Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2008.11.34

Federico Biddau (ed.), Q. Terentii Scauri De orthographia. Bibliotheca Weidmanniana, 6, Pars. 5.   Hildesheim:  Weidmann, 2008.  Pp. cxiv, 244.  ISBN 9783615003413.  €58.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Leofranc Holford-Strevens, Oxford University Press (
Word count: 2332 words

Q. Terentius Scaurus, perhaps the most eminent grammaticus of Hadrian's time having already flourished under Trajan,1 wrote, besides a number of works now lost or but partially preserved, a treatise on spelling previously edited by Helias Putschius and Heinrich Keil in their collections of Latin grammarians, which now appears by itself in a new critical text translation and detailed commentary. It must now be accounted the standard edition, and deservedly so.

The long introduction begins with a bibliography; then, after a survey of the scanty evidence for Scaurus' life and works,2 and a synopsis of De Orthographia, Biddau vindicates the work's authenticity against the doubts of Anna Maria Tempesti, who deemed its language too reminiscent of treatises from late antiquity; the obvious comparison is with Velius Longus, whom he finds not only writing in a similar vein but taking issue with its doctrines. Indeed, failing demonstration that language or content was incompatible with a second-century date, resemblance proves only that the style of such texts, purely practical as they were, was little affected by the changing fashions in higher literature. Nor indeed were Scaurus' precepts: despite his Hadrianic connection, he rejected archaic or Republican spellings such as ai for ae, ei for long i, maxumus, and caussa, and is silent on the intervocalic ii attested for Cicero by Quintilian and for Juvenal by the corruptions in his manuscripts.

There follows an account of Scaurus' sources: opinions may vary on the value of such exercises, but this one is sensibly conducted. I should like to know, however, how Scaurus (or another author subjected to such analysis) is supposed to have used his sources: the likeliest model for an ancient author is not repeated direct recourse to unwieldy rolls, but excerpting into notebooks as he read, often collecting extracts on the same topic from several writers who may have said the same thing with slightly different wording or emphasis, occasionally neglecting through human frailty to note a passage that might have served his purpose (whence modern surmises of why he abandoned his usual source), and then choosing and combining when he wrote. Added to which must be the casual recollection of things heard from childhood onwards, and oral or epistolary discussions with other litterati; after all, there is much that we ourselves know but could not say how first we came to know.

Next comes a description of the textual witnesses, detailing their date, provenance, contents, and history, their reliability is reserved for later. Although it is usually desirable to preserve one's predecessors' sigla, Biddau's adoption and imitation of those in Keil has unfortunate consequences. The Greek letters ψ and ω for the first two printed editions may suggest families of manuscripts, and the Parisini lat. 13025 olim Saint-Germain des Prés 1180 and nouv. acq. 763 are indicated by F with superior s and n respectively, as if they were correctors of F (Par. lat. 7521).3 To make things worse, since the sigla are printed in italic, the superiors run into the serifs of F, making the two sigla hard to distinguish; that is particularly unfortunate on pp. LXXXIV-LXXXVI, concerning their relationships to M (Clm 14252).

Before constructing his stemma, Biddau turns to demonstrating that the text designated by Keil 'Appendix Scaurina' (by analogy with Scaurus' son Scaurinus, though Cicero's Pro Scauro was known as his Scauriana) was not written by Scaurus and contradicts his doctrines. The stemmatic discussion proper is well reasoned and convincing; the sources offering a complete text are divided into a 'Romance' and a 'Germanic' branch, and even those presenting only the start of the text are classified, though their only useful contribution is the definition of orthography [I.1], omitted in the integri. An ensuing treatment of the tradition discusses the characteristics of the surviving and lost manuscripts and their editorial history.

Amidst so much detail, Biddau occasionally forgets to mention things at the proper moment: at p. LXV, referring to the copy of the editio princeps held at Fano, he passes over the sixteenth-century annotator designated the 'anonimo fanese' at p. CXIII (cf. p. 2), and likewise at p. LXVII we are told that the text in V (Vat. lat. 1491) breaks off at prae(ponitur, but are not given the place till p. CXI, namely V.18, p. 25, l. 6.

