Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2013.12.21 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2013.12.21

Giuseppe La Bua (ed.), Vates operose dierum: studi sui Fasti di Ovidio. Testi e studi di cultura classica, 48.   Pisa:  Edizioni ETS, 2010.  Pp. 270.  ISBN 9788846727510.  €20.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by S. J. Heyworth, Wadham College, Oxford (

Here is another volume on the Fasti, further testimony to the attraction of Ovid and his poem on half the months of the Roman calendar. By way of introduction, the editor, Giuseppe La Bua provides an account of the genesis of the book (based on a conference at La Sapienza in Rome in May 2008) and helpful synopses of the papers that follow. The first six of the twelve contributions deal with specific passages from the text, and are as far as possible arranged in calendrical and textual order; the second six are concerned with issues of textual criticism and then of reception, again arranged in chronological order. The dominant approach is intertextual, with Aratus, Lucretius, Catullus, Vergil, Horace, Livy, the Metamorphoses, Valerius Maximus (and Flaccus), Silius, and Plutarch all providing significant illumination in the first half of the book.

Elena Merli opens the volume with Janus, and an examination of the way Ovid reworks material from Aeneid 8 and (more briefly) Metamorphoses 14 to give a generically appropriate beginning to his elegiac poem; La Bua similarly sees 3.809-50 as part of the book’s replacement of the eponymous Mars with Minerva, equally adept at war but also deity of the craftsman and professionals who are urged to worship her. These are largely persuasive if not ground-breaking pieces, but I’m not convinced by Merli that the reference to Ianiculum (1.246) is intended to replace with clarity the problematic usage at Aen. 8.358: see PBSR 79 (2011), 53-6. Mario Labate uses details from Horace’s journeys to illuminate some typically complex passages on the difficulties primitive and rustic people have in controlling fire or bees. Marco Fucecchi begins his account of book 4 with a vision of Venus as a changed figure in the opening verses and ends with Cybele an urbanized and tamed deity; I cannot see either—in 4.1-5 Venus is still the mater Amorum, she laughs (as her son did at Am. 1.1.3) and seeks minora and mollia, while exchanging banter with the poet and going on to accede to his wish—Venus Obsequens, before Venus Genetrix takes over in 19ff. And the section on Cybele will culminate in the madness of the Galli and the goddess’s preference for primitive food. Nor does Livia look a more plausible analogy for Claudia Quinta’s ready tongue and cultus (p. 87) than the elder Julia (adduced by Fantham): partly this is a matter of date —38 BCE is decades ago and Ovid was then only five; and the sources say nothing about Livia’s dress or wit. Disagreement on these points does not undermine what stands between, however: Cybele certainly does take on some aspects of Venus, and that is neatly used by Fucecchi to give weight to the way Venus can be seen to imitate the Magna Mater (4.116 a nobis sit furor iste procul echoing Cat. 63.92, e.g.). Fabio Stok explores the Orion episode (5.493-546) with characteristic learning, and sets it well within the motifs of the book; but he never quite brings out the way that though there are conflicts with precise astronomy, the episode fits admirably into the literary sequence: Scorpio appears before the Lemuria (417-18), so it should be no surprise to the informed reader that Orion is not visible during the festival (493-4). At the end of the rustic account of his origin (a match for Juno’s encounter with Flora earlier in the book), he first resists the scorpion (543), then, as the constellation, flees once more, before Mars, the epic god whose anger his boasting is most likely to have provoked (539: Jupiter, Neptune, Mercury are excluded, of course, as his fathers); Stok compares Aratus, Phaen. 636 and sees Mars here as replacing the fearsome Scorpio.

The question of date is largely ignored in these papers, with no thought given to how the supposedly Augustan elements might be read in a work issued by a long-term exile. Alessandro Fusi does enter into the debate at the end of his detailed examination of textual and interpretative problems in the passage on the voluntary exile of the tibicines (6.649- 92), stressing the emphatic exilio … exilium in 665-6 and nicely showing the ways in which artis opus in 662 evokes the Ars, but without acknowledging the basic point that even verses written before exile have been left unrevised in the version Ovid published, so they necessarily take on significance from his change of fortune. Nor does he mention a key detail: the quadrisyllable funeribus at the end of the pentameter 6.660 marks the passage as composed after 8 A.D. Fusi well brings out the relationship between the musicians’ fun and the natal date of Jupiter Invictus (reduced to a single pentameter). He argues for a text that lacks most of the political element, reading callidus (not Plautius or Claudius) , ut posset specie numeroque paratus (not senatum)/ fallere in 685-6, and emphasizes rather the leadership of the cunning ex-slave (669-70) in solving the artists’ problems: a theatrical background comes to inform the interpretation (as often in Peter Wiseman’s readings). There is much that is powerful in the case, but I do not think Fusi does justice to verses 661-4, which are difficult in themselves (see Oakley on Livy 9 (Oxford, 2005), Appendix 10, cited in n. 43) and do bring in an official concern with numbers (aedilis … artifices solos iusserat esse decem) that must be reflected in 685.

