Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 1999.11.24

Edward Courtney, Archaic Latin Prose. American Classical Studies 42.   Atlanta:  Scholars Press, 1999.  Pp. xi, 164.  ISBN 0-7885-0544-0.  $19.95 (hb).  ISBN 0-7885-0545-9.  $12.95 (pb).  

Reviewed by Harvey Jr., Paul B., The Pennsylvania State University (
Word count: 1859 words

Courtney, a senior Latinist who has enhanced our understanding of Juvenal, critically edited the text of Ovid's Fasti, and with his Fragmentary Latin Poets (Oxford 1993) presented a more expert version of W. Morel's old Teubner standard, Fragmenta Poetarum Latinorum (1927), follows his acclaimed Musa Lapidaria: A Selection of Latin Verse Inscriptions (Atlanta 1995) with a chrestomathy of comparable value.

Anthologies, regardless of scholarly value and pedagogical utility, rarely receive the notice they deserve. Consider the lack of scholarly notice of H.E. Gould & J.L. Whiteley's Cato to St. Jerome (London 1950), often reprinted because of the simple value of notes explicating a range of prose selections over six hundred years, or a more sophisticated tool: D.A. Russell's An Anthology of Latin Prose (Oxford 1990): ninety six selections from Cato to Sidonius Apollinaris succinctly introduced and bolstered with just enough notes to encourage the reader. (Russell's companion volume on Greek prose [1991] is, if anything, even better.)

Courtney presents here a collection of pre-classical Latin prose texts with a fine scholarly and pedagogical apparatus. The introductions and notes offer concise guidance to matters of style, semantics, and syntax. Our editor consistently alerts the reader to perceived Hellenic and Hellenistic influences; his introductions are also concerned with identifying those features of the earliest stages of connected Latin prose prominent or at least recognizable in classical Latin. Courtney's comments thus constitute a notable advance in our understanding of the impact of classical and Hellenistic Greek on various Latin prose genres in the century after the 2nd Punic War; this book therefore provides a fine textual complement to such recent studies as Erich Gruen's Culture and National Identity in Republican Rome (Ithaca 1992), 223-71. Courtney offers throughout the fundamental basic grammatical and syntactical information the more advanced student will appreciate and require. Those notes also reveal the editor grappling seriously with his texts -- this is no compilation of received texts, but (in many instances) emendations and suggestions for better critical texts. Courtney has drunk deeply of the Pierian spring of historical linguistics fed by the nourishing streams of Pinkster, Szemerényi, Watkins, and Vine; readers may now wish to consult a recent, well-illustrated work of the same quality (and similar theoretical point of view): Philip Baldi, Foundations of Latin (Berlin & New York 1999).

