin Equivalences Characteristic of "African" and "European" Old Latin Versions of the New Testament. SBL Resources for Biblical Study, 26. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1991.

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Patrick Baker, Johannes Helmrath, Craig Kallendorf (ed.), Beyond Reception: Renaissance Humanism and the Transformation of Classical Antiquity. Transformationen der Antike, 62. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2019. Pp. vi, 208. ISBN 9783110635775. €79,95.

Reviewed by Carl O'Brien, Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg (

Version at BMCR home site

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

Beyond Reception is a collection of ten essays drawn from a conference in Berlin in 2015, on the interaction between various aspects of the classical tradition—rhetoric, philosophy and poetry—and Renaissance humanism. The theoretical approach behind the volume claims that the typical modern paradigm, reception, suggests too great a degree of passivity and instead proposes the model of 'transformation' or allelopoiesis ('reciprocal creation', p. 4) to assign a more active role to the receiving tradition. As the introduction acknowledges, the term 'reception' was itself adopted in preference to 'classical tradition' to suggest 'that the receiving culture took a more active role in appropriating the past than the earlier model had suggested' (p. 2). It seems to me that there is a risk of simply applying different terminology to a theoretical model that is largely similar; many of the concerns I had were actually addressed head-on by Kallendorf's contribution, which applies this theoretical framework to the case of Virgil. Other contributions apply this framework to attitudes towards ancient Latin authors (Abbamonte), the Greek Renaissance (Ciccolella), Renaissance rhetoric (Mack, along with Helmrath's contribution on Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini and the German diets), the Italian humanists (Hankins, Béhar) and Renaissance philosophy (Kraye and Palmer).

Abbamonte's chapter will appeal to classicists since it discusses the attitudes towards Latin authors during the Quattrocento from the perspective of Lorenzo Valla's linguistic theories. Abbamonte discusses humanist attempts to enlarge the range of Latin authors on the curriculum beyond the medieval canon of Cicero, Sallust, Virgil and Terence, along with Boethius, in light of the Renaissance rediscovery of numerous Latin texts. After outlining failed attempts to enlarge the canon at the start of the Quattrocento, Abbamonte demonstrates the enlargement that had occurred by its end and seeks the reason for this broadening of the canon, attributing this change to Valla's Elegantiae. Valla's grammatical analyses were based on a much wider range of Latin texts than previous analyses. Abbamonte illustrates the manner in which Valla's linguistic theories ultimately, if not immediately, had an effect on the canon of Latin authors via subsequent popular revisions of the Elegantiae by other authors, by means of their influence on lexicography and via their influence upon didactic practice whereby teachers subsequently commented on a larger range of Latin works during class. Ciccolella's contribution presents, in many respects, a useful parallel to that of Abbamonte, since in the course of treating the revival of Greek culture in the Renaissance, she discusses the pedagogy of the Greek language. While noting the lack of attention paid to sixteenth/seventeenth-century Greek scholars in the West (i.e. the generations subsequent to the more widely studied Bessarion and Trapezuntius), she presents a detailed case study of Cretan schools under Venetian rule and outlines the manner in which both Greek and Latin lost ground in Venetian Crete in favour of Italian.

The chapter by Hankins is drawn from his forthcoming monograph and investigates the issue of 'virtue politics', a clear nod at virtue ethics, which Hankins presents as the central theme of humanist political writing, in contrast to the oft-repeated claim that republican liberty is the major topic.1 By 'virtue politics', Hankins understands concern with the moral legitimacy of the ruling class and attempts to improve the virtuous character of rulers (p. 97). While several publications make a connection between moral and political philosophy, Hankins goes beyond this to provide an insightful structure for reading a range of humanist texts that might otherwise appear divergent and connect them to a much broader canvas, since 'virtue politics' overlaps with the modern notion of 'political meritocracy' to some extent (p. 97, n. 5).2 Hankins also addresses the acquisition of virtue, contrasting the range of methods suggested by Aristotle with the humanists' focus on liberal education and comparing it with parallels in the Confucian tradition. A particularly interesting feature of Hankin's essay is the manner in which he sets Renaissance virtue politics in a longer-term historical context by evaluating the concept within the framework of Fukuyama's analysis of modern political institutions (pp.110-113).3 Hankins considers the extent to which humanist virtue politics may have contributed to the development of modern political institutions against the background of Fukuyama's three core features of the best-functioning modern states: impersonal political order, rule of law, and accountability.

