Bryn Mawr Classical Review 96.1.6


R. Brock and A. J. Woodman (ed.), Papers of the Leeds International Latin Seminar, Vol. 8. Leeds: Francis Cairns, 1995. Pp. x + 307. $61.50. ISBN 0-905205-89-8.


Reviewed by Sander M. Goldberg, University of California at Los Angeles, sander@humnet.ucla.edu.

Ronald Martin has long maintained so quietly competent and unassuming a style that when he retired from the University of Leeds with a personal Chair in Classics in 1980, his many virtues were still something of a Yorkshire secret. No longer: he has become too distinguished for the rest of us to ignore. His major works -- the commentaries on Terence's Phormio (1959) and Adelphoe (1976), his introduction to Tacitus (1981), and the commentary (with A. J. Woodman) on Annals 4 (1989) -- have become trusted companions. His commentary on Annals 3 (again with A. J. Woodman) is an eagerly awaited sequel to F. R. D. Goodyear's work for the Cambridge Classical Texts and Commentaries series. This is no small achievement, and it is only right that this volume of papers from the Leeds International Latin Seminar should be dedicated to him at 80.

The bulk of its contributions reflect Professor Martin's interests in Roman comedy and historiography, with four essays on Augustan poetry rounding out the set. A full appreciation of so rich and varied a collection is well beyond my competence. I can offer here simply a brief description of its contents followed by a few general observations.

W. Geoffrey Arnott: "Amorous Scenes in Plautus," 1-17. A. identifies four types of scenes: male advances rebuffed, false advances for a purpose, real young love, and slave lovers. He examines the stage action of each scene as it may be inferred from textual clues and discusses Plautus' ability to create surprise and variation within these fairly standard situations.

Malcolm Willcock: "Plautus and the Epidicus," 19-29. W. rightly calls attention to a play that deserves more notice -- and more admiration -- than it generally receives.

Robert Maltby: "The Distribution of Greek Loan-Words in Plautus," 31-69. M. here continues his research into the impact of Greek on Republican Latin. He observes that Greek is spoken most by characters whose real-life prototypes are most likely to have used it, and that the Greek in question is the language of everyday life in Italy rather than the language of Plautus' Attic originals. Appendices provide a complete list of loan-words, the distribution of these words by play and character, and words often thought, but without certainty, to be Greek.

P. G. McC. Brown: "Aeschinus at the Door: Terence, Adelphoe 632-43 and the Traditions of Greco-Roman Comedy," 71-89. B. pays close attention to the door scenes in Menander, Plautus, and Terence, examining the circumstances and reception of the knock (or lack of knock) on the door. He observes that Terence's last play is most Plautine in its use of this motif.

Francis Cairns: "Horace's First Roman Ode (3.1)," 91-142. C. provides an exhaustive, detailed explication de texte based on his continuing confidence in the explanatory power of generic classification and the depth of Horace's own learning. He discusses such related issues as the poetic form, philosophical perspective, and thematic significance of the ode.

E. L. Harrison: "The Metamorphosis of the Ships (Aeneid 9.77-122)," 143-64. H. offers a detailed explication of this curious episode from the ramifications of Turnus' attack on the ships to the implications of Cybele's role at the end.

S. J. Heyworth: "Propertius: Division, Transmission, and the Editor's Task," 165-85. Taking Propertius 2.13 as the first poem of what should then be thought of as Book IIb and 2.10 as the final poem of Book IIa, H. explores the rationale and necessity for this division, including the displacement of the thirty lines now known as poems 2.11 and 2.12. Wider ramifications for the editing of Propertius include the observation that the poems are not in their original order, that Monobiblos was not Propertius' own title, and that the first book did not originally circulate separately.

E. J. Kenney: "'Dear Helen ...': The Pithanotate Prophasis?" 187-207. K.'s examination of Heroides 16 and 17 shows that lack of any one specific Hellenistic poem as a model does not mean that Ovid did not work eclectically from a variety of sources. He left the two poems unfinished at his death.

