Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2010.04.06 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2010.04.06

Anna A. Novokhatko (ed.), The Invectives of Sallust and Cicero: Critical Edition with Introduction, Translation, and Commentary. Sozomena. Studies in the Recovery of Ancient Texts v. 6.   Berlin/New York:  Walter de Gruyter, 2009.  Pp. xii, 221.  ISBN 9783110213256.  $126.00.  

Reviewed by Iris Samotta, Ruhr-Universität Bochum (


The work under review here is the revised and expanded version of A. A. Novokhatko's Moscow Ph. D. dissertation (2003). Its main topic is the transmission history of the various medieval manuscripts (chapter 2: 27-110) and printed editions (chapter 3: 111-149) of Pseudo-Sallust's invective against Cicero and Pseudo-Cicero's invective against Sallust. These two chapters form the core of Novokhatko's erudite study, which she describes as following the history of changes within both texts (1).

Dealing with the manuscripts of the 10th up to the early 14th century she compares them critically using the now canonic stemma (27-29) created by Jordan in 1876 and modified slightly by Kurfess in 1914.1 Most modern editions are based on that stemma, e. g. Ernout, Vretska, Pasolini, Shackleton Bailey, and Reynolds, whose edition of 1991 is central to Novokhatko's examination and textual arrangement (1. 149).2 The surviving manuscripts from the 10th up to the 14th century can be traced back to a series of hyparchetypes which fit in two branches/families α and β of the archetype ω. Novokhatko dissects each manuscript and its treatment by the medieval scribes and later editors, meticulously describing and interpreting the various textual interventions and thereby creating a sound transmission history.

The next stage of her examination is the discussion of the on-going question of authenticity in the incunabula and the printed editions from the 16th century onwards (114-129), starting with the classical tradition (111-114) and closing with the latest edition by Shackleton Bailey in 2002 (129). In this Novokhatko follows the communis opinio and concedes that the authorship of Cicero and Sallust cannot be proven beyond reasonable doubt (1-3. 15-16. 25-26. 129). Finally she presents the textual transmission in the incunabula (129-132), starting with the editiones principes of 1471/1472 published in Venice and Cologne (129-130). Next she gives a collated rendition of the printed tradition from the 16th century onwards (132-149).

In chapter 4 (150-191) Novokhatko puts forward the result of her work: both invectives with a new apparatus criticus, a translation and a commentary. The core of her work is framed by an introductory chapter (chapter 1: 3-26) dealing with the genre of the oratio invectiva (3. 6-8. 12-16), rhetoric (4-12) and schools of rhetoric in general (8-9), the historical setting (17-18) and the content of both invectives (18-26), and an appendix (193-204) sorting chronologically the existing printed editions from the editiones principes up to the newest ones by Reynolds (1991) and Shackleton Bailey (2002). Novokhatko's dissertation closes with a bibliography (Editions; Catalogues of Manuscripts; Studies: 205-216) and three indices (rerum; nominum; vocabulorum potiorum quae in apparatu critico commemorantur: 217-221).

Without doubt Novokhatko's study offers an exciting insight into the literary tradition of ancient texts throughout the centuries. With 24 surviving manuscripts and 104 distinctive printed editions the transmission history of the invectives is extremely varied in comparison to other cases, e.g., the Sallustian letters to Caesar with only one surviving manuscript (cod. Vaticanus lat. 3864). Furthermore an edition dedicated exclusively to the invectives was overdue. Especially in 20th century scholarship both texts lost much of their appeal because of the problematic questions surrounding authenticity. Concentration on the Echtheitsdebatte was always destructive to an unbiased study of the rhetorical framework of the invectives just as the uncertainty of the invectives' authorship has damaged the credibility of the Sallustian letters to Caesar as well, since many scholars regard all minor works as inseparable or at least closely connected. It was very thoughtful of Novokhatko to reduce the impact of the debate concerning authenticity to a necessary minimum in order to focus on the rhetorical genre. Here lies the value of both texts: Novokhatko makes clear that both texts--even of anonymous origin--prove their worth as classical examples of the oratio invectiva, or better in this case as examples of the sub-genre controversiae (6). Furthermore these texts shed light on the topoi of invectives in general (12-16. 18-26), on the historical and semantic accuracy of the imitatio (10-12) and finally on the curriculum of the schools of rhetoric in Augustan Age and beyond (8-9). Regarding these topics one must point out that it is a pity Novokhatko has given them so little space. In her introduction she even declares chapter 1 to be an introductory one "not intended as an original work of scholarship" (1), but the difference between these very general remarks and the following highly specialized scholarly work in the next chapters is striking and not to the advantage of the otherwise fine study.3 Nevertheless it is a valuable philological contribution to the stimulating transitional age between republic and empire which shows the on-going republican tradition in Roman rhetoric.


1.   C. Sallustii Crispi Catilina, Iugurtha, Historiarum reliquiae potiores incerti rhetoris suasoriae ad Caesarem senem de Re Publica Henricus Jordan iterum recognovit, accedunt incerti rhetoris invectivae Tullii et Sallustii personis tributae. Berolini apud Weidmannos MDCCCLXXVI. Sallustii in Ciceronem et Invicem Invectivae. Recensuit Alphonsus Kurfess. Lipsiae in aedibus B. G. Teubneri MCMXIV.
2.   Pseudo-Sallust. Lettres à César. Invectives. Texte établie, traduit et commenté par A. Ernout. Paris, Société d'Edition 'Les Belles Lettres' 1962. C. Sallustius Crispus. Invektive und Episteln. Herausgegeben, übersetzt und kommentiert von Karl Vretska. Band I. Einleitung, Text und Übersetzung. Band II. Kommentar. Wortindex zur Invektive. Heidelberg, Carl Winter Universitätsverlag 1961. (Pseudo-Sallust's invective against Cicero only) Appendix Sallustiana. Invectiva in M. Tullium Ciceronem. Introduzione, edizione critica, traduzione e commento a cura di E. Pasolini. Bologna 1965. (Pseudo-Sallust's invective against Cicero only Cicero. Letters to Quintus and Brutus. Letter Fragments. Letter to Octavian. Invectives. Handbook of Electioneering. Edited and translated by D. R. Shackleton Bailey. Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University Press 2002. C. Sallusti Crispi Catilina, Iugurtha, Historiarum Fragmenta Selecta, Appendix Sallustiana. Recognovit breviore adnotatione critica instruxit L. D. Reynolds, collegii Aenei Nasi apud Oxonienses Socius. Oxonii e Typographeo Clarendoniano 1991.
3.   Especially the description of the invectives' historical setting would have gained immensely from the still reliable detailed biography of Cicero by Matthias Gelzer (Cicero. Ein biographischer Versuch, Wiesbaden 1969) and the biographical study of Sallust by Jürgen Malitz (Ambitio Mala: Studien zur politischen Biographie des Sallust, Bonn 1975).

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