Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2017.11.48 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2017.11.48

Cédric Scheidegger Lämmle, Werkpolitik in der Antike: Studien zu Cicero, Vergil, Horaz und Ovid. Zetemata, 152.   München:  Verlag C.H. Beck, 2016.  Pp. 312.  ISBN 9783406699351.  €88.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Wolfgang Polleichtner, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen (

Table of Contents

Cédric Scheidegger Lämmle's dissertation, handed in at Basel University in 2015, has been shortened and revised for publication. I find the book an interesting start in many regards but in some respects it is highly problematic.

The main point of Scheidegger Lämmle’s dissertation is to take Steffen Martus’ approach to the history of German literature from the 17th to the 20th century and to apply it to literature from Greco-Roman antiquity, to Augustan literature in particular.1 While communicating with each other over time, Martus claims, authors and their critics made each other increasingly aware of the fact that both literary history and literature are inextricably linked. Martus coins the term Werkpolitik for the attempt of authors to anticipate possible criticisms of their works and to instruct their readership on how their works need to be read. Scheidegger Lämmle considers the time of the end of the Roman republic and the beginning of the principate to be a period comparable to the time span between the 17th and the 20th century in Germany as far as the changes in the way works of literature were produced and critiqued. He mentions this on p.18f., but tries to prove this claim much later, in one footnote only (p.70 n. 35). One of the points he does not address is the difference in the quantity of still existent ancient source material that is at hand for a study like Martus’.

Scheidegger Lämmle’s case studies of Cicero (75-109), Vergil (111-134), Horace (135-170), and Ovid (171-246) deal with the questions why these authors wrote their works, what they thought about them in retrospect, and what kind of future they wished for their books. These longer chapters are preceded by smaller investigations on the works of Hesiod (25-29), Galen (30-40), and Augustine (41-50) which in turn serve as examples upon which Scheidegger Lämmle builds the theoretical framework for his book (61-71).

After a brief personal foreword, Scheidegger Lämmle begins his work with a discussion of the problem of the first verses of the Aeneid (11-21). The famous ille ego qui and its following verses show, in his opinion, what a later author thought about Vergil’s works as a whole.2 These verses give credence to the Aeneid as being a work written by Vergil and Scheidegger Lämmle assumes that this is how the text validates itself.

I cannot agree, however, with Scheidegger Lämmle when he discusses his theoretical view on what kind of relationship exists between author, text, and reader (51-60). Authorship is not just “an effect of the text” (55, cf. 58): the author is the condition without which a text would never come into existence. An author who wrote a text may claim a false identity or even completely hide it yet to this day, a text simply never physically writes itself. In fact, Scheidegger Lämmle in his case studies talks about Cicero etc. and what these authors think or write (cf., e.g., 65 or 143)3

Also, there are particular problems in these smaller investigations. Hesiod, Op. 26 is more complex in regard to any question surrounding Hesiod’s self-awareness as an author than Scheidegger Lämmle allows it to be.4 In addition to what Scheidegger Lämmle says about the reception of Augustine’s works in Possidius, Augustine’s self-fashioning in his Retractationes as an author of works that need correction also points to his Christian beliefs.5 Augustine was aware of the fact that contemporary trends in making books, i.e. questions of mediality, would influence the reception of his work. And he took advantage of the changing media in his own interest and also in the interest of his god.6

