Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2000.04.24

Nino Marinone, Berenice da Callimaco a Catullo. Testo critico, traduzione e commento (2nd edition).   Bologna:  Pàtron Editore, 1997.  Pp. 329.  37,000 lire.  

Reviewed by Richard Hunter, Pembroke College, Cambridge (
Word count: 699 words

The first edition of Nino Marinone's commentary on Catullus 66 and its Callimachean original appeared in 1984; to judge from L. Lehnus, Nuova bibliografia callimachea (Alessandria 2000) 99, it received no review in any anglophone or German periodical, a fact which does us no credit. Nevertheless, M.'s book is, I assume, by now familiar to those working on Hellenistic and neoteric poetry and their interface, and it is a bit late to make good the sins of past omissions, particularly as the present revision, described as 'ristrutturata, ampliata e aggiornata', is in fact not very different from its predecessor; what follows is, therefore, more of a 'notice' than a review. In the second edition there is a more user-friendly arrangement for the bibliography and indexes, the detailed and technical astronomical discussion and the photographs of papyri and manuscript are placed at the end, rather than in the middle of the Introduction, and the facing Greek and Latin texts, followed by facing translations, are replaced by an interleaved Greek and Latin text with facing interleaved translation (cf. below).

M. carefully reports the history of scholarship on a textually very difficult Latin poem, both before and after the partial recovery of the Greek model. Even where the appearance of Callimachus' Greek has either solved problems in the Latin or at least ruled most suggested solutions out of court, M. assembles four hundred years of conjectural emendation into a memorial of (in roughly equal measure) man's folly and acumen. At times the notes resemble a repertory of conjectures rather than a 'commentary', in the more usual sense of the latter term, but this does not affect their value as a reference tool. On the other hand, M.'s own textual choices rarely inspire confidence, though Zwierlein's undas (55) which is adopted for the new edition is very attractive. Secondly, the commentary is thorough and painstaking: M. does not hide from problems, particularly in the Latin. The combination of these two features makes this, it must be said, a difficult book to read from cover to cover: it is easy to get lost in the labyrinthine detail of notes where M.'s voice is sometimes hard to disentangle from those whose views he is discussing. Nevertheless, few are likely to approach the commentary in this continuous way and, used sensibly, M. offers a generally accurate guide to the paths which others have trod.

The Introduction is a similarly thorough review of the most pressing of the many critical problems surrounding these poems, where M. rightly identifies a danger, arising from the tantalisingly partial survival of Callimachus, of falling into 'elucubrazioni fantafilologiche'. On the origin of vv.79-88 of the Latin M. is inclined to favour Pfeiffer's suggestion of a double Greek version, as the explanation for the apparent absence of these verses from the Greek and of Callimachus' final distich, of which only two words survive entire, from the Latin. [Is it, incidentally, worth suggesting that Callimachus' ending is indeed 'translated', but to the opening of Catullus 67 (for other connections see P. Wiseman, Catullan Questions (Leicester 1969) 22)? We might toy with the idea that Catullus did indeed know two versions of Callimachus' poem, one of which lacked this couplet, and he marked this ambiguous status by transferring these verses to another (the following??) poem.]. M.'s discussion of exprimere, as in expressa carmina, broadly follows the argument laid down by Alfonso Traina (to whom the book is dedicated), but I much regret the decision to print the text with Greek and Latin interleaved. The (disorienting) optical effect cannot fail to reinforce the idea that Catullus is a line-by-line translator and to blur potentially wider patterns of significant reworking and variation through the text, cf. P. Bing, 'Reconstructing Berenike's Lock' in G.W. Most (ed.), Collecting Fragments. Fragmente sammeln (Göttingen 1997) 78-94.

Finally, I have no idea why this revision takes no account of Stephanie West's important suggestions ("'Venus observed?' A note on Callimachus, fr. 110", CQ 35 (1985) 61-6) or Ludwig Koenen's Egyptianising reading of the Greek poem in A.W. Bulloch et al. (eds.), Images and Ideologies: self-definition in the Hellenistic world (Berkeley 1993) 89-113, now to be supplemented by D. Selden, Classical Antiquity 17 (1998) 326-54.

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