Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2008.11.04

Laura Micozzi (ed.), Il catalogo degli eroi. Saggio di commento a Stazio Tebaide 4, 1-344. Testi e commenti, 4.   Pisa:  Edizioni della Normale, 2007.  Pp. xii, 317.  ISBN 978-88-7642-217-1.  €30.00.  

Reviewed by Stephen Harrison, Corpus Christi College, Oxford (
Word count: 1315 words

This volume belongs to a handsome recent series from the Scuola Normale at Pisa which amongst its first volumes has also included a fine edition of Lucretius 1.635-920 (the passage on the Presocratics) by Lisa Piazzi (2005; reviewed by Piet Schrijvers at BMCR 2006.02.25). As its title and scale suggests, the style of this commentary is ample and discursive, and this has many advantages for literary interpretation; it also means that it is a slightly different animal from the more traditional and rather briefer commentary by Judith Steiniger on 4.1-344 (2005; reviewed by Gianpiero Rosati at BMCR 2006.11.26). It is not a critical edition, since Micozzi (M.) uses Hill's text with a few minor changes and does not offer an apparatus criticus, though textual points are fully considered in her notes; it appeared simultaneously with the new critical edition by J.B.Hall (Cambridge Scholars, 2007), some of whose textual contributions to these lines will be noted below, but makes full use of Shackleton Bailey's 2003 Loeb ('SB'). She promises a further volume to complete the book; this will be a boon to Statian scholars who currently have no separate commentary on the whole of Thebaid 4, though another is promised by Ruth Parkes as the completion of her 2002 Oxford DPhil thesis commentary on 4.1-308. With commentaries on Thebaid 1 imminent from Cambridge and doctoral dissertations on 2 and 5 in progress at Otago and Groningen, the scholarly student of the first half of Statius' epic will have further modern volumes to add to Snijder on 3 (1968); on the second half we have Hans Smolenaars on 7 (1994), Michael Dewar on 9 (1991), R.D. Williams on 10 (1972), Paola Venini on 11 (1970) and Karla Pollmann on 12 (2004; reviewed by Bob Cowan at BMCR 2007.04.54, an excellent survey of the current scholarly situation on the Thebaid), and two doctoral commentaries in progress on 8 (at Tübingen and Pisa).

The text under commentary here consists of the catalogue of the Seven against Thebes, a neatly separable part of the book, and M. is very well read in the literature on Greco-Roman epic catalogues, showing expert knowledge of their formulae and conventions: the ample scale of the commentary allows generous citations of parallel material here which will be of particular use to anyone working on similar texts. Her introductory material is relatively brief, with short sections on the density of Statian intertextuality, on the arrangement of the catalogue, its place in catalogue tradition and its innovations, on Thebaid 4 and its place in the poem, and on Statius' mannerist style. The connection with the presentation of the champions in Aeschylus' Septem is rightly raised (note that the two are about the same length in lines); the potential but largely impenetrable contribution of the lost epic Thebaid tradition (Antimachus and earlier) is perhaps rightly not entered into, and it is understandable that M. concentrates on links with extant texts; her stress on Homer and on Statius' interest in Ovidian metamorphosis topics in the catalogue is especially rewarding, and in general it is hard to find relevant passages which she has neglected to cite or discuss. M has a real gift for identifying thematically related parallels which are genuinely instructive and which repeatedly illuminate Statius' text.

In what follows, I will comment on individual notes, indicating points of interest and debate. The commentary is full of fine exegesis and valuable material, and I have naturally picked out more points of contestation than of agreement here.

1. tertius. Good discussion of potential pun on the book-number, on the chronological problems here, and on the delay between catalogue and war (a variation on Homer and Vergil).

4. Right to adopt miseris (SB, Hall) against Hill's miseri (a complement is surely needed here for data).

5. Comment needed on the spondeiazon Larisaea which links the line with Catullus 64.36; likewise on 227 Eurotae, echoing Ovid Met.2.247. Dewar's note on 9.305 provides an excellent treatment of this rarity in the Thebaid (two of the four examples occur in this catalogue, in fact), and points out that it is a licence used with Greek proper names.

