Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2005.07.50

Rupertus Marius Danese (ed.), Titus Maccius Plautus. Asinaria. Editio Plautina Sarsinatis II.   Sarsinae/Urbini:  QuattroVenti, 2004.  Pp. 103.  ISBN 88-392-0575-6.  €15.00.  

Reviewed by Joanne Walker, Dollar Academy (
Word count: 1483 words

This edition of Plautus' 'Asinaria' forms the third volume of the new edition of Plautus being produced by the Plautine scholars at the University of Urbino. The first volume (Casina, ed. C. Questa, Urbino: QuattroVenti, 2001) has not been noticed in BMCR, but the second volume (Vidularia et deperditarum fabularum fragmenta, ed. S. Monda, Sarsinae/Urbini: QuattroVenti, 2004) has recently been reviewed (in BMCR 2005.05.36). As noted a few years ago by Gratwick,1 a new edition of Plautus is long overdue. It is to be hoped that this series will produce a useful Plautus, to suit the needs of modern scholarship. As noted in the recent review of Monda, the series is thorough, and aims to replace Lindsay's OCT, Leo's Weidmann, and the multiple-volume edition prepared by Ritschl, Loewe, Goetz, and Schoell. All of these editions are approximately a century old, and Plautine scholarship has made many advances in those hundred years.

This book includes a brief monitum and codicum sigla, a double critical apparatus, a conspectus of editions and essays, testimonia, and a conspectus of the metre, in addition to the Latin text of the play. Danese (D.) has written extensively elsewhere on this play, which is helpful when viewing his editorial decisions. In addition, he explicitly states in the preface that he has followed the precepts laid down by Questa in his edition of 'Casina' (the first volume in this new edition of Plautus). However, as pointed out in BMCR 2005.05.36, the principles followed in the whole series are detailed most fully in an article, which is not particularly accessible.2 The omission of these details from each fascicle can be justified perhaps by the idea that one would expect a library or scholar to house the entire Plautus. However, since individual volumes are being published, it would be better to include the principles in each volume.

The conspectus of editions and essays are in alphabetical order, and the abbreviations are standardised throughout the series of volumes. This is helpful when consulting different plays, and naturally important if these new individual editions are to be treated as part of a coherent whole. The edition provides full ancient testimonia and quotations, something not found in Lindsay's Oxford edition for example. All of this is essential for a project with such grand and important aims.

The critical apparatus is composed of two parts. The first includes details of colometry, scene-headings, and the attribution of parts; the second includes variant readings, conjectures, and some bibliographic references. While this second apparatus is very detailed, and includes both new and old scholarship, it is not exhaustive. Only the most important conjectures are included. This ensures that the apparatus does not take up too much of the page.

In editing this volume, D. states in his short preface that he has been fairly conservative in preserving orthography and in preferring to retain lacunae rather than filling them with remedies. Thus the apparatus contains possible emendations and often praise if D. considers them to be good; yet these have rarely managed to make it into the text itself. D. is also more likely than Lindsay, for example, to mark out a phrase with a cross, to show that there is a problem in the text, rather than adopting an emendation and giving the impression that the issue is completely solved. Given that a critical edition should be providing a basis for further scholarship rather than imposing one interpretation over another, D. seems well-justified in this.

The 'Asinaria' is, according to its prologue, based on the 'Onagos' of Demophilus. The plot has led to this play being criticised at times as immoral; it has also been criticised for a lack of coherence and inconsistencies. The basic plot is fairly simple, concerning a poor young man, Argyrippus, who is in love with a courtesan, Philaenium. Their relationship is threatened by Philaenium's mother, who demands a large sum of money in return for Philaenium's exclusive services for one year. The youth has sought help from his father, Demaenetus, who is unable to help because his wealthy wife Artemona controls all expenditure. There is an opportunity for two slaves, Leonida and Libanus, to help their master obtain the money from a merchant who is paying Artemona's slave, Saurea. The situation is complicated by there being a rival, Diabolus, who has promised the necessary money for Philaenium. There is success for Argyrippus, thanks to his slaves and his father. Unfortunately, his father demands the right to share Philaenium for one night, as a reward for his help. Diabolus, angry at losing out, sends his parasite to tell Artemona about her husband's behaviour. The play ends after Artemona has dragged her husband home in disgrace. Despite the inconsistencies, the plot does possess a certain unity. One alteration which helps this is the reattribution of certain lines to Diabolus rather than Argyrippus, (see below).

