Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 1999.10.22

Jyri Vaahtera, Raija Vainio, Utriusque linguae peritus. Studia in honorem Toivo Viljamaa. Annales Universitatis Turkuensis. Ser. B. Tom. 219. Humaniora.   Turku:  Turun Yliopisto, 1997.  Pp. x, 182.  ISBN 9-512909-72-3.  

Contributors: M. Nyman, H. Solin, R. Westman, S. Jäkel, M. Kaimio, N. Nykopp, P. Sandberg, A. Timonen, R. Hälikkä, R. Heikkinen, K. Mustakallio, Jy. Vaahtera, A. Helttula, Ja. Vaahtera, A. Luhtala, V.-M. Rissanen, O. Salomies, R. Vainio, P. Castrén, L. G. de Anna, L. Lindgren, I. Kajanto .

Reviewed by Christina S. Kraus, Oriel College, Oxford (
Word count: 1282 words

This slim volume comprises 20 papers gathered as a Festschrift to the distinguished and prolific Finnish scholar Toivo Viljamaa, author of such classics as Nouns meaning 'river' in Curtius Rufus: A semantic study in Silver Latin (1969) and Infinitive of narration in Livy. A study in narrative technique (1984). Viljamaa's work ranges widely, from Plato and Polybius to Byzantine encomia and Renaissance grammar, but is concentrated in the fields of ancient Latin semantics, syntax, stylistics, and rhetoric. So too this collection. From Solin on 'Spes' and other abstracts as personal names in Latin to Kajanto on the first Finnish humanist poem, the papers treat of papyri (Westman on PHerc. 1251, 'Ethica Comparetti'), Greek drama (Jäkel on Homer and tragedy; Kaimio and Nykopp on minor tragedians and their epithets in Old Comedy, a useful study of terms like 'psychros' and 'pikros'), Pliny the Elder (Sandberg), Tacitus (Timonen), Seneca (Hälikkä and Heikkinen), Roman religion (Mustakallio on the Vestals and Jyri Vaahtera on Roman augurs in Dionysius of Halicarnassus), semantics (Helttula on names of mushrooms, Jaana Vaahtera on Aristotle and neologisms, Luhtala on amare), Cicero (Rissanen), the grammarians (Salomies, and Vainio on 'Causes of barbarisms'), 'homely speech' in the Church fathers (Castrén), the paradoxographical Hippopodi (de Anna), and Georg Stiernhielm, the father of Swedish literature (Lindgren).

Given the disparate nature of the papers, I will concentrate on a half dozen of the Latin studies, hoping that this will give readers a feel for the collection as a whole. In 'Generating meaning: Some aspects of intertextuality in Seneca's Phaedra' (58-62), Rikka Hälikkä analyzes how Seneca's characters and plot interact with their mythological forbears. While there is something interesting here about one way intertextuality works, i.e., via an author's choice of which mythical events to retell in a much-elaborated saga, Hälikkä does not prove the case, being too inexplicit (except in the section on Hippolytus' sword) about how the intertextual part of the process actually works. The second piece on Seneca, Risto Heikkinen on 'A moral example in Seneca: C. Mucius Scaevola, the conqueror of bodily pain' (63-72), is more successful. Focussing on a single case-study, here the figure who perhaps more than any can claim to be the G. Gordon Liddy of the ancient world, Heikkinen explores how Seneca uses moral exempla in his prose works to educate the non-Stoic. The essay is particularly useful in its documentation of the Mucius legend, though I question the apparent interpretation of fortitudo as 'righteousness' (69, 'Seneca stresses that Mucius's self-mutilation was the most righteous act of the legend,' quoting Epist. 24.5 facere aliquid ... felicius potuit, nihil fortius); and I wonder (genuine curiosity) what evidence there is for the metaphor of the body as a king which one can conquer (72).

