Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2005.06.23

Paolo d'Alessandro, Rufini Antiochensis Commentaria in metra terentiana et de compositione et de numeris oratorum. Collectanea Grammatica Latin, 3.   Hildesheim:  Olms-Weidmann, 2004.  Pp. clxvi, 52.  ISBN 3-487-12752-0.  €29.30 (pb).  

Reviewed by Diane L. Johnson, Western Washington University (
Word count: 1564 words

Rufinus was a Latin grammarian, probably of Antioch, who, probably early in the fifth century of the present era,1 composed for his students a pair of studies, one on the metrical structure of the comedies of Terence, the other on the measured clausulae of the Latin orators. In this latest addition to the Bibliotheca Weidmanniana's Collectanea Grammatica Latina, Rufinus' works have been newly edited and provided with a useful introduction by Paolo d'Alessandro.

The Bibliotheca Weidmanniana is a fairly recent series of editions of Classical authors issued by the Georg Olms Verlag. Sixth in the series is the Collectanea Grammatica Latina, directed by Giuseppe Morelli and Mario De Nonno, the goal of which is the presentation of critical editions of the Latin grammarians and the grammatical heritage of Classical and late antiquity. Most of these works have been available to us only in the seven-volume collection edited by Heinrich Keil in the middle of the nineteenth century.2 The Collectanea Grammatica Latin is a welcome project. Keil edited with laudable care and responsibility but was limited by his time and circumstances and had besides his own axes to grind. Reassessments of these texts and authors have been long overdue; presentations of individual works and authors in portable and readable format is a pleasant convenience.

Three items have appeared to date in the Collectanea Grammatica Latina. We were given in 2001 the Regulae of Pseudo-Remmius Palaemon, rescued from Keil's dismissive edition by Michela Rosellini and supplied with a sound text and useful commentary.3 The second number was issued in 2002: C. Cigniolo's two-part edition of and commentary on Terentianus Maurus' De litteris, de syllabis, de metris.4 And in 2004 appeared Rufinus Antiochensis' Commentaria in metra terentiana et de compositione et de numeris oratorum. Rufinus' text has been thoroughly and meticulously edited by Paolo d'Alessandro, who for well over a decade has contributed significantly to scholarship on the textual transmission of the Latin grammatical literature. The edition he has produced is an exemplary one, to be welcomed by all who study ancient grammar, metrics, and the stylistics of Classical oratory.

The cachet of Rufinus' work is, simply put, its strange format. For Rufinus has no thesis to argue, no point to make, which we would in any way challenge or contradict; the comic poets did write in meter -- how many of us Boeotian swine would doubt it? The Latin orators used a variety of clausulae; we can display statistics on the frequency and subtleties of their patterning which would blow Rufinus' contribution out of the water. No, it is the peculiar state of this text which attracts us, a text aptly described as "ein einzigartiger Zettelkasten,"5 a weird Rolodex of matter, which intrigues us. The work consists of the remains of two separate commentaries which have been quite roughly handled at some point in their history. The transmitted text opens with the title Commentarium Rufini V.D. Grammatici Antiochensis in metra terentiana. No other title appears in what has been transmitted to us through the best MSS, and we must assume from Rufinus' own verses "de compositione et de metris oratorum" that a new work has begun about halfway through.6 The first commentary begins abruptly with a sequence of excerpts from various ancient philologists witnessing to the presence and nature of meter in the comic poets and supporting their points by quoting both Greek and Latin authors. Juba and Varro appear alongside Charisius and Terentianus (there are some sixteen quoted authors represented).7 The excerpted bits are interrupted by Rufinus' own hexameters, summarizing the content of his authorities and interspersed in turn with illustrative quotations from Terence and, in one case, Persius. Then come further quotations, the whole lot followed and summed up by Rufinus' sphragis,8 "Haec ego Rufinus collegi mente benigna // discipulisque dedi munera pulchra libens." What had originally been a separate work follows immediately. It begins with sixty-eight of Rufinus' verses on the clausulae of the orator, marked off in groups with illustrative tags such as "de ambitu sive circuitu" or "de genere iudiciali," and so on. After the verses comes a series of excerpts mostly from Cicero;9 the loci are again given illustrative titles such as "Flavius Sosipater Charisius de numeris sic dicit ..." or "Terentianus de cretico hoc est de amphimacro pede sic dicit ..." Seven more "versus Rufini v.c. de numeris et pedibus oratorum" follow, then more loci. It all ends with a non-ending: we reach the final sentence of the final quote from Ad Herennium on the membra of the period, and after that silence.

Off-putting though these pages appear, d'Alessandro clearly esteems them,10 and we are caught up at least in part by his passion for an author whose works occupy only thirty-two pages in this edition. It is in the 166 pages of introductory material that the non-specialist can best observe the editor's zeal and can benefit from the experience he brings to the editing of Rufinus. Following a brief but graceful preface, a ten-page bibliography provides a thorough review of several centuries of scholarship on Latin grammarians and Rufinus: there is not, obviously, a great deal of work done on this author, but d'Alessandro has assembled a working list of scholarly materials. The introduction proper is divided into three sections: l'opera, i testimoni, l'edizione, in which the lion's share falls to the explanation of the readings found in this edition. Clearly d'Alessandro's heart lies here: he affectionately and meticulously surveys his MSS, explaining with great care and respect those which Keil had preferred while adding others to the list of those worth considering, explicating the resources of each and capping the discussion with a stemma. The whole is elegantly and soundly reasoned. For the purpose of comparison, a glance cast at Keil's introductory remarks reveals most effectively d'Alessandro's contribution. Keil had selected two MSS in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. Lat. 7496 and Paris. Lat. 7501, as the basis of his text. Because the former lacked the Greek quotations found in Rufinus' commentary on the metrics of comedy, Keil supplemented 7496 with two related MSS in which the Greek quotes had survived. These he felt were sufficient: "his duobus libris ... de vetere lectione ita constat ut alii vix quidquam, quod quidem non coniectura inventum, sed ex antiqua memoria propagatum sit, adferant."11 D'Alessandro has challenged that "vix" by setting before us careful descriptions of the twenty-eight MSS which have contributed to his critical edition.