One of the major issues in Plautine scholarship on 'Asinaria' over the course of the past century has been the confusion over the identity of the adulescens who appears between lines 127 and 248. In the MSS, there is agreement that the young man is Argyrippus. However, Havet first noticed that some of the problems this created could be removed if one substituted Diabolus, Argyrippus' rival. This is an issue that D. has discussed elsewhere,3 and he holds to his agreement with Havet's suggestion in his text.4 It has to be said that Havet's view is the prevalent one held by scholars, and has been for many years. It is fitting that the new edition of Plautus should finally take into account a view that perhaps appeared slightly too late to be incorporated into the editions prepared by Leo, Lindsay, Ritschl, Goetz, Loewe, and Schoell.5

In creating a new edition of Plautus, it is not essential to collate the P family of MSS again. What is necessary is to correct errors and to make improvements in the text, which were overlooked by previous editors. The older editions were not scientific enough, and the number of conjectures included often made the text appear more certain than it was. Although there are several places where D. follows a different reading from Lindsay, on the whole the text remains substantially unchanged.6 What is clear though, is that, as noted above, D.'s text is more honest about uncertainties. This provides a better basis for scholarship. D. has for the most part adopted conjectures or emendations made by scholars whose work was also known by Lindsay. On a few occasions, the reading of one of the minor MSS specifically referred to by D. has provided a useful confirmation of what one would expect to be the correct text.7 D. has also made an occasional conjecture himself.8 There have also been a few minor changes made in the attribution of words to characters.9 The orthography may at first glance suggest more changes in the text, but these are more apparent than real, and this is a point which underlines the need for the precepts followed to be detailed fully at the start of this text.

There is only one short section of the play (127-138) which can be termed a polymetric canticum. D. follows Questa fully in both his layout and metrical interpretation of these lines.10

The layout of this volume is simple and functional, but elegant. The width of the page means that only very rarely do the longer verses of metre have to run over onto a second line. The two sets of notes beneath the main text are in a smaller font. Sometimes half a page is filled with notes, but the spacing is kind to the eye. D. has opted not to include act and scene numbers. This is a technically correct and welcome decision, made possible thanks to editions of dictionaries and lexicons that refer to Plautus' text by line number, not by act and scene number. The accuracy of the text is fairly high, although there appears to be a high incidence of missing full-stops at line-end.11 The quality of the paper and binding is very high. The volume is very easy to use, and the format is easily the most pleasing of any edition of Plautus currently available.

With the steps taken by the overseers of this commendable project to ensure standardisation and quality of various elements from layout and paper to bibliographical material, the series as a whole should fulfil its aim, providing classical scholarship with its long awaited new and modern Plautus. D.'s edition is modern, attractive, but more importantly, sound. It also prefers to lay bear the uncertainties relating to the text of Plautus, ensuring that scholars using it know the problems which they face. This edition of 'Asinaria' can rightfully replace Lindsay's and other editions as the main basis of Plautine scholarship on this text, and hopefully the other editions in this same series will also achieve this.