R. Brock: "Versions, 'Inversions' and Evasions: Classical Historiography and the 'Published' Speech," 209-24. B. shows how the Roman historians' treatment of published speeches that were readily available (e.g., Cato on the Rhodians) differs from their practice when the original speeches were either not published or were in only limited circulation (e.g., Claudius on the Gallic senators). Roman practice in this matter is compared with the treatment of speeches in the Greek tradition from Thucydides through Diodorus and Timaeus.

T. J. Luce: "Livy and Dionysius," 225-39. L. examines not just the two different standards of verisimilitude in Livy and Dionysius but the rationale for that difference, especially in their use of legendary material in creating a history of early Rome.

Brenda Dickinson and Brian Hartley: "Roman Military Activity in First-Century Britain: The Evidence of Tacitus and Archaeology," 241-55. The authors offer detailed discussion of how the literary and archaeological records complement each other. Examples are drawn primarily from the identification and excavation of legionary forts, with the implications of this evidence for military campaigns and the establishment of defensible boundaries.

A. J. Woodman: "A Death in the First Act: Tacitus, Annals 1.6," 257-73. W. is concerned not with the historicity of Tacitus' account of the murder of Agrippa Postumus but the way he goes about telling of that death, which involves a complex and deceptive ordering of the narrative to present a meaning -- Tiberius' ignorance of the murder -- different from the meaning usually assigned to it.

E. Keitel: "Plutarch's Tragedy Tyrants: Galba and Otho," 275-88. K. shows that Plutarch brings to the historical source he shares with Suetonius and Tacitus a Platonic concept of the good guardian and an image of the tragic tyrant that not only distinguish his account from theirs but demand a more sympathetic reading of Plutarch on his own terms.

R. G. Mayer: "Graecia Capta: The Roman Reception of Greek Literature," 289-307. M. asks why the Romans accepted the Greek literary canon without change or challenge. He examines their refusal to form independent judgments of Greek authors and finds that this reluctance not only affected their own literary taste but contrasts in significant ways with the modern proclivity to value independent judgment in aesthetic matters.

Taken as a group, two features of these essays stand out. First is their pronounced conservatism of conception and method. This is most readily apparent on the literary side, where text-based explication remains untouched by the theoretical and "new" historical trends now seizing the attention of Latinists world-wide. Much in these essays is good and true, but none of their insights would baffle Henry Nettleship. The second half of the collection is at heart equally unassuming. Treating history as literature, as authors here with the necessary exception of Dickinson and Hardy and (to some extent) Mayer all do, means taking the ancient texts on their own terms and applying what are essentially literary techniques to their elucidation. Historians may find some surprises here, but these scholars are, of course, only adopting a critical position of considerable antiquity.

The second noteworthy feature is the overall success of this conservatism. Maltby, for example, makes a real contribution to Latin studies -- basic research in the best possible sense -- by eschewing the statistical analysis that so easily gets a Latinist into trouble. In discussing his data he knows to control for context, dramatic situation, and text length and to consider the frequency of occurrence, but he wisely avoids the kind of flashy calculations that can make too much (or too little) of the available evidence. On the historical side, it is pleasant to see historiography reclaimed for literary studies and remarkable to observe how far a very modern historiographer like A. J. Woodman can go with techniques of literary analysis that I learned as an undergraduate thirty years ago or how far T. J. Luce advances our understanding of what Livy and Dionysius were up to without employing the philosophical abstractions that Hayden White finds so necessary. Some of the conclusions in this section might well surprise Mr. Nettleship, but he would never need to query the terms of the discourse. Surely this is to the good.

Yet one other column remains in this ledger. The scholarly apparatus supporting some of these efforts can be oppressively heavy, and there is a good deal of coughing in ink. Some essays managed to be so equally learned and naive in their approach to poetry that I found myself wondering if there was some causal relationship between the learning and the naiveté. There are also signs of an almost Edwardian sensibility still at work: what else explains a reference in this post-Freudian age to "the unerotic problem of filling a jar with water"? Etc. But why cavil? It is perhaps just as well that not all scholarship on Latin literature is like this, but I am nevertheless very glad that some of it still is.