Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2001.03.22

Maria Agata Pincelli, Martini Philetici In corruptores Latinitatis.   Roma:  Edizioni di storia e letteratura, 2000.  Pp. xlvi, 131.  ISBN 88-87114-45-5.  L.44,000.  

Reviewed by Filippomaria Pontani (
Word count: 1569 words

"Nobilis in muscas non furit ore leo": had they stuck to this pentameter, humanists would not be renowned for their quarrels and for their mutual personal attacks; but they would also have renounced an essential instrument of philological analysis and confrontation (many opponents were by no means as small as flies!), the importance of which is growing clearer and clearer in recent studies.

What M. A. Pincelli (hereafter P.) offers in the fourth volume of the series "Edizione nazionale dei testi umanistici" is a very valuable new edition of the two short invectives In corruptores Latinitatis by Martino Filetico (ca.1430-ca.1490), professor at the University of Rome since the late 1460s, commentator on Cicero and Juvenal and a protégé of Cardinal Bessarion. These texts were written in the mid-1480s and published as an appendix to an edition of Cicero's Epistulae in an extremely rare Roman incunable of ca.1490. They are an interesting document of the philological discussions that took place in the Studium Urbis during the last quarter of the fifteenth century: in a vivid and sometimes injurious tone, the author attacks some of his colleagues, identified by P.--in the wake of the only masterly study hitherto devoted to these texts, by the late Carlo Dionisotti1--with minor members of the Roman Academy of Pomponio Leto, such as Antonio Volsco and Paolo Marsi.

The greatest merit of P.'s introduction and large commentary is actually the historical setting of the texts and the patient and often successful search for the unpublished commentaries (the majority of which are preserved in Vatican manuscripts) expounding the views rejected or espoused by Filetico. We thus become acquainted with plenty of otherwise unknown exegetical material dealing with difficult or still unsolved philological issues; we also discern the wide importance rapidly acquired by such reference works as Giovanni Tortelli's Orthographia or Flavio Biondo's Italia illustrata. P.'s work is on the whole very rich and helpful: some of my remarks will concern minor inaccuracies that do not affect the gist of the book.

In order to prove more learned than his opponents, Filetico insists on the study of grammar and of Greek language and literature; despite his frequent references to Greek sources (Appian, Strabo, Plutarch), and some remarkable analysis, Filetico is still deeply indebted to the antiquarian and old-fashioned exegetical tradition, and one step behind the new method represented by Politian's Miscellanea, published in Florence a few years later (1489).

The first invective is almost entirely devoted to the defense of the reading "Lavinia" for "Lavinaque" in the second line of Vergil's Aeneid, a much-debated issue at the time: whether resting on direct inspection or--more likely--on Pomponio Leto's account of the reading, Filetico quotes as peculiarly authoritative the reading of the venerable Mediceus of the Aeneid (now ms. Laur. 39, 1: the ms. had been brought to Rome from Bobbio in 1467); he then goes on to discuss the correct geographical identification of Lavinium, Lanuvium and Laurentum in contemporary Latium.

More important, most of the second invective is centered on the authenticity of lines 29-30 of Iliad XXIV, which were athetized by Aristarchus: for this athetesis and for the reading ἀρχῆς pro ἄτης in line 28, Filetico appeals to the authority of "antiquissimi codices", no doubt a generic plural for the ms. we now call Venetus A, at the time still in Rome among the books of Bessarion's library.2 This makes Filetico the first known humanist to have consulted A for philological purposes, years before the Venetian scholar Vettore Fausto (*1546/47), who carefully transcribed A's scholia and critical signs in the margins of books 19-22 of the Iliad in his own copy of the 1488 editio princeps of Homer, now Marc. gr. IX 35.3 After Fausto, apart from the isolated and not very significant case of Pier Vettori in the first half of the XVIth century, Venetus A will be forgotten until Villoison's discovery in 1788. However, one cannot help noting how little profit Filetico draws from the study of A: when supporting Aristarchus's athetesis, he almost completely ignores the arguments of A's scholia (one wonders if he understood them at all), he doesn't check the exegetical scholia of Venetus B4 and he contents himself with the shorter and easier account of Ps.-Plutarch's Vita Homeri.

