Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2004.10.22

Simona Rota (ed.), Magno Felice Ennodio. Panegirico del clementissimo re Teoderico (opusc. 1). Biblioteca di Cultura Romanobarbarica diretta da Bruno Luiselli, 6.   Rome:  Herder Editrice e Libreria, 2002.  Pp. 479.  ISBN 88-85876-56-0.  €75.00.  

Reviewed by Stefanie A.H. Kennell, American School of Classical Studies at Athens and Canadian Archaeological Institute at Athens (
Word count: 1888 words

Formerly, the only to get an idea of how any of the writings of Magnus Felix Ennodius, bishop of Pavia (474-521), functioned as literary products of the Latin West in the early sixth century was to sift through the bibliographical notices in L'Année Philologique looking for articles in journals and Festschriften that analyzed this or that minor work, usually poetic, in isolation. The major prose works, especially the Vita Epifani and the Panegyricus dictus clementissimo regi Theoderico, were left to the care of the historians. In the last twenty years, for example, Maria Cesa has re-edited the Vita, equipping it with an excellent Italian translation and commentary,1 while the Austrian scholar Christian Rohr has performed a like service in German for the Panegyricus.2 Nevertheless, the latter work went completely unremarked in a 1998 collection of papers devoted to late antique panegyric.3

What was still missing until now was a full treatment of Ennodius' Panegyricus as a document of the literary and political culture of Ostrogothic Italy. Simona Rota's (= R) contribution to the literature on Ennodius handsomely makes up for this lack. This revised and expanded version of R's 2000 thesis for the University of Rome (which this reviewer has seen thanks to R, who generously sent her an electronic copy) provides not only a revised text, Italian translation, and paragraph-by-paragraph commentary for the Panegyricus but also a thorough introduction to the cultural and political environment from which this work arose and to which it spoke. Familiar with the full range of Ennodius' writings and sensitive to the existence of multiple pathways of influence and meaning, R places Ennodius' Greek models and sources on an equal footing with the more obvious Latin ones. Her introduction and commentary transmit a wealth of philological and historical detail gleaned from an extensive bibliography containing now-rare nineteenth- and early twentieth-century scholarship as well as many more recent Italian books and journals that are often difficult for English-speaking scholars to find.

The volume is structured in such a way that fully half of it (188-427) is devoted to text, translation, and commentary, while the other half is divided between the introductory material, an appendix on parallel sources, and the bibliography.

Beginning with the volume's epigraph, which is in Greek, the Foreword (7-9) signals R's balanced approach to the issues inherent in trying to edit and comment on the Panegyricus. The last two lines of Constantine Cavafy's "Waiting for the Barbarians" ("And now, what shall become of us? / These people were a sort of solution") convey a nice sense of the ambiguities of evaluating late antique literary language and the historical subject of the work at hand. R gives Rohr's edition due credit for putting the study of this panegyric on a firmer footing, palaeographically speaking, and sketches out the general plan of the book before thanking a number of Italian and French scholars, together with Rohr and this reviewer, for their help and advice.

R's Introduction (11-132) falls into five sections that aim to make the Panegyricus as accessible to the reader as possible. The first section (11-22) addresses the work's historical and cultural framework. R deals frankly with the issue of Ennodius' personal history and involvement with the Ostrogothic king. Thus, the panegyrist's description of the dire state of affairs at the moment of Theoderic's arrival in Italy was inspired by "obvious propagandistic motives" (13), while his sense of style and civilizing mission are thoroughly representative of Italian literary circles in the decades around the turn of the sixth century (18-22).

The second section (22-35) ably discusses the questions of where and when the Panegyricus was delivered. Dating is relatively easy. By virtue of its position in the Ennodian corpus as transmitted by the oldest manuscripts, which for the most part follow a demonstrably chronological order, and its references to the capture of Sirmium and the settlement of the Alamanni, the Panegyricus can "with good probability" (25) be assigned to late spring 507. The circumstances of composition and delivery, on the other hand, are considerably less certain, as Ennodius left no obvious clues. After canvassing all the scholarship since Sirmond's Paris edition of 1611 and scrutinizing allusions inside the work itself, R concludes that it does show certain characteristics of the gratiarum actio, perhaps in connection with Faustus' return to favor (30). Unlike some of Ennodius' readers (most recently Rohr), R is moreover willing to admit the possibility that the Panegyricus was indeed delivered in front of Theoderic, noting that Cassiodorus also recited discourses before the king and that the text we have was certainly revised for publication (33).