Kallendorf examines the theoretical framework of the collection from the perspective of the humanist (perception of) Virgil. Given the centrality of Virgil as a school text from antiquity to the early modern period, his writings are particularly suitable to the type of analysis that Kallendorf conducts. He takes up many of the examples of transformation proposed by the second chapter (Bergemann et al.), but illustrates them with examples that are more relevant to the subject at hand. One of the reasons that Kallendorf's essay is effective is that he addresses head-on many of the concerns scholars are likely to have with the theoretical framework of the volume. First, he outlines precisely why it is that he sees the transformation paradigm as superior to the reception model. It foregrounds change and makes clear that there is no objective viewpoint from which to observe the past (p. 136). Second, he stresses that these transformation categories are not intended to be imposed as normative, but rather as an aid to understanding humanism. To illustrate how Kallendorf applies the theoretical framework to Virgil, here are some examples: Encapsulation (unchanged integration into the receiving culture) is illustrated by quotations from Virgil on coins minted by Renaissance rulers (p. 137). Appropriation is demonstrated by folio editions of Virgil accompanied by commentaries from late antiquity or the Renaissance, i.e. in a context in which his work would have never appeared to his original readers (p. 138). Perhaps most interesting of all are the examples supplied of reconstruction/supplementation (Vegio's Book XIII completing the plot and ethical framework of the Aeneid) and obfuscation (the well-known Christian interpretation of Eclogue 4).

Kraye's contribution is very ambitious, outlining different aspects of the Renaissance transformation of Aristotelianism, Platonism, Stoicism, Epicureanism, and Pyrrhonian skepticism. Kraye presents a broad range of the material in a coherent structure, reviewing scholarship from the past forty years in light of the theoretical framework expounded by Bergemann et al. in the second contribution with a view to evaluating the boundaries (or lack thereof) between Renaissance humanism and philosophy. Naturally, Ficino is discussed, both from the perspective of Platonism (though somewhat unusually indirectly via humanist and philosopher Paolo Beni's evaluation of Ficino's use of the Timaeus, which makes sense given that Kraye's article addresses the interaction between humanism and philosophy), as well as in terms of his interaction with Epicureanism (illustrated by his interest in Lucretius' De rerum natura). Ficino's use of the Timaeus in the service of his project of developing a Christian Platonism is presented as an example of both appropriation and assimilation, while his subsequent destruction of his own commentary on Lucretius is cited as an example of negation. Kraye does not limit herself to Italian humanism, discussing also the influence of Stoicism in the Northern Renaissance: Erasmus' movement from assimilating Seneca to Christianity to appropriation of his rhetoric is contrasted with Lipsius' movement in the opposite direction from initial appropriation of Stoic ethics to greater willingness to assimilate Stoicism to Christianity in his handbooks on Stoic philosophy.

Palmer's contribution complements Kraye's by examining the relationship between humanism and philosophy, with Palmer concentrating on the authorial strategies of the humanists to define themselves in opposition to scholasticism, which result in concealing their philosophical innovations by ascribing these contributions to classical sources. The chapter also contains a particularly interesting digression on the philosophical canon as taught at English-speaking universities between 2010-2015 and philosophy publications from the 'top ten' academic presses in 2014, illustrated by a number of graphs and pie charts (pp. 166-174). While much of this confirms what many professional philosophers will probably intuit (i.e., the dominance of Plato and Aristotle in introductory philosophy courses and research or the popularity of Kant in terms of publications, along with the absence of the Renaissance), it is useful to have hard data to back this up. The link between both strands of the chapter is that both the pre-scholastic Middle Ages and the pre-seventeenth-century Renaissance, which Palmer demonstrates are the least studied eras today (at least by philosophers at Anglophone universities), are presented as being affected by the same 'self-fashioning technique': Petrarch, Bruni, etc. present the Renaissance as a break from the 'Dark Ages', while Descartes and Bacon denounce Renaissance thought (p. 165). Descartes, in particular, is portrayed as an integrator and assimilator of old ideas to such a successful degree that he can present his own work as innovative, while erasing his sources. The chapter outlines how both humanist self-presentation and subsequent evaluation affect our present understanding and underevaluation of the early Renaissance.

There are a couple of details that are not clear to me regarding the chapter 'Transformation: A Concept for the Study of Cultural Change' by Bergemann, Dönike, Schirrmeister, Toepfer, Walter, and Weitbrecht (edited and translated by Patrick Baker). First, Maximilian Benz is credited in a footnote (n. 11, p. 24) as author of a section within the article (pp. 24-25), i.e. two pages within a seventeen-page article with six officially listed co-authors, but yet is not credited as one of the article's authors. Second, none of the six officially listed authors receives a biographical note in the section on contributors. The chapter is a translation of a previously published German article, intended to function as a second introduction to the volume's methodological framework, outlining different types of transformation, such as appropriation, assimilation and obfuscation, etc.4 While some of the examples selected to demonstrate aspects of the methodological framework fit with the subject matter of the volume (e.g. Petrarch's crowning as poeta laureatus, Raphael's School of Athens), not all do (e.g. James Joyce's Ulysses, Apocalypse of Peter).

