Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2016.05.30 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2016.05.30

Carmen Codoñer, Juan A. González Iglesias, Priapea. Exemplaria Classica, Anejo III 2014.   Huelva:  Universidad de Huelva, 2015.  Pp. 374.  ISBN 9788416061587.  (pb).  

Reviewed by Tommaso Braccini, Università di Torino (

This edition of the Priapea is the result of a work begun in 2007. Carmen Codoñer (Universidad de Salamanca) was in charge of the preparation of the critical text from the beginning, and in an early phase she was apparently to be joined by Louis Callebat (Université de Caen) for a French translation. Subsequently Callebat proceeded to publish his own edition in the Belles Lettres series in 2012 (see the review in BMCR 2013.02.31)., and Codoñer began collaborating with Juan Antonio González Iglesias (Universidad de Salamanca), who produced the Spanish annotated translation and the literary commentary accompanying the critical text of the Priapea in the present volume.

The main problems related to authorship, date, and unity of the Priapea are dealt with in the introduction (pp. 9-50). After a thorough survey of the positions of the previous scholars, Codoñer concurs with Citroni1 that the Priapea are reminiscent of Martial, while she prefers to leave open the question of the single or multiple authorship of the poems. She notes that even the repetition of the same motifs in the corpus, often taken as an exercise in variatio by a single author, could be also interpreted as proof of emulation by different poets. The arrangement of the poems in the collection, however, seems not to be accidental, and it is possible to detect a chiastic structure (p. 41). In the introduction there is also a section on the god Priapus (pp. 20-30) and a discussion of the terms templum and sacellum appearing in Priapea 1-2, assumed to indicate open spaces rather than real buildings fitted with roof and walls (pp. 35-36).

The next section, titled “Edición” (pp. 55-120), deals with the preparation of the critical text. A general (but incomplete, see below) list of 42 manuscripts is followed by a detailed discussion of the 23 witnesses considered useful for the constitutio textus (priority was given to those earlier than the editio princeps). Most of the remainder have also been collated and are summarily described at pp. 79-91. This is a considerable expansion with respect to most of the previous editions (Callebat’s text, for instance, relies on fourteen manuscripts, and the vast majority of previous editors used only five manuscripts). The work of recensio, as Codoñer says, is hindered by the late date of the manuscripts and the high frequency of contamination and humanist conjectures; for this reason, paratextual elements were taken into account to determine groups and subgroups of witnesses. Codoñer identifies three main families: α (manuscripts ACORNGI), β (manuscripts TBXWZfK), and the “familia mixta” γ (manuscripts FYLPHE). In discussing the history of the text, she supposes that perhaps, after all, the Paduan Albertino Mussato (1261-1329), author of Priapeia and Cunneia, could have been acquainted with the Priapea. A provenance from northern Italy (Padua?), with the possible intermediation of Petrarca, is supposed also for the model of our oldest manuscript (Firenze, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Plut. 33.31 = A), an autograph by Boccaccio.

The critical text with facing Spanish translation occupies most of the volume (pp. 124-313). The apparatus is a mixed one (“aparato crítico mixto”, p. 120), in order to cope with both the large number of manuscripts and the necessity of highlighting their division in groups and sub-groups. In the Latin text, words followed by an asterisk are the subject of further textual annotations at pp. 315-316. The editor’s disposition seems moderately conservative. The following are Codoñer’s own conjectures printed in the text (in parentheses are shown the corresponding choices in Callebat’s edition):

19.3 excitatius (extis latius)
32.7 usque pota pumex (usque pura pumex)
32.13 insulae iniquae (insularis aeque)
37.12 parti (partem)
51.12 et galba (Albana)
54.1 ε si describas (ЄD si scribas)

The Spanish translation, as far as I can judge, is careful and enjoyable, with a focus on rendering rhythmic aspects of the original. It is accompanied by useful footnotes mainly dealing with mythological, antiquarian, stylistic and linguistic matters. González Iglesias is not afraid of tackling delicate topics, as in n. 140 at p. 227, where he advocates that the pointe of poem 48 (centered on Priapus’ madida pars) is an allusion to pre-seminal fluid instead of semen, as generally supposed; elsewhere (p. 245 n. 163) he effectively compares a pun based on the shape of the letters with the modern use of “emoticons” to depict phalluses.

The “Comentario literario”, also by González Iglesias (pp. 319-339), is actually an essay addressing several questions related to the interpretation of the Priapea, their literary background (presupposing both Horace’s Ars poetica and Ovid’s Ars amandi), modern translations (understandably, with a particular focus on Spanish versions), and the best strategies to translate the Latin of the Priapea. It is not (nor does it pretend to be) a detailed commentary to the corpus: those who need something like that should refer to Goldberg’s2 or Callebat’s works. Two specific sections (pp. 337-338) are devoted to introducing further priapic poems printed, with facing Spanish translation, in the following two appendices. The first one contains five poems attributed to Tibullus or Vergil, while the second one presents the Hymn to Priapus engraved in an inscription from Tivoli (CIL XIV 3565). The volume is concluded by a bibliography; no indexes are provided.

