Bryn Mawr Classical Review

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Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2017.11.12

Nicola Lanzarone (ed.), M. Annaei Lucani Belli civilis liber VII. Biblioteca nazionale. Serie dei Classici greci e latini. Testi con Commento filologico, 22.   Firenze:  Felice Le Monnier, 2016.  Pp. ix, 617.  ISBN 9788800747547.  €50.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Paul Roche, University of Sydney (

Publisher’s Preview

[The reviewer apologizes for the lateness of this review.]

Nicola Lanzarone has produced an invaluable resource for scholars of Lucan in this full-scale edition of De Bello Civili VII.1 Its appearance is all the more welcome since the last full commentaries on book seven were Dilke’s 1960 revision of Postgate’s 1896 edition (comprising 85 pages of notes), and Gagliardi’s edition of 1975 (containing 113 pages of text and notes).2 Any comparison of Lanzarone’s notes on any passage of the poem with his predecessors will show his edition far surpasses both in scale (454 pages of notes overall), ambition and execution. Henceforth Lucan scholars and teachers will need to consult his edition; they will find in its commentary reliable help, promising leads and abundant information about many of the themes and issues, questions and problems posed by Book Seven. Scholars of Latin epic more generally will learn much from it about Latin usage, epic norms and diction, as well as the place of Lucan within the epic tradition.

The introduction (pp. 1-17) covers the structure of the book; its major themes; Lucan’s oppositional stance vis-à-vis imperial ideology and the epic tradition; and narrative characteristics. An opportunity is missed in the introduction to reflect current studies on these subjects or to have recent Lucan scholarship more evidently informing what topics to include. Even on such issues as the structure of the book there are alternatives to a tripartite scheme and options on where to draw the lines of division; if Lanzarone had referred his reader to the work of e.g Rutz, Lebek or Radicke3 (all used in the commentary proper), he could have equipped them better to adjudicate on his choice on this issue for themselves. This is characteristic of the introduction (not, I should stress, of the commentary proper), in which the work of six scholars in total are cited.4 The result is an essay which does not obviously reflect the state of the scholarly discussion circa 2016; a comparison with Berti’s 2000 edition of book 10 within the same series confirms by contrast the slightly isolated feel of Lanzarone’s opening remarks.5

Lanzarone’s text is based on Hosius’ report of the manuscripts as printed in Housman’s edition. His text differs from Housman’s in five places.6 Four times he opts for the reading of the consensus of manuscripts by choosing e.g. to reinstate lines deleted by Housman or by rejecting conjectures printed by him; the fifth is the understandable decision to obelize 735 aut Marte subactis, used to refer to Caesar’s victorious forces.

The printed text (pp. 23-48) is followed by a prose translation (pp. 49-68). An en face translation would certainly have made it easier to see how Lanzarone understands the meaning of the text at a given point; the difficulty of using the translation for this purpose is increased by the decision not to indicate corresponding line numbers in the header or text of the translation itself. Such quibbles may be made about the introductory material. They will have a minimal impact upon the value of the book as a whole, whose main contribution is to be found in its commentary.

The commentary proper (pp. 69-523) is excellent, and mirrors its text with great erudition. Its primary audience will be scholars rather than students and its main (but by no means exclusive) concern is with philological matters. Lanzarone sheds useful light on a wide array of issues: textual problems; Lucan’s style and narrative strategies; language and its registers; the historical background; Realien; geography; prosopography; biography. Longer introductory essays are interspersed with smaller lemmata, and set the context of larger sections of narrative. His reader is shown where and how Lucan adapts language, models and scenes from the epic tradition before him. Frequently throughout the notes—if only by tracking the use of a particular iunctura or phrase after Lucan—we are shown (or given the materials to form a view of) his influence upon literature well beyond the first century. Lanzarone ably draws his reader’s attention to how other genres such as tragedy and historiography make their presence felt in Book Seven, and he provides full lists of relevant sources for the understanding of historical problems, contexts and allusions. Lanzarone takes full advantage of the ancient scholia surviving in the form of the Commenta Bernensia and the Adnotationes Super Lucanum. On controversial points Lanzarone records the views of dissenting voices (cf. e.g. 158-9). The commentary’s usefulness is enhanced by three very full indices of words, subjects and citations, arranged two columns to a page for over 60 pages (pp. 553-617). A digital edition is also available through Mondadori Education.7

In contrast to the opening essay, the commentary offers fuller reference to secondary discussion as well as ancient material. The latest item in the bibliography is Ambühl’s 2015 Krieg und Bürgerkrieg which is used to good effect at 777-80 and 797-824. It is fair to observe that Lanzarone’s use of major studies on the poem, particularly those published in English, is less comprehensive than the bibliography suggests. The works of Fratantuono, Groß, Henderson, Martindale (1976), Most, O’Higgins, Quint, Roller, Sklenar and Bartsch are all cited in the bibliography but not used in the commentary.

