Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2003.08.10

Emanuele Lelli (ed.), Arma Virumque... Studi di poesia e storiografia in onore di Luca Canali.   Pisa:  Istituti Editoriali e Poligrafici Internazionali, 2002.  Pp. xxxi, 420.  ISBN 88-8147-300-3.  EUR 140.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Michael Fontaine, Amherst College (
Word count: 2391 words


Mondo greco:

L. Canfora, Wilamowitz, la guerra, l'Iliade; M.G. Bonanno, Per una grammatica del coup de foudre (da Saffo a Virgilio, e oltre); B.M. Palumbo Stracca, Dialetti antichi e traduzioni moderne nelle commedie di Aristofane; E. Lelli, Il fantastico atlante di Callimaco; F. Sisti, La doppia prefazione dell' Alexandri anabasis di Arriano; M. Mazza, Il prezzo della libertà: la risposta degli Arabi Nabatei a Demetrio Poliorcete. E. V. Maltese, Minima marginalia Byzantina. II.

Mondo romano:

A. Barbieri, Volunt ] nolunt: de optimo genere oratorum 11, 6; P. Fedeli, Il proemio del IV libro dei carmi di Orazio; A. La Penna, I volti di Venere nell'Eneide; M. Salanitro, Trimalchione e la pecorella (Petron. 56, 5); P. Parroni, Marziale 8, 46; M. Nobili, "Solecismi" di Marziale: epigr. 11, 19 e 5, 38; I. Lana, Le Silvae di Stazio: il poeta e il principe; A. Fraschetti, A proposito di uno statuo antitetico: i luperci e il flamen Dialis; M. Pizzica, Principi eccentri e principi virtuosi negli Scrittori della Storia Augusta. Omogeneità o discontinuità stilistica?; A. Fo, Da una breve distanza: Rutilio fra Roma e il suo lido; G. D'Anna, Sulla genesi del sincronismo donatiano fra la morte di Lucrezio e l'assunzione della toga virile di Virgilio; E. Malaspina, Il lusus poetico nella Gallia subromana.

Fortuna del classico nelle letterature moderne:

R. Badalí, Il commentario di Gottlieb Korte a Lucano; P. Casciano, Treviso come la terra dei Feaci: le lettere di Egidio da Viterbo a Gian Francesco Libertà (1528-1532); A. Martina, Ma Leopardi non ha letto la tragedia greca; E. Ehidetti, Sopra un basso rilievo antico sepolcrale; R. Scarcia, Un peculiare "fiore" di Baudelaire; G. Marconi, Baudelaire e contro-Baudelaire; L. Gamberale, Carducci tradotto in latino da Cesare De Titta; G. Ferroni, Come essere giudicati dagli antichi; M. Bettini, A chi appartiene la Grecia?; M.G. Iodice, Il "sale greco" di Montale; A. Gnisci, Roma patria e rovina. Comuni.; L. Blasucci, Pensieri su Contini; A. Barbuto, I fatti di Lucrezio e di Luca Canali.

Poesie e versioni poetiche per Luca Canali:

B. Gentili, Pindaro, Olimpica XIII. A Senofonte di Corinto vincitore nello stadio e nel pentatlo; B. Luiselli, Come tradurre Catullo; A. Giuliani, Poesie per il mio cane; L.E. Rossi, Otto variazioni su un tema.

This Festschrift dedicated to the Italian scholar and translator Luca Canali contains a few successful essays, but overall it is a disappointing volume destined to find few readers outside of Italy.

In terms of genre, the Festschrift is a strange animal. Apart from the honorand himself, few readers are likely to be interested in a majority of its contributions, much less all of them, and even fewer will approach the whole with the expertise required to evaluate every piece fairly. This drawback is particularly acute in the case of the present book, for, as the titles listed above may indicate, the subject matter encompassed here covers an even greater range than is customarily the case. I mention this as a disclaimer, since I can boast no special familiarity with all of the topics covered, a shortcoming that must be born in mind as I offer the following impressions.

Arma Virumque ... falls into four parts: Greek topics, Roman topics, Nachleben of the classics, and Italian-language poetry, both original and translations of classics; these latter two portions make up a substantial mass of the book. Included are a table of contents, and indices, both topical and of passages cited.

