Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2004.10.31

A.F. Basson, W.J. Dominik, Literature, Art, History: Studies on Classical Antiquity and Tradition. In Honour of W.J. Henderson.   Frankfurt am Main:  Peter Lang, 2003.  Pp. xi, 355.  ISBN 3-631-36837-2.  €128.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Stephen Evans, University of Turku (
Word count: 3058 words

This Festschrift is dedicated to Professor William Henderson, who from 1970 to 2000 was the leading figure in South African Classics and earned the enduring respect and admiration of both colleagues and students. He was himself a generalist so it is appropriate that the thirty studies of varying length and quality in this volume treat a sometimes bewilderingly wide variety of subjects on classical antiquity, late antiquity and the middle ages. Most of the articles, however, have in common 'the challenging of orthodoxies and the presentation of fresh perspectives on the literature, art and history of these periods'.

There are fifteen papers on Latin Literature, seven on Greek Literature and eight on Art and Literature, representing a broad span of interests and perspectives, written by scholars from universities all over the world who have a connection with South Africa or who have delivered papers there at some stage. Twenty-eight papers are in English, one in Italian and one in German. Though this volume was originally planned as an Einzelschrift of Scholia, for a number of reasons, the editors, Professor A.F. Basson from the University at Buffalo (State University of New York) and Professor W.J. Dominik from the University of Otago, decided to publish it as a separate book. The editors, both of whom contribute articles, have gone to immense lengths to ensure improved quality of the papers. Many contributors profusely thank their anonymous referees for substantial corrections and improvements.

The Latin section begins with David Konstan's discussion of the unusual form 'amicities' in his article on 'Lucretian Friendship' (pp.1-7). Konstan emphasises that the irregular form 'amicities' (for the usual 'amicitia') here means not just friendship but the capacity for affection as a social bond, perhaps inspired by φιλότης as an alternative to φιλία. This resonates intertextually with Conradie's discussion of the same feature in Antigone (p.205) and contrasts strongly with Tennant's treatment of the 'pathicus amicus' (bum-chum) in Juvenal (p.131).

As can be seen, Stephen Harrison's article on 'Meta-imagery: some self-reflexive similes in Latin epic' (pp.9-16) inspired me to seek cross-reference within this book. Using examples from Virgil, Ovid and the Flavian poets, he argues that the word 'imago', meaning 'simile', is sometimes found within or in the immediate context of an epic simile. This device, he argues, is used for a number of metaphorical effects: for intertextual cross-referring to similes in previous epics, for intratextual purposes to link the relevant simile with previous material in the same epic work, and for poetically ambiguous means to exploit to the full the wide semantic range enjoyed by the term 'imago'. By contrast, Beatrice Martin notes (p.73) that Calpurnius Siculus has been criticised for his excessive allusions to other authors. In the same way, Karl Galinsky seeks verbal echoes and affinities between 'Horace's Cleopatra and Virgil's Dido' (pp.17-23). Citing German scholarship, Galinsky argues for creative interchange, we could perhaps say 'amicities', between the two poets which could lead to this meta-imagery and meta-poetry. Horace's Cleopatra in Carmen.1.37, he claims, rather the real Cleopatra, is one of the many models for Virgil's tragic Dido. Further discussion of Cleopatra can be found in Lambert's article (p.52, n.29).

Paul Murgatroyd sweeps us away with panoramic views and camera close-ups in his contribution on 'Space and Movement through space at Virgil, Georgics 4.317-558' (pp.25-30). He convincingly shows how other critics have also suspected patterning in the characterisation of space in this epyllion. Virgil is here seen to be alert to the impact of space on a narrative and to exploit variously spatial sweep and tight focus, converging and returning movement, fast and slow pace in the description of a movement, space as a way of building atmosphere, and spatial parallelism and antithesis within and between the inner and outer stories.

Like Galinsky, Gregor Maurach deals with Horace in his over-condensed but allusive paper on 'Zu einigen Buchenden bei Horaz' (pp.31-35). Maurach spots intratextual cross-reference and self-reflection in Horace's use of modesty in appearance and intellectual excellence in the conclusion of the first book of the Epistles (1.18: modesty; 1.19: pride) and in framing the Odes (1.1: hope of recognition for his intellect; 1.38: modesty; 2.20 and 3.30: pride). The anonymous referees' advice actually prompted Maurach to use German not English. With a cue from Rudd, Maurach extrapolates from Horace's nature to reflections of this in his oeuvre. I would have added Heinimann, Collinge, Santirocco and Horace himself in his Ars Poetica to Maurach's list of contrast-seekers in the Odes.