The third section discusses the figure of Theoderic in the works of Ennodius (35-57). While the unabashed triumphalism of the Panegyricus is no surprise, R finds that Ennodius's works generally express "clearly positive" views of Theoderic (36). From the early Vita Epiphani (op. 80 Vogel) through the panegyric itself to the In Christi signo (op. 458 Vogel), the king's essentially imperial virtues are manifest: pietas, mansuetudo, felicitas,clementia, and sollicitudo, joined with nobility of birth and meritorious acts, guarantee the security, peace, and prosperity of Italy.4 Embodying the Davidic model of pious kingship, Theoderic is restorer of libertas and defender of civilitas for Italy.

In the fourth section, entitled "The Panegyricus in its literary genre" (57-99), R surveys the panegyrical tradition as observed in rhetorical writing from Anaximenes and Isocrates to Menander Rhetor in Greek and ps.-Cicero to the Panegyrici Latini and Symmachus in Latin to discuss how Ennodius fits into it. Recognizing the importance of Menander Rhetor's treatise "On epideictic" from our modern perspective, R is careful to counsel her readers against supposing that it influenced Latin writers directly; rather, Ennodius and his forerunners were part of a larger scholastic tradition that had already assimilated the basic principles of panegyrical composition. Equally at home with Greek and Latin terminology, she proceeds to analyze how the various parts of the Panegyricus follow or depart from the precepts of encomiastic writing, first section by section (60-62), then viewed in relation to typical elements of the genre (64-82). R returns to consider Theoderic's imperial virtues and their opposites in late Latin panegyric, wherein the bonus princeps and the tyrannus (84-86) are revealed through their respective abundance or deficiency of clementia, pietas, liberalitas, moderatio, and other essential merits.

R opens the fifth and last section of the Introduction, which is concerned with the language and style of the Panegyricus (99-132), by observing that Ennodius' talent for working in a variety of genres means that his writings, be they poetry or prose, represent a synthesis of the secular and the sacred. Although the literary culture of late antiquity remained in large part classicizing, R notes that the urge to astound one's audience with the most esoteric vocabulary, highly wrought metaphors, and complex periods possible prevailed in official situations where an elevated level of discourse was expected. She accordingly gives us a philological introduction to Ennodius' manner of expression that has great value, clearly and concisely updating Dubois' century-old scrutiny of the writings.5 R points out examples of morphology and syntax as well as semantic habits characteristic of late Latin and specifically of Ennodius, who exhibits a strong tendency to abstraction and poetic constructions (100-111). Like Cassiodorus, Ennodius considered rhetorical ornatus an indispensable part of the educated man's verbal repertoire. R gives examples of all the figures he deployed (111-117), as well as a survey of his stylistic models: Vergil, Lucan, and Symmachus appear most prominently, although Horace, Cicero, and the Latin panegyrists are also featured (118-131).

Before coming to the actual text of the Panegyricus, R includes an appendix on the parallel Greek and Latin sources for the events Ennodius relates, with introductory essays on each set of sources (133-141) followed by the testimonia themselves in their original languages (141-170) and brief remarks.

The text-critical notes are brief (173-185). R's text is based largely on Rohr's 1995 edition, so that these notes refer only to major departures from it, which occur in paragraphs 1, 2, 7, 16, 17, 19, 22, 23, 37, 39, 40, 43, 44, 47, 66, and 73. Sometimes she prefers the reading of the majority of the manuscripts, as with agnoscis in 2, dominatuum in 17, and feriendum in 44, but the views of one or more previous editors more often prevail, as with stili in 2, apparatu nobili in 39, and discursu in 66. Once, however, R takes the lead in proposing an emendation, dextra in 43, which makes better sense of the Latin and underlies her translation of the passage (181-182, cf. 207).

