Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2006.09.06

Rainer Jakobi (ed.), Grillius: Überlieferung und Kommentar. Untersuchungen zur antiken Literatur und Geschichte, Band 77.   Berlin/New York:  Walter de Gruyter, 2005.  Pp. x, 297.  ISBN 3-11-017976-8.  €84.00.  

Reviewed by Jan P. Stronk, Ancient History, University of Amsterdam (
Word count: 990 words

One of the works used from the first century AD onward in Roman rhetorical education was Cicero's De inventione. It was a work of his youth: according to Cicero he wrote it when he was 'puer aut 'adulescentulus' (a boy or youth) and it was therefore, in his opinion once he had become an accomplished orator, incomplete and immature.1 It appears that the work ultimately derives from a Greek τέχνη (textbook), based both upon ideas from the Stoic Hermagoras of Temnos (e.g. as regards the so-called constitutio causae or determination of the issue of the case) and upon Peripatetic doctrine, adapted for Roman students by teachers of rhetoric. The work was intended to be the first of five parts which would form a complete textbook of rhetoric, the Rhetorici Libri, but only this initial part was finished.

In spite of all its flaws, the De inventione became one of the most frequently used rhetoric textbooks of the Roman imperial period and the Middle Ages, as is testified by the about 1,200 preserved manuscripts of the work. It induced, almost necessarily, many people to comment on it. One of these commentaries was written by Grillius. Grillius' comments have been quite influential, especially during the medieval period.2 A first edition of Grillius' commentary--which has only partly survived--was published by J. Martin in 1927.3 In 2002 Jakobi published a new edition of Grillius' commentary.4 It was based upon some 20 independent codices and over 30 manuscripts of Cicero's work, dating from the ninth to fifteenth century, provided with excerpts from Grillius' work as glosses in their margins. The publication under review is a supplement to that edition. It offers an introduction into the text (pp. 1-10), a review of the manuscript tradition (pp. 11-64), both the direct (pp. 11-28) and the indirect one (pp. 29-64) and an in-depth annotation of the text (pp. 65-288). The bibliography (pp. 289-292) and four indices complete the book.

In the introduction Jakobi first discusses the commentary of Grillius and the history of the clarification of the De inventione. An important commentator was Marius Victorinus, who lived around the middle of the fourth century AD. His work is frequently used by Grillius. Based upon stylistic characteristics Jakobi believes that Grillius may be dated to the (early) fifth century AD; a more precise dating is (in spite of earlier statements) in his opinion impossible (p. 5).5 That date would make him almost a contemporary of another great commentator on a work of Cicero, Boethius. Though Boethius commented on another of Cicero's rhetorical works, the Topica, he nevertheless incorporated some remarks on the De inventione as well into that work.6 Grillius' commentary was rooted in oral transmission, used for the teaching of rhetoric, dividing the material into seemingly integral units, each constituting a more or less separate lesson, all of them however needed to complete the subject. The whole approach corresponds to the literary form of 'commentaries on Greek philosophers. According to Jakobi, Grillius' completed commentary (the commentary breaks off in the note on Inv. 1.22) would have comprised over 1,000 pages of Teubner-style text.

No extant codex preserves a complete text of the remaining portion of Grillius' commentary: the framework of the text as established by Jakobi rests on 8 manuscripts (to be divided in 2 classes), most of them originating from the eleventh century, the latest from the fifteenth century. They show that Grillius' text reached the Carolingian Empire through Northern Italy: a complete Grillius north of the Alps can only be demonstrated for the eleventh century (p. 14). Indirect evidence shows, however, that Grillius was a constant canonical presence as an authority in school teaching throughout the medieval period (p. 29, p. 56-8). As might be expected, several stemmata illustrate the relations within the different categories of manuscripts. Finally Jakobi discusses the manuscripts containing glosses relevant to reconstructing Grillius' text. Though four attested manuscripts have disappeared and given that some references ascribed to Grillius are presumably incorrect, Jakobi assumes that no extant text of Grillius during the Middle Ages was more complete than the one he reconstructed (p. 62).

The invention of the art of printing pushed Grillius into anonymity, until his rediscovery by Karl Felix von Halm in 1863.7 In spite of the fact that Grillius' work was brought to light again, few editors have used it or are even aware of its existence. Partly this is due to the fact that the work of Martin was largely neglected.

As regards the content of the main part of Jakobi's work we may quote the blurb of the publisher, which covers it completely: "The principal part of the book offers an annotation of the Grillius text lemma by lemma, always with a view to the original text, Cicero's De inventione. Each section is preceded by an analysis, a representation of the structure and a commentary on the sources." The annotation is, as far as I have checked (25 random tests) scrupulously correct, without typos, and conveniently presented. As such it is a valuable--and in some respects essential--addition to Jakobi's 2002 edition of Grillius' work. The bibliography is rather concise, omitting literature mentioned in the footnotes, the indices (one of names and subjects, one of Latin words, one an index locorum, and one of manuscripts) are sufficient, but certainly the index locorum is not as exhaustive as might be expected for such a specialized book.

It is thoroughly possible to read and enjoy Cicero's De inventione as it is. It may be a pleasure to read it in an edition with notes and introduction, like the ones by Bornecque, Achard, or Greco.8 I think it is, however, only useful for specialists to read the work with the comments of Grillius in addition. For them the book under review is a useful, and sometimes necessary, completion of Jakobi's 2002 edition. The excellent production of this book ensures that it will endure the intensive use those specialists may make of it.


1.   Cf. Cicero, De oratore, I.5.
2.   Cf., e.g., P.Gatti, Der Neue Pauly, vol. 4, Stuttgart/Weimar: Metzler, 1998, 1242 s.v. Grillius.
3.   J. Martin, Grillius: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Rhetorik (Studien zur Geschichte und Kultur des Altertums; Bd. 14, Heft 2-3), Paderborn: Scho+ning, 1927 [reprint New York: Johnson, 1968].
4.   R. Jakobi, ed., Grillius: Commentum in Ciceronis Rhetorica, Leipzig: Teubner-Saur, 2002.
5.   In Jakobi 2002, v, he still adhered to the view that Grillius might be dated more precisely, sc. before the second decade of the fifth century AD.
6.   Cf. E. Stump, Boethius's 'In Ciceronis topica'', Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1988 [repr. 2004].
7.   K.F. von Halm, Rhetores latini minores, ex codicibus maximam partem primum adhibitis emendabat, Leipzig: Teubner, 1863.
8.   H. Bornecque, ed., Cicéron. De l'invention, Paris: Garnier, 1932; G. Achard, ed., De l'invention, Cicéron, Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1994; M. Greco, ed. De inventione, Galatina: Congedo, 1998. To my knowledge no English translation exists apart from the one by H.M. Hubbell in the Loeb Classical Library of 1949, last reprinted in 2000.

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