Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2014.02.47 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2014.02.47

Silvia Ottaviano, Gian Biagio Conte (ed.), P. Vergilius Maro: Bucolica; Georgica. Bibliotheca scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana, 2011.   Berlin; Boston:  De Gruyter, 2013.  Pp. 220.  ISBN 9783110196085.  $84.00.  

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

Silvia Ottaviano’s edition of the Eclogues begins controversially, with the word Arcadiae, of which Vergil (rather than Gallus or Sannazaro) was supposedly the inventor, followed in the second line of the preface by a description of the herdsmen as living per agros ac siluas, as if this reflected the land usage or the diction of the book (in which siluae 22 times appears, ager only 7). But things improve markedly thereafter. She (like Conte for the Georgics) brings into the apparatus a number of 10th and 11th- century Beneventan MSS (collectively Λ), a move which strengthens our sense of the tradition; and her text admits a good number of unusual readings, both conjectures and neglected variants.

Though her own conjectures do not convince me, they are all thought-provoking, and the published discussions well worth reading: 3.102 hisce arte and 5.30 et ducere (MD 67 (2011), 203-13: note that incipere is regularly used with inceptive verbs, e.g. at 4.12, 6.39, 9.60); 9.45 nisi and 7.45-8 post 56 (MD 69 (2012), 199-215: it is very bold to break up the responsion of subject between the summer and winter pictures of 45-8/49-52, and the effect of departure/arrival in 53-6/57-60). The deletion of 4.23 also seems unnecessary: the repetitions are admirably suited to the mannered style of this poem and the Eclogues (cf. 5.62-4), and transposition from after 21 is easily explained. However, there are numerous persuasive deviations from the vulgate, such as 1.59 aequore; 4.52 laetantur; 4.54 quantus (which should be attributed Kovacs); 5.3 considimus (present), 28 feros siluasque (Markland; no need for montesque in the lemma); 5.38 purpurea; 7.46 grata (Peerlkamp), 48 laeto (even without the transposition); 8.74 hanc (Λ). It is also helpful if editors differ from their predecessors at points where there is little reason to prefer one variant to another, and this edition is excellent in that regard, offering the following: 1.63 labantur, 72 perduxit; 2.7 coges, 32 primus; 5.25 nec (Λ; nec also 6.2, but not at 9.38 or 10.62, presumably out of prejudice against R; Conte on the other hand normally prints neque rather than nec where the capital mss are divided, including Geo. 1.426, when R has neque against nec in M; but not at 3.216, where nec is for some reason preferred); 5.45 nobis carmen; 6.85 referri; 7.25 nascentem.

However, there are choices that I find less attractive. In Eclogue 1 Wakefield’s hoc for hic (44) removes the climactic concentration on Rome (answering 26) before the culminating answer to 18 deus qui sit; in this position hoc would more normally refer back (as in the passages Ottaviano cites from the Aeneid), not forward. Gratwick’s qui appears at 2.2 for the transmitted quid, even though Vergil does not otherwise use the form (Housman, CP 1237; Cynthia 171). At 2.12, in support of mecum rather than the me cum advocated by Bentley the apparatus discusses the construction after resonare, but without noticing that the stress here needs to be on me, and this is absent if we read mecum: in contrast to the rest of the pastoral world Corydon is not resting in the midday heat, but wandering (cf. 68 me tamen urit amor, in the corresponding priamel, marking evening). At 3.34 alter is unexceptionable (= ‘one or other’). At 4.18 the vulgate at tibi (γω) should not be abandoned in favour of ac (found in R, whose ac is not followed in 26); the apparatus makes reference to Aeneid 1.174, but ac primum is a frequent locution at the start of sentences, whereas ac tibi is not found in this position at all in Augustan poetry, and at tibi occurs 25 times.

Sometimes too new punctuation changes things for the worse. At 3.9 an aposiopesis is preferred to a full stop as if Damoetas were going on to provide a verb or the sentence continued in 12; cf. Theoc. Id. 1.105. Paragraphing at 4.11 is misguided: the presence of que stands against a break of this kind here, and the separation obscures the significant play between regnat Apollo and te consule … Pollio. At 6.38 the absence of a comma at the end of 37 encourages us to take altius with lucescere: but the Lucretian passages cited in the apparatus show only that the sun was thought of as high in the heavens, and not that altius is an appropriate adverb with lucescere. True, we are advised that Vergil never postpones atque, but see Clausen’s comments on this, and there is an alternative reading utque (Raf), read by Goold.

The apparatus is rich in references, but defective in not giving us the source of correct readings, e.g. at 3.91 (mulgeat); unclear in reading at 6.81 ‘infelix dist. M2’; and wrong in telling readers that the force of 5.8, reading certat, is solus Amyntas tam insolens est ut non uereatur tecum certare: this makes the verse into a comment on Amyntas whereas Menalcas must mean a compliment to Mopsus; Mopsus then plays with the sense of certare (‘challenge’) in indignation (9, 15), and Menalcas restores harmony by strengthening his compliment in 16-18. But with elegant brevity, ‘(cf. heroum)’, it gives the reason for preferring parentis to parentum (R) at 4.26, and at 5.66 explains how altaria works in apposition to aras. At 10.44 there is a lengthy attempt at rebutting Heumann’s te (recently advocated by Hollis, FRP 237, and E. Kraggerrud, Eranos 103 (2005), 35-7), on the basis that nunc opposes what follows on the madness of war to the preceding pastoral scene: so it does, but as Gallus’s pastoral vignette has been offered to Lycoris, and hypothetically includes her, it is perfectly reasonable for the antithesis to be based on her current life (n.b. 23, 46-9), whereas Gallus is in pastoral Arcadia (13-15).

