Bryn Mawr Classical Review

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Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2012.10.54

Patrizia Mascoli (ed.), Iohannes de Segarellis. Elucidatio tragoediarum Senecae: Thebais seu Phoenissae. Quaderni di Invigilata Lucernis, 40.   Bari:  Edipuglia, 2011.  Pp. 149.  ISBN 9788872286487.  €24.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Ioannis Deligiannis, Research Centre for Greek and Latin Literature of the Academy of Athens, Greece (

Table of Contents

The volume contains the editio princeps of Giovanni Segarelli’s (Iohannes de Segarellis) interpretation rather than commentary of Seneca’s Phoenissae. P. Mascoli, who some years ago produced the critical edition of Nicholas Trivet (or Trevet)’s commentary of the same text,1 made every effort to provide a text as accurate and reliable as possible, given that Segarelli’s interpretation of Seneca’s tragedies is preserved in only one manuscript (Paris, BnF, lat. 10313 = P).

In the brief introduction (pp. 9-28), Mascoli discusses issues related to both the author and his text. Unfortunately the biographical information on Segarelli is rather limited, and Mascoli mostly relies on the information collected by K. Hafemann;2 she also makes use of two epistles of Segarelli, which however do not shed any more light on either Segarelli’s life or the circumstances under which his work was produced. Considering that the text is preserved in only one manuscript, an understandably very short chapter deals with its manuscript tradition, followed by the description of the codex; the conclusions about the place (the Italian peninsula) and time of the manuscript production (chronologically close to the autograph, i.e., before 1400) are rather general, while the technical details on the letter forms etc. do not necessarily add any more information on the manuscript.

More enlightening is certainly Mascoli’s study of the composition of Segarelli’s elucidatio, where she discusses Segarelli’s dedicatory epistle to Nicolaus Rubeus, which precedes the text; judging from Mascoli’s quotations, the epistle is apparently included in Hafemann’s edition, although it would be extremely helpful if the editor had provided it in an appendix in this volume too. Mascoli analyses and explains the content of this epistle as well as the subscriptiones following the elucidatio of each of Seneca’s tragedies, and makes some sound conclusions on the composition and nature of Segarelli’s interpretation. The latter is discussed in a separate chapter (“Il metodo esegetico”), but it could well be further expanded and enriched with examples from the text.

Special notice should be made of the editorial criteria followed by Mascoli, who clearly states that for consistency she follows the criteria used by Hafemann. Certain limitations and difficulties imposed by the fact that the text is preserved in a codex unicus are reasonable, but the adoption of the copyist’s spelling with all its late medieval peculiarities on the basis of its chronological proximity to Segarelli, assuming thus that Segarelli himself must have written his elucidatio in the same spelling raises methodological questions.3 I understand that whether to keep the medieval spelling or to change it into classical Latin is an editorial decision, but maintaining the medieval spelling would be expected only in cases of autograph manuscripts, and definitely not in copies – even if unique ones – of the original. It is rather unsound to assume that the copyist’s spelling and language, no matter how close chronologically the copy is to the original, reflect the author’s spelling and language. Late medieval spelling and phrasing as well as examples of use of the common daily language could well be discussed, as they are by Mascoli, in this chapter, while for the text she could have adopted the classical Latin spelling, which would surely make the text at least more comprehensible to readers not familiar with the medieval Latin spelling.

For the last two chapters of the introduction Mascoli returns to two more issues related to the nature and content of the elucidatio: Segarelli’s critical approach to his text, limited but present, and his comments on the language and style of Seneca’s tragedy. They both are valuable additions to her introduction, but it would have been better if they had been incorporated in or placed immediately after the “Il metodo esegetico” chapter.

Despite my comments on the editorial criteria, Mascoli has undoubtedly provided an generally good edition of the text itself. She has made some clever corrective conjectures where the text is problematic, identified quotations from other authors made by Segarelli in his elucidatio, and pointed out Segarelli’s readings that differ from those of from the Senecan manuscript tradition he followed. . Some inconsistencies in the composition of the apparatus or in conventional signs ([…] and <…>) used in the text by Mascoli, and some corrections and suggestions will be listed and discussed, where necessary, below.

Suggestions-Corrections 38.23 supp[osite]] textus in codice breviatus: dubitanter conieci; supposit(a)e with reference to mortis is a safe completion of the abbreviation, but it could well be supp[osita] with reference to via; if the ending was -(a)e, it would be expected to be indicated somehow. 39.19-20 … expositus est Edippus a patre pedibus perforatis … cum natus fuit ut vorarentur a feris …: if the Plural vorarentur is the manuscript reading, perhaps it should be corrected to singular voraretur with reference to Oedipus, and not his feet (pedes). 49.10 … revoca antiqum [sic]: undoubtedly antiquum. 67.18 … dampnavit me morti <………> illo s. Appolline …: in the apparatus: stiple in cod. non liquet; perhaps stipulante (Abl. Sing.) with reference to the following Appolline. 91.20 … cohoperturam tristitiam mictiantem …: in the apparatus: mictiantem] fortasse pro mysticantem; perhaps for minctiantem = emittentem, although I have never come across minctio as a verb and I am not even sure if it ever existed as a verb, and even so, such a use of it in a text like this would admittedly be rather inappropriate, despite its meaning fitting in the context. 93.2 … inducias i. terminum et spatium treugale …: in the apparatus: treugale sic, sed legendum videtur, ut puto, treguale; not necessarily, given that treuga (and tregua) is an alternative form of treva (= truce).4

