Francis Celoria (trans.), The Metamorphoses of Antoninus Liberalis. London and New York: Routledge, 1992. Pp. ix + 241. $59.95. ISBN 0-415-06896-7.
Reviewed by K. Sara Myers, University of Michigan.
In the Introduction to this first English translation of the Metamorphoses of Antoninus Liberalis, a mythographer of the early centuries C.E., the author, Francis Celoria, claims to be targeting the 'general reader.' Considering the extremely arcane and bizarre nature of these rather bare prose summaries of metamorphosis tales collected from a variety of Greek sources, this seems an odd assertion. However, with a considerable amount of at times good-natured self-deprecating humor and an array of enthusiastic and eclectic information, this book succeeds in being both accessible and informative for both the general reader and even the professional scholar in other disciplines who is interested in mythological variants. Classicists will still want to use the masterly text, commentary, and notes of Manolis Papthomopoulos' Budé edition, Antoninus Liberalis Les Métamorphoses (Paris, 1968).
C.'s book offers an introduction to ancient myth, especially those dealing with metamorphoses, a translation of the text, explanatory notes, and helpful indices to personal and place names (224-33), animal and plant names (234-38), and motifs (239-41). The notes do a good job covering essential and elementary information about the myths and the identities of gods and places. The information ranges from very detailed explanations of ornithological and mythological detail, to the very basic, such as the identity of Poseidon or the Muses. Especially helpful for many might be the extensive lists of parallel versions of the myths or stories included in the notes, ranging from such sources as other ancient Greek and Roman texts, to African tales, and Walt Disney. The translation of this completely inartistic Greek text is for the most part adequate. On p. 52 the gender of Ambracias is male instead of female. The continuous numbering of the notes is helpful for reference.
Antoninus Liberalis' mythological collection contains a vexed mix of various and disputed sources and interpretation remains difficult. Scholars who work on Ovid's Metamorphoses have long puzzled over Antoninus' summaries from the lost works on metamorphosis by Nicander and Boios especially. The reader here is merely invited to sample the bizarre fare. The author claims to offer a store of "raw material" for the potential writer (1). Both the author and the press deserve thanks for their attention to this obscure text.