The 17-page preface of Conte’s Georgics also begins inauspiciously, with six pages discussing and then rejecting theories about the revised edition of the second half of Book 4. Conte himself regards this as a mare’s nest, reasonably enough — but treating the story so is hardly the way to reduce its prominence in scholarly debate. That said, the sentiments of 99-101 are well expressed and judged (though the assertion here of Vergil’s repeated self-correction is at odds with the dismissal of nimia diligentia on 97), and the following pages contain much wise thinking on the manuscripts and text (e.g. the paragraph on orthography, 109-10; it is surprising he spells Molorc(h)i with the h at 3.19 given Morgan’s demonstration (CQ 42 (1992), 553-8) that Molorchus is an aberration of scribes).

Conte’s Aeneid was criticized for the failure to report on each page which MSS are extant. This has been corrected in this volume. However, in both parts the apparatus is sometimes positive, but more often not, without any obvious logic behind the choice. At Geo. 3.249, e.g., we read ‘agris] aruis Φ’ where there could be no ambiguity, but at 255 the correct sus goes unmentioned in the apparatus, even though all three extant capital MSS are corrupt (suus MP: usus R). Sometimes the format causes real uncertainty: at 3.418 one presumes that the variants succederet and succedere e are equivalent to succedere et in the text; but what of succendere? This awkwardness is exacerbated by the unpredictable presence of discursive comments. Despite the sound things said in the preface about the fantasies sometimes found in commentaries, several of them are paraded here (e.g. Servius at 1.6, 13, Sabbadini on 3.250-65), along with lengthy defences of vulgate readings, such as the placing of 1.257-8 after 256. If an editor wishes to give quick access to the information that helps determine the correct text, it would seem sensible at Geo. 1.341 tum pingues agni et tum mollissima uina to cite Hesiod, Works and Days 585 τῆμος πιόταταί τ’ αἶγες καὶ οἶνος ἄριστος, where the loss of digamma has led to an apparent hiatus, which defends the MR reading against the easy alternative tunc agni pingues found in early medieval MSS. Likewise at 1.318 one looks for a reference to Lucan’s imitation of concurrere proelia (1.40), and Pliny’s reference (Nat. Hist. 18.341): R’s consurgere will not then tempt. At 1.327 it is possible that R has the correct form, spumantibus; but at Aen. 10.291 uada non spirant (M) Vergil himself apparently offers a parallel to the unexpected fretis spirantibus. Such things mainly go unrecorded; even the specific citations in later texts are mentioned only where they exhibit variants, though they may be important where they back up the direct paradosis.

The text features one new conjecture: si for et at 3.159. This is not a palaeographically straightforward change: initial monosyllables do not seem to interchange as easily in the Vergilian tradition as in those poets who emerge in minuscule (R’s nec for sed at Geo. 3.176 repeats the nec of 175, for example). Nor is it clear that the text is corrupt: the subjunctive (which lacks point in the emended text) suggests that quos pecori malint summittere habendo functions as an indirect question, the third object of inurunt: as well as details of descent farmers mark on their new stock which they intend for breeding, which for sacrifice etc.

Conte presents cogent arguments for, and prints, several variants and conjectures that are normally neglected: notably 2.514 penates; 3.535 arduos; 4.221 omnia (Peerlkamp); 4.331 duram; 4.348 fusis dum; 4.361 speciem. Less persuasive is inludunt (1.181), against the more widely transmitted inludant; he argues for a strong pause to break tum uariae inludunt pestes from the negated purpose clauses in the previous line (ne subeant herbae neu puluere uicta fatiscat); however, he does not explain the force of tum, which seems to imply continuity (the sentence lacks the links to context that would encourage us to take tum as ‘in addition’). Indeed we might use the subjunctive inludant in an unorthodox continuation of the subordinate clause as a parallel to the case at 1.321 where ita … ferret hiems can be read as maintaining the subjunctive of the generic clause proelia uidi … quae … segetem … eruerent.

In accepting readings from outside the main tradition Conte shows less independence. Thus at 4.355 the apparatus cites Bentley’s magni and Peerlkamp’s nostri, but the unmetrical Penei is in the text. At 4.484 he keeps the improbable uento, though reporting Burman’s excellent cantu. At 2.22 sunt alii (sc. modi) quos ipse uia sibi repperit usus he fails to print Scaliger’s compelling emendation aliae quas … uias, though alie is in M (the only capital manuscript available), quas is given by M1, and the conjectural uias supposes the simplest haplography before sibi. Another easy error left intact is latis at 2.468 at latis otia fundis, where the evocation of latifundia is absurd amid the praises of a simple country life, while laetis is actually attested in Macrobius and the Scholia Bernensia.

Two radical moments come when Conte follows Goold in accepting transpositions suggested by Bentley. The placing of 3.120-2 after 96 is an excellent solution, and a striking sign of corruption in the early tradition, if right. Less successful is the transposition of 4.203-5, partly because the new home, after 196, is no more attractive than other places (218 Ribbeck), partly because the traditional home may be right: though 206-9 works well immediately after 202, it opens with a concessive clause allowing for the deaths of bees, the central topic of 203-5. By contrast 4.291 is printed (admittedly in italics) in the implausible position the numeration (and P) grants it. If maintained in the text, it needs to come after 293 (so R, followed by Mynors, e.g.; M puts it after 292). Conte thinks it was written by Vergil to replace 292 as part of a major revision after the death of Gallus, but he does not explain why this has left so meagre and pointless a trace. Given the uncertain position and the frequency of descriptions of the Nile in Roman poetry, it is more likely that the verse is an intrusion from a marginal parallel and not Vergilian at all.

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