Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2006.09.29

Christian Nicolas (ed.), Hôs ephat', dixerit quispiam, comme disait l'autre... Mécanismes de la citation et de la mention dans les langues de l'Antiquité. AGREAH. Recherches et Travaux, hors-série no 15-2006.   Grenoble:  Université Stendhal, 2006.  Pp. 370.  ISBN 2-9518254-5-5.  €13.00.  

Reviewed by Johanna Akujärvi, Lund University (
Word count: 1726 words

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

The essays assembled in this volume are the result of a two-year seminar arranged by the Association des Groupes d'Études Anciennes et Humanistiques (AGREAH) at the Stendhal University in Grenoble. The theme chosen for the seminar was the variety of mention and quotation techniques in Greek and Latin texts--a fairly broad subject of inquiry, which, according to the introductory presentation of the collection, was intended to include as many specific interests as possible. In that respect the volume is a success, its contribution ranging from Homer to the Neo-Latin scholars Conrad Gesner and Jacques-Louis d'Estrebay, from oral poetry to pictorial representations of myths. The seventeen essays of the collection are organised in six separate sections, preceded by a short introduction by Christian Nicolas, and completed by a bibliography and an index of modern names. In the following review only a selection of the essays will be discussed.

The first section, "Homère, Homère, toujours recommencé", comprises three essays (Létoublon, Alaux, Laizé). In her article on quotation and formulas in Homer, Françoise Létoublon comes to the not altogether surprising conclusion that in the Homeric poems there is hardly any quotation in the proper sense of the word. In fact, Létoublon suggests that the term 'quotation' does not suit early Greek (oral) poetry, for which 'allusion' would be a more appropriate term. This notion, L. argues, allows inclusion of passages which point to a common oral tradition shared by the narrator and his audience.

Jean Alaux in his article on the use of Homer in the Attic tragedy takes a similar line in arguing that a list of Homeric echoes in Attic tragedy based solely on irrefutable literal quotations would be misleading. Along with identifiable quotations and allusions, A. also discusses significant motifs and themes. By juxtaposing episodes from the Homeric epics and tragedy, A. studies how the tragic episodes are imbued with a certain signification through the epic, how they signify something other by way of the epic, or signify something other than the epic. The results are interesting, and the procedure may very well be applied in the analysis of other texts which have a clear and demonstrable relationship to another text or some other texts.

The section on "Fonctions idéologiques du texte cité" presents the contributions of Salamon, Cogitore, and Gangloff. Gérard Salamon's piece on quotation of poets in the third book of the Tusculan Disputations is a sequel to his recent study of Tusc. I and II.1 In her discussion of poetic insertions in the speeches of Dio of Prusa, Anne Gangloff differentiates between acknowledged quotation (which serves an ornamental purpose) and subtle mention or allusion (which expects the audience to recognise the original). She notices that Dio seems to take much the same liberties in manipulating the poetic texts when he is quoting as when he is making a mention of them, possibly integrating the verse originals in his own prose. At the end of the article G. suggests the possibility of extending this line of inquiry from poetry to all other genres on which Dio draws in his speeches.

The section entitled "Formes et matériaux" accommodates the more linguistically-oriented contributions of Nicolas, Claisse, and Colombat. Christian Nicolas studies the well-known awkwardness of Latin when it comes to treating meta-language. The lack of typological markers such as quotation marks, italics etc. is only one part of the problem, which might be solved (and indeed was) by releasing the meta-language from the rules of agreement which are at play in ordinary language; occasionally authors do indicate meta-language by the absence of the mechanical rules of agreement. Since the Greek definite article can be used to indicate meta-language, Greek has an advantage over Latin.

Bernard Colombat's essay is concerned with an extraordinary sixteenth-century text, the Swiss encyclopaedist Conrad Gesner's Mithridates, de differentiis linguarum tum veterum tum quae hodie apud diuersas nationes in toto orbe terrarum in usu sunt. The work is an alphabetically organised catalogue of the world's languages and their speakers, structured as a compilation of what authors, both ancient and modern, have said about languages. As practically nothing in this work is *not* a quotation, the originality of Gesner's Mithridates lies not in its content but rather in the selection and alphabetical arrangement of it . Together with Bruno Bureau's study of Cassiodorus' commentary on the psalms in the following section of the volume, C.'s contribution shows that compilations can, and should, be studied in their own rights, rather than merely viewed as the sum total of the works used by the compilers/authors.

The next section, "Usages chrétiens de la citation", which comprises the studies of Gain, Vianès, Gosserez, and Bureau, is the longest one in the volume. Benoît Gain's work offers an overview of quotation practices in early Christian Latin literature . His results suggest that Christian writers treated pagan and Christian literature in more or less the same manner, at least when the Holy Scripture was left out of the account.

Laurence Vianès studies Origen's exegesis of the resurrection prophecy to Israel in Ezekiel 37:1-14. This is a passage which exercised Origen several times, as he sought to give it some significance to Christians as well as Jews. He compared it with various other passages from the Bible, displaying a knowledge of the Scriptures so precise that his recollection of verses resembles a concordance.