Beyond Reception is an interesting volume that contains some outstanding contributions. Hankin's, Kraye's and Palmer's chapters, in particular, can be read with both profit and pleasure, while Kallendorf's contribution makes a strong and persuasive argument in support of the theoretical and methodological framework of the book. Despite the range of the topics covered, several of the chapters are in dialogue with each other and the theoretical views outlined by the editors in the introduction are articulated in various ways throughout the volume, offering both a review of the development of scholarship within Renaissance studies, as well as a prospectus of the shape of things to come.

Authors and Titles

Introduction, Patrick Baker, Johannes Helmrath and Craig Kallendorf
Transformation: A Concept for the Study of Cultural Change, Lutz Bergemann, Martin Dönike, Albert Schirrmeister, Georg Toepfer, Marco Walter and Julia Weitbrecht
The Transformation of Attitudes towards Ancient Latin Authors and the Legacy of Lorenzo Valla, Giancarlo Abbamonte
The Greek Renaissance: Transfer, Allelopoiesis, or Both? Federica Ciccolella
How Did Renaissance Rhetoric Transform the Classical Tradition? Peter Mack
Political-Assembly Speeches, German Diets, and Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini, Johannes Helmrath
The Virtue Politics of the Italian Humanists, James Hankins
"Haec Domus Omnium Triumphorum": Petrarch and the Humanist Transformation of the Ancient Triumph, Roland Béhar
Tradition, Reception, Transformation: Allelopoiesis and the Creation of the Humanist Virgil, Craig Kallendorf
Renaissance Humanism and the Transformations of Ancient Philosophy, Jill Kraye
The Effects of Authorial Strategies for Transforming Antiquity on the Place of the Renaissance in the Current Philosophical Canon, Ada Palmer


1.   Hankins, J., Virtue Politics: Soulcraft and Statecraft in Renaissance Italy, (Cambridge, MA, 2019).
2.   See for example Kraye, J. (ed.), Cambridge Translations of Renaissance Philosophical Texts, (1997) or The Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy, (2008).
3.   As outlined for example in Fukuyama. F., The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution, (New York, 2011) or Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy, (New York, 2014).
4.   Bergemann, L. et al., 'Transformation: Ein Konzept zur Erforschung kulturellen Wandels', in H. Böhme et al. (eds.), Transformation: Ein Konzept zur Erforschung kulturellen Wandels, (Munich, 2011), 39-56.

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Sheramy D. Bundrick, Athens, Etruria, and the Many Lives of Greek Figured Pottery. Wisconsin studies in classics. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2019. Pp. 352. ISBN 9780299321000. $119.95.

Reviewed by Mariachiara Franceschini, University of Zürich (

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Nelle molteplici "vite" di un vaso attico tra Atene e l'Etruria, forme e iconografie assumono di volta in volta valore e significato diversi che si adeguano al contesto. Il titolo programmatico di questa nuova pubblicazione di Sheramy D. Bundrick preannuncia già il taglio che assumerà la disanima di un tema centrale nelle ricerche di ceramografia antica: se le problematiche sono note nella storia degli studi, la reinterpretazione della questione in chiave "biografica" offre nuovi spunti di riflessione.

Nel primo capitolo introduttivo (pp. 3–19), dopo aver ripercorso brevemente alcuni studi chiave sui vasi attici rinvenuti in contesti etruschi, l'autrice riscontra uno sbilanciamento della ricerca, tesa tra gli estremi di un'interpretazione atenocentrica oppure, più raramente, di una lettura etrusca, con conseguente trascuratezza o dei contesti di ritrovamento o di quelli di produzione. Il volume si configura, quindi, come un tentativo di riequilibrare l'esegesi, adottando come base metodologica il concetto di "biografia dell'oggetto" per ricostruire i rapporti tra produttori e acquirenti, nonché il ruolo dei commercianti (emporoi) come anelli di congiunzione in grado di influenzare il processo di produzione e di consumo della ceramica attica. In base a queste premesse Bundrick sceglie di riconsiderare alcuni corredi tombali etruschi [?] e di reinterpretare i vasi attici qui rinvenuti, valutando l'interazione tra forma vascolare, immagine e contesto. Il processo analitico porta a mettere in giusta evidenza l'intenzionalità degli etruschi nella scelta della ceramica, l'impatto del mercato etrusco sulle strategie di produzione e il ruolo dei commercianti in questo processo (p. 18).