Kathleen Coleman too finds echoes and cross-references, this time to Hellenistic literature, in 'Apollo's speech before the Battle of Actium: Propertius 4.6.37-54' (pp.37-45), which has been much discussed since the Camps commentary (1965) and my article on Propertius 4.8 (GR 1971, 51-53). She believes that the key to understanding the tone of Apollo's speech to Octavian in Propertius 4.6 lies in the Hellenistic (or Callimachean) technique of employing mythological spokespersons in encomiastic contexts. While in the Flavian period, Statius employed it extensively to express extravagant compliments to his patrons, Coleman finds Propertius' encomium subtler, attributing to Apollo a 'suasoria' that conveys a special bond between Rome's future princeps and his divine champion.

Using Murgatroyd's text, Michael Lambert has chosen to write on 'Tibullus 1.7: a question of tact?' (pp.47-60), cleverly relating qualities such as 'clementia, pax, labor, rura, mores' to South Africa (n.77). Lambert stresses the novel fusion of genres in this poem, where Tibullus had to be very tactful about linking Messalla, his triumph and Egypt. Leaving Tibullus, Anne Gosling, like Lambert, from Natal, leads us onto intratextual echoes between Virgil and Ovid in 'Rewriting Virgil: Ovid's Mezentius (Fasti 4.877-900), (pp.61-72). She shows that Ovid's account of Aeneas' defeat of Mezentius shows both similarities to and divergences from Virgil. By verbal allusion, rhetorical colouring and metrical emphasis Ovid uses Virgil to highlight his characterisation of Mezentius, subtly re-directing the story to emphasise Mezentius' brutality. Mezentius is shown to be an outsider in the poetic world of the Fasti, which is devoted to peace and rejects violence. Gosling would have had scope to link the pacific deities Flora and Vesta to the South African situation, as Lambert did.

'Calpurnius Siculus: the ultimate imperial 'toady'?' (pp.73-90) is a full-scale defence of the poet by Beatrice Martin. Interestingly enough, Calpurnius has been sharply criticised for his cross-referencing allusions to earlier poets and his sycophantic tone of praise. Martin detects, however, to the poet's credit a note of irony and even of criticism at times. There is the possibility of criticism with particular regard to those allusions that appear to provide a subtext. William Dominik, himself one of the editors, has contributed to the volume on 'Following in whose footsteps? The epilogue to Statius' Thebaid' (pp.91-109). In his epilogue to the Thebaid (12.810-19), Statius poses the question whether his poem will endure after his own death. Whereas critics have almost universally interpreted these lines as an acknowledgement of poetic inferiority to Virgil, Dominik maintains that they are designed primarily to encourage the reader to consider the Thebaid's intellectual focus, especially its relation to earlier poets, such as Homer, Pindar, Callimachus, Apollonius, Ennius, Lucretius, Catullus, Livy, Propertius, Horace, Virgil, Ovid, Martial, Lucan and Valerius Flaccus, and its role within these traditions. This article is long but clearly divided.

Elaine Fantham revisits 'Chiron: the best of teachers' (pp.111-122), who appears in Latin poetry chiefly as the wise teacher who helped tame Achilles' savage nature through the combination of music and poetry. He is so represented in Horace's Epodes, Ovid's Ars Amatoria and Seneca's Troades. According to Fantham, however, the fullest treatment of Achilles' education is in Statius' Achilleid. Although the epic maintains this benevolent image of the centaur, it provides a more complex treatment that leaves open the possibility that Chiron also contributed to the hero's future savagery. Peter Tennant opts for flamboyant language and description in his article 'Queering the patron's pitch: the real satirical target of Juvenal's ninth satire' (pp.123-132). He notes that discussions of the ninth Satire have tended to privilege the characterisation of Naevolus over the poem's context within Juvenal's bitter indictment of the decadence of the nobility and the subversion of the client/patron system. Juvenal's purpose, Tennant argues, was to go well beyond the satirising of the contemptible Naevolus: the fact that the system of patronage could spawn such characters was a powerful indictment of the corruption of that system and of its contemptible manipulators.