The two final sections, the shortest ones in the collection, contain two articles each: the section on "Citations plastiques" includes contributions by Cousin and Casanova-Robin, while "Souvenirs, ou l'Antique en kit" features essays by Arnoux-Le Bras and Furno. Catherine Cousin's study of 'mention and quotation' in ancient Greek vase-painting is one of the most interesting articles in the volume. The act of quoting is discussed from three different angles. Firstly, C. discusses the relationship between literary and pictorial representations of the same motif. Even when a pictorial representation can be considered to be the visual 'quotation' of a literary text, parallels between the two types of representation rarely produce an exact correspondence. Consequently, speaking of 'quotation' simply will not do in this context, , since the visual representation is undeniably the painter's independent elaboration of a literary text; at most the process may be described as 'mention', or allusive technique . Secondly, C. discusses some examples of quotation within the system of pictorial representation, i.e. the repetition of images or iconographic patterns in the treatment of different subject-matters, often resulting in contamination. The application of this notion to the visual arts is interesting. In the realm of texts, contamination is what happens when one text is detached from its original context to fit an entirely new context; through this process the quoted text receives a new significance which, rather than replacing the old one, is superimposed on it . Finally, Cousin discusses the matter of quotation of literary texts, mainly poetry, inscribed on the paintings. Literary quotation poses a special problem for modern viewers , who are not in the position to recognise the literary source unless the original text, or indirect references to it, have survived. Ancient viewers were not necessarily familiar with this problem, provided that they had the adequate upbringing and came from the appropriate milieu, in short, provided that they belonged to the artist's intended audience (which is a problem Cousin does not take properly into consideration). The literary quotations can take one of three forms: explicit mention of the author's name, representation of a narrative episode with tags making the source recognisable, and verbatim transcription of one or more lines (either complete or not).

The theme of the volume, undefined as it was at the outset, is so wide that inevitably results in great diversity between the individual contributions. The topic is broad in itself; in the present volume it has become even broader due to two circumstances. First, the organisers of the seminar deliberately avoided any prescriptive definition of the terms at issue ("citation et mention"). Consequently, contributors appear to have been working on the basis of their own understanding of the notions, occasionally providing definitions (whether original or established), but more often than not simply taking them for granted. Second, some of the papers noticeably move away from the proposed topic, as they step into related areas such as aemulatio, exemplum, testimonium. The broadness of the subject-matter is both a strength and a weakness of the collection. Readers seeking a more generally applicable discussion on quotation and mention in antiquity will be disappointed; in this respect the title of the collection is somewhat misleading. On the other hand, many of the contributions give food for thought, especially when the authors have ventured to embark on more generalising reflections as might arise from the specific subject matter which is their immediate concern.


Christian Nicolas, Présentation du recueil en forme de synthèse.

Françoise Létoublon, Citations et formules chez Homère.

Jean Alaux, Usages tragiques d'Homère.

Christelle Laizé, Le formulaire homérique dans l'Énéide de Virgile: entre citation, allusion et réécriture.

Gérard Salamon, Les citations des philosophes dans le livre III des Tusculanes: forme et sens.

Isabelle Cogitore, Les sénatus-consultes dans les Annales de Tacite.

Anne Gangloff, Mentions et citations de poètes chez Dion Chrysostome: manipulation et statut de la parole mythico-poétique dans le discurs sophistique.

Christian Nicolas, Les contours linguistiques flous de la mention.

Muriel Claisse, L'inscription du discours citationnel et métadiscursif dans l'epos cicéronien: l'exemple de la première Catilinaire.

Bernard Colombat, Citations des sources, citation des langues dans le Mithridate de Conrad Gesner.

Benoît Gain, Citations isolées et citations groupées dans la littérature chrétienne des premiers siècles.

Laurence Vianès, Les ossements dispersés au corps de l'Église: Ézéchiel 37, 1-14 dans un groupement de citations chez Origène.

Laurence Gosserez, Citations païennes dans les paraphrases bibliques préfacielles de Prudence.

Bruno Bureau, Texte composé, texte composite: le mécanisme de la citation et sa fonction dans quelques commentaires de psaumes de Cassiodore.

Catherine Cousin, Mention et citation dans l'imagerie antique.

Hélène Casanova-Robin, De la citation à l'illustration: la fable d'Adonis, d'Ovide aux peintres modernes.

Florence Arnoux-Le Bras, Utilisation des citations-exemples reprises à Cicéron et à Quintilien dans le livre I du De electione et oratoria collocatione verborum de Jacques-Louis d'Estrebay (1481-c. 1550).

Martine Furno, Un savant suisse et ses montagnes: spontanéité et écriture livresque dans l'Epistola de montium admiratione de Conrad Gesner.

Christian Nicolas, Bibliographie générale.


1.   "Les citations dans les Tusculanes: quelques remarques sur les livres I et II", in: C. Darbo-Peschanski, ed., La citation dans l'Antiquité. Actes du colloque du PARSA. Lyon, ENS LSH, 6-8 novembre 2002. Grenoble 2004: 135-146.

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