The ambition for total coverage and very full lists of comparanda is very much in keeping with the norms of the series in which this edition appears. It feels churlish to carp about an excess of information; however, the lists of linguistic parallels do at times make the reader wish for either greater selectivity or more help in understanding the relevance of inclusions. For one example, on 565 proiecta cadauera campis, the reader is informed that the iunctura proiecta cadauera occurs at Lucr. 6.1155; Sulp. Ruf. Fam. 4.5.4; Var. L. 5.25; Ov. Met. 7.602; and Sen. Ep. 92.35: it strikes me as highly unlikely that Sulpicius Rufus or Varro will nuance our understanding of Lucan’s phrase. Further examples could be multiplied.8 In the same note (565) help is needed with cadauer used of men who are wounded but not yet dead (TLL 3.13.43); these are not unburied bodies.

This is a formidable book that makes a long-desired and significant contribution to Lucan studies. A review offers only limited scope to acquire first impressions and convey a sense of a commentary of this scale; its ultimate test will be the long period of its use and consultation. I have every confidence that Lanzarone’s commentary will swiftly become and remain a standard resource for scholars seeking better to understand Book Seven or Lucan’s poem more generally. They will be profoundly grateful for his help.


1.   In the interest of full disclosure I am writing a commentary on the same book (for the Cambridge Greek and Latin Classics series).
2.   O. A. W. Dilke, Lucan: De Bello Civili VII (Cambridge 1960); D. Gagliardi, M. Annaei Lucani Belli Civilis liber septimus (Firenze 1975).
3.   W. Rutz, ‘Studien zur Kompositionskunst und zur epischen Technik Lucans’ (Diss. Kiel, 1950) 33; W. D. Lebek, Lucans Pharsalia. Dichtungsstruktur und Zeitbezug (Göttingen 1976) 217 or J. Radicke, Lucans poetische Technik. Studien zum historischen Epos (Leiden 2004) 74.
4.   E. Berti, M. Annaei Lucani Bellum Civile: Liber X (Firenze 2000).
5.   The total references to modern studies in the introduction are: M. Rambaud, ‘L’apologie de Pompée par Lucain au livre VII de la Pharsale’, REL 33 1955 (258-96); N. Lanzarone, L. Annaei Senecae Dialogorum liber I De Providentia (Firenze 2008); E. Narducci, La provvidenza crudele. Lucano e la distruzione dei miti augustei (Pisa 1979); E. Narducci, ‘Deconstructing Lucan, ovvero le nozze (coi fichi secchi) di Ermete Trismegisto e di Filologia’ in P. Esposito and L. Nicastri (eds) Interpretare Lucano. Miscellanea di studi (Napoli 1999) 39-83; E. Narducci, Lucano. Un’ epica contro l’impero. Interpretazione della Pharsalia (Roma / Bari 2002) (cited three times); G. B. Conte, Virgilio: l’epica del sentimento (Torino 2002; repr. 2007); B. M. Marti, ‘The meaning of the PharsaliaAJP 66 (1945) 352-76; A. Traina, Lo stile ‘drammatico’ del filosofo Seneca (Bologna 1974; repr. 1995).
6.   20 uenturis (ΩC) (Housman printed Bentley’s mens curis); L. prints line 388; 475 tunc (ΩΠ) (Housman printed tum but thought tunc could have been right; cf. his note on 1.490); 735 L. obelizes aut Marte subactis; L. prints lines 746-9 Nec plura . . . calcare duces.
7.   Mondadori Education Preview.
8.   For thoughts on the use and function of such lists, cf. R. K. Gibson, ‘cf, e.g.: A typology of “parallels” and the function of commentaries on Latin poetry’, in R. K. Gibson and C. Shuttleworth Kraus (eds) The Classical Commentary: Histories, Practices, Theory (Leiden 2002) 347-56.

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