The actual text and translation (188-227) are presented with Latin and Italian on facing pages. Since Italian is not my first language, I will content myself with observing that R has tried to be as faithful as possible to Ennodius' Latin in respect both to conveying its meaning and to preserving its tone. On some occasions, R's translation is very close indeed: "Tralascio i Sarmati, migranti con le loro tende, e taccio il gran numero di conflitti annoverati tra i trofei" for "Transeo Sarmatas cum statione migrantes et plebem conflictuum numeratam sileo de tropaeis" at 35, and "Ora venga pure l' antichità e vanti in coturnate narrazioni Alessandro, a cui procurò dovizia di fama il talento di scrittori eloquenti, così che il suo encomio, in realtà povero di sostanza, sembra accrescersi grazie all'aiuto dell'eloquenza" for "Eat nunc et coturnatis relationibus relationibus Alexandrum iactet antiquitas, cui famae opulentiam peperit dos loquentium, ut per adiutricem facundiam videatur crescere rebus mendica laudatio" at 78.

The twenty-one sections into which the Commentary (231-427) is divided do not altogether correspond to the structural outline provided in the Introduction, clearly due to the vagaries of dissertation revision. Thus, readers will find that the thematic divisions outlined earlier in the book (61-62) as paragraphs 11-15, 16-18, and 70-73 have been repartitioned as paragraphs 11-14 (259-273), 15-18 (273-284), 70 (389-390), 71 (390-394), and 72-73 (394-399). This irregularity, however, does not diminish the value of the commentary R provides. Its exemplary comprehensiveness is evident in her handling of three passages. The first (261-263) brings out the resonances in Ennodius' reference to Theoderic's civilitas in paragraph 11, while the second (335-336) opens up the poetic allusions in Ennodius' depiction of the morning of the battle at the river Adige in paragraph 41, and the third (394-399) will materially aid the modern reader in understanding Ennodius' choice of words in paragraphs 72-73 for relating the settlement of the Alemanniae generalitas.

Bibliographical abbreviations (429-465) are not merely short titles, but represent the volume's complete bibliography, divided into acronyms for journals and standard reference works (429-431), editions and translations of the Panegyricus (432), primary sources (432-435), and modern secondary literature (435-465).

The volume ends with an index of names (467-475) and a general index (477-479), the latter equivalent to the table of contents. Readers should be aware that beginning with the text and translation on 188 and ending with the commentary on 419, every page number listed in the index is off by one or two physical pages. Though this fact may not make section divisions much more difficult to find, it does suggest that some difficulties arose during production. The text is generally free of egregious errors, however, which is a good thing considering the list price of this softcover book.6


1.   M. Cesa, Ennodio. Vita del beatissimo Epifanio. Biblioteca di Athenaeum 6 (Pavia, 1988).
2.   C. Rohr, Der Theoderich-Panegyricus des Ennodius. MGH Studien und Texte, Bd. 12 (Hannover, 1995).
3.   M. Whitby, ed. The Propaganda of Power: The Role of Panegyric in Late Antiquity. Mnemosyne Supp. 183 (Leiden, 1998).
4.   To these larger works, the verse op. 126 should be added Vogel: S.A.H. Kennell, Magnus Felix Ennodius: A Gentleman of the Church (Ann Arbor, 2000), 113-115.
5.   A. Dubois. La latinité d' Ennodius (Paris, 1903).
6.   The few typos and irregularities I did notice are concentrated in the parallel source appendix and in the Bibliography, e.g. Vindobonens (136, for Vindobonenses), praesentialis (144, for praesentalis), adundantia (146, for abundantia), invenes (169, for iuvenes); "Ausfürliche" (431, for Ausführliche), "Withby" (436, for Whitby), "Baldson" (437, for Balsdon), "Brake" and "Bracke" in the same entry (438), "einschlisslich" (446, for einschliesslich), "Kennel" (448), and "Seek" (461, for Seeck), and two cases of otiose hyphenation, "pr-oblème" (447) and "His- | to-ria" (462).

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