Co-editor André Basson offers a hagiographical paper on 'Felix, the ascetic hero in Paulinus of Nola's Carmen 15' (pp.133-149). Here Paulinus compares the conduct of Felix, the patron saint of Nola, with that of Maximus, the town's bishop during the persecutions. But the deeper purpose of this comparison, according to Basson, is to promote the ascendancy of a new monastic model over the traditional desert-based monastic ideal and to challenge the prevailing prejudice against ascetics aspiring to epispocal office. A similar discussion of Christian interpretations occurs in Betine van Zyl Smit's paper 'A Christian Medea in Vandal Africa? Some aspects of the Medea of Blossius Aemilius Dracontius' (pp.151-160). Taking into account the background of the poem, she argues against Bright's and others' search for the poet's Christianity in his version of the myth. According to Smit, Dracontius' Medea epyllion introduces new elements to and an original interpretation of the myth. The tone of this paper fits in with the iconoclastic ideals of the whole volume. Italo Ronca takes us from the fifth century AD to the medieval period in his article 'A critical note on the Prose Salernitan Questions' (pp.161-167). He takes issue with Brian Lawn's datings and interpretations by proposing that William of Conches' Philosophia post-dates his Dragmaticon. This is the most venomous of the contributions and might merit a reply from Lawn. The batting in the Greek section is opened by Steven Farron's article on 'Attitudes to military archery in the Iliad' (pp.169-184) which I see as a good example of wading upstream against the common consensus. Contrary to the opinion of most classical scholars, argues Farron, there is no evidence in the Iliad that military archery was lower class or ineffectual, nor was it always regarded as cowardly or immoral, but it had enough connotations of cowardice and immorality that Homer could use them when he wanted to denigrate a character, nation of action. Richard Whitaker treats 'The Reception of the Trojan War in the Odyssey' (pp.185-191) which one might regard as well-worn a theme as the Holy Grail. At times I confess I fell to wondering what was new in this article as Nagy (The Best of the Achaeans, 1979) amongst others has treated the theme so fully. Douglas Gerber errs on the side of erotic quibbling in his article on 'Mimnermus, Fragment 1.3 W.' (pp.193-195). He argues that a close reading of Mimnermus reveals that the poet is describing three successive stages in an erotic encounter: secret liaison, beguiling gifts and the bed. Most scholars nowadays agree that εὐναί at Od.8.249, to which Gerber refers (p.195), has a sexual significance.

P.J. Conradie writes on 'Recent criticism and Hegel's interpretation of Sophocles' Antigone' (pp.197-210), exploring Hegel's views on the conflict between divine and human law and the one-sidedness of the antagonists of Sophocles' Antigone. Many recent scholars adopt Hegel's approach of regarding Antigone as not altogether blameless and criticise her narrow conception of φιλία, her defiance of the authority of the state and the inconsistency revealed in her last speech, but they reject his theory of a final reconciliation of opposites. Conradie predicts future discussions will remain 'im Banne Hegels'.

Bruno Gentili and Liana Lomiento write in Italian on 'Corinna, Le Asopidi (PMG 654 col.3.12-51)' (pp.211-223) involving highly technical textual criticism. They insist that a re-examination of PMG 655 suggests that it was part of an edition with a commentary in which the poetic text and commentary (or paraphrasis) followed one another alternately. Gentili and Lomiento believe that both metrical and poetic characteristics seem to confirm that the ancient biographical tradition that dates Corinna's floruit to the fifth century BC.

Geoffrey Arnott has a highly detailed article (pp.225-234) on 'Peripatetic Eagles: a new look at Aristotle, Historia Animalium 8 (9).32, 618b18-619a14'. This section catalogues and describes six types of eagle known in ancient Greece, whose identifications have been much discussed over the last two hundred years. Modern ornithological research now allows a more accurate identification of these birds. Taking us to the fourth century AD, John Hilton writes on 'Heliodorus the poet' (pp.235-248), examining the use of poetry in the Aethiopica of Heliodorus with particular focus on the relationship between the hymns to Thetis in this work (3.2.4) and in the Heroicus of Philostratus, as well as the function of this hymn in the romance. He concludes that the poetic fragments in the novel help to structure the narrative and to characterise the heroine, Charicleia, the hero Theagenes and their mentor Kalasiris.

There is an associative bridge via hymns to the next article, Anne Mackay's contribution on 'Feasts of Images' (pp.249-266) which opens the final section on Art and History. She argues that the possible influence of archaic festival performance on black-figure vase painting requires some revision in three key areas: first in the functional connection between certain festivals and vase categories, secondly in the scenes that unmistakably represent festival events and finally in the evidence for painters' responses to lyric poets' divergent mythological narratives in festival performances, particularly with reference to Polyxena's presence in the story of Achilles' ambush and pursuit of Troilus. She points out that the involvement of choral music was probably very ancient indeed, for the distinctions between such established festival forms as the ὕμνος, the processional song, the paian and the dithyramb seem to be of considerable antiquity. She here refers to Bowra from 1961, but there is a considerable amount of literature on this topic from more recent sources, such as I. Rutherford (Pindar's Paeans, Oxford 2000).

