Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2014.05.03
Carl Deroux (ed.), Studies in Latin Literature and Roman History, XVI. Collection Latomus, 338. Bruxelles: Éditions Latomus, 2012. Pp. 670. ISBN 9782870312841. €92.00 (pb).
Reviewed by Andreas Gavrielatos, University of Leeds (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Table of Contents
Studies in Latin Literature and Roman History is a supplement series, being part of the Collection Latomus, which in the past has presented papers of indisputable value in a wide range of subjects, all dedicated to the scholarship of Roman literature and history. The Studies include 32 papers in their latest volume. The papers are organised in a chronological sequence, which enables the readers to identify the chapters that better correspond to their interests. However, the reader can easily identifies groups of papers focusing on same or similar subjects, that is other papers on the work of a particular author or with a common historical scope. When possible, the papers will be discussed in that fashion here.
The volume opens with Christiane Reitz’s paper on the theme of arming in epic tradition and how it is treated in the Aeneid. The discussion highlights the importance of arming scenes and reveal that their depiction incorporates the characteristics of the battle as well as features of the armoured man's identity.
The next paper focuses on Roman historiography and deals with the transition from Roman kings to the Republic. The author, Aleksandr Kortev, recognises three stages of historiography and argues that the historical accounts are presented accordingly. He also suggests a strong influence from Greek tradition and he concludes with the basic principles one needs to bear in mind for approaching obscure periods of Roman history.
The authors of the next article contribute to the dispute of whether the passer poems of Catullus contain sexual innuendo. Besides a review of the previous debate since the 1900's, the article offers a different, “double” reading, based on the attestations of ornithophilia in ancient (and surprisingly Byzantine as well) literature, as well as on the vocabulary with sexual implications. The second paper to focus on Catullus examines poems 14 and 1 and offers a threefold interpretation; firstly it sheds light on the identity of the poetic persona through Catullus' self-presentation in the way he reacts to Calvus' gift. Secondly, the article offers an insight into the ideal audience for the poet, which inevitably makes it also a poetological reference to the place Catullus aims for for his work. Although the comparison to Martial's corresponding views seems avoidable at first sight, it is a helpful approach for the enhancement of the argumentation. Catullus' literary criticism is also the topic of the next article, which completes the group of articles focusing on the poet. This last article is a thorough commentary on c. 36, with many innovative approaches as well as full engagement with the previous scholarship on the poem.
The three papers focusing on Virgil add to the current scholarship on the Aeneid. Namely, the first of the chapters draws attention to the obscurities of the text of Aeneid, apropos the new Teubner Edition. It is a thorough account of the preferences of previous editions of the text, while the author argues for or against some of them. The next chapter is an interesting approach to the episode of Helen in Book II, and in particular its correspondence with the episode of Camilla in Book XI. With the parallel aspects between the two books as a starting point, the authors provide a detailed account, which highlights new aspects of Virgil’s elaborative style, and they argue that the Helen’s episode is an integral part of the epic poem, thus contributing to the debate on its authenticity. The last paper of this group offers a close reading of extracts from the Aeneid and contributes to the etymology of the word tiger and its use in the text, thus supporting a better understanding.
The next three papers offer new readings of Propertius’ elegies. Wolf Liebeschuetz offers a thorough discussion of Propertius 1, 1, revealing the irony from the text and the poetological character of the poem along with a prosopographical approach to the addressee Gallus. The next paper argues for a new identification of the places mentioned in three of Propertius’ poems. The author exploits geographical references in ancient sources and Propertius’ literary techniques to suggest that Propertius follows the geography of Alexander the Great with parallel allusions to his writing.
Four papers address issues in Ovid’s work. The first identifies a gap in scholarship concerning the occurrence of wit and humour in the Tiresias episode from Metamorphoses. Through a close reading of the episode and comments on it, the author aims to identify the humorous elements as indicative of a general aspect of Ovid’s narrative. The next paper turns to the episode of Myrrha in the Metamorphoses, which investigates her identity through the presentation of her emotional state, her dilemma and the moral implications of her love, as well as the role of the episode as embedded in Orpheus’ narration. The third paper discusses the relationship between Ovid and Augustus after the former’s exile. The author’s approach is based on Epistulae ex Ponto and Tristia and examines the presentation of the emperor in these works in an attempt to illustrate how it is affected by Ovid’s sorrow. Three tables with the appropriate expressions are additionally provided at the end of the paper. The last paper included in the Ovid group argues in favour of the identification of Perilla (Tristia III, 7) with the poet’s third wife. The argumentation is structured firstly on the words Ovid employs when he refers to Perilla and their use elsewhere in his work. Later, the author discusses the correspondence in the way Ovid refers to his third wife and to the Perilla of the poem, which leads to the use of the name as a pseudonym with implications for Ovid’s defiance.
