Bryn Mawr Classical Review 95.10.06


Edward Courtney, The Fragmentary Latin Poets. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993. Pp. xxv + 504. $85.00. ISBN 0-19-814775-9.


Reviewed by Mark Possanza, University of Pittsburgh.

Travelers in the bleak terrain of Fragmenta Poetarum Latinorum (Romanorum in Baehrens' edition) are accustomed to being abandoned by their guides in a hostile environment and to fending for themselves under the impassive gaze of those sphinx-like texts; the sheer exertions of survival seemed to preclude the possibility of doing anything more with these ruins than gawking at them. But now there is a trustworthy guide in E. Courtney and his Fragmentary Latin Poets which brings the traveler to an oasis where seven centuries of Latin poetic fragments can be read in ease and comfort, fragments ranging in length from individual words, subductisupercilicarptores (a definition of reviewers) and phrases, lassas clunes (the end product of reviewing) to the 78 lines of Cicero's Consulatus Suus. The principles of selection are clearly stated in the preface (pp.vii-viii): primitive non-literary verse, the saturnians of Livius and Naevius, and Latin translations of Greek texts made for purposes of quotation are justifiably excluded. These omissions will prove insignificant for the majority of readers, especially when they discover the riches that lie in store, including fragments not found in earlier collections. A helpful index of authors on pp. xiii-xiv makes it clear at a glance what fragments are not included in the editions of Baehrens, Morel and Büchner's revision of Morel. Most notable among the additions are the minor works of Ennius, the Carmen de Bello Actiaco and the poems of Tiberianus. Although one cannot quarrel with the editor's overall design of producing a collection of fragments that "consist[s] of verse written on principles showing some degree of identifiable continuity from the second century BC to the fourth AD" (pref. p. vii), I myself regret the absence of examples of saturnians and the carmen-style from the beginnings of Latin poetry because their absence may create the false impression that the victory of Ennius and his tribe in thoroughly hellenizing Roman poetry will seem, like the victory of Octavian, an historical necessity; an evolutionary progress that had to take place if Roman writers were to produce 'literature' as defined by Greek texts. The survivors of the defeated party are so few and of course so seemingly primitive by the standards of later achievements that it is easy to forget that the literary sophistication and artistry of Livius and Naevius, so brilliantly detailed by Leo, Fraenkel and Mariotti, reveal both a depth and a seriousness in their conception of poetic composition which expose Ennius's jibe at the saturnian for the hollow piece of self-serving advertisement that it is.

The editor makes a threefold contribution to the scholarly investigation of these fragments: first, revised texts which offer numerous improvements; second, informative literary-historical discussions of authors, works and fragments (see, for example, Marcus Cicero 148-152, Varro of Atax 235-238, Cornelius Gallus 259-262, Ennius's Epicharmus 30-31, Porcius Licinius's "Poenico bello secundo..." 83-86 and the longer notes interspersed among the fragments of Bibaculus, Calvus and Cinna 192-224); and third, the commentary itself which deals with the whole range of philological problems one encounters in fragmentary texts. The editor assumes a scholarly competence in his readers. This is not a book for beginners.

In an edition of fragments arrangement of material and page layout count for much. FLP succeeds well in bringing order and clarity to the presentation of texts produced over a span of seven centuries and in constructing around them the literary historical context that integrates the fragments into the established system of periods, trends and lines of development. The authors are arranged in chronological order. In general the editor employs the following format of presentation: an introductory section on the life and works of the author, when these are known; then the fragments, embedded in the contexts in which they are quoted and accompanied by an apparatus criticus when the transmission warrants one (translations of Greek texts are matched with their originals); and finally the commentary which may be followed, in the case of difficult and controversial fragments, by a general discussion of problems and opinions. The reader will find many variations on this format as the editor responds to the special circumstances of a given poet's fragments and balances the competing claims of the integrity of the author's fragmentary corpus, genre, chronology and literary history.

Courtney's flexibility in matters of arrangement is an important feature of his editorial technique which will, I think, despite certain minor inconveniences to the reader, enhance the value of the book as a contribution to the study of Latin poetry. The amatory epigrams of Valerius Aedituus, Porcius Licinus and Lutatius Catulus, for example, are all presented together "to maintain the integrity of the following excerpt from Gellius" (p.70); and these in turn are followed, in violation of a strictly chronological order, by a poem of Loreius Tiburtinus, also on an erotic theme, to bring out the similarity in treatment and subject matter with the more famous poems of Aedituus, Licinus and Catulus. Such an arrangement provides, on the one hand, a clear picture of the circumstances of transmission in Gellius's Noctes Atticae, and, on the other, a textual environment that fosters comparative analysis.

