Bryn Mawr Classical Review 95.08.07

Lewis A. Sussman, The Declamations of Calpurnius Flaccus. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1994. Pp. 258. $85.75. ISBN 9-004-09983-2.

Reviewed by Christina S. Kraus, University College, London (

Sussman is one of the doyens of Roman declamation. Following his biography of the elder Seneca (1978) and edition with translation of the major declamations ascribed to Quintilian (1987) comes this entertaining and useful text, translation, and commentary on the excerpts of Calpurnius Flaccus, who may have been in the younger Pliny's circle (if he is identical with or related to the addressee of Ep. 5.2; S. [p.7] is rightly cautious about the identification, but argues convincingly [pp.16-17] that Calpurnius was the declaimer who composed these excerpts, not the person who excerpted them). He has received perhaps the least attention of all the ancient declaimers; there is a good edition by L. Håkanson (1978), which S. uses as his base text, but no commentary since 1720. The extracts, from 53 declamations, form a collection of memorable sententiae and colores, clearly intended as models for students (p.17) -- unfortunately, however, they lack the explanatory notes, comparanda, and running stylistic commentary provided by the elder Seneca, and present to a lesser extent in the minor declamations ascribed to Quintilian (two texts which share a MS tradition with Calpurnius). Nor is guidance from the ancient professional the only thing these excerpts are missing: they are devoid of all but the briefest context (each declamation is prefaced by a curt title and a 'Situation'; most also have abbreviated texts of the laws pertaining to that situation), and are themselves remarkably short -- none of Seneca's expansive quotations from his favorite speakers here -- and free from any MS indication of division between individual extracts within a given declamation.

S. has met the challenges of this difficult collection admirably. A succinct introduction treats such questions as the relation of declamation to education; the didactic purpose of the excerpts; their style, content, and legal and sociological background. The lucid translation avoids over-interpretation while getting across the feeling of the original (reading it straight through is a little like eating a very large box of not-quite-first-rate chocolates), and S. has in several cases improved on Håkanson's divisions between extracts. The commentary offers information about and parallels for the legal context (the laws are often recherché, Greek, or peculiar to declamation) and the declamatory situation; notes on the text (keyed the translation) concentrate on Calpurnius' often idiosyncratic Latin, choice diction, and especially his use of rhetorical topoi and figures.

Some particular comments and queries. Pedantry first. S. takes a relatively offhand approach to definitions, being himself intimately familiar with such terms as status theory (pp.3, 142), colores (p.5), 'conjectural case' (p.113) -- but none of these is fully explained here, nor are references given to further discussions; so too, 'the Alexander the Great background' of Decl. 13, a case involving the poisoning of a tyrant, is not elaborated (cf. the story at Curt. 3.6), nor is the abbreviation 'c.d.' (= contra dicit) the first time it occurs (p.28); G. Lehnert is 'L.' in most of the book but 'Lehnert' in the short titles (p.245). On p.9, cautior, an emendation by Håkanson (see p.152), should be used with greater caution as support for the collection's date; p.18, on the pathos of -m- (cf. also p.184, where it is mournful): alliteration does not, I think, convey emotion per se; p.44 lines 8-9 from bottom (and elsewhere) S. uses obeli to mark text which is obelized in Håkanson's Teubner but for which S. prints serviceable remedies (only in the Situation of Decl. 51 does he use them conventionally, but there what he translates is not what he prints, cf. p.235 lines 3-5); p.95 'the other side' is for, not in opposition to, the wife; p.96, the extensive quotation from Jerome might have been translated (so too pp.153 bottom and 213 middle -- but cf. p.230 bottom); p.99 on dies: why no reference to the discussion of Calpurnius' date in the introduction? (so also p.227 top); p.106 middle, the lemma 'is it taking a long time' does not match S.'s translation (p.31 lines 3-4 from bottom); p.123 line 7 (and elsewhere, e.g. pp.131, 135) the figure is syllepsis, not zeugma; p.133, the last note is out of order; p.173, line 14 from bottom, S. cannot mean that praestare occurs only here in Latin: for praestare read praestare ad?; p.197 line 6, for 'superl.' read 'compar.' One misses a reference to P. Plass, Wit and the writing of history (1988), a study of epigram and wit in Calpurnius' contemporaries; and it would have been helpful if S. had indexed the parallels from non-declamatory authors which he cites in the notes. Finally, the book has not been well proofread; e.g., on p.32 line 1, delete 'carcerem'; p.42 line 9 from bottom, for 'inidicet' read 'indicet'; p.88 line 10, for 'susecepit' read 'suscepit'; p.94 line 5, for puniatur read puniantur; p.95, an item in a list has been repeated in lines 4 and 5 (cf. also p.1 line 5 from bottom ~ p.21 line 12 from bottom; p.1 n.5 ad fin. ~ p.248; p.2 n.6 ~ p.22; p.112 last line ~ p.113 line 5); p.100, Lehnert is 1903, not 1905; p.124 middle, for siqidem read siquidem; p.166 line 10, something has gone wrong with 'on which to'; p.205 middle, for absentis read absens; p.207 middle, for formoso read formosus; p.210 line 2 from bottom, for quidem read quidam; p.248 line 4, for '10' read '9'; p.249 line 5, for 'Quintilian = Q.' read 'Q. = Quintilian.'

