Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2006.02.52

Susan O. Shapiro, O tempora! O mores! Cicero's Catilinarian Orations. A student edition with historical essays.   Norman, OK:  University of Oklahoma Press, 2005.  Pp. 304; maps 4.  ISBN 0-8061-3662-6.  $19.95 (pb).  

Reviewed by Jackie Elliott, University of Colorado at Boulder (
Word count: 1936 words

A new school edition of the complete Catilinarians for use in second and third year undergraduate courses has long been a desideratum. Since early in their transmission history, these texts have been deemed ideal for teaching Latin to novices,1 yet availability of late has been limited. Among the few recently available teaching texts has been Gould & Whiteley's 1943 edition of the first and second Catilinarians (in print in the UK, if apparently no longer in the US). In 1997, Bolchazy-Carducci published Karl Frerichs's teaching text of the first Catilinarian, which is reminiscent of Pharr's Aeneid in its layout and the kind of help it offers. The complete set of Catilinarians has only been available in editions without commentaries: the Loeb, the OCT and T. Maslowski's 2003 Teubner (reviewed for BMCR by Andrew Dyck, Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2004.04.31) (and there is also an old and out-of-print version available online at A privileged few of us have been allowed to use a draft edition of a new text and commentary by Christopher Jones. This was originally under contract with OUP (and is still, mistakenly now, listed as forthcoming on Amazon), but the author decided not to proceed with the project after learning of Cambridge's forthcoming publication (later this year or early in 2007) of a new "green and yellow" by Andrew Dyck.

Susan Shapiro has prepared a very serviceable edition of all four speeches, appropriately geared towards many of the needs of undergraduate education today. The real strength of this edition -- apart from the fact that it collects all four speeches -- lies in the historical background information it offers; this edition contains two well laid out and engaging historical essays (I: 'From the Gracchi to Sulla: Background to the Conspiracy', pp.121-58; II: 'The Catilinarian Conspiracy in Context', pp.159-204), 4 maps (1. The Roman forum and surrounding area in the late Republic; 2. Rome; 3. Italy; 4. The Roman world in the time of Cicero, pp.205-8), and 3 appendices (A: The Roman Republican Constitution; B: Timeline of 113-43 BCE; C: Glossary of Key Rhetorical Terms, pp.209-24). There are also notes to the historical essays and appendices (pp.225-9), a select bibliography (pp.231-4) and a vocabulary (pp.235-66). As will be evident from this list alone, this is a very complete and flexible set of materials for helping students engage with the orations in their full historical context. The commentary provides (often very elementary) help with the language, which many students are bound to appreciate. It is here, however, that my reservations about this edition lie, as issues of grammar are not always reliably presented. Granted that this edition is aimed at undergraduates, the commentary does little to encourage students towards a more sophisticated and independent grasp of language and tends to lean towards a naïve reading of Ciceronian rhetoric.

The text is a re-print of Clark's 1905 OCT -- a fairly straightforward choice, given the aims of this edition, although "all editions of Catil. 1-2 have been out of date since 1977, when R. Roca-Puig published the text of a papyrus in the Fundació Sant Lluc Evangelista, Barcelona (CLA Suppl. 1782; cf. XI 1650)";2 Maslowski's Teubner is now an exception to this. The only changes S. has made are occasional slight modifications of the punctuation, designed to make navigation of the sentence easier for novice readers. Generally, these changes are fairly innocuous, although sometimes overpunctuation or slight mispunctuation results.3 S. usually adopts Clark's textual supplements without comment.4 The text is printed in a font-size larger than the OCT with extra paragraphing and space-separations between the sections, generosity which users will appreciate. Just occasionally, the additional spacing can be distracting or create a break in the flow of the sense (e.g., the break between I.27 and I.28, which separates the indignant question Cicero presents the personified 'patria' as asking him from its immediate answer by the same figure; the break there would lead a reader to expect a change of subject, where in fact the sense flows unbroken). Ease of reference to both the text and the commentary would have been improved by printing the number of the oration in question at the top of each page.

The historical essays are one of the real strengths of this edition; they are accessible and well organized narratives, more detailed than one might typically manage unaided for a class focusing primarily on language, and at the same time engaging and consistently to the point. The information they provide is exactly what is necessary and will be very informative to their target-audience. The narrative is broken up into short sections (nine for each essay), which consider in turn the major episodes and personalities of both the conspiracy itself and of the decades leading up to it (e.g., I.1, The Agrarian and Military Crisis of the Late Second Century; 5. Marius and Saturninus; 6. The Italian or Social War; II. 3. The Consular Elections of 64 BC and Cicero's Consulship; 5. The Early Stages of the Conspiracy; 8. Cicero's Exile and Return). These sections are designed to enable selection, although both essays will be useful to students in their entirety. Each section is followed by a few 'discussion questions' (often simply what I would call 'comprehension questions' but nevertheless certainly worth asking). I noticed very few typos in these sections (listed at the end).

