BMCR 1994.02.12


, , The civil war books I & II. Classical texts. London: Aris & Phillips, [1991?]. vii, 242 pages ; 21 cm.. ISBN 9780856684616

Carter’s new text of the first two books of Caesar’s BC (Caesar’s narrative of his first year in civil war) is a welcome addition to the Caesarian bibliography. 1 Offering forty pages of introduction to many aspects of the BC, a facing English translation and nearly one hundred pages of notes with three simple maps, the volume will find its most advantageous use in the undergraduate classroom. Its contribution touches scholarly pursuits as well.

The volume’s introduction covers thirty-nine pages in which C. treats historical background (pp. 1-16) under the headings “The Character of Late Republican Politics and the Antecedents of the War”, “The Dispute over Caesar’s Tenure of Gaul”, and “Pompey’s Strategy in Italy”. His treatment is notably brief, but sound. By sketching the Republican historical backdrop up through the Triumvirate and 59, C. concedes fuller treatment to other writers. Reserving thereby somewhat more time and space for fuller treatment in the commentary, C.’s introductory narrative moves quickly but effectively. The historical introduction—with a comprehensive table of dates for BC I-II, essentially a condensation of Von Fritz’, and four pages of bibliography—gives the first-time reader of the BC enough background to initiate an investigation of Caesar’s work and will propel him well into profitable study of the text.

The second half of the introduction treats the BC‘s “Composition and Purpose”, “Literary Style and Character”, Caesar’s “Narrative Technique”, and “The Text”. There is room for contention in the section on “Composition and Purpose” of the BC (p. 17), for which C. posits publication after the Ides of March 44. His discussion of the date of the BC is based upon the theoretical model of Barwick and Klotz, which provides for incomplete composition and posthumous publication. C.’s bibliography includes Collins’ article ( AJP 1959—he omits altogether Collins’ significant contribution in ANRW 1.1, 1972), which argued for separate dates of composition and publication; C. misses, however, a (perhaps contemporaneous) reference to Boatwright, who has given the issue a fresh face more recently ( CJ 1988). Boatwright promotes a model, new but parallel to Collins’, for early composition and late publication. I assert, contrarily, that the theory of late publication of an earlier composition diminishes the essential purpose of the BC, which is the presentation of Caesar as a clement, responsible participant in an entirely undesirable situation. Curtailment of the dissemination of this account would have defeated the very reason for the composition. It is reasonable to suppose that Caesar would have wished to capitalize on his victory and that he took the same measures to provide for the publication of this work as he did for his other commentarii. As far as C. is concerned, however, I admit that my disagreement lies more in a conflict with the communis opinio than with C.’s presentation of it. And it may fairly be said that undergraduates, in whose hands this volume will most frequently be found, have in C. a reliable guide to standard questions and answers on issues of Caesar’s compositional techniques and the literary tradition of his work.

C.’s prose translation, which faces the Latin original, flows smoothly enough and faithfully reproduces Caesar’s words in the English idiom. For instance, the impersonal passive of vario certamine pugnatum est is nicely rendered with “the fortune of the battle was varied” (1.46.4); vulnerantur amplius DC becomes English with “the wounded numbered more than 600” (ibid.); oppidani in the siege of Massilia are called, logically, “defenders” (2.11.1). C.’s directness qualifies his translation as Caesarian in style. And yet, there is the troubling question of pedagogical method. I expect that the students for whom this text is intended would still be learning Latin at the time that they use it, and therefore ought to read the text in Latin. Those instructors to whom emphasizing Caesar’s latinitas is less important or whose students have the self-discipline to read a Latin text when given a pony will find my concerns moot.

The interest C.’s text provides for scholars involves a discussion of textual matters which occupies only three pages in the commentary (28-30), but becomes one of the volume’s key attractions. Indeed, C.’s labor in the recension of the BC makes this book valuable for serious students of Caesar for the problems with current editions are notorious. 2

C. provides a conventional description of MSS and a conspectus siglorum which agrees with that established by Klotz and refined more recently by Hering and Brown. C. largely relies upon the previous work of the latter. He has not collated the MSS—a project well outside the scope of his publication—so he relies upon the (imperfect) apparatus criticus of Fabré. Until such time as a new critical edition appears (one has been promised for some time) 3, it is good that the text of the BC 1 and 2 has found C.’s careful hand. He decides to print his own text, and offers eleven readings “believed new”, which he lists in the introduction (p. 29). A brief assessment of C.’s new readings follows here:

I.15.6, C.: ‘cum his ad Domitium Corfinium magnis itineribus pervenit.’ The apparatus criticus reads: “Ahenobarbum post Domitium habent v, delevi (v. nn.).”—In the commentary, C. notes that here alone in the text of the BC the MSS give the cognomen for Domitius; C. sees no apparent reason for Caesar to abandon practice and give Domitius’ augmented name, which he does not even do at 2.3.2 “where others have their cognomina.” C. supposes that here the cognomen is a surreptitious invasion of a marginal note. However, in other sentences of the same chapter, Caesar refers to Lentulus Spinther (called Lentulus in 16.1), Vibullius Rufus (called Vibullius in next sentence), and Lucilius Hirrus, using in each instance the subject’s nomen and cognomen. This encourages in this instance another conclusion: that though it is remarkable that, aside from I.15, Caesar seems reluctant to use the cognomen of Domitius, all names in the chapter include cognomen when first stated. C. should look elsewhere than to emendation of text.