In preparing the following comments I employed myself in those areas where I thought I would be most useful. The Fragmentary Latin Poets is a book whose scholarly range cannot be fully explored in a review and whose value, as it increases with use, will continue to manifest itself in new researches which it will inspire and for which it will serve as a lasting foundation.

Naevius's epitaph, p.47. Itaque in 3 requires explanation as Suerbaum pointed out (Untersuchungen zur Selbstdarstellung älterer römischer Dichter [Hildesheim 1968] 36). It is not immediately apparent why the statement that people at Rome have forgotten how to speak Latin after the death of Naevius follows as inference or consequence from the statement that the Camenae would weep for Naevius if it were lawful to do so. The word order of the first two lines is noteworthy: the juxtaposition of immortales mortales is repeated, with specific reference, in divae Camenae / Naevium poetam, the words of these two phrases being in chiastic arrangement. The editor sees the alliterations in the second cola of these lines (e.g. loquier lingua Latina) as the work of an imitator "sowing with the whole sack" p.48. I'm not so sure that these alliterations are markedly different from what we find in the Bellum Poenicum (in Mariotti's numeration): prima...Proserpina puer 14; ...prognatus Pythius Apollo 15; vicissatim volvi...victoriam 25; scopas...sagmina sumpserunt 32; magnae metus tumultus pectora possidit 42; patrem suum supremum optumum appellat 46. Ennius's epitaph, p.43. Suerbaum's suggestion that Ennius's "nemo me lacrimis decoret..." is a response to Naevius's epitaph is worth mentioning. With its triple alliterations (funera fletu faxit, volito vivos...virum) corresponding to the alliterations of the second cola of the first and last lines of the Naevian epitaph, it does have the sound of a parodic riposte. At any rate Ennius effectively deflates the superbia Campana of his predecessor. Ennius is happy to take the poet of the Bellum Poenicum at his word: when Naevius died, his poetry died with him since, as the poet himself admits, the people at Rome have forgotten how to speak Latin: Ennius and his poetry continue to live on the lips of men. Parietal inscription of Loreius Tiburtinus, p.79. At some inconvenience to the reader the editor prints a text without supplements for the fragmentary beginnings of the lines, leaving the reader to retrieve them from a paragraph in which the supplements are discussed. With the adoption of Bücheler's no]n in line 2 the speaker, who is being consumed by the fire of love, lamely asserts that his eyes, and not the speaker himself, are responsible for arousing the flames of passion: ui me oculei postquam deducxsistis in ignem / no]n ob uim vestreis largificatis geneis; Courtney's translation, "After you, eyes, have forcibly dragged me into the fire, it is not because of force exerted by me on you that you indulge your lids [i.e. with tears]." I would prefer to read vos]n' and punctuate as a question: "After you, eyes, have violently dragged me into the fire, is it you who because of your violent behavior indulge your lids [with tears]? The speaker is perplexed at the paradoxical behavior of his eyes: they are both perpetrator and victim; after leading the speaker into the fire of passion, they now shed tears because of what they have done. The paradox is furher developed when the speaker says that the tears burn his face. Matius's translation of the Iliad, frg.2 p.100. "Use of a scholion in translating Homer has been detected in Livius Andronicus also (H. Fraenkel, Hermes 67 (1932), 306), but that idea runs up against the difficulty that, so far as we know, no commentaries on Homer existed when Livius translated the Odyssey..." In fairness to Fraenkel it must be noted that he was careful, unlike those who have adopted his conclusions, to specify a pre-Aristarchan date for the material used by Livius ("dass zwei Homerscholien auf voraristarchische Zeit datiert sind" p.308), a conclusion which implies, as Courtney himself says, that "...Livius was using a traditional explanation of the schools later incorporated in scholia." See Pfeiffer, History of Classical Scholarship (Oxford 1968) 212 with n.6. Laevius, frg.11 p.127. Housman's discussion of the phrase ponti maria, cited on 127, has an important supplement in Timpanaro's "Lucretiana" in Contributi di filologia e di storia della lingua latina (Rome 1978) 171-174. To the Greek examples may be added Archilochus 8.1 (West). Headnote to the fragments of M. Tullius Cicero, p.151. "He [Cicero] also rejects (except for Aratea 3, reproducing Aratus' own rhythm) the spondaic hexameters favoured by Aratus himself, Lucretius, and Catullus." This statement is potentially misleading in two respects. First, the spondee in Aratea 3 is due to a proper name Orionis (*W)RI/ONOS, Aratus 518), a usage for which there is Homeric and Hesiodic