The commentary offers undergraduates, including those who have not acquired much independence in Latin, all the help they could want in getting through the text rapidly and with understanding of the historical events referred to. The grammatical help it offers is, if anything, generally fuller at an elementary level than Gould & Whiteley's 1943 commentary. In the tradition of school commentaries such as Bennett's on the Catilinarians in his Selections from Cicero, it makes frequent reference to relevant sections of Bennett's New Latin Grammar and Gildersleeve and Lodge's Latin Grammar.5 Use of rhetorical devices is signaled in bold, and definitions of the terms in clear and accurate language, usually with an example from the text, appear in Appendix C. The grammatical help S. gives extends to identifying basic elements of the sentence, such as subjects, objects and the infinitives of indirect statements, or basic constructions, and to offering translations.6 She will also frequently supply an "order for translation" to serve as a crutch for students whose sense of Ciceronian word order is only beginning to develop (though occasionally here too things go wrong,7 and of necessity such a tactic will tend to undermine the emphases of the Latin); cf. the tendency to use parentheses in the text itself to guide students' comprehension. The general approach thus involves a considerable amount of "hand-holding," and that is true also of the vocabulary section, which offers as separate entries perfectly regularly formed comparatives and superlatives (e.g., 'crudelius,' 'mitior,' 'fortunatissimus,' etc.) or other items which students should arguably either know or take the trouble to look up as an aid to future memory (e.g., "'mavis' = 2nd-p. 'malo,'" "'mecum = cum me'"). My concern as a whole is that the commentary offers so much elementary help on the language that, while the Catilinarians are ideal texts for engaging students who are incipiently capable of responding independently to the challenge of Ciceronian expression and of learning thereby, it tends to sap some of that challenge from the text. It is thus ideal for students with limited ambitions in Latin, since it will give them easy access to the sense of the text and speed their preparation, but it is less liable to capture the interest of strong students, since it simplifies matters precisely at a point in their Latin reading careers when they might be starting to engage more deeply with issues of syntax, rhetorical effects and style. S. largely does the work for the students, instead of offering relevant pieces of grammatical knowledge which could be re-applied in other circumstances; translation often serves as a substitute for explanation. The strength and the weakness of this commentary is thus that it avoids asking too much of the students. There are in my opinion also quite a few inaccuracies or inadequacies in the commentary,8 of concern not least because they appear in a guide intended for beginning students who have not the means to recognize and beware of them.

The appendices offer additional (and perfectly accurate) sets of information (on the constitution, magistracies, cursus honorum; timeline of 133-43 BCE, including detail on the events and dates of 63 BCE; rhetorical terms used in the commentary) which the students will find useful to have in hard copy and under the same cover as the text for ease of reference. For the instructor, too, this avoids the need for multiple sets of handouts which, once passed out, too easily go astray.

Notes to the historical essays and to the appendices then follow. These might have been better placed after each section to which they refer, instead of buried deep (although they mainly consist of references to the primary and secondary materials which S. used to compile her account -- there are a few exceptions -- so that constant reference to them is not vital). There follows a select bibliography of primary and secondary sources on which S. depended in compiling her edition. Oddly, it names only primary texts, without designating specific editions. Finally, there is a vocabulary list, which students will certainly be grateful for, although it currently has a number of typos (listed at the end).

This is a handy teaching edition, which will probably have some lasting popularity because it offers all four of the texts, is easy to use, and provides a real service to students and teachers alike in setting out the historical background in a thorough, accessible and well organized way. The commentary is not one which finds the means to introduce the subtleties and ambiguities of language to students or which is especially successful at pointing out the sophistication of Ciceronian rhetoric; and the errors in this section are too numerous. It is therefore not, even by way of school commentaries, the final word on the Catilinarians. It is, however, ideal for students with a fairly casual interest in Latin; for them, its approach should help make reading the Catilinarians both a pleasurable and a memorable experience.

I found the following typos: (a) in the sections on the historical background: 're publica' for 'res publica' in the formula of the SCU (p.138, correct elsewhere); 'he' for 'the' (p.151); 'tribunii aerarii' for 'tribuni aerarii' (p.173); 'honore nonestatos' for 'honore honestatos', quoted from Sallust, BC 35 (p.186); on p.200, 'the forests and cattle-paths of Italy' are referred to as the "two" unattractive provinces assigned to the consuls of 59 (apparently corrected on p.201); (b) in the bibliography: 'Rullam' for 'Rullum' (p.231); (c) in the vocabulary: 'abuntia' for 'abundantia'; 'amplificio' for 'amplifico'; 'asciso, ascisere' for 'ascisco, asciscere'; 'consientire' for 'consentire'; 'desere' for infinitive 'deserere'; 'destiti' for 'desii', pf. of 'desino'; 'dimitto,' 'break up, dissolve, dismiss,' mutates into 'demitto' in the 2nd - 4th principal parts; 'increpere' is printed for 'increpare,' 'occiso' for 'occido,' 'orarum' as the gen. pl. of 'os,' 'pedestrae copiae' for 'pedestres copiae,' 'perhorrescui' for 'perhorrui,' 'pollitus' for 'pollicitus,' 'praesidi' for 'praesedi,' 'premi' for 'pressi,' 'studi' for 'studui'; 'surrigo, -ere' is translated as 'stand up,' i.e., apparently printed for 'surgo, -ere'; 'prisoner' for 'poisoner' as the translation of 'veneficus'; the genitive of 'cursus' is printed as '-u'; a verb 'aluo, aluere' is printed, in addition to 'alo, alere,' which the translation indicates is the verb meant; no genitive is given for 'auspicium,' and no perfect active stem for 'amicio.'