Nel secondo capitolo "The Nature of the Athenian Vase Trade" (pp. 20–50) vengono evidenziati gli elementi principali che permettono di ricostruire la biografia di un vaso. Per comprendere la reciprocità tra pittori, emporoi e acquirenti e l'intenzionalità delle strategie commerciali mirate al mercato etrusco (contrastando—giustamente—il presupposto diffuso che l'élite ateniese fosse principale destinataria della ceramica figurata), è necessario incrociare dati di diversa natura. Dall'analisi dei contesti di ritrovamento si ricavano modelli di distribuzione e diffusione di forme vascolari, personalità pittoriche e, seppur più difficilmente, iconografie. L'analisi delle botteghe ateniesi indica, così, una specializzazione e un graduale adattamento ad alcune forme o motivi anche influenzati dai desideri degli acquirenti, per tramite dei commercianti. L'operato di questi ultimi è tracciabile attraverso fonti epigrafiche: marchi commerciali, registrazione di lotti o indicazioni di prezzo, che illustrano la trama della distribuzione, possibili commissioni o esigenze di distribuzione. Infine, il carico di relitti permette di valutare nel concreto, seppure in pochi singoli casi, la domanda degli acquirenti di cui gli armatori dovevano essere ben consapevoli.

Il terzo capitolo "Context, Consumption, and Attic Vases in Etruria" (pp. 51–92) ci porta in territorio etrusco per chiarire l'uso e l'integrazione della ceramica nella cultura materiale locale, valutando il punto di vista degli acquirenti. Interpretate nel contesto di ritrovamento, lo spazio liminale della tomba, le immagini attiche possono assumere per l'utenza etrusca un diverso significato: alcune scene di violenza, ad esempio, possono essere lette come un avvertimento a non compiere atti di hybris. Assemblamenti di vasi allogeni e locali sembrano da associare in primo luogo al banchetto, facendo eco alla narrazione greca e romana della lussuria etrusca. Uno sguardo approfondito alle rappresentazioni di kylikeia nell'iconografia funeraria etrusca porta, invece, l'autrice a valorizzare il ruolo performativo dei vasi in contesto funerario. Così, i dipinti della Tomba del Barone potrebbero alludere a un rituale per il quale è rilevata ad esempio un'analogia con l'offerta della kylix di Oltos (Roma, Villa Giulia, 106462) all'ingresso della Tomba Martini Marescotti di Caere. L'assemblamento e la collocazione di oggetti in contesto tombale ne trasforma letteralmente e simbolicamente l'essenza, come accade ai vasi esplicitamente marchiati "per la tomba" attraverso l'iscrizione śuthina. Il confronto tra il corredo di una tomba a camera nella necropoli della Banditaccia a Caere e la Tomba di Brygos a Capua chiarisce poi come gli oggetti ivi deposti debbano essere considerati nell'insieme del corredo, amplificando il valore della tomba come spazio liminale. Nella composizione del corredo si manifesta l'esito di un'accurata scelta da parte degli acquirenti etruschi, agenti attivi del processo di selezione mirata a rimarcare, nel caso della tomba di Caere un ideale eroico, in quello della tomba di Capua una narrazione ctonia. Un ultimo sguardo a una tomba a cassone presso la Cucumella a Vulci ribadisce, enfatizzando temi dionisiaci e il ruolo di Fufluns in chiave escatologica, come le immagini, seppur di origine attica, parlino in contesto tombale un linguaggio propriamente etrusco, prettamente legato alla sfera sepolcrale.

Illustrato, così, il ruolo delle categorie di agenti coinvolti nel processo di produzione, distribuzione e uso dei vasi attici in Etruria, Bundrickne chiarisce nel concreto gli effetti considerando tre esempi relativi rispettivamente alla diffusione di forme vascolari (le coppe a occhioni, pp. 93–126), di iconografie (legate alla sfera semantica dell'acqua, pp. 127–160) e dell'uso di ceramica attica come urna (pp. 161–206).