1.   Gratwick, A.S. (2000) "Brauchen wir einen neuen Plautus?" in 'Dramatische Wäldchen: Festschrift für Eckard Lefèvre zum 65. Geburtstag' edd. Stärk, E., Vogt-Spira, G. (2000) (Hildesheim, Zurich, New York), 321-344.
2.   Questa, C. (2001) "Per un' edizione di Plauto" in 'Giornate Filologiche 'Francesco della Corte'' (2001) (Genova), 61-83.
3.   Danese, R.M. (1999) "I meccanismi scenici dell'Asinaria" in 'Lecturae Plautinae Sarsinates II. Asinaria' edd. Raffaelli, R., Tontini, A. (1999) (Urbino), 49-95.
4.   Havet, L. (1925/1926) 'Pseudo-Plaute, Le prix des ânes (Asinaria)' (Paris); Havet, L. (1905) "Études sur Plaute. Asinaria I: La seconde et la troisième scènes et la composition générale" in 'Revue de Philologie' 29 (1905), 94-103.
5.   Lowe, J.C.B. (1999) "L'Asinaria e il suo modello greco" in 'Lecturae Plautinae Sarsinates II. Asinaria' edd. Raffaelli, R., Tontini, A. (1999) (Urbino), 13-24; Lowe, J.C.B. (1992) "Aspects of Plautus' originality in the Asinaria" in 'Classical Quarterly' 42 (1992), 152-175. It was however followed by Ernout in his edition of 1932. The main current opponent of the view is referenced in the apparatus, making it extremely easy to follow the history of this argument.
6.   Arg. 6, line 15, lines 25-26 are retained, line 59, 77, 85, 105, 108, 217, 235, 241, 255, 275, line 331 D. indicates a lacuna, line 356, 364, 366, 469, line 482 D. obelizes part, lines 484/85 D. obelizes part, line 487, 492, line 499 D. retains and obelizes, line 509, line 530 D. obelizes, line 548 D. indicates a lacuna, line 552 D. deletes, line 553 D. indicates a lacuna, line 557, line 565 D. obelizes, line 578, line 609, 611, line 656 D. obelizes part, line 698, 700, 702, 714, line 738 D. obelizes, line 758, line 826 D. obelizes, line 856 D. obelizes, line 868, 897, line 908 D. indicates a lacuna.
7.   Lines 125-126, K cf. BDE; line 260, MS cf. P; line 276, K confirms the reading of the first corrector of B; line 456, K confirms the readings of the correctors of JE; line 490, S cf. P; line 529, MS cf. BDJK; lines 588-590, S restores the speaking parts; line 631, S confirms the emendation by editors: 'numquam' to 'nusquam'; line 644, S confirms the emendation by editors: 'istud' to 'istuc'; lines 662-663, K confirms the attributions of the corrector of E; line 670, K confirms the variant readings of P; lines 678-679, K confirms the attributions of the corrector of E; lines 683-684, K confirms the attributions of the corrector of E; line 695, S confirms the emendation by editors: 'proserpente' to 'proserpentem'; K confirms the readings of the correctors of JE; line 702, K confirms the readings of the correctors of JE; line 815, S provides the most accurate reading; line 818, K confirms the readings of the correctors of JE; line 904, S confirms the emendations by editors: 'iaceamus' to 'iaciamus'; line 910, MS confirm the emendations by editors: 'et quis' to 'ecquis'; line 921, G confirms the reading of the corrector of E.
8.   Line 205, D. inserts 'iniqua' rather than Vahlen's 'linguam'.
9.   Lines 108-109, division of words between Demaenetus and Libanus.
10.   Questa, C., ed. (1995) 'T. Macci Plauti cantica' (Urbino: Edizioni QuattroVenti).
11.   Some corrigenda: p. 14 line 23, read 'et' for 'er'; p. 23 in the codicum sigla it is indicated that vv. 195-605 of 'Aulularia' have had to be supplied, but there is no mention that vv. 191-605 of that play are missing from E. Places where other editions have a different reading to D., but there is no indication in D.'s apparatus as to why the change has been made: p. 35 line 75, other editions: 'amanti', D.: 'amantem'; p.40 line 185, other editions: 'uideat', D.: 'uidet'; p. 42 line 225, other editions: 'eum' , D.: 'eo'; p. 45 line 274, other editions: 'Libanum', D.: 'Libano'; p. 48 line 351, other editions: 'facetum me', D.: 'facetum'; p. 49 line 367, other editions: 'ut nos', D.: 'ut'; p. 49 line 375, other editions: LI., D.: LIB.; p. 50 line 379, other editions: 'hic', D.: 'hinc'; p. 51 line 392, other editions: 'Demaenetum', D.: 'Damaenetum'; p. 52 line 407, other editions: 'sit', D.: 'siti'; p. 54 line 444, there should be LE. at the start of the line, or LI. is not required at the start of line 445.; p. 54 line 452, other editions: 'Demaenetum', D.: 'Damaenetum'.; p. 54 line 455, other editions: 'Demaeneto', D.: 'Damaeneto'; p. 61 line 580, other editions: 'Demaenetum', D.: 'Damaenetum'; p. 65 line 656, other editions: 'pone, hic istam', D.: 'pone'; p. 69 line 730, other editions: 'ludatis', D.: 'laudatis'; p. 75 line 837, other editions: 'uidero', D.: 'uideo'; p. 76 line 854, other editions: 'quicquam', D.: 'quiquam'; p. 79 line 901, other editions: 'quid', D.: 'qui'.

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