11. hortamina: comment needed on a rare noun found usually in hexameter poetry (Ovid Met. 1.277, Lucan 7.736).

14. extis: here and elsewhere colour from Roman culture and religion in the mythological world of the Seven could be further noted (no extispicy in Homer).

16-30. Excellent material on the 'farewell episode' tradition, on 'arms wet with tears', and kissing through helmets.

35-6 moverit. . .Gradivus: pun on proper name (gradior)?

38. Excellent discussion of Lucretian links, the names of the Seven and the literary antecedents for Adrastus.

41. maniplis: again Roman colour?

46. Charadron: again a name-pun (Greek 'torrent')?

50-52. Good note on adjectives in -fer and -ger.

70. Good on the ambiguity of armis (cf. Aeneid 4.11).

78. Nominal tristibus is not easy, and Muller's actis (cited by M. but not by Hall or SB) is certainly worth considering forhaesit.

87. Notes archaic single final monosyllable in Sphinx: given vulnifico in the same line, could this be an elevation of Ovid's boar, vulnificus sus, with final monosyllable (Met. 8.359)?

89-98 Good notes on pathetic gazing from towers, dramatic use of ecce, snake-simile for Tydeus and the register of ceu.

97. senio recalls Greek use of geras for cast snake-skin?

101. Good arguments for praestantes (Hall too) against praesentes (Hill and SB): prowess is more important than presence here.

111. Archaism of Mavors worth comment?

113. Rightly keeps metapoetic notis (Hill, Hall) against SB's noctis.

133. Needs to say explicitly that the Danaid legend belongs to Argos?

141-3. Needs to note three consecutive lines beginning with verbs?

149-51. Could these lines be imagined as spoken from the point of view of a 1C CE traveller in Greece seeing ancient sites (as Statius no doubt did)? This would match some perspectives in Vergil's Latin Catalogue on the modern state of ancient places. The same goes for 162 ostenditur.

156. Needs to note specifically that the bow is also a key Heraclean weapon (e.g. Sophocles, Philoctetes)?

187. illustres . . . Celaenas: name-pun again (noun means 'dark' in Greek)?

198-9. Does Argia's surrender of the necklace of Harmonia for the national good recall the gift of jewels by Roman matrons for religious offerings in 395 BCE (Livy 5.25)?

218. Good note on red/white contrast.

227. See on 15 above.

242. bellis armenta: word-play on arma given Aeneid 3.540?

249. torva parens: inversion of the usual alma parens? Atalanta is clearly an unusual mother.

260. Needs to note that percussus amore is echoed from Georg. 2.476 and Aeneid 9.197 (the only two examples of this phrase before Statius, both similarly at line-end).

262-3. Good material on dirty hair and its anticipation of death.

263. titulum: Roman colour again?

278-84. Good material on links with Lucretius 5's account of primitivism: worth noting that 282 feruntur may be an 'Alexandrian footnote' pointing the reader to that intertext.

296. ardor: both literal and metaphorical here?

315-6. Tigers a Roman element (non-Homeric, used in venationes)?

321. ensifer: cf. Greek xiphephoros?

322-4. Hippomenes' near-death in hunting recalls the actual death of the similarly beautiful Adonis (Ovid Met.10.710-16); Atalanta's fears also recall those of Venus for Adonis (10.535-552), and it is notable that Venus narrates to Adonis the story of Atalanta herself between these two passages (10.560-680).

344. Excellent points on structural ring-composition in the catalogue.

In sum, this commentary is a fine work of literary scholarship. It has particular interests and strengths, especially a fine eye for relevant and illuminating literary conventions and parallels, which can be fully explored in its more discursive format; some further elements on metre, diction, Roman colour and bilingual word-plays can be added, but overall it is a valuable treatment of this important section of Statius' poem which all scholars on the Thebaid will need to cite and engage with.

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