Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2011.03.80

Francis Cairns, Miriam Griffin (ed.), Papers of the Langford Latin Seminar, Fourteenth Volume, 2010: Health and Sickness in Ancient Rome; Greek and Roman Poetry and Historiography. ARCA (Classical and Medieval Texts, Papers and Monographs) 50.   Cambridge:  Francis Cairns, 2010.  Pp. vi, 393.  ISBN 9780905205533.  $120.00.  



Reviewed by C. M. C. Green, University of Iowa (carin-green@uiowa.edu)

The fourteenth volume of Papers of the Langford Latin Seminar is also the fiftieth volume of Francis Cairns’ ARCA series Classical and Medieval Texts, Papers and Monographs. The series began with a traditional text, translation and commentary (volume 1), and a collection of papers (volume 2, Papers of the Liverpool Latin Seminar), both published in 1976. Cairns thus began as he meant to go on, publishing both monographs and collections of articles.

The most substantive and lasting contributions to the series over these 34 years are to be found among the monographs—e.g. the English translation of Detlev Fehling’s Herodotus and his Sources (1989); McKeown’s text and commentary on Ovid’s Amores (1987); G. M. Paul’s An Historical Commentary on Sallust’s Bellum Jugurthinum (1984). There are, it seems, fewer articles that have the same dominance in their field as the monographs, but that surely has more to do with how many of us choose to publish such articles these days (if we write articles at all except for Festschriften and edited volumes on specific subjects). The articles in these collections form a significant part of the scholarly discourse. Overall, the authors of both monographs and articles are as distinguished as any set of contributors to a Classical journal or publishing list, and cover a wide variety of subjects—though there is an understandable bias towards Cairns’ own interests in poetry and Latin literature in general. Concerns have been expressed in the past, and no doubt will be again, that Cairns is not much concerned with representing the latest trends in Classical scholarship. This is true. Yet a publisher is entitled to set the tone of his list, and this Cairns undoubtedly does.

The volume under review here, edited by Cairns and Miriam Griffin, is a compilation of articles that originated as papers in the Langford Seminars from 2004-2008, with additional contributions made in response to requests by the editors. The five papers in the section Health and Sickness in Ancient Rome mostly derive from the Spring 2008 Conference organized by Miriam Griffin as Visiting Professor and holder of the George R. Langford Family Eminent Scholar Chair at The Florida State University. Of the remaining seven, four are on Augustan authors, one on Semonides, and one on Statius. The last is a more theoretical work on history as intertext.

The section on health and sickness has the most coherence. The opening article is Vivian Nutton’s “Galen in Context”, a sparkling and very readable survey of the new directions in Galen studies. Would that more Classicists could write so approachably about their subjects! Graduate students with an interest in Galen should especially be directed to Nutton’s article, since he outlines the numerous areas where research is begging to be done.

The following articles in this section showcase the important, and widening, significance of studies of ancient medicine. As Rebecca Fleming’s “Pliny and the Pathologies of Empire” makes clear, medical analysis of disease and “plague” served the ideology of empire. A. J. Woodman, in “Community Health: Metaphors in Latin Historiography”, shows how medicine provided a metaphor for the health of the body politic. Health and medicine form significant themes for Ovid, who, as Gareth Williams demonstrates, pays considerable poetic attention in the Fasti and the Metamorphoses to these subjects, and—of course—to Apollo’s role as sufferer from the sickness of love and healer of that sickness in others. These instances all (as readers of the Ars Amatoria will not be surprised to learn) concern the techne of medicine, its practical application and use. Svetla Slaveva-Griffin reminds us that the theoretical side of medicine is deeply embedded in ancient philosophy, though in Plotinus’ case the realities of his personal illnesses gave Porphyry and Firmicus a powerful means of analysis of Plotinus’ life and work.

As always, because Cairns allows (encourages?) a variety of discussions that differ widely in length, there is a slightly grab-bag feel to the rest of the collection. For example, while Alex Hardie’s “An Augustan Hymn to the Muses (Horace Odes 3.4.), Part II”—a learned, dense and minutely argued piece— extends, at 120 pages, almost to monograph size, Damien Nelis takes only 3 pages to dispense a well-crafted note on the implications of Emathia in Georgics 1 (“Vergil, Georgics 1.489-92: More Blood?”). Robert Maltby continues his work on Tibullus (his Tibullus: text, introduction and commentary, 2002, is one of Cairns’ excellent monographs) with “The Unity of Corpus Tibullianum Book 3: Some Stylistic and Metrical Considerations”.

On a lighter but nevertheless scholarly note, Frederick Williams deftly surveys ape and human physiognomy, as well as desirable/undesirable secondary sexual characteristics from the point of view of a Greek husband (“Monkey Business in Semonides (fr. 7.75)”). This appears to be part of an on-going debate between Williams, H. D. Jocelyn and David Bain, in which all participants seem to be having a fine time. More solemn and imperially focused are the articles of J. G. F Powell (“Horace, Scythia, and the East”), and Robin Seager on a close reading of passages in which Statius refers directly or indirectly to Domitian (“Domitianic Themes in Statius’ Silvae”). Last, but hardly least, is Cynthia Damon’s “Déjà vu or déjà lu? History as Intertext”, a reflection on the indeterminacy of allusions in historical texts. Is the allusion to the event, or to the narrative in which that event has been captured? This is well worth reading as a gloss on any ancient historian, or indeed—as her reading of Virgil and the head of Pompey indicates—on any poet dealing with historical events.

Thirty-four years is a significant amount of time, and fifty volumes represent a contribution to our field that is more than significant. Cairns—scholar, independent publisher, and tireless organizer of symposia and seminars in the UK and now in the US—deserves our grateful thanks on the occasion of this 50th milestone volume.

Heath and Sickness in Ancient Rome

Vivian Nutton: Galen in Context
Rebecca Flemming: Pliny and the Pathologies of Empire
A. J. Woodman: Community Health: Metaphors in Latin Historiography
Gareth Williams: Apollo, Aesculapius and the Poetics of Illness in Ovid’s Metamorphoses
Svetla Slaveva-Griffin: Medicine in the Life and Works of Plotinus

Greek and Roman Poetry and Historiography

Frederick Williams: Monkey Business in Semonides (fr. 7.75)
Damien Nelis: Vergil, Georgics 1.489.92: More Blood?
J. G. F. Powell: Horace, Scythia and the East
Alex Hardie: An Augustan Hymn to the Muses (Horace Odes 3.4) Part II
Robert Maltby: The Unity of Corpus Tibullianum Book 3: Some Stylistic and Metrical Considerations
Robin Seager: Domitianic Themes in Statius’ Silvae
Cynthia Damon: Déjà vu or déjà lu? History as Intertext.
Index locorum

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