In the text and translation: p.28 line 8, I would take inclinatis animis not as abl. abs. but as dative with deformis est; p.29, last extract of Decl. 2, I do not understand why S. translates licet as an imperative (that would presumably require liceat); p.29 lines 8-9 from bottom, 'excellent work' and 'you have saved Marius the trouble' are too colloquial for the grandiose 'macte uirtute' and the heroic political language of 'et Marium vindicasti'; p.33 line 11, I am not convinced by Håkanson's quin (miror quin is presumably based on the comic idiom mirum quin), nor by S.'s trans. of mirabar ... ? as 'would I be surprised ...?' The colometry of the paradosis, mirabar si quis tantum sceleris auderet qui contemnere carcerem posset, strongly suggests that the si-clause is objective after mirabar. As Håkanson noted (Eranos 70 [1972] 61) one wants a negative with contemnere and non could easily have fallen out before con-: perhaps mirabar si, qui ... auderet, non contemnere ... posset? ('Was I [likely to be] surprised that a person who would dare such a crime would not scorn the prison?'; such objective si-clauses often have forms of possum: Roby §1754). On p. 38, lines 1-2 ter consulatum gessisti, ter triumphasti; licet iam velit fortuna mutari, in illius potestate non est fuisse: S. (following a suggestion by D.A. Russell) translates 'although now your fortune is prepared to undergo a change, that you were what you were was not in her power,' the logic of which I cannot follow: it seems that the meaning is something like 'though fortune wants to change now, for these things not to have been is not in her power' -- but without a context it is impossible to tell, and in any case I cannot make sense of the Latin as it stands; p.55, the end of Decl. 18 elogio ... nomen inscribam is simpler than S. allows: 'I will inscribe our nomen [i.e., the gentilicium, taking nomen in its technical sense, OLD 18] on your epitaph'; p.65 lines 9-10 from bottom, 'unfair' ... 'equally' misses the pun in iniquum est aeque ut patiar... (admittedly difficult in English; the expression may borrow from proverbial language [see Otto, Sprichwörter 175 s.v. iniquus], which S. does not mention); line 7 from bottom, 'still' is not in the Latin; p.67 line 13, I would take mihi not with honore ('the privileges accorded to me') but with praestantes (cf. factus est mihi .... carior in the previous sentence); p.69 line 14 ducat ... aliquam sed aequalem: S.'s 'some other woman' loses the point of sed (the sense is, 'let him get married to someone, yes, but to an equal'); p.74 line 5 in qua civitate raptor solutus est? in ea rapta vincitur!: S.'s new punctuation makes in ea work too hard, I think (he translates, 'In what kind of state is a rapist a free man? In one where the rape victim is kept imprisoned!'); better to keep Håkanson's comma after est and take qua as a relative rather than an interrogative; p.82, last line: S.'s solution for the problematic unqualified moreretur ('die <by his own hand>') is not wholly satisfactory: perhaps read occisus est ante quam <pudor> moreretur. perit homo, sed pudor vivit, starting a new extract at perit (Klotz already conjectured <pudore>, apparently as a causal abl.; for morior of abstract entities see OLD 5a).

