Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2011.03.41

Giampiero Scafoglio, Noctes Vergilianae: ricerche di filologia e critica letteraria sull'Eneide. Spudasmata Bd 135.   Hildesheim/New York:  Georg Olms Verlag, 2010.  Pp. 171.  ISBN 9783487144658.  €29.80.  

Reviewed by Egil Kraggerud, University of Oslo (

Scafoglio's book consists of four comparatively independent studies arranged in two sections. Under the heading philology and textual criticism ("Filologia e critica testuale") the first part deals with two contested sequences, "Ille ego qui quondam" (pp. 11-30) and "La scena di Elena" (pp. 31-74 + 105-112). Part II has an intertextual focus ("I Rapporti con i modelli") investigating in the first study the influence of Euripides on the Second Book of the Aeneid ("Virgilio ed Euripide: La tragedia di Troia", pp. 77-114), in the second ("Enea e Venere sulla costa Libica", pp. 115-143) what Aeneas' meeting with his mother in the First Book owes to the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite. The two longest chapters, on the Helen Episode and on Euripides, have been treated by Scafoglio in an embryonic form in the Neapolitan periodical "Vichiana" in 2000 and 2001. A substantial bibliography and an Index locorum conclude the book.

Without regard to the theses advocated and the results achieved the investigations are extremely thorough and propped up by all the bibliographical documentation one could possibly wish. Scafoglio is solidly updated on previous research and very conscientious in his line of argument. He seldom neglects in passing to comment on issues on the edge of his main theme, taking many precautions and showing care not to herald his own position before he has brought his investigations to their end. An attractive side is the author's openness combined with literary intuition and sensitiveness. That said, this reviewer cannot deny that he has enjoyed the second part of the book much more than the first.

Part I: Although F.A. Hirtzel in his influential Oxford edition (1900) incorporated the four lines ille ego qui quondam—horrentia Martis (as 1a-d) in his text and complained of the injustice done to these "magnificent lines" (versus praeclarissimi) by most editors, few if any would follow him today. Although Scafoglio keeps up a certain suspense for a while he declares himself at the end convinced that Vergil is not their author (p. 30). For long he seems to be in favour of the cautious position, that Vergil if he is their author, would not have published them. A conditional acceptance has very little to recommend itself as Scafoglio himself acknowledges after his analysis of epic openings from which ille ego qui quondam deviates in all essential respects. When Scafoglio nevertheless keeps the debate alive as an issue in Vergilian criticism part of the reason is no doubt that he is too reverent towards old and abandoned standpoints. He finds it for instance probable that the Ille ego qui- incipit was known and alluded to by Propertius in II 34 (particularly lines 61-64 and 67-74), who, he maintains, might have learned the incipit directly from Vergil in advance of publication. This idea, propounded by Augusto Rostagni (RFIC 17, 1939, 1-10), has very little substance in it and does not merit being discussed in earnest today. Scafoglio's own proposal is that the lines may have been composed for some recital of the poem, either of the First Book or some other part of the Aeneid to be used by a professional actor. Scafoglio immediately adds that the author of the lines could have been Vergil himself, although he finds it less likely. The idea of Edward Brandt, favoured by many, that the lines were originally intended as an inscription to accompany a portrait of the poet in front of Arma virumque cano has according to Scafoglio nowadays fallen into disgrace. One could instead assume, with e.g. La Penna and Zwierlein, that these were lines meant to bridge the works in a collected edition. Personally I am inclined to think that they were made for a separate edition of the Aeneid at a time when an edition still consisted of papyrus rolls. I do not find the repeated designation of the four lines as "the alternative incipit" ("l'incipit alternativo" p. 7, 13f., 18, 21, 30) particularly fortunate. They were evidently never meant as an alternative, but as an introduction to the real proem.