precedent (on the line ending *W)RI/ONOS see Opera 598, 615, 619). Therefore the example is of no real significance for Cicero's metrical practice and does not constitute an exception to Cicero's avoidance of spondaic hexameters. Second, it is strange to read that Lucretius, mentioned in the company of Catullus, favored spondaic hexameters: Lucretius has 31 such hexameters in a poem of 7,415 lines; Catullus has 30 of them in a poem of 407 lines. A reference to Norden's discussion of spondaic lines in his commentary on Aeneid 6 (pp.441-446) would have been helpful. Here it seems appropriate to mention another metrical phenomenon that comes up in connection with Cicero's Aratea on p.241 where the editor writes that Cicero's only correption reproduces that of his original. The reference is Aratus 152, E)THSI/AI EU)RE/I PO/NTW|= Aratea frg.22, etesiae in vada ponti. Lucretius has the same correption, 6. 716. The license is again due to the use of a proper name. Quintus Tullius Cicero, text p.179, Wakefield's emendation flamina, adopted by the editor, is made certain by the association of the blowing of Zephyr/Favonius with the beginning of spring; commentary p.180 on line 10, "Cf. Marcus 119 denudat foliis ramos (sc. the sun)." The subject of denudat on line 12 is Canis meaning either the constellation Canis Major or the star Canicula (Sirius); "'Winter breathing out the rays of Capricorn' is a daring phrase." The Latin is "bruma gelu glacians iubar it (it Schenkl est cod.) spirans Capricorni." To take spirans with bruma is more than daring when one considers parallels like Marcus Cicero's Aratea 58-59, gelidum valido de pectore frigus anhelans / corpore semifero magno Capricornus in orbe; and 110, nec vero toto spirans de corpore flammam [Canis]; and in Quintus's fragment, 6, Leo proflat ferus ore calores. From these passages it is clear that it is the constellation figure that is imagined as breathing out the weather that is characteristic of the season it heralds and not the other way around. Better to take iubar Capricorni as subject, spirans as a circumstantial participle modifying iubar, with gelu glacians as its object and bruma est as the predicate: "The stellar radiance of Capricorn, when it breathes out freezing ice [i.e. when occupied by the sun], is the winter solstice." English cannot, however, reproduce the full calendric significance of bruma, 'winter solstice/shortest day of the year.' For bruma in the specific sense of cardo hiemalis in cursu solis' see TLL 2.2207. 11; compare also Lucretius, 5.616, Aegocerotis brumalis adeat flexus and Aratus 286, *AI)GO/KERWS I(/NA I)\S TRE/PET' H)ELI/OIO. That this specific meaning of bruma is the appropriate one for the context is confirmed by the fact that the poet describes the effect of equinox and solstice on the length of daylight: the equinoxes in Aries and Libra make day and night equal; the summer solstice in Cancer marks the beginning of decreasing hours of daylight; the winter solstice in Capricorn marks the beginning of increasing hours of daylight when the sun turns to its northward journey. p.181, on line 18, "Arcera is an old-fashioned word for Plaustrum." It also carries an acoustic echo of the Greek *A)/RKTOS. For the words Arcera ... quem servans ... Bootes there is an interesting parallel in Supplementum Hellenisticum, no.391, 8-9, *BOW/THS A)/RKTON A)PO[S]KOPE/WN. C. Iulius Caesar, p.187-188, the editor treats with some impatience the question whether a 'Julius Caesar' mentioned in Firmicus Maternus's astrological handbook as the source of a 'few verses' relevant to astrology is the Dictator or Germanicus Caesar, son of Drusus and translator of Aratus's Phainomena. According to Courtney Firmicus is referring to "the astronomical work written by Julius Caesar in connection with his reform of the calendar" and that "in this work Caesar quoted a few verses (Greek or Latin?) written by someone else." Macrobius's description of this work as "non indoctos libros," quoted by Courtney, flatly contradicts Firmicus's introductory statement that Latin authors have produced no introductory libri on the elements of astrology but only "paucos versus". The identification of the verses in question hangs on the realization that Firmicus is interested in material that can be used for basic instruction in astrology and, since he has a strong nationalistic concern for the Latin contribution to this science, he is interested in material written in Latin. The possibility of Greek poetry quoted by Caesar is, I think, ruled out. Moreover his work on the calendar can also be ruled out because, apart from its publication in libri, it would not provide instruction in the science of astrology. As becomes clear in a latter passage (8.5.3) closely related to 2 praef. in thought and language, in which Courtney agrees that the Caesar mentioned by Firmicus is Germanicus Caesar, the "paucos versus" of Caesar and the "pauca" of