A review of contents, with some observations: Courtney begins with select quotations from the XII Tables, where the fundamental problem is not Courtney's semantic, linguistic (see p. 22 on archaic forms of facere, with Baldi, Foundations [1999], 188, 372, 398) or contextual lemmata. This reader cheers his citation of Wieacker; but we miss citation (p. 13) of Robert Ogilvie's controversial discussion in Livy Commentary I-V corr. ed. (Oxford 1970), 452ff.; nor do Alan Watson's several works receive notice here. The unintentionally deceptive issue is that Courtney does not alert the neophyte reader to the circumstance that the testimonia, much less the apparent fragmenta, of the XII Tables as we read them in our sources, and as collected, edited, and (nota bene!) arranged by Mommsen-Bruns-Gradenwitz in Fontes Iuris Romani Antiqui ed. 7 (1909) 15-40, then creatively rearranged by E. H. Warmington in a frequently-cited, but unreliable Loeb volume (Remains of Old Latin III [1938]), and cautiously reprinted with additional context by Salvator Riccobono (Fontes Iuris Romani Antejustiniani I ed. 2 [Florence 1941], 23-75), are NOT fragments of fifth-century Latin, but the Latin (with, no doubt, a few archaic words and phrases) of the version redacted by Sextus Aelius Paetus in his edition (the famous "Tripartita") of the XII Tables of the early second century BC. We know what sixth to fourth century Latin looks like in terms of orthography and morphology and it does not resemble even the most seemingly-archaic Latin in the collected fragmenta of the XII Tables. Consider the "lapis niger" from the Roman forum (A. Degrassi, Inscriptiones Latinae Liberae Rei Publicae [Florence 1965] I2, #3; Baldi, Foundations [1999], 202f., to which one should add CIL I3 (Berlin 1986), A. Degrassi & I. Krummrey eds., #1, pp. 853-54; R.E.A. Palmer, Historia Einzelschriften 11 [1969]) or the "lapis Satricanus" (Stibbe-Colonna-de Simone-Versnel, Lapis Satricanus, ['s-Gravenhage 1980]; see, recently, Baldi, Foundations [1999], 204); or the recently discovered and discussed "Garigliano bowl" (Brent Vine, "Remarks on the Archaic Latin 'Garigliano Bowl inscription'," ZPE 121 [1998], 257-62; Baldi, Foundations [1999], 200-2; further discussion of this text will appear in JRA 13 [2000]). Therefore, the Latin of the fragmenta (as opposed to the "modern Latin" of specific provisions of the XII Tabulae sometimes quoted by, e.g., Cicero and Aulus Gellius, when striving to be lucid, as opposed to their and other authors' quotation of morphological curiosities) is contemporary not with 5th and 4th-century Latin graffiti and formal texts, but with Plautus, the elogia on the earlier Scipionic sarcophagi, and, in terms of legal syntax, the late second century BC epigraphic lex agraria and lex repetundarum (A. Lintott, Judicial reform and land reform in the Roman Republic [Cambridge 1992].) See, above all, Pomponius, Digest I.II.2.38 on Sextus Aelius Paetus; cf. Bremer, Iurisprudentiae Antehadrianae quae supersunt I (1896), 13-16 #II.3; note especially Cicero's remarks on Aelius Paetus at de legibus 2.59.

Courtney appropriately refers the reader (pp. 13-14) to comparanda in archaic Greek law codes. He might have extended his frame of reference to include the now-substantial body of Mesopotamian/Semitic law codes. Those enactments are particularly valuable for assessing the typicality or unique flavor of Roman regulations regarding issues of how civil law is formulated in societies only recently urbanized and how archaic societies regulate traditional religious, commercial, and kinship relations in civic contexts. In addition to the regulations we read in the "Old Testament" books of Exodus 21f., Leviticus 19 and Deut. passim, we think immediately of the law code of Hammur-abi and the tradition that mid-second millennium Babylonian code is now known to reflect: J.B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts ed. 3 & Supplm. (Princeton 1969), 159-98.

Next, Courtney presents a nearly-complete new edition of Ennius' Euhemerus (=Vahlen I-IX, XI-XII), with due consideration of scholarship after Vahlen and (as we hope and expect) informed comment on Ennius' innovations in semantics, syntax, and style. On Diodorus' report (Courtney, 30) of Euhemerus 49, see also D. Ambaglio, La Bibliotheca Storica di Diodoro Siculo: problemi e metodo (Como 1995), 156.

Then he gives representative selections from Cato: a good commentary on the much-discussed preface of the de agri cultura, where C. distinguishes Greek rhetorical flavors, Catonian elements (especially in semantics), and second-century Latinity (with perceptive comments on indicative and subjunctive usages and on subordinate clauses). Representative selections from the oratorical fragments follow. On Origines fragm. 95 Peter = ORF3/4 163-9 (C., 78-85), the exordium of Cato's speech pro R(h)odiensibus, Courtney praises and exploits Cugusi's splendid edition of Cato's speeches (1982); some consideration of G. Calboli, Catonis Oratio pro Rhodiensibus (Bologna 1978), esp. 225-43, would have been useful.

Courtney also includes editions of two renowned senatus consulta, the SC de Bacchanalibus and the SC de Tiburtibus, as well as the difficult lex templi Furfensis. We may also consult in this text editions of stray archaic texts quoted by later antiquarians: the sacramentum in Aulus Gellius 16.4.2f.; the devotio in Macrobius, at Sat. 3.9.6-11 (with appropriate quotation of CIL I3, p. 943 #2954: Servilius Isauricus' evocatio) and the incantation against throat problems quoted at Marcellus Empiricus 15.11. Courtney is surely correct to view this incantation as "archaic" Latin in semantics and syntax, but a little more contextual information as to author and genre would help: see (e.g.) C.A. Faraone & D. Obbink, Magika Hiera: ancient Greek magic & religion (NYC 1991), 116-19.