Le botteghe ateniesi produttrici dei primi esempi di coppe a occhioni paiono avere particolare interesse per il mercato etrusco, esportandole preferenzialmente in Etruria Meridionale (specialmente a Vulci). Riflessioni sull'uso delle coppe a occhioni nel symposion, sulla loro interpretazione in chiave apotropaica e sul possibile valore di maschera sono state a lungo dibattute. A causa delle grandi dimensioni di alcuni esemplari e della distribuzione dei ritrovamenti, l'autrice sottolinea, al contrario, come l'interpretazione in chiave simpotica non sia sempre la più adeguata, se si pensa al mercato etrusco come principale destinatario delle kylikes e alla tomba come contesto di utilizzo. Dall'analisi di alcuni corredi vulcenti di cui fanno parte coppe a occhioni Bundrick ne afferma il significato escatologico e apotropaico piuttosto che l'associazione a usanze greche simposiache, prive di riscontro nei corredi tombali etruschi. In conclusione, tornando sulla nota kylix di Exekias a Monaco (Antikensammlung, 8729/2044), con la quale l'autrice aveva aperto la discussione sulle coppe a occhioni, e che permette nuovamente l'associazione di Dioniso/Fufluns al mondo ctonio, Bundrick accenna al fatto che la riparazione del piede possa implicare [?] un utilizzo della kylix prima di entrare a far parte del corredo—un aspetto, questo, che forse avrebbe meritato più considerazione in sede esegetica.

La sfera semantica marina è particolarmente diffusa nell'immaginario sepolcrale etrusco, laddove la navigazione simboleggia il passaggio all'aldilà. Oggetto di analisi del quinto capitolo "The Mastery of Water" sono due iconografie da sempre ricondotte a ispirazioni prettamente ateniesi, per le quali si propone una reinterpretazione alla luce del fatto che gli Etruschi, maestri di navigazione e di idraulica, fossero stati a loro volta adeguati destinatari di queste immagini. Il motivo di Eracle che combatte Tritone pare da un lato rispondere alla crescente domanda di rappresentazioni dell'eroe in Etruria, come confermano i marchi commerciali. Nell'ottica etrusca, secondo Brundick, l'iconografia potrebbe simboleggiare il combattimento contro il male o, genericamente, lo sforzo eroico per il superamento delle difficoltà. Analogamente, vasi con rappresentazioni di fontane provengono per la maggior parte da sepolture etrusche, dove le interpretazioni ateniesi chiamate comunemente in causa—sia che abbiano a che fare con la fontana pisistratea, che con il ruolo e la condizione delle donne ateniesi o con momenti rituali di varia natura—non bastano a motivare la presenza dei vasi. Anche in questo caso i marchi paiono confermare l'intenzionalità dell'esportazione delle immagini che, rivisitate alla luce del contesto funerario e dei relativi corredi, possono essere associate sia a un modello di arete maschile legata all'esercizio fisico, che all'immaginario femminile più pertinente alla sfera semantica del matrimonio. La fortuna dei motivi legati all'acqua si motiva da un lato nelle capacità tecnologiche etrusche in merito di idraulica, dall'altro—e in modo convincente —nel ruolo sacro dell'acqua nelle manifestazioni di culto in Etruria. Da non trascurare in questa lettura il forte e assodato legame tra Eracle e i culti delle acque. Senza sminuire il contesto di origine delle immagini, dove rimane valida l'interpretazione greca, l'autrice suggerisce che la fortuna di queste iconografie sia dovuta piuttosto al desiderio di assecondare i gusti degli acquirenti etruschi.

Nel denso capitolo "Attic Vases as Etruscan Cineraria" viene trattato l'uso della ceramica attica figurata nella funzione di urna cineraria, diffuso in territori etruschi dove la cremazione ha lunga tradizione e dove coesiste l'impiego di ceramica locale. I vasi attici si configurano in questo senso come un'opzione attraente, fornendo un messaggio aggiuntivo trasmesso dall'iconografia. L'analisi viene effettuata attraverso il confronto tra comunità più o meno direttamente a contatto con il mondo greco in cui la pratica risulta diffusa e documentabile. A Tarquinia è frequente l'uso di anfore, evocative nella forma delle urne biconiche; le loro iconografie rimandano soprattutto all'immaginario maschile eroico e guerriero, mentre solo una minoranza dei vasi si rivolge alla sfera femminile. Analoghe scelte semantiche legate a iconografie di guerrieri—in correlazione per altro col tema della morte precoce—si riscontrano nei vasi-urna a Caere e Vulci. L'ultimo accurato esempio riguarda Foiano della Chiana, sito nell'entroterra dove la ceramica attica arriva mediata dai centri di Vulci e Chiusi, o attraverso la via Adriatica. Le iconografie spaziano in questo caso da motivi eroici, a scene musicali (nelle quali gli etruschi potrebbero aver valorizzato lo spettatore seduto col bastone come simbolo di potere), all'inseguimento e uccisione di Orfeo (interpretato in vista della trasformazione dopo la morte), al banchetto (tema diffuso ampiamente nell'immaginario funerario chiusino). Se nella cremazione, metafora del passaggio del corpo a un altro stato, il defunto "avvolto" nelle immagini è da queste accompagnato nel suo viaggio (p. 202), nella scelta delle iconografie Bundrick non legge un desiderio di emulare Atene, quanto piuttosto l'integrazione di oggetti allogeni in pratiche e ideologie locali.