Pauliina Sandberg, 'Some considerations on Pliny's references in the Historia naturalis' (38-47), is interested in how Pliny intimates his scepticism about the material he reports. Coming from a perspective informed by recent work such as that of M. Beagon (Roman nature, 1992) and G.-B. Conte (in Genres and readers, 1994), she believes that there is no point in showing 'that Pliny was credulous or to try to prove that he was in fact critically disposed towards some of the facts that to us seem incredible' (39), but rather intends to understand Pliny on his own terms, confining her analysis to the linguistic features 'that imply an attitude towards the credibility of a particular fact' (40). The essay, which serves as a prolegomenon to a larger study of Pliny's critical thought, attacks positions such as that of G. Serbat who judge Pliny's credulity by modern criteria. Instead, Sandberg emphasizes Pliny's claims to utilitas (44) together with his text's affinities with paradoxographical literature (45-6), arguing sensibly that his references to sources cannot be considered simply as indications of critical distance. In 'Galba's violent death: A study on narrative techniques' (48-57), Asko Timonen compares Plutarch's, Suetonius', Tacitus', and Dio's versions of the emperor Galba's death, asking 'What is, in his case, the relationship between the historians' narrative and his moral view on the violence involved?' (49). The argument is at times obscure to me, being rather condensed, and marred by occasional misapprehensions: e.g., on Plutarch and Tacitus, 'Being contemporaries both obviously used eye-witnessed records of the Forum coup' (49) -- but such an assumption is far from obvious, given what we know about the way ancient historians worked, and Tacitus' narrative of Galba's death is influenced at least as much by Livy's of Servius Tullius and Vergil's of Priam as it is by eyewitness accounts. Nor does the essay rely on Quellenkritik; rather, Timonen briefly analyzes the four narratives, concluding that only Plutarch expresses a moral opinion 'intensely through Galba's person'; Suetonius and Tacitus situate the emperor's person in a wider context, showing Galba as a victim of his own and others' violence: with their 'low-profiled characterisation of Galba,' these narratives 'direct our attention to the deeds of anarchy' (57); while Dio's truncated account shows Galba helpless 'not only in the face of death but also in ruling' (56). On the whole, I tend to agree with these judgments, though I would have liked to see them elaborated, and am far less sure that the Tacitean Galba 'almost disappears from the focus' in his last moments; what is more, there is certainly a good case to be made -- one which has, in fact, been made by Rhiannon Ash ('Severed heads,' in J. Mossman, ed., Plutarch and his intellectual world [1997] 189-214) -- that Plutarch is more interested in the forces of violence which bring Galba down than he is in the character of the man himself.

In 'Some aspects of Cicero's conception and use of analogy' (120-5) Veli-Matti Rissanen outlines the changes in Cicero's opinions on analogy and anomaly throughout his career. The conclusion, that 'Cicero, a true anomalist at heart, makes concessions to analogy at times' (125) may be tenable -- though Rissanen seems not to have seen A. E. Douglas' sensible judgment that, since neither extreme position was practical, Cicero -- like Caesar and Quintilian -- 'took the common-sense middle path' (note on Cic. Brut. 253.16). I do wonder, however, why Rissanen equates Atticus' views in the Brutus with those of the orator himself (122 n.12: 'Cicero (Atticus) separates...'): this is one dialogue in which Cicero takes part in his own (however modified) voice, and one must surely assume that 'Atticus' speaks in some kind of counterpart to 'Cicero.' Nor would I follow the line (same n.) that Cicero's praise of Caesar in Brutus is wholly transparent. In the next piece, 'Quotations from Cicero's speeches in the commentaries of Donatus and Servius' (126-35), Olli Salomies takes us on a brisk tour of Servius, Servius auctus, and Donatus' commentary on Terence, laying out clearly their putative relationship, and adding to the evidence that scholars who believe that Servius had more than just Donatus before him are correct: patterns of quotation from the orations in each commentator suggest that Servius had access to a wider selection of speeches than Donatus -- the parallels coming either from another commentator or, as Salomies prefers to think [134], from his own reading. (A quibble: in n.34 Verr. 2.3.146 should be 2.2.146; nor am I convinced that Donatus' parallel testis est tota Sicilia need 'surely' be a reminiscence of that passage, testem totam Siciliam citabo [sim. Verr. 2.5.139] rather than Manil. 30 testis est Sicilia.)

Some of the contributors' English is at times problematic -- but the less said about my Finnish, the better. Only Lindgren's piece on Stiernhielm will defeat most Anglophone scholars. The languages that matter, of course, are the ancient ones, and on them there is much of interest here.

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