Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2005.09.44

Giorgio Brugnoli, Studi di filologia e letteratura latina, a cura di Silvia Conte e Fabio Stok. Testi e studi di cultura classica, 30.   Pisa:  Edizioni ETS, 2004.  Pp. 252.  ISBN 88-467-0972-1.  €16.00.  



Reviewed by Rodney Lokaj, Università degli Studi di Perugia (rodneylokaj@libero.it)
Word count: 1853 words

In the year directly following the untimely death of Giorgio Brugnoli, two of his closest alumni, Conte and Stok, put together this selection of essays, all of which, except for four, had been written, annotated and even corrected by the Maestro himself after their original publication some years beforehand. The essays in the selection do not stem from Brugnoli's main fields of interest, such as Suetonius, the Vitae Vergilianae or Dante Alighieri and are not, perhaps, the essays for which he will be remembered. They do, however, represent the breadth of both his philological interests and his curiositas inasmuch as they go from the poetae novi and the Augustan era, through Vergil, Propertius, Persius and the Flavian era, right up to Apuleius and Rutilius Namatianus and beyond. Of the formerly unpublished essays, the first one deals with the reception of Seneca in the Middle Ages, the second with the epithet stupor mundi of Emperor Frederick II, the third with the Franciscan heretic, Pierre de Jean Olieu, and the last with the nineteenth-century ecclesiastical writer, Giuseppe Pasquali Marinelli. Two thousand years of Latin literature are thus represented in this collection of essays, which, because of such breadth, will serve as examples of Brugnoli's philological method and, hopefully, as stimulation for further research in Latin studies tout court.

In his study of Jerome's dating of the birth and supposed cultural awakening at thirty-five years of age of Varro Atacinus, Brugnoli reminds his reader that the notion of the neoteric poets as a cohesive literary circle is conflated with the modern notions of modern literary circles, not, therefore, with ancient ones. The catalogues of poetae novi to be found in Propertius and Ovid are not to be understood in any chronological sense, but rather as lists of founders of a certain common school of thought; and Suetonius himself wrote under the influence of certain scholastic traditions, devoid of any specific chronological intent, which Jerome then confused as such.

In the second essay, which deals with the ordering of Vergil's Bucolics, Brugnoli throws new light on the question of the two quinary series (B 1-5 and B 6-10) which critics had already recognised as being variously symmetrical. He confirms that B3 and B8 are indeed the central carmina of their respective series, but he also establishes that they are entirely analogous inasmuch as they are preceded by exactly the same number of lines (156 in both B1-2 and B6-7), have the greatest number of lines in each series, and are characterised by the form of literary contrast. Furthermore, the golden mean in the first series falls exactly on the first riddle (B3, 104 et eris mihi magnus Apollo), which, according to Brugnoli et al., is an allusion to Pollio. This hypothesis would thus help explain both the bovine allusions in both B3 and B8,and the fact that B8 is not explicitly dedicated to anyone, because it is in fact dedicated, through the contamination of various literary models, to Pollio himself.

The third essay explores the hypothesis that Cornelius Gallus had introduced a variation in the ancient understanding of the planet Venus as both the morning and evening star and had become, because of this, the model for both Propertius (2, 3, 43-4) and Ovid (am. 1, 15, 29-30 and ars 3, 537).

Anser has often been taken to be a petulant and obscene poet close to the triumvir Antonius, who had given him part of Pompey's wine-producing ager Falernus. Brugnoli discusses the case more closely from the points of view of the Imitationstechnik linking Vergil, Propertius and Ovid and the use of Vergilian scholia to explain Cic. Phil. 8, 9 & 13, 11. In the well-known argument for the identification of the olores in Verg. ecl. 9 as Alfenus Varus and Helvius Cinna, Brugnoli calls upon the association of sounds in 'Cinna' and cignus, whereby, compared to these fine swan-like neoteric poets, Vergil, the young composer of bucolic verse, was supposedly the anser or ugly duckling. He also convincingly argues, in his discussion of Ovid trist. 2, 435, that Cinna might have composed a poem entitled Anser in which he had compared himself to this bird. In a case of inverse imitation, Propertius 2, 34, 79-84, inasmuch as he sees himself as the direct heir of Vergil, is not a goose but indeed a swan. Brugnoli concludes that the geese to be driven away from the estate in Falernum were Antonius' centurions, Cafo and L. Decidius Saxa, and not some otherwise obscure poet called Anser.

While the essay Ceraunia saxa is a fine lesson for scholars in the field of philology and intertextuality, the essay on the Flavian age is perhaps more geared for keen students of the silver age of Latinity. It presents much of the literary production of the era as anti-Neronian and as a return to the presumed purity of Augustan classicism. Whereas Vespasian had wisely chosen not to invent a divine beginning for his family line, as the Julio-Claudians had done, Domitian misunderstands the nature of the Senate and thus pushes his political programme for cultural propaganda towards persecution.

The essay on Persius, who defines himself with the hapax of semipaganus, is rather well known in Italy and especially among those who knew Brugnoli. The basic argument is that Persius, who describes himself as 'practically a simple country lad who has never drunk at the watering hole', adopts a polemical stance against those poets who claim to been miraculously converted to true poetry after drinking at the Hippocrene. Whereas the false poets are really converted only by the need to fill their tummies, Persius' prologue becomes his manifesto for a more honest and, therefore, more sincere approach to poetic production.