P. brilliantly identifies Filetico's manuscript source for the Vita Homeri with Marc. gr. 531, written by Demetrius Trivolis--who also worked in Bessarion's circle--probably in Rome during the 1460s. One small correction: ἄλλως περὶ τοῦ αὐτοῦ on f. 216v of this manuscript is no "nota di collazione" (so P. on p. 95), but simply a "notabile" pointing to the beginning in Ps.-Plutarch's text of an alternative explanation of an already discussed matter (ἥτις ἀρχὴ γέγονε τοῦ Τρω̈ικοῦ πολέμου, as in the margin right above this note).

P. (p. 37) may be right to believe that Filetico read and used also the Homeric scholia contained in the first part of this Marc. gr. 531, but she should have corrected E. Mioni's indication (in the catalogue of Marcian manuscripts), which wrongly speaks of "Johannis Tzetzae scholia in Iliadis libb. I-II". As I have found, these scholia (actually to Iliad I-XII, plus the hypotheseis for the remaining books) are in fact the so-called h-scholia to the Iliad, and the Marcianus, though unknown to Erbse, is an apograph of the well-known ms. Ang. gr. 122 (Ag in Erbse's edition).5 In the second invective (II, 25) Filetico makes a long excursus on the famous story about the scattering and Pisistratus' gathering of the exemplars of the Homeric poems. He draws this story from the scholia to Dionysius Thrax (Sch. Dion. Thr. p. 29,16-30,17 Hilgard), but his manuscript source was not--as P. (pp. 90-94) believes--Marc. gr. 489: as I found from personal inspection, this manuscript does not comply with the peculiarities of the text Filetico seems to translate (for example it does not carry the correct number of 72 for the critics to whom Pisistratus entrusted the Athenian edition of Homer, nor does it quote in full the epigram AP XI, 442 translated by Filetico and printed by P. on p. 93). P. relies on Allen's confused indications and ignores Hilgard's edition of these scholia in volume I/3 of the Grammatici Graeci; had she known the latter, she would have noticed that Filetico's source much more closely resembles Hilgard's ms. OD, i. e. Barocc. 116. The history of this manuscript, whose extant apographs (among which the present Marc. gr. XI 4, no longer Marc. gr. 652 as Allen and P. still call it) all date from the XVIth century, deserves further research.

The main critical problem posed by the text of the two invectives is the reconstruction of Greek words and passages, for all of which the printer left blank spaces that aren't filled in any of the extant copies of the incunable.6 P.'s efforts in identifying and integrating the Greek passages are mostly successful, and made easier by the fact that Filetico often adds his own Latin translation. There is just one passage where I disagree with P.: in I, 41 (p. 11) Filetico is speaking of the integrum verbale7 ὄψ. Filetico did not derive this noun from ὄψομαι future of ὁράω, as P. takes it following our Greek grammar, but rather from ὄψω future of ὄπτω, as is the case in one of the sources P. herself quotes as available to Filetico, i. e. Etym. Magn. 826, 17.8 I therefore believe that Filetico wrote something of this kind:

"Verbum est apud Graecos 'ὄπτω> video, inde 'ὀπτική' visio; futurum verbi 'ὄψω', unde nascitur 'ἡ ὄψ' aspectus, integrum verbale qu[od] ab Herodiano diffinitur ut sit ***, vero per ω 'ὤψ' est vultus, per ο 'ὄψ' vocem significat".