The oratorical fragments of Scipio Aemilianus (Malcovati, ORF3/4 17, 19-20, 30) offered in Courtney's next section illustrate well Aemilianus' "aggressive rhetorical style", while C.'s commentary distinguishes what in these fragments is similar to, and what an advance on, Catonian rhetoric. Aemilianus is here paired with his brother-in-law and the selections from Gaius Gracchus are, to my mind, well-chosen (ORF3/4 26-28, 44, 47-49, 61) to illustrate Gellius' assessment: "Gracchus non querentis neque implorantibus, sed nuntiantis vicem" -- that is, Gaius was known for his narrative, expository oratory, which Courtney's commentary expertly discusses. Note especially the succinct treatment (130-31) of ORF3/4 p. 196 #61: a prime example of Gaius' wit and erudition: his employment of a pathetic rhetorical query, formulated by Euripides and exploited by Ennius in his Medea (276 Vahlen = 217-18 Jocelyn) and, less obviously, his Andromacha (86-89 Vahlen = 81-84 Jocelyn), to draw vivid attention to the urban locales of his brother's passion. As our editor suggests, the rhetorical trope concerned had a long history: in addition to the texts cited, note Cicero Cluent. 4, Ligar. 1; Ovid Tristia 5.2.39ff.; Jerome vita Pauli 9.

Then, the "Epistula Corneliae, mater Gracchorum" at Cornelius Nepos fragm. 59. Our editor seizes the opportunity to offer new (and, for the most part, well-justified) emendations and, to my mind, quite rightly follows Nicholas Horsfall and others in raising questions as to the authenticity of this letter. The reader would therefore have benefitted from reference to P. Cugusi, Epistolographi Latini Minores 2 vols. (Turin 1970), I, #cxxiv; II, pp. 65-73.

Finally, two interesting selections from the fragments of Calpurnius Piso's and Claudius Quadrigarius' annals. In both of these instances, Courtney usefully parallels the annalistic fragment with the relevant passage from Livy "to illuminate stylistic features" and, one might add, distinctions in narrative technique. Comparison of Quadrigarius' fragments with Livy is, as C. observes, something of "a time-honored exercise"; what is of particular value here is the emphasis on the annalists' language, not Livy. Courtney thus has opportunity to note distinctive features (copulatives; verbal forms) in Quadrigarius. (Note that on p. 144, the identification of the Quadrigarian fragment is wrong: correct to Annales I.10b Peter = Gell. 9.13.7-19.) Courtney's text, introduction, and discussion of Piso fragm III.27 Peter = Gellius 7.9 (cf. Livy 9.46) have benefitted from Gary Forsythe's 1994 treatment of this annalist and from other modern scholarship on the topics concerned with, and the text of, Piso's narrative of circumstances and events about Cn. Flavius, aed. cur. 304. It is thus surprising, that, where our received text of Gellius reads "... aedilem qui comitia habebat ...", C., recognizing the curiosity of an aedile presiding over a Roman electoral assembly (in this instance, the comitia tributa), neither reports Gruch and Roth's emendation to "at ille" for "aedilem" nor, more importantly, refers to Lily Ross Taylor's typically modest (but important) note on precisely this text in Roman Voting Assemblies (Ann Arbor 1966), 146. Reference to Botsford's compilation on the Roman assemblies (and the incomplete RE entry) does the reader no service.

The volume concludes with usable indices of subjects, grammar, style, and Latin vocabulary, and subjects, prefaced by an appendix on "Narrative style in Plautus", with commentary implicitly and explicitly relating Menaechmi 57-66 and Miles Gloriosus 104-142 to the themes and points adduced in the rest of the book. This reader readily envisions using this economical, well-printed text in courses on (e.g.) Plautus or Cato or Livy or on (simply) the book's title. Kudos as well for the publisher: given the pricing policies of other academic presses, this text is a bargain.

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