It is the hardened textual critic who will work through every page of d'Alessandro's discussion of the creation of this edition. If you review the description of the MSS and the early printed editions, then jump to the stemma on p. CLXIII, you'll acquire a lot of information in a short while. What will be of more interest to the non-specialist is, I think, the explanation of the content-crotchets in Rufinus' text: What exactly are we looking at when we open these pages?12 "Un testo prezioso," d'Alessandro states, "ma per molti versi anche sconcertante" (p. XXX). Rufinus' citations of passages otherwise unavailable to us are significant, and we are grateful for them and for the contribution they make to the textual traditions of the quoted authors. But the disconcerting question remains: What is going on in this text? Briefly put, two studies have been jammed together, pieces of Rufinus' versified studies have been sandwiched unceremoniously between slices of authorities; the thematic connections are unclear; "totum opusculum perturbatum est," as the author of the one study devoted to Rufinus states.13 D'Alessandro painstakingly describes the situation in his introduction. The clarity and order of his discussion encourage us to become engaged with the mystery of the text's disorder, and the mystery even acquires a dash of intrigue when d'Alessandro summarizes Cybulla's reconstruction of the text's creation: Rufinus had painstakingly assembled masses of sententiae from various authorities and had begun to use them as the basis for his own verses, in which he summarized Terentian metrics and Ciceronian clausulae; upon his sudden death, some unknown figure rifled his desk, took all of the bits of authorities and the unfinished metrical studies, gave them the look of an epitomized compilation, and published them in their rude inchoate condition. D'Alessandro simplifies this scenario: all can be explained by assuming that the original text of Rufinus has been thoroughly worked over by an excerptor "che del testo di Rufino abbia conservato solo quelle citazioni e quei versi grammaticali che gli sembravano di maggior interesse, eliminando o riassumendo drasticamente quelli ritenuti meno significativi" (p. LXIII). I'm convinced.

It should be noted that, in addition to its lengthy and detailed introduction and the new text of Rufinus, our edition has been provided with a twelve-page tripartite index: analytical, places in the introduction where specific passages are discussed, authors cited. This is the one place in the work where one might become a little cranky. A little more detail in the analytical index would have been helpful for hunting down references in the lengthy introductory material.

In this latest volume of the Collectanea Grammatica Latina Paolo d'Alessandro has made a significant contribution to the study of the Latin grammarians in at least three ways. He has given us a text the soundness of which has been carefully documented. He has made Rufinus' work accessible and comprehensible to a new generation of students. And he has rendered all of this in a convenient and congenial format.


1.   Of Rufinus' provenance we have only his epithet, "Antiochensis," attested by the MSS. We know of no ancient author who refers directly to Rufinus or to his work. In his own commentaries he calls himself variously VC (vir clarissimus) and VD (vir disertissimus). He mentions his students in the elegiac couplet sandwiched between the texts of the two commentaries. Hrabanus Maurus, Sedulius Scottus, and others among their contemporaries attest that Carolingian scholars accessed his works. The earliest MSS are from the ninth century. Recent accessible biographical conjectures on Rufinus can be found in R. Kaster, Guardians of Language (Berkeley: 1988) pp. 351-352, and in P. Wessner's article in the fifth supplement to RE.
2.   Grammatici Latini (Leipzig 1855-1870; I use the 1961 reprint, Georg Olms, Hildesheim).
3.   Reviewed by L. Holford-Strevens for BMCR 2003.03.24.
4.   Reviewed by Jan-Wilhelm Beck for Classical Review, 2003.
5.   The term is used in the descriptive matter on the back cover of d'Alessandro's text.
6.   The second commentary was transmitted separately in one MS, our editor's X; it is a Neapolitan document from which d'Alessandro has taken the title he affixes to the second work.
7.   Rufinus himself at one point in this part of the text tabulates twenty-three authors, a fact which contributes to the argument that the work has been epitomized.
8.   The term is d'Alessandro's, p. XXV.
9.   The Orator and De oratore are the target texts. Rufinus has attributed the Ad Herennium to Cicero. Quintilian, Charisius, Marius Victorinus, and several others are given cameos.
10.   See, for example, the opening page of the "Premessa."
11.   Grammatici Latini VI, p. 552.
12.   I translate Wessner's question, cited by d'Alessandro p. XXX n. 50: "die erste Frage, die sich angesichts dieses sonderbaren Textes einem jeden aufdrängt, ist doch wohl die: Was haben wir vor uns?"
13.   Kurt Cybulla, De Rufini Antiochensis commentariis (Diss. Königsburg, 1907) p. 5.

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