Viewed as a whole, the book is largely a disappointment. Although the physical presentation is aesthetically fine, and although there are some notable exceptions (as I will discuss below), many, or perhaps most, of its thirty-six contributions are rather weak in content and marred by confused or confusing argumentation. Individual contributions vary widely in scholarly quality, with a number of them limited almost exclusively to citations of Italian scholarship. While many essays are refreshingly spare in their footnotes, deftly citing only what is necessary, others are crushed by them, losing the reader. A majority of the essays on classical topics presented here consist of little more than one scholar's revision of his own prior work, in which he now attempts to tease out an idea or to play up some aspect only summarily treated before. In theory this can be a virtue, since it provides an author with the opportunity to expand upon a point he or she might have addressed only summarily before. But in the present instance, unfortunately, the reader is left with the impression that much of what is on offer here is either merely recycled or material deliberately excised from earlier work. Often I sensed that the point being made here had already been made, and its case better argued for, in the work referenced. A few essays (e.g. that of D'Anna on Virgil/Lucretius) are so heavily keyed to the author's other work that the argumentation is left irreparably crippled, and the reader, utterly lost.

Apart from that, few non-native speakers of Italian will be interested in many of the pieces offered here since many of them are directed specifically to an Italian audience. That, of course, is no bad thing, and I am sympathetic to the approach in which an author utilizes his cultural heritage in order to clarify a point, and particularly so in a Festschrift, which, after all, is dedicated to a specific individual. But while, for example, I found interesting P. Stracca's analysis of various renditions of the different Greek dialects into different Italian ones, it ultimately does not further my comprehension of Aristophanes. Again, the note of E. Maltese, which traces the first occurrence of the Italian word frustare, is an interesting piece of detective work, but it will not command the attention of many non-Italian classical scholars.

In the following remarks, I offer comment on a selection of essays, rather than on everything, intentionally highlighting those that I find most successful. I deliberately limit myself to those essays dealing primarily with classics in the belief that these will be of most immediate interest to our audience.

The book opens with a 21-page introduction by Lelli, which usefully familiarizes the reader with the primary works of Luca Canali. According to Lelli's classifications (p. vi), these fall primarily into the following four categories: (1) studies devoted to the personalities of major Latin authors, including Lucretius, Julius Caesar, Horace, Virgil, and Juvenal; (2) monographs devoted to specific topical investigations in Latin literature and the Roman world, such as love and sex, power and consent, life and death; (3) a series of short and personal portraits of the ancients, which feature Canali's "epigrammatic" personal judgements on these authors; and (4) several works of historical fiction, including an imaginary autobiography of Lucretius, a secret diary of Julius Caesar, and a continuation of the Satyricon. The remainder of the introductory essay surveys a selection of these works, quoting generously from the original, followed by Lelli's analysis, which is usually quite thoughtful. (I found particularly interesting the passages quoted on pp. xxi-xxii from Canali's "autobiography" of Lucretius, Nei pleniluni sereni.) Following the introductory essay is a five-page "essential bibliography" of Canali's major works relating to the classics and antiquity (pp. xxvii-xxxi).

The contribution by M. G. Bonanno, "Per una grammatica del coup de foudre (da Saffo a Virgilio, e oltre)," attempts to trace the development of the coup de foudre (the term refers to the bolt that ignites love or erotic desire within a person) in ancient poetry. She focuses primarily on the Homeric description of Hera's seduction of Zeus, and the repetition of the ὡς ... ὡς ... ὡς as it is adopted and adapted by Sappho and Theocritus. In connection with Sappho, B. also discusses the Catullan translation (51) and the corresponding list of symptoms in Lucretius. She concludes with a brief glance at the Greek novelists and the poetry of Leopardi. Unfortunately, the essay is poorly organized and loosely written (one particularly egregious run-on sentence is 143 words long); the author's thesis is neither concisely nor clearly stated for nearly nine pages [final paragraph of p. 12]), rife with theoretical jargon, and ultimately unconvincing.

P. Stracca's essay, alluded to above ("Dialetti antichi e traduzioni moderne nelle commedie di Aristofane"), surveys a number of competing Italian translations of those relevant passages in the Acharnians and Lysistrata in which a character speaks in non-Attic dialect. S. then evaluates their effect upon the text and concludes (p. 28) that modern notions of dialect, which are considered divergences from an "official" (i.e., standard) language, are different from the situation in ancient Greece, in which many different dialects or idioms could equally be viewed as "official."

Lelli's own contribution, "Il fantastico atlante di Callimaco," in borrowing a term from, and arguing against, Frazer, tries to reconstruct Callimachus' "horizon," determining to what extent the Alexandrian's view of the world changed amid the rapid explorations of his time. The essay concludes that Callimachus does in fact emphasize a "worldly horizon," and successfully advances the discussion. Textual critics will want to take note of the contributions by Barbieri, which argues at length for volunt in de opt. gen. oratorum 11. 6, by drawing a sharp distinction between Attice and Attico more; and Parroni, which argues in favor of several different readings in Martial 8. 46: (v. 1) tanta ... quanta est infantia formae instead of quanta ... tanta est praestantia formae; (v. 2) puero, not puro; (v. 3) retain doceatque rather than the alternate Dorisque, explained as a reference to Diana in her guise as a river goddess; and (v. 4) totum ... Phryga rather than a number of other suggestions.

