Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2008.12.32

Gernot Krapinger (ed.), [Quintilian] Der Gladiator (Grössere Deklamationen, 9). Collana Scientifica, 18.   Cassino:  Università degli Studi di Cassino, 2007.  Pp. 203.  ISBN 9788883170416.  €22.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Stefanie A. H. Kennell, American School of Classical Studies at Athens (
Word count: 737 words

After centuries of languishing in disrepute, the scholarly reception of declamation as a fully-fledged literary genre is at last proceeding apace, propelled by an ever-increasing number of journal articles, monographs, and collaborative volumes.1 Whereas scholars working in English have in recent years taken an interest in declamations from the viewpoints of both Latin philology and Roman social history, the tradition of philological analysis continues to be cultivated fruitfully by European scholars. Among its most notable products is the University of Cassino's series of translations and commentaries on the Quintilianic Major Declamations directed by Antonio Stramaglia, who published the first two volumes, on Decl. Maj. 8 (Gemini languentes) and 12 (Cadaveribus pasti), in 1999 and 2002 respectively. Two more volumes have appeared in the meantime, on Decl. Maj. 3 (Miles Marianus) and 13 (Apes pauperis). The last of these, the case of "the poor man's bees," was the work of Gernot Krapinger, who has also authored this present book.2

The foreword (9-10) promises a self-contained volume that does not assume the reader has Krapinger's edition of Decl. Maj. 13 to hand for remarks about textual criticism, or "a philological library" to supply literary parallels, but rather attempts "to maintain a balanced, user-friendly happy medium between linguistic and stylistic commentary, rhetorical remarks and clarifications of substantive points, predominantly those connected with piratical and gladiatorial matters" (10). Walking sturdily on the path trodden by the soundest practitioners of philological scholarship, Krapinger keeps his promise in the main.3 He frequently acknowledges his debt to the work of commentators and translators such as Burman, Ritter, Sussman, and Winterbottom. The basic text is that of Hakanson's 1982 Teubner edition; on the few occasions where it does diverge, the decisions are explained in the commentary. Some readings reaffirm the text as transmitted (nn. 253, 259, 270 [with Winterbottom's approval], 380), while the rest adopt emendations proposed by various scholars (Winterbottom: nn. 39, 65, 140, 392; Russell: n. 79; Hakanson: nn. 135, 198; Stramaglia: nn. 250 [with Winterbottom], 278 [with Pagliaro], 363 [with Hakanson], 438, 439; Ellis: n. 236; but cf. 116 n. 176, where Krapinger retains the transmitted crux praemium scribitur but translates Schultingh's conjecture). Accurate and expressive, the translation avoids the twin pitfalls of archaizing pedantry and untoward colloquialism. The commentary, meticulous and thoughtful, offers abundant parallels for characteristic turns of phrase and draws on both time-tested philological observations (e.g. 83 n. 34, 106 n. 131, 121 n. 200, 160 n. 386) and more recent philological and historical scholarship (e.g. 76-78 nn. 4-6, 99-100 n. 102, 130 n. 240, 156 n. 368). The author's close contact with Stramaglia and Winterbottom, manifest in the commentary's frequent quotations per litteras, enriches the value of the book. Like its predecessors, this edition's greatest virtue is its sober matter-of-factness in taking its subject seriously, giving Roman declamation the respectability it has long deserved.

This declamation's title, "the Gladiator," refers to a son captured by pirates, sold to a gladiatorial school, and, rather than being ransomed by his own father, freed by a poor friend who journeyed to take his place only to be killed in combat. Thus, its theme might seem to revolve around issues of respectability and infamy in addition to the traditional declamatory battleground of father-son conflict. But in addition to the circumstance that the unwilling gladiator's father has now disowned him for taking care of the dead friend's impoverished father, it is the clash between friendship and filial piety that unpins the basic argument. Krapinger's introduction accordingly addresses these themes with discussions of the legal and social ramifications of Greek apokeryxis and Roman abdicatio (13-19), as well as remarks on the motif of friendship in rhetoric (19-22). He also offers a few general remarks on the continuing popularity of gladiators from antiquity to the present day, noting both Ridley Scott's 'Gladiator' and the late antique dictiones of Ennodius.4 A useful analysis of the work's structure and lines of reasoning rounds off the front matter (22-26). The bibliography is divided into two sections, one on Ps.-Quintilian, rhetoric, and the declamatory genre, the other entitled "Sonstige Literatur" (everything else). Given the approach Krapinger takes to the subject, the selection of scholarship is solid and for the most part conservative, but not as inclusive as it might be.5

Table of Contents:

Foreword (7-10)

Introduction (11-26)

Text and translation, on facing pages (27-73)

Commentary (75-174), in the form of endnotes to the translated text

Bibliography (175-196)

Abbreviations (197-200)


1.   Representative of the trend are the contributions by A. Corbeill and M. Bloomer in the recent Companion to Roman Rhetoric, W. Dominik, J.M. Hall (eds.) (Oxford and Malden, Mass., 2007), reviewed in BMCR 2008.09.33, and D. van Mal-Maeder's La fiction des declamations (Leiden, 2007).
2.   Krapinger's 2005 translated and commented edition of [Quint.] Decl. Maj. 13 has already been reviewed in BMCR: 2006.10.08.
3.   Though when it comes to the "Arm-Reich Problematik" (82 n. 19), Krapinger does in fact refer readers to the discussion of the topos in his commentary on Decl. Maj. 13.
4.   In regard to Ennodius, Krapinger hews to the traditional interpretative line, which rejects the possibility of topical references, championed by Schröder and Winterbottom in B.-J. Schröder and J.-P. Schröder (eds.), Studium declamatorium: Untersuchungen zu Schulübungen und Prunkreden von der Antike bis zur Neuzeit (2003).
5.   Excepting C. A. Barton's The Sorrows of the Ancient Romans (Princeton, 1993). Strangely missing: D. Konstan, Friendship in the Classical World (Cambridge,1997); M. Peachin (ed.), Aspects of Friendship in the Graeco-Roman World (JRA Supplementary Series 43). (Portsmouth RI, 2001)

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