In general, the commentary is clear, informative, and leaves one eager for more. On p.97 middle, S. compares Hor. Ep. 2.2.58 but does not mention Brink's n., which illustrates the commonplace; on the same page, ubi semel pudor corruit, nulla inclinatis in vitium animis ruina deformis est brings to mind the topos that once women lose the first bit of modesty, all is lost (e.g., Herod. 1.8.3 A(/MA DE\ KIQW=NI E)KDUOME/NWI SUNEKDU/ETAI KAI\ TH\N AI)DW= GUNH/, Tac. Ann. 4.3.3 neque femina amissa pudicitia alia abnuerit and see A.E. Raubitschek, RhM 100 [1957] 139-41v); p.104 line 6 from bottom: I agree that there is a shift of address -- but if it is integral with what came before, as S. implies, why start a new extract with parum?; p.106 lines 4-5: once Livy was finished with it, ingens hardly provided a 'poetic touch'; on iron-bound door, S. rightly notes the reference to Ennius' ferrati postes -- it is equally important that Calpurnius' door is opening (the signal for violence to begin); last line, the ancients did indeed connect parricida with pater (though more often with parens): R. Maltby, A lexicon of ancient Latin etymologies (1991) 452; p.109 bottom fuit in illis summa pietas; placuere patribus: summa frugalitas; displicuere lenoni: the point of this is that frugalitas is a quality as uncongenial to the brothel owner as pietas is pleasing to their fathers; in this decl., whose Situation implies, as S. says (p.108), that the young men may have cheated the leno, we probably want a specifically economic nuance for frugalitas (as at, e.g., Colum. 10 praef. 1, Sen. Tran. Anim. 9.1, [Quint.] Decl. min. 245.6-7) rather than the more general connotations adduced by S. Also, the passage from the second Verrine that S. quotes in support of the idea that frequenting a brothel 'would not rule out the quality of frugalitas' is ironic, and hence supports exactly the opposite point. On p.111 bottom, to the note on what 'civile' implies add the discussion by A. Wallace-Hadrill, JRS 72 (1982) 32-48; p.112, in the case of Manlius: the usual source for this is Livy 6.11-20 (other standard Livian treatments not cited by S. are Marcus Curtius' self-sacrifice [p.154 top, cf. Livy 7.6.1-6] and Manlius Torquatus' execution of his son [p.168 line 12, cf. Livy 8.7]); in Decl. 7 (pp.116-17) it would help to know who 'tu' is (a judge?); p.119 bottom, the word order of the last extract -- a nisi-epigram tacked on to the end of the sentence for point -- deserves comment, as such stingers do elsewhere (e.g. at the ends of Decl. 5 and 13; S. comments on only one, p.232, where cf. also Quint. 9.4.29-30); p.125 middle my mind shudders to repeat, add Verg. Aen. 2.12 with Austin's n.; in the next note, S. translates Gronovius's ubi maior<is> supplicii sanatio as 'where the cure is a source of still greater suffering'; this is clearly the sense required, yet S. provides no parallels for the genitive (of source?), which strikes me as very unnatural, esp. with sanatio, with which one expects an objective gen. On p.138 bottom, for the topos of there being barely enough wealth or land to provide a funeral or burial plot see Woodman on Vell. 2.53.3 (further exx. now in my n. on Livy 6.36.11); p.154 line 9 from bottom, 'the ties between both were legally broken through abdicatio' seems to contradict S.'s remarks on p.150 middle ('[exheredatio] was a legal act, whereas abdicatio strictly was not'); p.158 middle, S. offers no justification for accepting (with Håkanson) the ablative form minori; a reference to Neue-Wagener3 II.265-7 would soothe the reader's nerves; p.159 middle yield to your brother: for the topos 'winning by losing' cf. Otto, Sprichwörter 371; p.163 bottom those who hear nothing, suspect everything must be a bit of proverbial or conventional wisdom for which one would like some parallels, as one would on p.169 for the metaphor of sacrifice in Decl. 24 (a few at OLD s.v. hostia); p.176 middle, S. explains an instance of hyperbaton on the grounds of prose rhythm, but does not elaborate; the difference would be between a molossus + cretic (orbitati vel sanguine, without hyperbaton) and a double cretic (iure vel sanguine), both of which are favored Ciceronian rhythms: it would be useful to know what Calpurnius' habits are; p.181 lines 8-14, the verbal decoration noted by S. is further enhanced by the emotional power of civem ... commilitonem; p.184 bottom, for the opposition extorquere ~ impetrare cf. Quint. 10.1.110, Livy 6.41.1 (extor. ~ petere); p.191 middle, Marius is the chief late-Republican example of the military man competing with professional speakers: see Paul's nn. on Sall. BJ 85.14, 26, 31, 32; p.191 bottom, utilitas is opposed to voluntas also at Livy 6.40.5. P.199 bottom imagine ... how much more serious: S. cites Ogilvie on Livy praef. 9 as support for taking that parallel text as referring to 'moral, but esp. sexual, misbehavior.' But Ogilvie based that judgment on the assumption that Livy's remedia referred to Augustus' probably phantom marriage law of 28 B.C., against whose existence Badian has made a strong case (in Philologus 129 [1989] 82-98; contra, J.L. Moles, PCPS 39 [1993] 151 with nn.50-4). More generally, many parallels for this topos are collected and discussed by A.J. Woodman, Rhetoric in classical historiography (1988) 133. P.201 line 11 from bottom, the asyndeton of velis nolis is not 'striking,' it is idiomatic and common (OLD s.v. uolo 7e); p.208 line 11, the initial juxtaposition of personal pronouns is more normal (and hence less emphatic) than S. allows, though it does underline contrasts here. On p.210, on the introductory note in general: the suggestion that this is a triangle involving an older man, the young man whom he loves, and a woman whom he procures for the would-be eromenos is perhaps supported by the unusual use (noted by S.) of the Greek ephebus instead of adulescens (though the Greek term for such a boy would be PAI=S). I know of no parallel for an erastes acting as pimp, but for the triangle see the situations at K.J. Dover, Greek homosexuality (1989) 66-7 and 171-2 (especially Xen. Hell. 6.4.37, where things turn deadly); cf. also Petron. 113 (Encolpius, Giton, and Tryphaena: but the trouble with all these examples is that the women take an active role); for offering a bribe to an eromenos cf. Petron. 85-6 (the Pergamene boy). P.222 bottom, the explanation that S. finds only 'conceivable' is surely the most natural one, i.e., that the man will relent in his intent to kill his child only if its mother relents in her insistence on killing him; p.239 top, it would be very useful to have one of S.'s comprehensive notes on pirates in declamation (a few are collected in Winterbottom's Index III to his Loeb Seneca); p.241 top, nec meo nomine quicquam nobilius in ludo: S. notes the parallelism but not the pun, which may be reinforced by 'in ludo' (ancient paronomasia often thus draws attention to itself -- though one wants other examples from declamation to be sure that is what is happening here).

