Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2006.08.20

Claudio Rosato, Euripide sulla scena latina arcaica. La "Medea" di Ennio e le "Baccanti" di Accio.   Lecce:  Edizioni Pensa Multimedia, 2005.  Pp. 245.  ISBN 88-8232-421-4.  €16.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Anastasios Nikolopoulos, University of Peloponnese (
Word count: 859 words

This is a lightly revised version of Rosato's doctoral dissertation. It is clearly intended for a scholarly readership with a working knowledge of all major European languages: the book is full of quotations in English, German, Spanish and French in both the main text and the 270 footnotes. 913;n introduction sets out the ostensible target of Rosato's analysis, i.e. the techniques employed by Ennius and Accius in translating Euripides' plays. This is followed by three chapters, an Appendix on the prologue of Accius' 13;n introduction sets out the ostensible target of Rosato's analysis, i.e. the techniques employed by Ennius and Accius in translating Euripides' plays. This is followed by three chapters, an Appendix on the prologue of Accius' Phoenissae, an extensive bibliography as well as Indices of ancient and modern authors cited and discussed. Obviously, it may appeal not only to students of Republican tragedy, but also those interested in the question of Latin literature's genesis, Euripides' reception in Republican Rome and the wider field of literary translation.

The first chapter presents the reader with a pair of reference points. The first is ancient and declared in its title: "Archaic vertere according to Cicero's testimony". As a matter of fact, neither vertere is the only verb used by Cicero to denote the act of translation nor his views on the Latin dramatists' translating techniques appear to be simple or easily reconcilable, as Rosato admits in the end.1 The second one is modern: Lennartz's 1994 thesis that some archaic Roman tragedies were essentially translations of Greek plays. Reading on, it becomes more and more evident that "Euripides on the archaic Latin stage" is a disguised polemic against this theory, which apparently offended no-one so far except W. Suerbaum.2 What is truly lamentable is not that the reader is not warned about this in the book's title or subtitle, but that it has prevented Rosato from offering a clearly positive contribution to the study of archaic Latin tragedy, by constructing his own theory. At any rate, he could have inspired new life in pre-Lennartzian orthodoxy by working with concepts developed by modern translation studies, with which he is evidently familiar.3

The second and third chapters are detailed discussions of all available fragments of the plays named in the book's subtitle: Ennius' Medea and Accius' Bacchae. The first choice is justified at the end of chapter I, while the second will have to wait until the opening of chapter III, and runs as follows: (a) there is ancient testimony and modern consensus respectively that the Latin works are derived from Euripidean originals, (b) there is a considerable amount of Latin text and (c) the text of the Greek play has been preserved in its entirety (the former) or practically so (the latter). Perhaps it could be mentioned in a footnote that conditions (a) and (c) also apply to Ennius' Hecuba, but sadly only fourteen lines or so have been preserved.

The fragments of Ennius' play are presented following the order proposed by Traglia with the exception of fr. 142 Tr., which is relegated to fragmenta incertae sedis. This is not acknowledged in the relevant paragraph on p. 47. Nor does it leap to the eye of the reader, as Traglia's numbering is printed after Jocelyn's in the headings, presumably because the latter is the standard edition. Adopting this implicit standpoint, I think it would be useful to list Rosato's main divergences from Jocelyn's views: (1) Ennius wrote only one play on the myth of Medea, not two; (2) his objection to Skutsch's interpretation of fr. cxvi Joc. can be dispensed with; (3) his substitution of vos for quae in fr. cv Joc. is unnecessary; (4) there is no lacuna after dabo in fr. cviii Joc.; (5) his parallels for cordis corde are unconvincing; and (6) there are no omissions in Cicero's citation of fr. civ Joc.

In chapter III the reader is informed that the fragments of Accius' play are presented in the order established by Dangel. Her numbering of the lines is given priority in the headings, followed by that of D' Anto. Reading the commentary on the individual fragments it becomes clear that this is only a formality and does not imply a wholesale agreement with Dangel's reconstruction of the play. Although this is acknowledged more or less by Rosato himself (p. 156 n.1), the reader is left to construct the larger picture independently. As a first step in this direction I offer the order of the fragmenta certae sedis according to Rosato, respecting Dangel's line-numbering: 406-8, 417, 420-1, 412-3, 418-9, 422, and somewhat less certainly 425, 426, which correspond to lines 35-7, 206-7, 272-4, 306-9, 436-9, 453, 699-700 and 702-3 of Euripides' play as it has come down to us. For the rest honesty compels Rosato to admit: non liquet.

Very elegantly produced, virtually free of typographical errors4 and reasonably priced, this is a book which can be recommended as an up-to-date commentary on the fragments of two important Roman tragedies. For inspiration the reader can always turn to the cover picture, a Pompeian fresco of Pentheus' dismemberment by the Bacchae, or the collection of essays edited by Manuwald.5


1.   On the former see Βασιλης Φυντικογλου, μεταφραστικη ορολογια στο εργο του Κικερωνα," ΕΕΦΣΠΘ 10 (2002-03) 86-96 (in Greek with English summary); the only article in the published Proceedings of the 7th Panhellenic Symposium of Latin Studies (Salonica, 16-19 October 2002) on Translation Theory and Practice in Latin Literature, which cites Lennartz 1994.
2.   Not only in his book on Ennius quoted on p. 37 n. 36, but also in W. Suerbaum, ed., Hanbuch der lateinischen Literatur der Antike. Erster Band: Die archaische Literatur. Von den Anfängen bis zu Sullas Tod. Die vorliterarische Periode und die Zeit von 240 bis 78 v.Chr., Handbuch der Altertumswissenschaft viii.1, Munich 2002, p. 126. See the review by I. Gildenhard (BMCR 2003.09.39 with particular mention of Lennartz in the first paragraph of section iv. The bibliographies. Curiously, the review by J. Dangel in Gnomon 70 (1998) 110-13, the only one I was able to track through l'Anée Philologique and can be found in Rosato's bibiography, does not comment on this aspect of Lennartz' argument.
3.   See footnotes in pages 102 and 139.
4.   I have noticed χρεστοῖσι instead of χρηστοῖσι (p. 67), grobes instead of grosses (German on p.86), τρόφος instead of τροφός (p. 113), Πάλλαδος instead of Παλλάδος (p. 113) and ὄπωτε instead of ὄπωπε (p. 169 n. 17). Finally, the second οὔτε in Euripides' text (p. 176) is Fix' not Matthiae's conjecture, according to Diggle, the edition cited by Rosato.
5.   G. Manuwald, ed., Identitäten und Alteritäten in der frührömischen Tragödie, Würzburg 2000.

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