To dwell a moment on V: I do not understand how a scribe's failure to turn the last written page causes the text's incompleteness to be due 'alla sua posizione all'interno del codice'. Still, the main point is clear: whatever caused the scribe to break off from his task, it was not a defective Vorlage; indeed, as Biddau following Keil shows (p. LXXVIII), the text of Scaurus added to V is taken from Adam Petri's edition of 1527,4 which presents the word in midline (fo. 23r, l. 8 up).

Biddau divides the text into numbered chapters, sections, and subsections, which he cites in preference to both Keil's pagination and his own; since internal references are always preferable to external, this is very welcome. He also deserves praise for his freedom in emendation: apart from some twenty changes of his own (several of them spelling adjustments in accordance with Scaurus' own teaching), most of which are persuasive,5 he incorporates numerous conjectures from his predecessors. Notable amongst them are those entered by Janus Parrhasius in a copy of the first edition now in the Bodleian Library, which often anticipate other scholars' corrections, including Biddau's own. At III.4.2, p. 11, l. 2, where uertant is corrected to uertunt, the apparatus reads 'conieci, et postea iam Parrh(asium) adnotasse cognoui';6 but at IV.9.4, p. 17, l. 12, where for grecie or the like Biddau reads 'Graece', he omits to mention that Parrhasius had done so before him, albeit turning 'faedae [sic for 'foedus'] . . . incisum' into 'titulus . . . incisus'.

One could wish that Biddau had gone further in emending. In the very first sentence, p. 5, l. 3, 'Orthographia igitur est ratio recte syllabis scribendi', the translation 'quanto alle sillabe' hardly allays doubts about the syntax and sense of syllabis: what is 'writing with syllables'? The commentary does not explain. Nor will adjustment of the case to syllabas suffice: it is not only syllables that we write. To be sure children, having learnt their letters, were taught their syllables; to be sure Scaurus says not a little about syllabic structure and correct word-division; but these topics do not exhaust either the discipline or his treatise. The word should be omitted altogether, thus restoring the definition to its standard type;7 in the grievously truncated original one may suppose a reference to letters, syllables, and words from which syllabis was displaced into the definition by the process described at p. XCI.

V.11, p. 23, l. 7. G begins the syllable when followed by digamma, 'ut gue'; the same equation of the 'Aeolian letter' with consonantal V recurs at V.18, p. 25, l. 6, (Q) 'neque subiicitur excepta uau'. After 'ut gue', however, the paradosis offers gfe, where K. L. Schneider saw that f stood for digamma; thus emended, the sequence remains appended to gue as a phonetic transcription (so Biddau 137), but with no syntactical connection such as hoc est or tamquam. This seems unlikely; rather we have a reader's annotation incorporated in the text and needing to be deleted.

VI.3.2, p. 27, l. 10 = Lucilius 353 Marx: the short i as a letter-name may be defended by Plautus, Mercator 304,8 but there is no justification for the biblicizing construction 'pilam in qua lusimus' when in is so easily deleted as a dittography of m: Biddau's parallel Varro, LL 10. 22 'in tabula . . . in qua latrunculis ludunt', tells against him, for board-games are played on a board with pieces as ball-games are played with a ball. Marx cited v. 641, where 'in duplici . . . pila' means 'by playing double-ball', and examples in which money is lost in alea or in vino, in dicing and drinking; thus at Digest 11. 5. 4. 2 'repetitio eius quod in alea lusum est' means 'a claim for what was gambled away in dicing'. Why for that matter should Lucilius use the perfect lusimus rather than the present, particularly in parallel to piso = pinso? Scaliger saw all this over four hundred years ago (as Biddau knows, p. CV), and ought to have been followed.

VI.8.2, p. 33, ll. 4-5: 'ea nomina . . . quae in "ψ" Graecam uocem efferuntur'; psi is not a sound but a letter, nor do Latin words end in Greek letters. Biddau translates 'col suono dello "ψ" greco', and should have read Graeci.

VIII.5.2, p. 49, l. 4, with p. 210: 'cum in illis [sc. 'obseruo', 'obsido'] "b" littera euidenter sonum suum uindicet': since there is not the slightest doubt that bs was pronounced [ps] as in French (contrast English [bz]), Biddau ought to have promoted his conjecture '"p" littera' from apparatus to text.

