Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2016.05.20 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2016.05.20

Ioannis Deligiannis, Μ. Τύλλιου Κικέρωνα, Περί Πολιτείας Βιβλία Έξι. Εισαγωγή-Κείμενο-Μετάφραση-Σχόλια. Κλασσική Βιβλιοθήκη Καρδαμίτσα.   Athens:  Ινστιτούτο του Βιβλίου-Α. Καρδαμίτσα, 2015.  Pp. 67, 504.  ISBN 9789603543657.  €30.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Dionysios Chalkomatas, Frankfurt am Main (

As strange as it may appear to those who are not familiar with the state and history of Latin studies in modern Greece, this is the first complete and fully annotated Greek translation of Cicero’s On the Republic. The deep-rooted aversion of the modern Greek educational and cultural establishment towards Latin language and literature—which is usually regarded as strange and inferior to Classical Greek—has ensured that many important Latin masterpieces, including most of Cicero’s works, remain untranslated to this day. In the last two decades there has been slow progress, but there is still a lot to be done.

Deligiannis’ aim is a double and noble one. On the one hand he wants, as he explicitly says in his Foreword (p. 9), to produce a modern scholarly edition for the use of academic teaching; on the other hand he wants to familiarize modern Greek readers with a historical text whose content he considers to be of significant relevance to the present political situation.

His book begins with a general and comprehensive introduction (pp.17–38) to the historical and political conditions that led the middle-aged consular Cicero to write a theoretical treatise in dialogue form on the history and nature of the Roman republic. He goes on with a thorough and precise discussion of title, structure, content and style of the Republic. There is little in this part of the Introduction (pp. 21–28) that the informed reader does not already know from other editions. The same applies to the section labeled "Models and sources" (pp. 28–31), where one would have expected a longer analysis devoted to the "Significance, influence and survival of the text" (pp. 31–33). Indeed Deligiannis discusses only briefly the ancient influence on such writers as Lactantius, Augustine and Isidore of Seville. Such important periods as the Renaissance or the Enlightenment remain beyond his consideration. Fortunately Deligiannis has more to say on matters of the transmission of the text and textual criticism. While presenting J. G. F. Powell’s text from 2006 with only slight changes, he differs from Powell by taking up the difficult and highly original task of classifying the many uncertain fragments and assigning them to suitable books. The single error I could find in the Latin text (perhaps a typo, although it seems unlikely) is in 1, 62, 23: tum secessiones plebe instead of plebei.

Deligiannis’ translation is accurate and erudite. As far as the transfer of Latin terms into Greek is concerned, this text sets standards for all future Greek translators of Latin literature. Even so his translation is not free of flaws and errors. There are, for example, confounding translations of the term senatus. Should it be translated with the antique γερουσία or the more modern and more usual σύγκλητος? Deligiannis uses both options alternately (see 1, 32, 2; 2, 17, 31; 2, 23, 20; 2, 43, 27). Consilium in 1, 55 is rendered twice with the ethical σύνεση, but a more precise translation in this highly political context would be εὐβουλία, which Deligiannis uses at 2, 30, 32. In 4, 6, i (disciplina verecundiae) his choice ἐμφύσηση τῆς αἰδημοσύνης is highly debatable. Particularly unfortunate is the definition of comedy at 4, 11, ii (speculum consuetudinis, imaginem veritatis). Deligiannis translates it as καθρέπτης τῆς συνήθους συμπεριφορᾶς, εἰκόνα τῆς αλήθειας, but in this case consuetudo means rather "everyday life"(κάτοπτρο τοῦ καθημερινοῦ βίου) and veritas makes more sense as "reality" (εἰκόνα τῆς πραγματικότητας) than "truth". In 1, 50 rex importunus doesn’t mean βασιλιάς σκληροτράχηλος but rather "a reckless or ruthless king". Equally unfortunate is πατερναλιστικό for patrium in 1, 65, 32–65, 1, which through its populist undertone produces a sense differing widely from Cicero’s intention. Rendering Marco vero Catoni, homini … novo as χωρίς προγονικές καταβολές does not make sense, since Cato the Elder did have ancestors, though not politically active or significant ones. Deligiannis has a weakness for using learned, even highbrow terms, for example διαπόντιεςfor transmarinis (2, 28, 23–24). However, this leads him occasionally to use uncommon grammatical forms, for example εκλέχθηκε instead of normal form εξελέγη (2, 35, 12).

The extensive commentary, which abounds in useful historical, factual, biographical information and exegetic analysis, is the crowning result of high erudition, intensive research and hard work. But it is also written in an old-fashioned, demanding, erudite manner that will discourage many of its intended modern readers. Besides, it is lengthy and contains redundancies; it could have been reduced to half of its present length. Reading this exuberant commentary is made more difficult by the extremely dense line spacing of the text, which is, of course, no fault of the commentator.

In sum: the first complete edition of Cicero’s On the Republic in Greek is by Greek standards (and perhaps not only for them) an important achievement that fulfills only the first of two goals set by its author, namely, its scholarly character. The second goal—to introduce modern Greek people to Cicero’s political philosophy—is undermined by the author’s indifference to establishing points of reference between the ancient and modern worlds.

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