Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2015.03.31 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2015.03.31

Vasiles A. Phyntikoglou, Μάρκος Τούλλιος Κικέρων - Υπέρ του Μάρκου Καίλιου.   Thessaloniki:  University Studio Press, 2013.  Pp. 455.  ISBN 9789601221588.  €32.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Anastasios Nikolopoulos, University of the Peloponnese (

Six years after his acclaimed commentary on the closural section of Virgil’s Georgics 4 (BMCR 2009.01.24) V. Phyntikoglou enriches Greek bibliography on Latin literature with an annotated edition and translation of Cicero’s pro Caelio. In fact, if it were not for Andrew R. Dyck’s commentary (BMCR 2014.04.12), which appeared too late for Phyntikoglou to peruse, his commentary would be of great use to all students of Cicero, at the very least as a handy summary of the fast growing scholarship on one of the more popular speeches.

The author’s explicitly declared aim — to cater for as wide a readership as possible — has determined the size and the structure of his endeavor. It has also provoked an innovative feature, namely the appearance of notes both below and after the text and translation. As Phyntikoglou explains in the Prologue, the footnotes contain linguistic commentary of lexical and grammatical nature, i.e., of the kind necessary to university students of Latin literature, presented in a scholarly manner with references to the standard English, German and French works. The endnotes, on the other hand, aim to elucidate the text from both a literary-rhetorical and a historical-legal perspective.

The solid eighty-page Introduction opens with a detailed and balanced portrait of the defendant Marcus Caelius Rufus. The young man’s implication in litigation under the lex Sca(n)tinia in 50 B.C. is brushed away in a footnote even though his sexual morals are at issue in Cicero’s speech. This is of course a minor matter of emphasis but it is also noteworthy, because in the relevant chapter 12 of the oration Phyntikoglou rejected the possibility of understanding utebatur in the sense “to have friendly relations or associate with” (OLD s.v. 9b) in favour of “to use the services of, employ (a person)” (OLD s.v. 3) and preferred to render the libidines inspired by Catiline with the generic πάθη rather than a word specific to sexual appetite, such as λαγνεία or πόθος.

The next section presents the litigation of 56 B.C. which instigated the composition of the Caeliana. An analysis of the date and persons implicated, a reconstruction of the events leading to the case, a description of the particular accusations and the law(s) involved, as well as a reconstruction of the other speakers’ arguments, provide the student with all the necessary information in order to approach Cicero’s brilliant speech with a critical eye. The oration itself is the subject of the third section, where particular emphasis is given to the theatrical element, analyzed in detail in previous papers by the author himself both in Greek and in English. The former also included a meticulous discussion of the speech’s structure, here presented in tabular form with a very brief comment. The third section concludes with a concise presentation of the oration’s style, with particular reference to aural effects and a brief list of the main metaphors, personifications and keywords used by Cicero in defending Caelius.

The fourth and final section of the Introduction explains the way in which Phyntikoglou established the oration’s text and provides the reader with all the necessary information in order to take advantage of the apparatus criticus, both in continuous prose and in catalogue form. The Introduction is complemented by two Appendices, the first on the Textual Tradition and Criticism (375-410) and the second on the speech’s Historical Context framed by the deaths of Sulla (79 B.C.) and Pompey (48 B.C.). To be more precise, the former also functions as a complement to the endnotes, because a more detailed treatment of the textual tradition is followed by 28 pages of textual notes discussing the editor’s choices of readings and conjectures. This is a matter rarely touched upon in recent commentaries pitched for students, including that by Dyck on the pro Caelio; it is particularly appealing to the advanced student and hopefully intriguing to the beginner, as the author manages to tackle the issue with convincing arguments drawn from both stylistic analysis and paleography. The second Appendix should be especially popular with students from history departments and the general reader with historical rather than literary interests.

The Latin text printed on the even-numbered pages is accompanied by a lucid and concise apparatus criticus. As Phyntikoglou explains in the Introduction (section 4), his text differs on 22 points from Maslowski’s recent Teubner (these are helpfully listed on page 86), yet it does not claim laurels as a critical edition in the strict sense, since he has not collated any manuscripts himself. The translation on the odd-numbered pages is in excellent Modern Greek prose. It is indeed so readable that the italicized summary paraphrase opening each section of the commentary seems superfluous.

On the whole, virtually no prior knowledge of ancient rhetorical theory is assumed and terms are normally given in both Greek and Latin, except when there is no traditional equivalent, as in the case of insinuatio; at 38.474-6 the Greek for amplificatio (αὔξησις, Lausberg §259) and at 10.104 προκατάληψις for occupatio could have been added in brackets. In the Index of Persons-Things-Terms, however, only the Latin names appear. Roman names are mentioned in their traditional Greek forms, while the Latin originals can be found in brackets in the Greek section of the same Index, with the singular exception of the praenomen of C. Antonius Hybrida, presumably because it is not legitimated by ancient Greek usage. Even lengthy passages quoted in Latin are also translated into Modern Greek. All in all, Phyntikoglou has done almost everything to render his edition as friendly as possible to a Greek readership with little or no Latin. Only the titles of Latin works are not consistently accompanied by a Greek rendering, not even when they are not a mere abbreviated reference. For instance, on page 213 de inventione is translated while de oratore is not.

A second Index lists all those Roman concepts and key-words concisely explained in the notes. Hardly anything of importance is missing (a comment on immoderata would be appropriate at 53.636-7), while some comments, like the one on incessus (49.593) have up-to-date bibliographical references missing from Dyck. A few details: at 10.102 Phyntikoglou comments on the predominantly political significance of boni but misses the chance to point out improbi in the next line as its antonym and, secondarily, the political usage of studeo (OLD s.v. 3), not apparent in the translation προσκολλήθηκαν. Reference to the comment on the meaning of maledictum and its role in Cicero’s strategy at 6.67 is missing from the Index s.v. Although the opposition between optimates and populares in the late republic is illustrated in Appendix II, a comment on the latter could have found a place at 52.630 with reference to Clodia’s domus popularis, even as a mere semantic possibility in the footnotes.

All in all, this is an excellent commentary, which caters to the needs of the modern university student in literary, historical and perhaps legal departments, one which deserves the widest possible readership in Greece as well as abroad. Although the book is priced above what the average Greek student could afford these days, it is definitely worth the money, not only for the richness of the material but also for the quality of the publication, which is virtually free of typographical errors.1


1.   Only two numbers have gone wrong: On page 20 note 4 the reference should be to page 39; and on page 34 note 22 the reference should be to note 36.

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