Nell'ultima sezione "The Etruscanization of Attic Figured Pottery" (pp. 207–221) l'autrice ripercorre i principali risultati. Forma, tecnica e iconografia della ceramica attica paiono influenzati attivamente dalla richiesta degli acquirenti, che si ipotizza mediata dagli emporoi dai quali ceramografi e pittori ateniesi avrebbero avuto informazioni sui gusti dei clienti, apprendendo come rendere il proprio repertorio più appetibile all'acquisto. Con questo la studiosa non vuole, però, negare il potenziale del mercato locale ateniese, quanto più evidenziare il ruolo attivo di tutti i partecipanti alle "vite" dei vasi attici. In un processo di adeguamento selettivo si palesa, così, l'interazione tra domanda e produzione in una prospettiva di globalizzazione e al contempo di glocalizzazione, attenta, quindi, alle esigenze locali e all'uso dell'oggetto in tombe ben distanti dai contesti di produzione.

Nell'insieme l'autrice riesce a presentare un punto di vista alternativo su un tema complesso e discusso. Seppure non sia la prima a proporre di riequilibrare la relazione tra Atene e l'Etruria, rivalutando anche il ruolo dei commercianti (p. 14 n. 71), 1 Bundrick riesce attraverso esempi chiari e ben selezionati a illustrare nel concreto come sia possibile valutare i rapporti tra produzione, commercio e acquirenti, in considerazione dei diversi punti di vista. Un altro pregio di questo lavoro consiste in nuove identificazioni della pertinenza di alcuni vasi a corredi smembrati sul mercato antiquario (ad es. p. 168, 172, 200) in modo da permettere una ricostruzione sempre più oggettiva dei contesti di ritrovamento e in generale consentire di seguire le trame delle "vite moderne" dei vasi. Va rimarcato che lo studio riguarda la trattazione quasi esclusiva dei contesti tombali, una scelta metodologica (p. 13) comprensibile—in quanto le sepolture forniscono non solo l'ultima destinazione del vaso, ma anche materiali conservati nella loro interezza e valutabili agevolmente nell'insieme del corredo –il che porta ad accentuare l'interpretazione ctonia. Come possibile spunto per futuri approfondimenti rimane la valutazione di altri contesti di ritrovamento abitativi o sacrali (accennata nel primo capitolo, pp. 13–18).2

Il volume—pregevole anche per il corredo iconografico, i pratici indici e la ricca bibliografia—si configura nel complesso come un'opera valida e originale nell'approccio metodologico ed esegetico e costituisce una solida base per futuri studi in questa direzione.


1.   Altri esempi in: C. Reusser, Vasen für Etrurien. Verbreitung und Funktionen attischer Keramik im Etrurien des 6. und 5. Jahrhunderts vor Christus (Zürich 2002), spec. 125–6. 146–51; L. Puritani, Die Oinochoe des Typus VII. Produktion und Rezeption im Spannungsfeld zwischen Attika und Etrurien (Frankfurt 2009), 146-8.
2.   In generale: M. Bentz – C. Reusser, Attische Vasen in etruskischem Kontext. Funde aus Häusern und Heiligtümern, CVA DE Vol. 2 ( Munich 2004).

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Dario Mantovani, Les juristes écrivains de la Rome antique: les oeuvres des juristes comme litterature. Docet omnia. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2018. Pp. 358. ISBN 9782251448138. €21,00 (pb).

Reviewed by Jakob Forunat Stagl, Universidad de Chile (

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Publisher's Preview

The historian of Roman law is born free, and everywhere he is in chains. Something like this Rousseauian reflection must have been on Mantovani's mind when he conceived this book attempting to break the chains of ancient thraldom, of idées reçues, mostly of Germanic origin.

Writing about Roman law as literature might be seen as just another one of these modern, mostly Italian ideas to degrade the study of Roman law—traditionally one of the oldest, proudest and most influential academic disciplines of the Western world—into a minor province of ancient history or philology. Yet, this approach—whether it is a method will be discussed later—does not have as a consequence that law turns into littérature and jurists into hommes de lettres. Mantovani's intention is rather to take a fresh look at old problems, an attitude which should not be condemned a priori as the fashion of the times but should be judged by its results: the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Before turning to the book itself, it is helpful to differentiate Mantovani's approach from similar phenomena. In his book, he reads the Roman jurists as literature, which does not imply, as the postmodern school would have it, that law is literature, a 'text' and nothing else; neither is Mantovani's approach an example of the law and literature approach, which deals with legal aspects of belles lettres. He wants to have nothing of this but instead strives to apply a tested method, that of philology, to a body of writing to which it has never been applied hitherto.

