Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2006.02.08

F. Bessone, E. Malaspina, Politica e cultura in Roma antica. Atti dell'incontro di studio in ricordo di Italo Lana, Torino 16-17 ottobre 2003.   Bologna:  Pàtron, 2005.  Pp. 171.  ISBN 88-555-2828-9.  €15.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Matthew Leigh, Oxford (
Word count: 802 words

Italo Lana was for many years Professor of Latin at the University of Turin. He published widely on the history of Roman culture, and particularly on the ethical and political thought of Cicero and Seneca. This volume contains eight papers first delivered at a meeting to commemorate Lana's life and work. In the uniform seriousness and learning displayed, they offer a fitting tribute to the memory of the honorand.

G. Aricò, 'L'Atreus di Accio e il mito del tiranno. Osservazioni in margine a uno studio di Italo Lana', 19-34 is alert to what is problematic in the figure of Thyestes as well as in Atreus. A. argues that the 'Atreus' is political in the sense that it brings what is positive about the Roman state through consideration of a more negative alternative.

P. Cugusi, 'Strenui militis et boni imperatoris officia simul exequi. Cenni sulla "ideologia" del condottiero nella letteratura romana', 35-58 offers a detailed catalogue and analysis of instances of the motif cited in the title. Its prominence in Latin historiography, most notably in the works of Sallust, is attributed not implausibly to Cato the Elder's representation of his own generalship.

C. Lévy, 'Le philosophe et le légionnaire: l'armée comme thème et métaphore dans la pensée romaine de Lucrèce à Marc Aurèle', 59-79 studies the proliferation of military metaphors in Roman philosophy, even amongst authors often profoundly anti-militarist in their pronouncements. Lévy revisits to good effect Lana's study on the school of Sextius and what it might mean to invent a truly Roman sapientia.

E. Romano, 'Il difficile rapporto fra teoria e pratica nellla cultura romana', 81-99 begins and ends with a detailed analysis of Seneca, Epistle 90. The censure of Posidonius for suggesting that any sapiens could be responsible for the discovery of purely technical innovations leads to a revealing account of how the ancient disparagement of technical disciplines is reflected in modern reluctance to engage with ancient technical literature. The recent reversal of this position is attributed in no small part to Lana. Romano also includes a fascinating analysis of Cicero's De Oratore and the dispute between M. Antonius Orator and C. Licinius Crassus over the relative importance of theoretical knowledge and practical experience. R.'s focus on the politics of this issue is challenging and effective.

R. Degl'Innocenti Pierini, 'Mestieri, professioni, lavoro in Orazio fra tradizione letteraria e realtà romana', 101-22 locates Horace, Satires 1. 2. 1-6, 1. 3. 124-33, and 2. 3. 226-32 within Roman critiques of luxuria and within a broader intellectual tradition of ethical evaluation of economic practice. This is a learned contribution, but I was not sure precisely how effective it was to put Horace at the centre of the discussion.

G. Mazzoli, 'La Roma di Seneca', 123-33 identifies a consistent patriotism in the works of Seneca but also traces the philosopher's gradual loss of faith in the possibility of virtuous action in a corrupt political world. M. closes with a brief account of Stoic cosmopolitanism and the alternative mode of engagement which it offers. This piece has few pretensions to originality but does allow plenty of scope for respectful reflection on Lana's contribution to the topic.

L. Cracco Ruggini, 'Esibizione di cultura e successo politico nel tardoantico', 135-56 is the first of two papers on aspects of late antiquity. The author studies the political prestige to be gained from poetic composition and scholarly editing, particularly in the Fourth Century. Almost total ignorance of this period prevents this reviewer from any detailed comment on what is a richly documented and intriguing piece.

D. Lassandro, 'La controversia de ara Victoriae del 384 d.C. nell'età sua e nella riflessione dei moderni', 157-71 studies the three epistles of Symmachus and Ambrose for and against the restitution of the altar and statue of Victory in the curia Iulia. The dispute is identified as a key moment in the contest for authority at Rome between paganism and Christianity. L. also surveys the response to the issue by various modern scholars, not least Lana himself.

This is a useful volume and unusually consistent in the standard of the contributions. I was most impressed with the papers of Cugusi, Lévy and Romano, but all have something of value to contribute, and almost all engage with the central preoccupations of Lana's own work. Editorial standards are high and I spotted only the following misprints: p. 40 'D'altra parte parte' for "D'altra parte'; p. 45 'omni militare labore' for 'omni militari labore'; p. 51 'un ruolo importate' for 'un ruolo importante'; p. 86 'le difficoltà ... fosse' for 'le difficoltà fossero'; p. 91 Cic. de orat. 2. 260 for 1. 260, 2. 262 for 1. 262. It is not obvious why Lassandro's contribution does not follow the bibliographical conventions adopted consistently elsewhere, but this may be the necessary price to pay for prompt publication of proceedings.

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