John Hale serves the reader a rare dish of organology in tackling the theme of 'Salpinx and Salpinktes: trumpet and trumpeter in Ancient Greece' (pp.267-273). He claims that the Greek salpinx existed in two forms: a short instrument for signals and a longer ceremonial trumpet. Ancient literary references to the salpinx and to virtuoso salpinktai suggest that the extra length of the long trumpet produced a complete scale of notes and thus justifies Arisototle's use of the term 'melody' to describe trumpet music. Hale well notes that brass instruments are little researched. He concludes that the performances of official town trumpeters and ceremonial hierosalpingktai were in fact among the most brilliant and exciting elements in the musical life of the ancient Greeks. Louise Cilliers ponders 'Graeco-Roman views on the aetiology of disease' (pp.275-287). She points out how the medical sophistication of our modern era could not have been attained without the spadework carried out to describe disease by Homer, the tragedians, Thucydides and the Hippocratic corpus.

Barry Baldwin takes us on to Roman history with his wildly stimulating paper on 'Keep the Kings, Shake the Salt, Coals to Scipio: a methodological auto-da-fé (pp.289-294) is peppered with references to Ridley, Miller, Flaubert and Orwell. He claims that far too much modern historiography is vitiated by tralatician error and by failure to explore relevant byways. Thus he deems it unnecessary to doubt the seven kings of Rome and he perceives many grains of mystery in the salting of Carthage. Furthermore, he claims, a new explanation of the death of Scipio Aemilianus was anticipated in a universally ignored ancient text.

Richard Evans covers the topic of 'Gaius Marius and the consular elections for 106 BC' (pp.295-303). The elections, he argues, demonstrate that Gaius Marius was an astute politician as well as a great military figure. He was clever enough to turn his knowledge of the complex rules and regulations of the Roman electoral process to his own advantage. In a substantial article (pp.305-322), Barabara Levick deals with 'Augustan Imperialism and the year 19 BC'. She favours the view that the Augustan principate was moved on by crises provoked by opposition, rather than through gradual and comparatively peaceful evolution. In examining the foreign policy of the period she spots close links between events at home and abroad, notably at the crucial turning point, the year 19 BC.

Denis Saddington has a lengthy article (pp.323-339) on 'Paideia, Politeia and the Hegemonia: a route of social advancement in the early Roman empire', underscoring the importance of education and noting how by its aid freed slaves could rise up in social echelons. He examines a small group of former subjects -- intellectuals and professionals -- mainly from the Greek east, who gained civic privileges as rewards for service to Roman administrators and whose descendants went on to join the ruling élite. Hagith Sivan (pp.341-355) tackles 'The politics of death in late antiquity: an Aquitanian perspective'. Appealing to contextual archaeology and recent research, she argues forcibly that a group of sarcophagi at Narbonne in southern France should be dated to the fourth century AD, and that they constitute ignored testimony of a precocious alliance between a Gallo-Roman group of christianised aristocrats and a specific form of dynastic-Constantinian Christianity.

This volume, devoted to a Chiron of today, 'the best of teachers' as Elaine Fantham puts it on p.111, is, on the whole, a great tribute to its honorand as well as being an excellent volume for after-dinner, after-sauna or after-ski stories. Above all, it contains certain longer articles that could well be expanded and developed, such as Arnott on eagles. Harrison's notes on 'imago' could serve as a springboard for spotting intertextualism in the received tradition, though Calpurnius Siculus took matters to extremes. There is much to chew over here and much to revise in our traditional classical thinking. As Lambert notes on p.59 (n.77): 'As most South Africans would appreciate, a tendency to idealise peace and invest it with a mythic power characterises poetic responses to a society torn apart by years of violence. Hence the choice of a discussion of Tibullus 1,7 with its themes of peace and cultural inclusiveness, for a Festschrift in honour of a South African scholar, who would identify strongly with both these themes.' These articles, partly stemming from the musical place names of Witwatersrand, Stellenbosch and Bloemfontein, resonate with scholarship from around the world, reconnecting us to an unbroken tradition of learning back to Homer.

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