1.   R.H. Rouse & M.D. Reeve, in L.D. Reynolds, ed., Texts and Transmission, Oxford 1983, p. 55, with n.7.
2.   Ibid., p.65.
3.   E.g., III.3 (l.23 S = ll.2-3 OCT), where the two objects of the 'cum' clause, 'sceleris sui socios' and 'huius nefarii belli acerrimos duces,' are separated by a comma, as if they belonged to separate clauses. Occasionally, overpunctuation interferes with the sense: e.g., at II.27 (l.320-2 S = ll.5-8 OCT) a semi-colon separates the subject ('qui ... se ... commoverit ...') from its verb 'sentiet.' At III.21 (l.253-4 S = ll.23-25 OCT), the balance between the correlative phrases 'quae tum propter magnitudinem scelerum non nullis incredibilia videbantur, ea non modo cogitata a nefariis civibus verum etiam suscepta esse sensistis' is upset by the insertion of parentheses around the relative clause. In general, parentheses are (over-)used to guide students through Ciceronian periodicity; as a result, they tend to be inserted around clauses which are in no way parenthetical in what Cicero has to say. I noted further issues caused by the insertion of punctuation at I.21 (ll.237-8 S), I.26 (ll.280-81 S), II.3 (l.33 S), II.10 (l.106 S), IV.2 (ll.10-13 S), IV.7 (ll.84-6 S).
4.   Just once, S. signals a supplement and explains it in the commentary ('magnam concordiam [ordinum]' at II.19 (l.218 S = l.12 OCT), Clark's own supplement), but usually she does not do so (e.g., 'quam primum' at II.21 (l.249 S = l.17 OCT), where 'quam' represents Halm's supplement; 'miserias' at IV. 8 (l.105 S = l.1 OCT), where 'miserias' is Clark's supplement; 'non' at IV.12 (l.162 S = l.8 OCT); 'omnium generum,' Putsche's suggestion, at IV.14 (ll.199-200 S = l.23 OCT)). At II.20 (l.230/1 S), S. chooses to omit Clark's supplement 'in,' choosing instead to treat the ablative 'insperatis ac repentinis pecuniis' as an ablative of means (stated in the commentary, though without reference to the textual issue).
5.   I found a few errors in these references, without being exhaustive in checking them: e.g., the use of an accusative gerund/ive after 'ad' to express purpose is to be found at B 338.3, not 339.2 (note on I.4.39-40); the partitive genitive is discussed at G 367-72, not 525 (note on I.9.101); incorrect references also at I.16.180 and II.4.37.
6.   I give a few examples, representative of the kind of help this commentary offers: e.g., the note on I.3-6 reads: "'praesidium, vigiliae, timor, concursus, locus, ora voltusque': these nouns, along with their modifiers, are all subjects of the verb 'moverunt'; 'te' is the direct object for each subject; 'nihil' is repeated in each phrase. Translate: Does the night guard on the Palatine move you not at all? Do the night watches of the city move you not at all? (etc.) ..." (S. does not articulate any explanation for the use of a present to translate 'moverunt'.)
7.   E.g., for II.19 (ll.224-6 S), 'Non vident id se cupere quod, si adepti sint, ... concedi sit necesse,' S. suggests the order 'Non vident id quod se cupere,' as if the relative clause which is the object of 'cupere' actually governed the indirect statement; this suggestion is reinforced by S.'s faulty translation, "Do they not see that (introducing indirect discourse) the thing which they desire ... ;" instead, "Do they not see that they desire that which ..." is needed.
8.   A few examples: the note on the phrase 'vita vilissima' at I.21 (ll.237-8 S) ('neque hi solum, quorum tibi auctoritas est videlicet cara, vita vilissima') inexplicably states "vocative." The note for III.13 (l.150 S) translates 'est secutus' (from the phrase '[sententiae] quas senatus sine ulla varietate est secutus') as "was adopted," ignoring the fact that the verb is deponent and running the students into a number of problems of subject-verb agreement (cf. the translation of 'remorata est' at I.4.34-5 as a passive, and again in the vocabulary). The commentary for III.13 (l.149 S) translates 'sine ulla varietate' as "without alteration," but it surely means "without disagreement / divergence of opinion" (OLD 5a, with this example) -- i.e., "with full unanimity." At III.24 (l.295-6 S), the 'quanta' in 'quanta deminutione' is not "ablative of degree of difference," but simply attributive. At III.24 (ll.296-7 S), 'attulit non tam ipsius interitus rei publicae luctum quam ceterorum,' S. misconstrues the case of 'interitus'; she states that it is an objective genitive and translates "he brought [sorrow] to the Republic not so much for his own death as much as [he brought] sorrow [for the death] of others." This list is not exhaustive.

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