By comparing the tones of Mart. 2,1-6 and Sil. 3, 597-606, Brugnoli posits Valerius Flaccus' proem in a later historical moment when Domitian's attitude towards his somewhat more illustrious brother was rather hostile. Analogously, by comparing the mention of the three statues erected in honour of Apuleius to his profession of (and later self-defence from the accusation of) sorcery, Brugnoli argues that not only were the statues commissioned and influenced by Apuleius himself, but they were also somehow an integral part of his mystical dealings, on a par, therefore, with dreams for the Pythagoreans and nature for the Epicureans.

Brugnoli dealt with Rutilius Namatianus in both an early and the very last part of his career. Concerning the abandoned Tuscan city of Cosa, he explains Namatianus' allusion to the rats, which had supposedly driven the inhabitants out, not as an allegory of some real act of devastation, such as barbaric invasion or plague, but rather as a simple fable rationally and comically invented to combat more imaginative attempts at explanation.

At Brugnoli's death several of his essays still remained to be published. These last four were meant to come out in either the proceedings of conferences or special monographic issues of journals which were, however, entirely axed. The first one, which deals with the fortune of Seneca in the Middle Ages, is really only a summary of a much longer work which Brugnoli published in 1998. For a more exhaustive understanding of such reception, therefore, one would do well to refer both to this former work and, of course, to the fundamental enquiries carried out by Courcelle, Reynolds, Monk Olsen et al.. Its value lies in the schematic breakdown of the manuscript tradition for each work by Seneca, including the almost unknown Apocolocyntosis and his tragedies. For the works by Seneca's father, the rhetorician, and by the pseudo-Seneca, including the famous letters which he had supposedly exchanged with St Paul, Brugnoli cursorily refers to Haase.

In the essay Stupor mundi, Brugnoli dismisses the common understanding of the epithet as an intrinsically positive praising of Frederick II's personality and culture. He convincingly argues, instead, that Mattheus Paris, a monk and adversary of the entire (excommunicated) Hohenstaufen dynasty, had coined it in the entry he had placed in his Chronica maiora regarding the emperor's death. As a satirical inversion of the real praise (recorded in Salimbene da Parma) that Michael Scottus, the official imperial astrologer, had effectively made of Frederick's prowess, the epithet is thus to be understood as 'he who had left the world inverted, perverted and, therefore, stunned (stupitus)'. The stupor in the epithet was easily derived by Mattheus Paris from both Old Testament loci regarding the shock and horror brought about by the impious, and Lucan (echoed in Dante), who, through his character Amyclas, accuses Frederick's first predecessor, Julius Caesar, of having thrown the world into 'stupefying' havoc through civil war.

With an analogous dismissal of the position of 'official Dante studies' (scil. Petrocchi) which, at least in Italy, always does its best to uphold Dante's supposed religious orthodoxy, here Brugnoli investigates the real effect that Pierre de Jean Olieu had on Dante regarding the plight after death of un-baptised children (he was to give a longer paper on both the same topic and others related to it at the conference held directly afterwards in Assisi in 1999 at the Accademia Properziana del Subasio). A long debate concerning Olieu's position had been going on ever since 1274. Despite his own death in 1298, the dispute continued until May 6 1312 when the Council of Vienne declared his doctrines to constitute heresy. Against Petrocchi's philologically untenable porta de la fede (If. iv 36), Brugnoli supports the opinions of Boccaccio, John (1946) and Schwarz (1965) according to which parte is an 'article' of the Profession of Faith. The fact that both Pierre de Jean Olieu and Dante exclude the automatic intervention of Divine Grace for the salvation of the un-baptised in the case of infants (even though Dante does accept it in highly exceptional cases, such as in the case of Ripheus and Trajan) demonstrates that we can at least talk about a common theological principle guiding the thoughts of both.

It was unusual for Brugnoli to deal with ecclesiastical writers. And yet the last essay in this collection deals with the De sacramentis (1857) by Pasquali Marinelli. There is, however, no contradiction with Brugnoli's general anti-ecclesiastical stance inasmuch as Pasquali Marinelli wrote the De sacramentis to support both the newly-introduced dogma of the Immaculate Conception (Bernadette docet) and, indirectly, the temporal rule of the papacy, which was about to succumb to the new Kingdom of Sardinia. Brugnoli uncovers the fact that the literary and cultural substrata of the work actually derive from non-Christian models. That is to say, Pasquali Marinelli derives his similes from the rural settings as described in Vergil's Georgics, and for the insertion of his own personal accounts, for example the death of his wife, he largely draws upon the deaths of Eurydice and Creusa, taken respectively from the Georgics and the Aeneid. The article, therefore, is to be understood in the wider frame of Brugnoli's use of philological method to undermine Italian Catholicism.

As a homage to a prolific and versatile scholar and writer, this collection of essays well portrays Brugnoli's iconoclastic esprit de recherche which would not suffer the dogmatic constraints of any conventional school of thought.

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