Accordingly, the first chapter is dedicated to the fundamental question of whether Roman law can be considered literature. If this premise is granted, three literary aspects of legal writing emerge that are derived from the three dominant classical forms of prose: philosophy, history and rhetoric.

'Literature' is a modern rather than an ancient concept and one that is tied to the ideas of pure invention and the quest for beauty, in turn condemning other forms of writing as 'utilitarian literature'. The ancients themselves, for instance Cicero (Orat. 1, 62-68) and Quintilian (10, 1), considered three different forms of prose as literature insofar as they were suitable for the display of oratorical brilliance (ornate dicere): philosophy, history and oratory. At first glance the iuris consultorum libri do not fit into this scheme. Yet they do comply with the most basic requirements: a sufficient quantity of writers, a language, a consistent body of texts and, last and certainly not least, a public (p. 17). We know of about 40 significant authors of juridical texts, an edition of which can be found in Lenel's "Palingenesia Iuris Civilis". The whole body of their writings, forming a pretty rigid canon (pp. 47 ss.), at the time of the compilation of the Digest (which consists of excerpts from these writings) was about twenty times the Digest's volume. The whole body of juridical writing, therefore, must have amounted to some forty volumes in folio. By quantitative standards this certainly constitutes a 'literature'. For whom were these texts written? Who was their public? Was there a market for this production? The texts were written in the first instance for lawyers and are to a high degree 'intertextual' insofar as the authors themselves refer to their predecessors' and colleagues' works, as Mantovani shows with the help of Fr. Vat. 75, 3 on pp. 30 ss. But these libri were also written for, and bought by, juridical laymen, persons who had a professional interest in the law like orators of Cicero's sort and young students like the son of Echion in Petronius' Satyricon (Sat. 46,7). Judging by other evidence, it was obviously normal for a 'country gentleman' to have a collection of these libri rubricati (pp. 42 s.), as they were called as a result of a tradition of writing the subheadings for legal texts in red, symbolized by a special form of capital letter R (pp. 17 ss, and 241 ss.).

There can be no doubt the jurists themselves as well as the general public considered these libri to constitute a distinct body of writing. But can we therefore conclude that they were also a literature? The fact that juristic writing does not belong to one of the three genera mentioned above is not decisive, for they are only those types of literature suitable for the display of rhetorical skill; juridical writing might be less rhetorical but can, even by ancient standards, still be considered literature.

Even if we applied the category of beauty to legal writing, it could stand up to the test of literature, which Mantovani illustrates with the help of an example where both Cicero and Ulpian, one of the last and most prominent legal writers, give a definition of arma (pp. 57 ss). For the modern reader Cicero is a bit bombastic, whereas Ulpian appeals to a taste schooled in functionality. Owing to its content and technicality, however, which Cicero dubbed obscuritas, Roman legal writing was in peril of being neglected among those who had no immediate interest in the law as such. But Mantovani's verdict stands up to the test: the libri iuris consultorum form a literature, even if only for the 'happy few'. In the final analysis it does not matter, though, if their writing were a literature: what matters is the question whether reading them as literature is rewarding or not (cf. p. 240).

The liberating productivity of Mantovani's approach reveals itself immediately when he starts to discuss the philosophical aspect (pp. 79 ss.). The relationship between philosophy and Roman law has been for over a hundred years one of the most difficult and thorny fields of research. Is law an application of philosophy or does it have autonomy? If the former is right, the Greeks are the real masters of the law; if the latter, the Romans are.

Whereas some, above all Schulz in his seminal History of Roman Legal Science, hold that the law was 'isolated' from philosophy, many post-war authors made their careers by highlighting the influence of philosophical reasoning on the law. Even though he does not state it explicitly, Mantovani eventually supports Schulz. As he can show in all due detail (pp. 85 ss, and 285 ss.), philosophical notions and concepts help the jurists understand and explain the problem at hand, like the continuity of a court composed of several judges with the help of the philosophical concept of 'identity' (Alf. D. 5,1,76). But the jurists find their solution autonomously according to criteria proper to the law (p. 113). Whereas for the philosophers it is totally admissible to state that a person does not remain the same given the 'fact' that the component atoms change in the course of time, this theory is not viable for the law for reasons too trivial to relate. The example concerning the interpretation of species in the following text (… Quapropter cuius rei species eadem consisteret, rem quoque eandem esse existimari.) illustrates clearly how dangerous it is to over-interpret these texts philosophically, as Talamanca may have done (Mario Talamanca, "Lo schema 'genus – species' nelle sistematiche dei giuristi romani," in: Colloquio Italo-Francese "La filosofia greca e il diritto romano" II, Roma 1977). Being writers, the jurists make a writer's use of philosophy and being jurists, they accept the help of philosophy but never give up their autonomy.