Several papers are based on research in Roman history, and in particular they focus on different emperors and their periods of reign. The papers exploit widely Suetonius’ biographies, thereby providing important views of his account. Barbara Levick focuses with her paper on the ‘renewals of imperium’ under Tiberius’ reign and especially the years A.D. 23-4. Her paper is a thorough account of the events that mark the renewals relating to Augustus and Tiberius. The paper finishes with the wording, that is the use of the Lex Titia, the Lex Vatinia and the Lex Pompeia Licina for this purpose. After Tiberius, a paper addressing questions on seven different issues in the reign of Caligula is contributed by David Woods, who has shown an ongoing interest in the Emperor. The author’s initial scope is based on the caveats a scholar of Roman history needs to bear in mind when approaching periods with an apparent negative view against an emperor, in this case Caligula. Thereby, he draws attention to seven facts of Caligula’s reign, often referring to Suetonius’ biography, which can be interpreted from a different perspective, revealing a different side of the emperor. The next paper is also concerned with an emperor’s personality, this time Nero. In particular, the author examines how the self-presentation of Nero was consistent with the people’s view of him and moreover, how Nero appealed to each social class. The author starts with the theoretical framework of the presentation of the superiors in their self-presentation and through public view, which he uses as the base for the study. Of all the classes, Nero appears to have been the least popular with the Senate, whereas he appealed to the masses. The author also suggests that Nero as emperor was popular in the lower military strata and perhaps that was also the case for the people in the provinces. Further on, another paper by Michael Charles and Eva Anagnostou-Laoutides examines Suetonius’ work, this time discussing Vespasian’s relationship with the freedwoman Caenis, the way Suetonius reacts to the union and its political implications. The last paper concerned with an emperor is Keith Bradley’s historiographical study of the sources about Hadrian’s birthplace. Bradley states already in the first section of the paper that he aims to highlight the difficulties involved in recovering the past through texts with different accounts. The author rather explores modern accounts on ancient historiography concerning Hadrian, with an extensive critique of Syme’s work.
Bret Mulligan contributes to the volume with a chapter on Silvae 2. The paper explores the way proper names are employed by Statius in order to create a bilingual wordplay, which assists the book’s placement, before the apparent bicultural elements of the third book. The title of the paper indicates already that proper names with animal connotations are the means for the construction of the wordplay, where Greek elements offer the bilingual character. Moreover, the paper contributes to approaching texts with bilingual elements for the interpretation of the wordplay achieved through a strong theoretical background.
Two papers focus on Ammianus Marcellinus’ Res Gestae. The first one, by Van Abbema, examines the satirical elements of the second Roman digression, that is 28, 4. The author’s reading of the digression works from the existing bibliography and suggests that a parallel reading of Juvenal provides a better understanding of Ammianus’ writing on the political situations in Rome and suggests a satirical nature of the digressions. Vannesse’s essay on Ammianus draws attention to the food supply of the Roman troops during Julian’s campaign against Sassanid Persians in A.D. 363. The paper discusses the two stages of the expedition, namely the march upon Ctesiphon, with a close look to the events and the food supply, and the withdrawal from Persia, with close attention to the famine of the troops.
The volume closes with a paper by the editor, Carl Deroux. The author is interested in a passage, easily understood at first sight, from an eighth-century biography of St. Eligius and the word iot(t)icus used there. The earlier etymologies suggested relating the meaning of ‘game’ and treat it as a hapax. The author argues in favour of a relation to idioticus, -a, -um, a possibility which has also been noticed in Thesaurus Linguae Latinae, and in particular he demonstrates that iot(t)icus is the result of palatalisation of dioticus, which is a vulgar variant of idioticus.
The wide range of themes covered in the volume give it the sense that its title suggests and continues the character of the series so far. The reader will find not only a period or a topic covered, but also a variety of approaches to Latin Literature and Roman History, from short essays and projects’ results to longer articles on research questions of modern scholarship. There are also contributions to debates in scholarship and very informative bibliographical reviews. Therefore, the book is an easy to use tool for the early researcher as well as the expert on a particular subject, and as such it proves a profitable addition to a classics library. Although not problematic for the reader, there is a lack of attention to proofreading in some of the papers, and inconsistency of the formatting in the bibliography included in only few of the papers. Nonetheless, the volume is a high quality supplement to the Latomus journal series.