All this detail should not detract from the fact that this edition makes a significant contribution to our knowledge of Roman declamation. In the course of making sense of these often opaque stylistic lumina S. makes many interesting points (to pick a few at random, cf. pp.148 and 231 on Calpurnius' use of legal and political terminology; p.193 on Ovidian reminiscences; p.202 on closural themes), and I look forward to his forthcoming study of Calpurnius' style, which should expand on the extremely useful, but all too short, introduction here. I do think, however, that S.'s attention is too narrowly focused on declamation per se. He makes detailed use of Winterbottom's editions of Seneca and of the minor declamations, and together their commentaries will be standard works for anyone interested in this genre. But that is precisely the problem. S. concentrates all too closely on parallels from other declamation; he misses conventional topoi (the use of which in ancient literature is still too often regarded as a stylistic tic rather than a means of organizing and perceiving the world); and he does not take advantage of many important secondary sources dealing with Calpurnius' age. As S. notes in his introduction, declamation is a perplexing phenomenon, and one which to my mind is only partly explained by the decline-of-oratory-under-absolute-rule model familiar from Tacitus' Dialogus. S. rightly underscores (pp.16-18) that, whatever its origins, it was a means both for training speakers and for exercising forensic and stylistic acumen. If we consider Roman declamation not as a symptom of decline but as an intellectual and literary activity in its own right -- and one which, moreover, interested some of the finest minds of several centuries -- it might become a more meaningful element of our general understanding of the early Empire.