The apparatus is very full; too full, recording all manner of quisquiliae and even readings of the codex descriptus V that cannot be conjectures: even if at IV.9.5, p. 19, l. 12, V's Caruitio for its model's Carutio is worth recording, since it is discussed at p. LXXVIII, there is no need to note that it abbreviates the praenomen elsewhere spelt out as spurio. Redundant too is the repetition of 'etiam' in the note on VIII.4.3, p. 45, l. 11: sufficient was 'in r seclusi: r ω: in er B' (nor do I understand 'secludens conieci').

The translation is clear, except when Biddau includes matter deleted in the text, and accurate, except when he seeks sense where there is none. It is enlivened at VI.3.2, p. 26, l. 8 up, by the ambiguous 'falli tenui', meaning in fact 'make them thin' (the original is 'tenues', jussive subjunctive).

The commentary is abundantly learned and should be read on any point discussed by Scaurus whether or not his own views are of primary importance to the reader. It is, however, concerned with text and content rather than diction, saying nothing for instance on the syntax of 'nemo autem umquam tam insulse per "u" <">artubus" dixerit' (VIII.2.6, p. 43, ll. 15-16), where the translation 'nessuno d'altra parte sarebbe mai tanto insulso da dire "artibus" con la "u" reproduces the normal construction "tam insulsus fuerit qui . . . dixerit"; and though in discussing the tradition Biddau notes certain sources' propensity to change the indicative into the subjunctive or vice versa, he is silent on Scaurus' own unclassical uses of the subjunctive after 'quoniam' (e.g. II.3.2, p. 7, ll. 2-3; VIII.5.3, p. 49, l. 11),9 and 'sicubi' (VIII.4.7, p. 47, l. 10). That apart, I shall confine my remarks to a few observations on matters of detail.

IV.4.1, pp. 92-3. The use of l for r is not confined to speakers of languages that do not distinguish the sounds: it has also been reported among Welsh children.10

V.4, p. 134. Biddau notes that the name uau was described as Aeolian by Priscian. It was the original Semitic name, which no doubt remained in use amongst those Greeks who retained the /w/ phoneme, becoming digamma amongst those for whom it was a mere shape; at Rome its appearance in Sappho and Alcaeus, together perhaps with the supposed closeness of Aeolic to Latin, earned it the name of littera Aeolica.

V.10, p. 136. The mysterious syllable fne is plausibly ascribed to a post-Scaurian interpolator for whom φ was f not ph; if so, then we shall surely think of Dafne. To be sure e, as Biddau does not seem to recognize, stands in these expositions for any vowel: when he writes (ibid., on V.11) that gne does not seem to occur since igne was probably divided ig-ne, tautosyllabic gne may indeed not be found as such, but gn followed by a vowel is exemplified by Gnaeus and gnatus.

V.12, p. 138 n. 29. hac is said to be '[i]l nome della h in catalano antico'; and in modern Catalan too.

V.15, p. 139. Scaurus notes that the only consonant-group beginning with m is mn as in Mnester, but Biddau refers to discussions elsewhere of cm, dm, gm, tm without observing that in them m is the second letter not the first.

VI.5.1, p. 156. Scaurus claims that uemens is the correct form, not uehemens, since the word is derived from uis mentis not ueho; Biddau might have noted that the pronunciation /ehe/ is first attested in Marcus' letter to Fronto Ep. M. Caes. 2. 10. 2, written in 142, whereas /e:/ is required by several passages in the classical poets.

VII.3.2, pp. 179-82. Scaurus' understanding of Greek acrophonic numerals is clearly defective, but is δύο δ τρία τ sheer invention or misinterpretation of Δ used for δέκα and Τ for τάλαντον? (How Velius Longus equated Π with 50 let another guess.)

VII.3.4, pp. 182-3. That ad and da, ha and ah 'aliam uocem et aliam efficiant potestatem' is plain enough, but what of as and sa? The former is indeed a Latin word, but what potestas ('significato' rightly Biddau) has sa? One might have expected '"es" et "se"' or '"is" et "si"'; but how should either pair have been corrupted?

VIII.6.4, pp. 217-24, on Scaurus' quotation from the Carmen Saliare. Biddau demonstrates at great length that the divine name should be Leucetie not Leucesie, but fails to address the difficulty in understanding tremonti as the ancestral form of tremunt, namely that the Indo-European third-person plural primary ending -onti, preserved as such in Doric and as ut' in Ukrainian, should have retained its final *i unscathed in even the earliest Latin.11

Matters of detail apart, Biddau's edition is a meritorious achievement, and should restore Scaurus to modern scholars' attention; may one hope for a study of his principles, and their consistent or inconsistent applications, in relation to those of other grammarians, notably his contemporary Velius Longus, and to actual usage as revealed on inscriptions and in other documents?