Scafoglio devotes almost 50 pages to the Helen Episode (2. 567-588). He presents an impressive "Forschungsgeschichte" with detailed analysis of the status quaestionis. The issue is a bit more complicated today than it was a hundred years ago when these lines were either accepted as authentic or rejected as spurious. Now, a tertium is fashionable and close to the view advocated by Scafoglio: Roland Austin accepted them as a tibicen (CQ 11,1961,185ff.). This is more or less also the favoured position of G.B. Conte who writes in the apparatus of his Teubner Aeneid (p. 54): conamen extrema poetae manu carens, et ideo a Vergilio ipso sepositum vel a Vario editore praetermissum, whereas Nicholas Horsfall for good reasons still considers the scene an interpolation in his commentary, but believes it to be an attempt at filling a substantial gap in Vergil's text. Scafoglio holds the opinion that the very elements in it that are manifestly at odds with the Deiphobus episode in the Sixth Book (494-534), should rather be seen as an indication of their authenticity. Scafoglio argues subtly and extensively for the idea of a deliberate variation in Vergil's account of Helen in the Sixth Book, but does not convince us that the serious discrepancy can be overcome in this way. This reviewer continues to query the basic assumption of Scafoglio and others that the mss. have a substantial and "undeniable" lacuna after 2.566 (p. 32, 33 and 49, cf. my objection in Symb. Osl. 84,2010, 142-144). It is claimed by Scafoglio that 2. 594-598 presuppose a furious state of mind in Aeneas quite different from the mood depicted in lines 560-566. But the intervention of Venus at 589 should be seen - in line with the intervention of Hector in the sleep of Aeneas - against the background of the whole nocturnal fight for the city. The defence is characterized from the beginning as amentia and marked by lack of ratio (314), whereby furor iraque mentem/ praecipitant (316f.). Aeneas is also able to instill furor into his comrades-in-arms (355). Like desparate wolves they, and Aeneas himself, are driven blindly on in a state of rage (rabies) on their way to certain death (355-359). In the following they are likened to a wrathful serpent (cf. iras 381). The basic weakness in the theory of a substantial lacuna is that the transmitted text, like the one read by e.g. Tiberius Donatus, is looked upon as seriously defective. But in my view nothing more is needed as part of Vergil's concept of the passage 559-633 (i.e. minus the Helen epsiode) than Iamque adeo super unus eram to bridge 566 and 589. The most interesting part of this chapter is Scafoglio's running commentary on the episode. His defence of altrici flamma (587) is convincing (irrespective of the parallel at Lucr. 3.1004). Less convincing is his text domumque, patres at 579. His criticism of sceleratas ... poenas (576) is to the point and interesting; pace Conte it cannot be regarded as a successful case of enallage adjectivi, it is mannered and manifestly ambiguous (p. 66f.).

Part II opens with a detailed analysis of Vergil's debt to Euripides in his account of the fall of Troy whereby Scafoglio proves himself to be a perceptive reader doing justice to the peculiar character of both writers. The influence of Euripides on Vergil is dealt with within the broader frame of Vergil's relation to tragedy in general, both Greek and archaic Roman tragedy. Vergil's closeness to the prologue and the second stasimon (511-567) of the Troades is too obvious to be ignored. Successful is Scafoglio's demonstration how the Euripidean account becomes enriched by elements clearly at home in Roman religious tradition (e.g. 2.235-240, p. 86f., 90f.): Vergil appropriates the mythological material in such a way that the Euripidean model is mixed up with elements from Roman history and reflexes of Roman ritual. In dealing with the death of Priam Euripides' Hecuba and Andromache shine through as well. A nice instance of intertextuality comes to the fore by relating Priam's appeal for the gods' revenge on Neoptolemus / Pyrrhus to Euripides' account of Priam's death in Andromache (1085-1165, in particular 1149-1152, pp. 100-102), a link confirmed by Vergil's Andromache (A. 3.330-332). I have only one query to Scafoglio's careful analysis, that he uses the word 'model' ("modello") a little too often. It is not always necessary to postulate a model relationship between texts to evince fruitful points from a comparison. It may just suffice to show how they differ. I am not at all sure whether the comparison of Hecuba and her daughters to doves at 2.516 has as its model the comparison of the Danaids to doves in the Supplices of Aeschylus (223-224) combined with image of the crowd fleeing like doves scared by a hawk in Andromache (1140-1141, pp. 98-99). Nonetheless light is shed on Vergil's particular use of the simile by comparing these passages. But other dove similes could have been equally illuminating. It is the comparison in itself that sharpens our eyes for the individual character of a given passage.

The last study is devoted to the meeting of Aeneas with his mother on the coast of Libya ("Enea e Venere sulla costa libica"). It is not the least valuable study among the four. The core of it is a successful and instructive discussion of the relevance of the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite for Vergil's scene. Scafoglio accords convincingly a primary importance to it, both on the ideological and the psychological level. The ideological importance springs from the promise of Aphrodite to her lover Anchises that their son Aeneas and his offspring will rule over the Trojans for generations (196-197), a passage also reflected in the prophecy of Poseidon in the Iliad (20. 307-308). This ideological dimension of the Hymn is a model for the Aeneid in the truest sense of the word and sheds light on the preceding Olympic scene between Jupiter and Venus as well.On the psychological-human level the Hymn to Aphrodite shows that the divine nature of Venus prevents her from behaving as a human mother would have done in the same situation.

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