Cicero that are relevant to instruction in astrology are none other than the lines of Aratus's Phainomena describing what are known as the paranatellons, constellations that rise and set simultaneously with zodiacal constellations (559-731). This information is important to astrologers because it allows them to determine the risings and settings of zodiacal constellations when these are not directly observable. In Firmicus's estimation this section of the Phainomena amounts to "paucos versus" because it is very brief in comparison to his own lengthy exposition. Since Firmicus's subject in this section of his work is the paranatellons, there can be no doubt that this is the part of Aratus's poem he has in mind. It fits all the requirements of Firmicus's description in 2 praef. and in 8.5.3 and it was translated into Latin by Cicero and Germanicus Julius Caesar. Unless we want to ascribe a translation of Aratus to the Dictator, we must conclude that in both passages Germanicus Caesar is meant. To whom Firmicus thought he was referring is another matter. Varro Atacinus, pp.240-241, frg. 5, it should be mentioned that the point of the passage is to give an aition for the name of the Idaean Dactyls. Varro's use of scholia in his translation is well documented in Maria Goetz, De Scholiasticis Graecis Poetarum Romanorum Auctoribus Quaestiones Selectae (Jena 1918): p.245, frg. 14, on lines 5-6, "mirabile uisu and patulis have been added to Aratus, the former weakly, the latter with good pictorial effect." Looking up at the heavens is the attitude of man, not of beasts who are fashioned prone. When one observes bos suspiciens caelum, it is indeed cause for wonder. Varro wins praise for the naturalistic detail of naribus patulis but the scholia on this line can't say enough about the sensitivity of bovine MUKTH=RES (cf. OI( BO/ES ... DIAXA/SKONTAS E)/XONTES TOU\S MUKTH=RAS): line 7, the metaphor in decerpsit odorem deserves comment. Cornelius Gallus, p.266, on line 4-5, templa...legam. Nisbet's interpretation of these lines is, I think, to be preferred [JRS 69 (1979) 142-143]. He translates (143): "I shall read of temples the richer for being hung with your trophies." The editor's interpretation of templa legere as "to read the inscriptions on temples" finds little support in the phrase sepulcra legens (Cicero, Senec. 21) because the latter phrase apparently had currency as part of a general admonition (ut aiunt) about the harmful effect of that activity on memory and because it occurs in the context of a discussion about remembering names, and sepulcra are an important source of names. In the phrase templa...legam, however, there is lacking that obvious connection between inscription and object inscribed, which sustains the metonymic use of sepulcra. Moreover, the addition of deivitiora argues against 'inscriptions on temples.' p.269 on lines 50-51, "I follow those who take Chalcidico uersu to mean 'elegiac meter', said to have been invented by Theocles of Chalcis (see QUCC 63 (1990), 107) I must confess that when I read this note I was completely ignorant of the identity and literary significance of Theocles of Chalcis. Though no doubt I was alone in my ignorance, some readers may find Coleman's note in his commentary on Eclogue 10.50 more informative. See also the important discussion of Farrell, Vergil's Georgics and the Traditions of Ancient Epic (Oxford 1991) 33-60, esp. 48. Albinovanus Pedo, p.317, ire is explained as a prolative infinitive after audaces. But this combination of adjective + infinitive usually has an epithetic quality (e.g Horace C. 1.3.25, audax omnia perpeti gens humana) which seems inappropriate in this context, given the peculiar set of circumstances in which the soldiers are caught and the unusual length and specificity of the description, per non concessas audaces ire tenebras / ad rerum metas extremaque litora mundi. Carmen de Bello Actiaco, p.339, line 47, percutit is printed in the text but according to the facsimile and Riese's Anth. Lat. the transmitted reading is perculit and percutit is Kreyssig's conjecture. Lentulus Gaetulicus, p.345, line 1 of poem, read aera for aeru: p.346, on lines 2-3, in explaining the phrase Lycaonius Bootes the editor has inadvertantly transferred Lycaonius from Bootes to the Wain (Ursa Major): "Lycaonius because of its other identification as the Great Bear = Callisto," in which case it would have to be Lycaonia. Bootes is called Lycaonius because he is the grandson of the Arcadian King Lycaon and the son of Callisto.

The traveler returns from the land of disiecta membra and truncated forms with a much improved understanding of the monuments, with a renewed enthusiasm for textual excursions off the beaten track, and perhaps with a better sense of the fragility of the material word: the continued survival and transmission of a literature are not guaranteed by mechanical means of reproduction and multiple copies.