The essay of Fedeli ("Il proemio del IV libro dei carmi di Orazio"), which offers an interpretive reading of Horace carm. 4. 1, focuses primarily on the personage of Maximus. F. provides an analysis of the poem's rhetorical structure and flirts briefly with the notion of seeing a quasi-elegiac Horace here. He makes the interesting point that Horace here applies to Ligurinus the epithet durus -- the same adjective that the elegists reserve for their ladies. F. rejects Lefèvre's prevailing idea of viewing the poem as a recusatio, preferring the term renuntiatio amoris (p. 94), noting well the similarities that the poem shares with Tibullus 1. 4.

La Penna's essay ("I volti di Venere nell'Eneide") deals analytically with Venus in the Aeneid as she appears, and significantly, does not appear, in her various guises, capacities, and aspects (e.g. as concerned mother of Aeneas, adversary of Juno, goddess of love [an aspect which La Penna rightly notes is largely played down by Virgil], as warrior, and Venus as genetrix and victrix) The author also treats the goddess as she appears relative to the roles played by Thetis and Athena in the Homeric poems, and he also discusses the influence that Apollonius' treatment of female characters exercised on Virgil. The paper stands out among the collection for its well-written, lucid style, and a very sparing, yet deft and effective, use of footnotes.

M. Salanitro's essay ("Trimalchione e la pecorella [Petron. 56, 5]") first offers a discussion of the meaning of ovilla (uncertain; usually regarded as "mutton") and then argues that the reading est ("eats", a universally adopted conjecture of Statilius for the transmitted esset in the phrase aliquis ovillam est et tunicam habet should be corrected to exuit, and that ovilla means "poor little sheep," (" 'pecorella', cioè 'povera pecora' "). The argument fails for a number of reasons, but the main point -- that est rather than comest or manducat is a rare form and belongs to higher usage (untrue, as a glance through Roman comedy shows) -- contradicts her defense of exuit (a notion which, as she notes, is normally expressed by despoliare in the Cena), a word which Trimalchio adopts, says Salanitro, because he is providing a "philosophical discourse, and the lexical level tends to be adapted to the nobility of the argument" (p. 112).

The essay by M. Nobili (" 'Solecismi' di Marziale: epigr. 11, 19 e 5, 38") on the curious use of soloecismum in Martial 11. 19 (Quaeris cur nolim te ducere Galla? Diserta es / saepe soloecismum mentula nostra facit) is also a standout among the others in this volume. N. powerfully and clearly argues that this puzzling usage of the word involves a confusion of the notions of gender, both grammatically as well as sexually. He concludes with an excursus denying (contra the usual opinion) that an explicit allusion to these lines is made by Juvenal 6. 451-6.

I. Lana's essay handling the relationship between Statius and the emperor Domitian ("Le Silvae di Stazio: il poeta e il principe") is disappointing. The conclusion -- that Statius was unsuccessful under Domitian -- is neither new nor developed here in a new way. No real insights are offered, and, like several other contributions in this volume, only the author's own prior work is cited.

The final portion of the book is devoted to poetic translations of classical texts. While I am not in a position to judge these versions on basis of their literary merit, some of B. Luiselli's translations of Catullus (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 39, 49, 70, 72, 84, 85, 96) strike me as highly successful from a metrical point of view. Poem 1 is a standout: A chi dò il grazioso nuovo libretto / con secca pomice alfin levigato? / A te, Cornelio; infatti tu solevi / le mie schiocchezze reputar qualcosa, / allor che solo tra gli Itali osasti / tutta la storia narrar in tre libri / ricchi di scienza, o Giove, e faticosi (vv. 1-7).

To sum up: this is a Festschrift produced in the grand Italian fashion: beautifully typeset, attractively packaged, consistently edited, and for the most part, blessedly typo-free (the rare and unobtrusive exceptions are mostly in other languages: p. xv for seculum read saeculum; p. 31 for conquesta read conquest; p. 109 for ubicum-que read ubicumque; for ubi et acidum invenies read ibi et etc.). A splendid full-color frontispiece featuring a Roman mosaic graces the opening pages; unfortunately, however, excluding a few happy exceptions that might have found a different home, many of the contributions that comprise the bulk of this volume are not particularly successful, and, as a large portion of the book is not strictly relevant to classics, it is unlikely to interest many readers of BMCR.

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