Most 'Romanists' are content with Schulz's observation that Roman lawyers had no interest in the history of law—an assertion which was perhaps accepted without dispute because it is obviously counterproductive for legal history as an academic discipline. With the help of some fairly unknown sources Mantovani is able to show that jurists always had quite a strong interest in the history of their discipline (pp. 129 ss.). This does not take us by surprise given the fact that the law is by its nature historical. In the classical period of Roman jurisprudence, the Law of the Twelve Tables was more than 500 years old and still considered "the source of all law". Gaius' theoretical reflection on the advantage and disadvantage of legal history (D. 1,2,1; pp. 145 ss) and Julian's dictum "Non omnium, quae a maioribus constituta sunt, ratio reddi potest" (D. 1,3,20) are obvious testimonies of their—functional—interest in history. Debunking Schulz's theory on the matter is one of the book's major achievements.

The third part deals with the "lawyers as teachers", that is to say above all Gaius' "Institutes" rather than rhetoric directly. Yet, Gaius' Institutes, a 'systematic textbook' par excellence, are modelled on the manuals of rhetoric by the Greeks. Gaius' Institutes are the single most important source and the most important topic of scholarly discussion in the field of Roman law in the last 200 years, given the fact that he is the only legal author of whom we possess a complete book (with the exception of the somewhat marginalised Epitome of Ulpian).

From a scholarly point of view the chapter on Gaius will be for many years to come the text of reference on this matter and it is certainly the climax of the book. The Institutes are so important for the study of Roman law that every trick one can imagine has been played with them in the past in order to diminish their importance or to push them in a certain direction. The author's identity was put in doubt, the text's authenticity was put in doubt, its significance was denied and so forth. Mantovani's approach is, here again, basically conservative, "Gaius is Gaius is Gaius", as one might sum him up. This literary approach not only helps to refute all the theories that try to play down Gaius, but it also helps to produce new insights.

If these writings are literature, they must have had introductions (qualified as 'paratexts'). Given Roman literary standards, the "Institutes" start quite abruptly. Taking into account that the Verona manuscript, our main source for the Institutes, is somewhat leaner than the fragments from the Institutes found at the beginning of the 20th century, we can conclude that the Verona Gaius had lost some of its content over the course of time. For this reason, it is legitimate to consider completing the Verona Gaius with the help of the Aurea or Res cottidianae (which are obviously some sort of extended version of the former) and the Institutiones Iustiniani which are some sort of updated version of Gaius' original. This is the basis for concluding that I. 1, 1, 2 (not 1,1 pr. as Mantovani erroneously claims on p. 222) stood at the beginning of a more original or extended version of Gaius' 'Institutes'. In this text, the author announces that all legal subjects should first be expounded levi ac simplici and then diligentissima atque exactissima interpretatione. If this text is really by Gaius this will have far-reaching consequences for our perception of Gaius' didactic intention.

Does reading legal writing as literature constitute a new method for the study of Roman law? That in turn depends on what else you could make of Mantovani's approach. Every literature has its classics; the same holds true for the libri rubricati (Masurius Sabinus' Libri tres iuris civilis is an example). What can we deduce from that? What other patterns can be laid bare from this perspective? Maybe it could even be possible to shed some new light on the old question regarding Serviani and Proculiani with this new method. Maybe they are textual traditions rather than "schools". Another thing that suggests itself is the question of Fungibilität, in the sense of Savigny's theory that the Roman jurists were 'fungible', i.e., that they did not differ much. Today this theory is fiercely contested by the approccio biografico, which derides Savigny's opinion as unsubstantiated and even absurd. From a philological point of view the category of 'literary genre' could help to overcome this discussion. Any future editor of the Digest will need to take a decision on this matter, and a new edition of Digest (the last is by Mommsen from the 1860s) will need to adhere to the main consequence of Mantovani's work: a sound critical edition of the "juristes écrivains".

To sum up: Mantovani's daring new look helps the discipline of Roman law to overcome some eternal debates in which everything had been said by everybody. But even more so, it charters new territory for philologists: the writings of the Roman jurists.

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