So far the contents. More than a passing word must be devoted, however, to the editorial care. Throughout the book misprints are not few. In many cases these are simply typos, like p. 5 l. 21 “Matheo” for “Matteo”; p. 19 n. 52 l. 1 “2011” for “2012”; p. 25 r. 26 “scapist” for “escapist”; p. 53 l. 4 “Rhedig.” for “Rehdig.”; p. 56 r. 9 “Provinzia” for “Provincia”; p. 58 ll. 25 and 26 “Bocaccio” for “Boccaccio”; p. 66 l. 13 “Ignacio” for “Ignazio”; p. 67 r. 10 “compressi” for “compresi”; p. 101 n. 145 l. 4 “colezzione” for “collezione”; p. 103 n. 147 “Maggliab.” for “Magliab.”; p. 123 ll. 2 and 4 “Laurentiana” for “Laurenziana”; p. 252 l. 5 the full stop is missing; p. 367 l. 9 “scritoio” for “scrittoio”; l. 21 ludrica for ludicra; p. 368 l. 1 “2011” for “2012”; l. 11 “silve” for “Selve”; p. 369 l. 19 “tradtions” for “traditions”; p. 373 l. 9 “latin” for “latini”.

Other mistakes can be more troublesome and confusing. Both times when it is mentioned in the book, manuscript Accademia dei Lincei, Cors. 43. F. 21 is said to be in Florence although it is actually in Rome (p. 53, 79). In the general list of manuscripts (pp. 53-54), codex X is referred to as Città del Vaticano, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Chigi H.V.64, but actually it is Chigi H.V.169 (see pp. 72 and 123), while Chigi H.V.64 appears later and more correctly (p. 84) as Chigi H.V.164. The general list also lacks mention of Città del Vaticano, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Ottob. lat. 1465 and Wolfenbüttel, Herzog-August Bibliothek, Helmst. 332, both described later (pp. 86, 90). At pp. 87-88 and 89 there are two different descriptions for Città del Vaticano, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat. lat. 1586. The same New York library is called “The Morgan Library” at p. 53 and “Morgan Pierpont (sic) Library” at p. 123. The Leiden library where the V manuscript is preserved is called Universiteitsbibliotheek at p. 53 and Universiteit Bibliotek at p. 61. At p. 115, footnote n. 167 contains two quotations from Mussato’s Priapeia and seems out of place. At p. 120, the intriguing mention of Vinzenz Buchheit’s elusive palimpsest of the Priapea (see also p. 18) is obscured by a reference to the wrong article, Varia Priapea (Hermes 125, 1997). The right reference would be to Einheit und Zeit der Carmina Priapea, Hermes 135 (2007), pp. 74-79: 79, absent from the bibliography but quoted at p. 17, n. 44.

In two cases, the Spanish translation lacks the final verse of a poem (p. 167 and p. 177, poems 20 and 25). There appear to be also some issues with the critical apparatus: for instance, at 16.7 (p. 158) the conjecture talia quaeque is attributed to Codoñer, but it appears also in the edition of Callebat, who vindicates it as his own; the conjecture morsit to 65.1 is attributed (p. 268) to Müller, but it appears to be by Bücheler3. Sometimes, moreover, the last line of the critical apparatus is placed, without apparent reason, in the facing page, above the Spanish translation (p. 191 and 307). In the bibliography, “Fògola” is listed twice (p. 369 l. 6 and 373 l. 26) as place of publication, but actually it is the name of a publisher based in Turin.

Such examples would suggest exercising a degree of caution when using this volume. Nonetheless, the book has a number of factors in its favor, from the collation of a wide number of manuscripts, to the new insights into the textual tradition of the Priapea, to the lively Spanish translation and footnotes.


1.   M. Citroni, review to W.H. Parker, Priapea: Poems for a Phallic God, London-Sydney 1988, Gnomon 66 (1994), p. 410-418.
2.   C. Goldberg, Carmina Priapea. Einleitung, Übersetzung, Interpretation und Kommentar, Heidelberg 1992.
3.   See F. Bücheler, Vindiciae libri Priapeorum, Rheinisches Museum 18 (1863), pp. 381-415: 405.

Read comments on this review or add a comment on the BMCR blog

Read Latest
About BMCR
Review for BMCR
Support BMCR

BMCR, Bryn Mawr College, 101 N. Merion Ave., Bryn Mawr, PA 19010