Although P. identifies many of Filetico's literary sources, some escape her attention: for example I, 1 "horrenda atque ingentia monstra" is reminiscent of Verg. Aen. III, 658 "monstrum horrendum, informe, ingens", just as II, 40 "stultorum stante corona" echoes Ov. met. XIII, 1 "vulgi stante corona". One would also wish more regular indication of the precise passages quoted both by Filetico in the text and by P. herself in the commentary.

Minor points. Despite P's apparatus, the incunable in I, 36 (p. 9) has "ignorant: a", not "ignorantia". In II, 13 (p. 15) "sic" and "quemadmodum" are correlated, as is confirmed by the incunable's punctuation, and therefore P.'s colon after "sic" is misleading. My colleague Carlo M. Lucarini suggests something like "ita credere" for "credere" in I, 25 and "insimulant" for "simulant" in I, 35.

Some peculiar linguistic features deserve notice in such a lengthy commentary: for example, I, 1 "relatro" is, as far as I know, a hapax legomenon. The neuter "Arpinate" (I, 21) instead of "Arpinas" points to "Arpinatis, -e", which is attested only by Prisc. gramm. II, 129, 2 as peculiar to Cato and the "antiquissimi". In I, 36 the construction "aut...aut" for indirect interrogative clause is quite rare. II, 37 "gotticum" is used in the modern sense of "strange, unusual, hard to understand". Ps.-Plut. vit. Hom. I, 6-7 δι' ἄλλων (quoted in II, 27) actually means "elsewhere" (Keaney-Lamberton), "in other lines of the poem", not "for other gods" as P. (p. 97) takes it, following Pellegrino Agli's Latin translation. Finally, one misses a reference to the smart Latin elegy of Homerus Podianus (an otherwise obscure poet) for Filetico that immediately follows the invectives in the Roman incunable: line 8 of this poem is quoted at the very beginning of this review.


1.   "Lavinia venit litora". Polemica virgiliana di M. Filetico, Italia Medioevale e Umanistica 1, 1950, 283-315.

2.   That Veneti A and B should be identified with the "Aristarchus super Iliade in duobus voluminibus" brought to Italy from the East by Giovanni Aurispa in 1424, as Pincelli (p. 86) believes following Sabbadini (see also A. Franceschini, Giovanni Aurispa e la sua biblioteca, Padova 1976, 61-62), is still sub iudice: Diller's alternative reconstruction has been accepted in recent times e. g. by E. B. Fryde, Greek Manuscripts in the Private Library of the Medici, I, Aberystwyth 1996, 134.

3.   See H. Erbse, Scholia Graeca in Homeri Iliadem, I, Berolini 1969, xv-xvi.

4.   B was also available to Filetico in Bessarion's library, but P., pp. 97-98, brings no real proof for his knowledge of this manuscript.

5.   Derivation from Par. gr. 2566, another extant copy of Ag, is unlikely because the Marcianus contains the hypotheseis to books XIII-XXIV that are missing in the Parisinus (I am grateful to Elisabetta Sciarra for discussing this matter with me). Ag was owned by Gian Mario Filelfo, Francesco's son, and located in Constantinople in 1440. Filelfo spent 1439-1442 in Byzantium, then came back to Italy, where he travelled a lot. He might have brought Ag to Italy himself.

6.   This happens quite often in early Latin prints (I should like to remind the case of Gellius' Noctes Atticae). However, P. should have observed that the only Greek letter printed in the incunable (the ω in I, 41: see below) is typographically rendered through the close juxtaposition of the letters "co".

7.   Certainly corresponding to the Greek ἁπλοῦν ῥηματικόν i. e. "non-composite deverbative noun"; see e. g. Herodian, GG III/1, 60, 23; 165, 11; 223, 36; III/2, 901, 4 Lentz.

8.   See also Choerob. epim. Psalm. 58, 1. The etymology must be as old as Philoxenos: see Philox. fr. 659** Theodoridis. I also point out that the blank space for the future in the incunable is large enough for three Greek letters (ὄψω), but by no means for six (ὄψομαι).

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