As regards the main chapters a discussion of the terms imitatio and aemulatio and their role in Scheidegger Lämmle’s theoretical framework would have been helpful. Martus’ authors wrote after or while intellectuals were debating and writing about the character of geniuses and their originality. Especially the chapters on Vergil, Horace, and Ovid could have been improved by drawing conclusions from intertextual allusions in these authors’ works. What these allusions meant matters a great deal to the reception of their works. For example, a thorough discussion of Tibullus’ elegies and their reception of Vergil is missing.7 The topic of “love in old age” is treated by more authors than just Horace and Philodemus. Just to call this topos “althergebracht” deprives the argument of lots of opportunities for interpreting its use (155). Plato’s Republic and Cicero’s de senectute should be mentioned, especially because Cicero also talks about old horses in chapter 14. The question of how Ovid positioned his Metamorphoses in particular between, for example, Homer and Vergil would have been enriched by considering Apollonius, Roman architecture, Livy, and even Horace’s ode 3.30.8 The proem of this epic poem is not just an intratextual allusion (217, 221 n 22, 301). The role of intertextuality for “Werkpolitik” becomes even more critical when dealing with common topics in the works of more than only two of Scheidegger Lämmle’s authors.9

I cannot go into detail regarding Scheidegger Lämmle’s translations of the Latin texts, yet there are many cases where the translation does not help the reader understand the meaning of the original word despite this being the goal for his translations (11 n. 1). For example, Rendering “scidas” as “Seite (32) or “fabulositas” as “Märchenerzählungen” in Plin. nat. 7.101 (146 n. 21) or “fuge” as “so geh doch” in Hor. epist. 1.20.5 (164).10 Also, there is no need to change the structure of a sentence if one can imitate the Latin without detriment to the target language, as in videntur in Hor. epist. 2.2.61f. (137), ut in Hor. epist. 1.3.12 (156), or prima and summa in Hor. epist. 1.1.1 (141).11 Finally, Scheidegger Lämmle sometimes shows a tendency to leave out Latin words, and to add words that are not in the Latin texts, where such changes are not necessary. Cf. epist. 1.20.6: tibi (164f.), epist. 1.20.20-23: patre, maiores nido, belli … domique, and und erklären kannst (168) and epist. 1.14.31: “und erfahre” (153).12

There are only a few typographical errors,13 but the author has the odd habit of starting sentences with “kommt hinzu, dass”. 14

Scheidegger Lämmle’s argument proves his claim: all his authors are very much aware of the fact that their works will be read by interested readers who may well have different expectations of these works. These authors also try to influence the reception of their work. I would say, however, that in general we were aware of these facts. In his summary (249-257), Scheidegger Lämmle declares Martus’ “Werkpolitik” the hallmark of Roman literature from Cicero to Ovid. A far-reaching claim like this would need more detailed research and comparison with other periods of literary history.