Inconsistencies 39.16 mons] meus P; the correction is justified, given that the reference is made to the preceding word Cytheron , and it is assumed that it was made by Mascoli, although in other cases she clearly states her corrections (e.g., 44.20 longe] longo P ego correxi; 63.4 situs] correxi ex sitis; 89.25 equanimi] equamini P ego correxi); the same applies to 88.6 vibrat] vibratu P, 88.10 amplectens] ampplentens P, 91.6 Polinicem] Polinices P, etc., without any indication where the correct reading was found or who might have provided it.

The same practice is followed for the “silent” emendations of readings in the text by the use of the signs […] and <… >; e.g., 38.10 paren[ti]s, 39.5 and 50.19 suff[ic]it, 40.2 pre[te]ritos, 40.14 atti[n]gerunt, 48.5 invi[c]tum, 52.19 [sit], etc. Cf., however, 47.13 [optimo] supplevi ex Senecae rec. A, 60.7-8 [timida … libamine] in the text, and in the apparatus: timida … libamine expunxit P (in other cases the deletions of words or phrases found in P are stated only in the apparatus: e.g., in 38.5 the text has … sequens carmen sunt …, and the apparatus: certamen ante carmen expunxit P; the same in 40.14-15: the text reads … comprehenderunt et comederunt …, while in the apparatus we read: et comederunt ante comprehenderunt expunxit P; 42.4 currunt ante cucurrit expunxit P, while the text has …Thebani cucurrit …; 82.22 the text has … i. tube enee, and the apparatus: ante tube add. turbe P).

This inconsistency extends to the use of phrases like sed lege or legendum followed by the correct reading instead of the manuscript reading which precedes; e.g., 44.23 peraga sic, sed lege perage; 47.3 vix sic, sed lege vis; 48.25 torrex sic, sed lege torrens; 67.5 quodam sic, sed lege quosdam; 97.9 inditas sic, sed lege inclitas; 97.13 auxit sic, sed legendum hausit, etc. It would certainly make more sense to place the correct reading in the text and the manuscript reading in the apparatus. A case worth- commenting on is that of the reading Antheon (39.25) in the text, which is explained in the apparatus: Antheon sic, sed lege Actaeon (the same in 44.16: Antheone sic, sed lege Actaeone); this identification of Antheon with Actaeon is surely helpful for the reader, but it could be extended to other personal names as well; e.g. in 55.24-25 … Sparte est civitas Lacedonie [sic] … dicta a Sparto filio Feney, filii Inachi …: with Feney apparently in the place of Phoronei; or in 79.13 … adiuvantibus eam [sc. Agavem] duabus eius sororibus, s. Anthyone et Yncho …, apparently for Autonoe and Ino respectively; the same in 109.1: ... proles Cadmis. Agave et Y[n]cho Cadmi filie et Anaone.

Despite the observations discussed above, the volume remains a valuable addition to the studies of the reception of classical texts in Late Medieval period and the philological interests and production of the time. Bringing to light texts that are still in manuscripts and thus not accessible to modern readers is always commendable and creditable. The book is completed by a bibliography, placed immediately after the introduction, Seneca’s text in O. Zwierlein’s 1986 Oxford edition, a truly useful addition to the volume, and two indices (locorum and nominum).


1.   N. Trevet, Commento alle Phoenissae di Seneca, edizione critica a cura di Patrizia Mascoli, Bari 2007.
2.   Der Kommentar des Iohannes de Segarellis zu Senecas ‘Hercules furens’. Erstedition und Analyse, Berlin-New York 2003.
3.   See p. 23: “Si è rivolta peraltro particolare attenzione nel mantenere l’uso vocalico e consonantico del copista, che presumibilmente, vista la vicinanza cronologica, non si allontanava molto dalla lingua di Segarelli stesso, la quale sicuramente rispecchiava i connotati principali della lingua ‘dotta’ di quel periodo. Si è deliberatamente evitato, dunque, di uniformare il testo agli usi del cosiddetto latino classico, in quanto si sarebbero di conseguenza persi proprio i moduli grafico-espressivi caratteristici dell’età tardomedievale.”
4.   C. Du Cange, et al., Glossarium mediae et infimae latinitatis, Niort : L. Favre, 1883‑1887, vol. 8, col. 170a, s.v. treva.

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