1.   Gell. 11. 15. 3. He was Hadrian's teacher according to HA Verus 2. 5; the younger Pliny submitted a speech to him for approval (Ep. 5. 12; strangely doubted by Sherwin-White). (As to the HA, at p. XXVII the name 'Giulio Capitolino' is rightly put in quotation marks, yet at p. XXXII Biddau can still speak of 'gli scrittori della Storia augusta' in the plural.)
2.   In which Gellius' Noctes Atticae are given the publication date 169, long known to rest on a fifteenth-century scribe's unsuccessful attempt at patching up an absurdity in his twelfth-century author Ralph of Diss: Gotthold Gundermann, Trogus und Pompeius bei Radulfus de Diceto, ed. Georg Goetz (Berichte über die Verhandlungen der Sächsischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Phil.-hist. Klasse, 78/2; Leipzig, 1926), 29; Leofranc Holford-Strevens, 'More Notes on Aulus Gellius', Liverpool Classical Monthly, 145-51 at 151; id., Aulus Gellius: An Antonine Scholar and his Achievement (Oxford, 2003), 15-16.
3.   Cf. O with superior s, the siglum for Dúngal, later bishop of Pavia, as the corrector of the Lucretian Oblongus in Leiden, miscalled 'corrector Saxonicus' (not the last Irishman to be so traduced) till identified by Bernhard Bischoff in the exhibition catalogue Karl der Grosse, Werk und Wirkung (Aachen, 1965), 206, no. 365.
4.   The demonstration is so convincing that I fail to understand why at p. CX he suddenly develops cold feet ('pur non avendo una prova veramente inoppugnabile di un tale rapporto').
5.   At IV.3, p. 11, ll. 17-18 'utraque enim <est> ut flatus', one might prefer Keil's 'est flatus' (Biddau himself admits that 'la sistemazione scelta m'eparsa meno sicura', p. CXIV); at V.3, p. 21, p. 6, where the paradosis has '"O" praeiectiua est "e" litterae ut "d"', Putschius' oe for 'd' seems better accommodated to the structure of these precepts than Biddau's 'a', though palaeography favours the latter (his attempt to find a parallel at V.2.1 depends on interpreting '[A littera] "u" sequitur ut uau' as 'segue la "u" usata come vau', which only an Olympic hurdler should attempt).
6.   More elegant would have been 'ante conieceram quam Parrh. iam idem fecisse cognoui'.
7.   So 'bene dicendi scientia' for rhetoric at Quintilian IO 2. 14. 5, cf. 2. 15. 38, 7. 3. 12), 'scientia bene modulandi' for music at Censorinus, De die natali 10. 3, Augustine, De musica 1. 2. 2 (cf. Lucio Cristante, Martiani Capellae de nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii liber IX (Padua, 1987), 36 n. 5). All these formulae no doubt go back to Varro.
8.  Where Demipho specifies the three letters he claims to have learnt as a m o; see Wilhelm Schulze, 'Die lateinischen Buchstabennamen', Kleine Schriften, 2nd edn. (Göttingen, 1966), 444-67 at 460-1.
9.   Cf. VII.1.1, p. 35, ll. 8-10 'quoniam genetiuus singularis non debeat minorem numerum habere syllabarum quam nominatiuus -- quin immo interdum etiam maior sit', where the 'Romance' branch has 'debet' (supralinearly altered into 'debeat' in MS Bern, Burgerbibliothek 330) and 'fit', both noted under 'abuso dell'indicativo' at p. XCV; rightly as to the witnesses, but 'abuso del congiuntivo' as to the author.
10.   J. Morris Jones, A Welsh Grammar Historical and Comparative (Oxford, 1913), 19. Cf. the Russian tongue-twister Karl u Klary ukral korally, a Klara u Karla klarnet ('Karl has stolen corals off Clara, and Clara a clarinet off Karl').
11.   Against, see e.g. Andrew L. Sihler, New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin (New York, 1995), 467 n. 1.

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