1.   S. Martus: Werkpolitik. Zur Literaturgeschichte kritischer Kommunikation vom 17. bis ins 20. Jahrhundert mit Studien zu Klopstock, Tieck, Goethe und George, Berlin 2007.
2.   Scheidegger Lämmle could have availed himself of S. Koster: ILLE EGO QUI oder ARMA VIRUM? in: S. Koster (ed.): Ille Ego Qui. Dichter zwischen Wort und Macht, Erlangen 1988, 31-47.
3.   And he fails to discuss secondary literature that argues differently. Suffice it to mention the “Konstanzer Schule” and the questions surrounding the poetics of authorship. Cf. the pertinent entries in A. Nünning (Ed.): Metzler Lexikon Literatur- und Kulturtheorie, Stuttgart 52013.
4.   The “self-deprecating humor” (cf. R. M. Rosen: Poetry and Sailing in Hesiod’s Works and Days, in: ClAnt 9.1, 1990, 107) of this structurally and rhetorically important verse and the preceding lines serves more purposes than just to build a bridge into Hesiod’s earlier work and to claim the authorship of both. Among other things, this verse probably intends to distinguish between Hesiod and Homer and their works. Cf. M. S. Marsilio: Farming and Poetry in Hesiod’s Works and Days, Lanham 2000, 83, n. 175. We need more detailed discussion of the author’s autobiographical claims, his intentions with both the Theogony and the Erga, and also his intertextual goals.
5.   Cf. K. Pollmann: Alium sub meo nomine: Augustine between His Own Self-Fashioning and His Later Reception, in: ZAC 14, 2011, 409-424, here: 414.
6.   Cf. C. Tornau: Medium und Text. Buch, Buchproduktion und Buchkomposition bei Augustinus, in: P. Gemeinhardt, S. Günter (edd.): Von Rom nach Bagdad. Bildung und Religion von der römischen Kauserzeit bis zum klassischen Islam, Tübingen 2013, 189-218, esp. 191f. and V. H. Drecoll: Etiam posteris aliquid profuturum. Zur Selbststilisierung bei Augustin und der Beeinflussung der eigenen Wirkungsgeschichte durch Bücher und Bibliothek, in: REAug 47, 2001, 313-335, esp. 330-334.
7.   Cf. already R. J. Ball: Tibullus 2.5 and Vergil’s Aeneid, in: Vergilius 21, 1975, 33-50 or J. H. Gaisser: Tibullus 2.3 and Vergil’s Tenth Eclogue, in: TAPhA 107, 1977, 131-146.
8.   Cf., e.g., B. L. Wickkiser: Famous Last Words: Putting Ovid’s Sphragis Back into the Metamorphoses, in: MD 42, 1999, 113-142; S. Papaioannou: Epic Succession and Dissension: Ovid, Metamorphoses 13.623-14.582, and the Reinvention of the Aeneid. Berlin/New York 2005, and S. Papaioannou: Redesigning Achilles: The ‘Recycling’ of the Epic Cycle in Ovid, Metamorphoses 12.1-13.620. Berlin 2007. Scheidegger Lämmle mentions Horace’s ode 3.30 on page 136, but misses the opportunity to bring the intertextual relationship to fruition on page 214.
9.   Cf., e.g., U. Eigler: Urbanität und Ländlichkeit als Thema und Problem der augusteischen Literatur, in: Hermes 130, 2002, 288-298 or S. Papaioannou: Embracing Vergil’s Arcadia, in: AAntHung 53, 2013, 145-170.
10.   The translation of “ampullari” (156: Hor. epist. 1.3.14) that Scheidegger Lämmle chooses (“Pathos versprühen”) is less than congenial to Horace’s calque from Greek: F. X. Burger in the ThlL and the respective lemma in LSJ’s lexicon leave no doubt that the word has nothing to do with flacons. Scheidegger Lämmle’s translation for “auspice Musa in verse 13 of the same passage is infelicitous. Making the reader think that Philodemus (4 Sider) talks about the “book of life” out of which “pages” can be ripped (154f.) is confusing, because Scheidegger Lämmle then continues to talk about papyri.
11.   These attributes belong to Camena which can be translated metonymically just like venus in epist. 2.2.56, which is spelled with a capital first letter in Shackleton Bailey’s edition. “Purgatus” in 1.1.7 can retain its colloquial tone as well as indicate the intertextual allusions (cf. R. Mayer: Horace. Epistles. Book I. Cambridge 1994, 89) if translated literally.
12.   There is no personal pronoun in direct proximity to the triple “quem” in epist. 1.14.31ff.(153). Scheidegger Lämmle’s colloquial “eingehämmert” seems to stem from R. Mayer’s commentary (cf. above n. 11, 210) but it simplifies Horace’s playfully cryptic language and withholds this specific quality from the reader who cannot read the original. Likewise it is problematic to change the genus verbi in epist. 1.3.15 and then to use the original passive voice of “monitus” and “monendus” in the discussion (157).
13.  Sillyboi” on page 67 should be rendered in Greek as well as “kat’exochen” on page 139, unless Scheidegger Lämmle would prefer the German loanword: “katexochen”. There is a superfluous “n” in “poetologischen” on page 127. “Zucken” is misspelled on p. 156. “Quodam on p. 249 should be corrected to “quondam”. O’Rourke’s article on p. 284 runs from 457 to 497.
14.   Cf., e.g., 125 n.10, 142, and 160. On p. 137 Scheidegger Lämmle even uses this phrase to translate denique and thus loses the notion that the list comes to a close.

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