Piergiorgio Parroni offers a series of notes, mainly adducing new evidence or arguments in cases where recent editors are divided (and sometimes reprising acute comments made by Stok in the prefatory notes to his 1999 edition). To the demonstration that words such as terra can be described as tenera he might have added reference to Georgics 1.112-13 ‘luxuriem segetum tenera depascit in herba,/ cum primum sulcos aequant sata’, which neatly defines the bold expression sata … teneris lactantia sulcis, if that is what Ovid wrote at 1.351. Despite the closing disquisition on Lavinia’s similarities to Dido the case for dissimulatque fremens (rather than metus) at 3.634 lacks substance: Parroni gives no example of silent fremitus, nor any of a participle with dissimulare (Ovid has none). Nor am I persuaded by ludis amatorem; cara es, noua dea, Mineruae at 3.693, which apparently moves away from the tricking of Mars before returning to it in the pentameter; we should accept rather the minority MS readings ridet and canae (which Parroni discards as a simple misreading of carae) and read ridet amatorem canae noua dea Mineruae—the joke is that the Minerva to whom Mars tries to make love is actually the grey-haired Anna (addressed as anus at 684). The discussions of MS readings at 143-4 are not helpful either: the Teubner editors do in fact record A’s original resoluta dolore at 1.365, though, inconveniently, in the Appendix; and we should not expect to find in their apparatus the alteration to large in U at 1.404, given what they say (XIV) about ignoring most later corrections. The book’s most incisive textual discussion comes in Labate’s paper, when he produces as persuasive a version of 4.709 as I have seen: read nam dicere (A) captam (U)/ nunc quoque lex uolpem Carseolana uetat, and understand it as meaning ‘for even now a law [i.e. a saying] in Carseoli forbids one to say a fox is captured’. (Alternatively we might read incendere captam; that fits the tale as well, but is more awkward as an aetion for the burning of foxes mentioned in 681-2, 711-12.)

Carole Newlands exploits her familiarity with the Fasti and the Silvae to show how Statius uses Ovid’s calendrical poem to establish points of contrast (the failed rape in Silvae 2.3 features Pholoe, not Vesta, and is prevented by the intervention of Diana, not a braying ass); and as a model for panegyric of a Germanicus, but also a symbol of instability—a text written under one emperor, but then after exile unsuccessfully revised to appeal to the heir of another. Siluae 4 maps out the whole course of a year from 1st January to the Saturnalia; unlike Ovid Statius completes the year, but moves away from the imperial to the private in doing so. Luca Marcozzi lists the direct citations of, and possible allusions to, the Fasti by Petrarch and Boccaccio. For Petrarch, who disapproved of Ovid’s moral influence, the poem seems to have been primarily a source for early Roman history. Boccaccio, though he makes use of information from the Fasti as well as the Metamorphoses in his Genealogie, for example, came to a similar view of Ovid, and the presence in his copy of hands pointing to passages referred to by his friend suggests to Marcozzi that they may have read the work together. However, when he speculates on Boccaccio’s marginal annotation ‘Lachesis’ at 6.757 (where lumeus stands in his text), he fails to notice that this reading was well established in the tradition, and is unlikely to have been a conjecture by Boccaccio himself. In his 12 books of Sacri Fasti, dedicated to Pope Paul III in 1547, Ambrogio Fracco (‘Novidius’) rewrote Ovid’s poem for a Christian world; in examining his almost Borgesian version of the start of the year John Miller brings out the Ovidian wit with which Janus is replaced by the Trinity: a splendid enticement to explore this renaissance genre further.

The volume ends with two pieces on Fasti scholarship in the light of the rediscovery of the Fasti Praenestini. Alessandro Ottaviani’s paper briefly illustrates the effect on critics; Foggini in his 1779 publication argued for mutita at 4.354 of Ovid’s poem, adapting Heinsius’ mutuita in the light of the inscription’s mutitationes; but, as Burman had seen, tum magis is inoffensive (and, we might add, the participle spoils the structure of the couplet, not least in reproducing the sense of uicibus factis in the hexameter). Maurizio Campanelli explores the subject further, giving a harrowing account of the destruction of ancient marble and an entertaining one of the conjectures that tried to displace Suetonius’ reference to Verrius Flaccus’ inscribed calendar from Praeneste to the Roman forum. He shows what started to become clear in Ovid with the availability of the inscription, such as the reference to the temple of Jupiter on the island at 1.293-4, where the poet elides the difference between Jove and Veiovis.

The book is an attractive one, but contains more slips than one might hope: for example, there are problems with the Greek on p. 122-6 appearing instead of a circumflex accent, e.g.), and oddities in the citation of Boccaccio’s Latin; in Miller’s list of parallels between Fracco’s 1st January and Ovid’s (p. 204, n. 11) we need to read ‘10’ for ‘1’ in the final line; and in the bibliography Statius and the Silvae (Liverpool, 1983) is by Alex Hardie, not Philip.

Table of Contents

1. I Fasti, l’Eneide e il Lazio primitivo: l’esempio di Giano, Elena Merli
2. L’esemplarità del passato: strategie di destabilizzazione nei Fasti di Ovidio, Mario Labate
3. Minerva Capta (Ovidio, Fasti 3, 809-848), Giuseppe La Bua
4. Venere e Cibele nel libro IV dei Fasti: tra ‘ospitalità’ e integrazione, Marco Fucecchi
5. Orione e dintorni, Fabio Stok
6. Le Quinquatrus Minores e l’esilio dei flautisti (Ovidio, Fasti 6, 649-692), Alessandro Fusi
7. Problemi critico-testuali nei Fasti di Ovidio, Piergiorgio Parroni
8. ‘Fastos adulatione foedatos?’ (Tac. Hist. 4, 40, 2): Stazio sui Fasti di Ovidio, Carole Newlands
9. Petrarca e Boccaccio lettori dei Fasti, Luca Marcozzi
10. I Sacri Fasti di Ambrogio Novidio Fracco in conversazione con i Fasti di Ovidio, John F. Miller
11. I Fasti di Verrio Flacco e i Fasti ovidiani nel commento di Foggini, Alessandro Ottaviani
12. Primizie antiquarie e teorie filologiche nella Roma del ’700: qualche spunto dall’editio princeps dei Fasti Prenestini, Maurizio Campanelli
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