I.24.3, C.: ‘L. Manlius Alba cum cohortibus sex profugit.’ Apparatus criticus: “Manlius UTV: Manilius m:: Mallius S | praetor T: praeter SUV: pt m: delevi.“—This seems a very safe emendation, especially following Shackleton Bailey at Att. 161 B (8.11B)1 n., to which C.’s commentary refers. 4 But the suggestion that a copyist anticipated praetor in the next line seems to be not C.’s, but Shackleton Bailey’s conjecture. The apparatus therefore might represent the issue more clearly if it read “delevit Shackleton Bailey” with reference to his Cambridge commentary on the letters to Atticus.

I.30.2, C.: Valerium legatum’… Apparatus criticus: “Q. addidi.“—”Although Caesar will sometimes refer to his enemies or to prominent persons when he first introduces them, by a single bald name, it is his practice to give lesser persons, and his own subordinates, the dignity of something more” (C. ad loc). C. believes that some copyist may have misread Q. for -que and thrown it out as nonsensical. However, in the very next phrase no praenomen is proposed for Curio. C. may be closer to Caesar’s text with his next emendation.—1.30.2 Tubero ]—though his explanation through scribal confusion over “similarity of shape to the preceding E”—is not compelling.

I.44.2, C.: ‘Cum Lusitanis reliquisque barbaris dimicare barbaro genere quodam pugnae assuefacti.’ Apparatus criticus: “dimicare barbaro addidi : barbaris genere quodam v; barbaris quodam genere Kramer: barbaris genere quodam Novák; (cf. II.38.4) quadam barbara consuetudine.”—Although C. is right that assuefactus is typically accompanied by an objective infinitive clause (v. Kühner-Stegman §687.1), nevertheless he ought to give parallels or at least refer to suitable grammars. Further, he ought to suggest a reason for printing dimicare over decertare, his other suggested reading. The least approval one can give this reading is that it does not involve prosopography, and that it results in a much more appealing reading than either Klotz’ or DuPontet’s. The latter proposed a lacuna between barbaris and genere. Klotz printed Novak’s cum Lusitanis reliquisque barbaris quodam genere pugnae adsuefacti.

I.51.2-3, C.: ‘erant complures honesti adulescentes.’ Apparatus criticus: [under 51.2] “post erant add. praeterea v, transposui (v. seqq.) …[under 51.3] praeterea transposui ex superiore loco.“—Perhaps it is true that C.’s “transposition … restores sense” (C. ad loc.), but is it not deceptive to call this a scribal addition of v? The supposition, that not Caesar but some scribe wrote praeterea in the second sentence, seems almost Bentleian. It may be true that the distributive conjunction ( cuiusque) conjoins adequately (sc. without relying upon praetera) the second sentence to the preceding, and that the third sentence ( erant complures honesti etc.) stands in greater need of conjunction. However, in this instance, the third sentence is itself a stark example of asyndeton. There seems to be no need to revise Caesar’s text by transplanting a conjunctive adverb from the spot where its roots were fixed. And the text of v ought to stand.

I.63.3, C.: ‘et magna multitudine circumfusi morari.’ Apparatus criticus: “circumfusi scripsi : circumfusa v.”—C.’s translation yields “swarming around in great strength” treating the voice of the participle as a middle. C. does this time give a parallel for the “perfectly well-attested middle meaning [of circumfundi ] (cf. 67.3).” However, the “natural meaning” for the ablative absolute (i.e. the reading of v) is not “Caesar’s cavalry were themselves surrounded by great numbers”. C. should beware of 3.63.6, the usage of circumfundo in the indicative supports the MSS at 1.63.3: magna multitudo sagittariorum ab utraque parte circumfundebatur; (cf. BG 7.74.1 munitiones … perfecit, ut ne magna quidem multitudine … minitionum praesidia circumfundi possent).

I.80.4, C.: ‘pabulatores revocari iubet.’ Apparatus criticus: “post pabulatores equitesque (-que om. M) v, delevi.“—C.’s reasoning, that equites is a gloss on pabulatores which has been absorbed from the margin into the text seems sound. Indeed M (Laur. 68.8), which has equites but lacks -que, is universally considered “on the whole the best MS.” But, the presence of both nouns forces equites to be read as an appositive. C.’s deletion of the unnecessary noun enhances smoothness.

II.5.3, C.: ‘cum liberis atque uxoribus custodiisque publicis.’ Apparatus criticus: “publicis custodibusque (-quae SV) v, transposui.“—The text at this point has perplexed most editors: DuPontet resorted to obelization; Buecheler emended the third noun, added another, transposed the order and printed thus custodibusque publicis locis. Fabré, Klotz, and Kraner-Hoffman-Meusel all print variously augmented readings, the latter supplying a dozen parallel usages of custodiae (“Wachplätzen”) in Cicero for support. C.’s reading, unlike others, makes sense of the passage by adding no new words to the text, is smoothest by far.

II.6.3, C.: ‘neque vero coniunctis Albici comminus pugnando deficiebant.’ Apparatus criticus: “coniuncti Albicis v, correxi : coniunctis Albicis Stephanus: coniuncti Albici Heller.”—Understanding navibus in the emended sentence as the subject in an ablative absolute, to correspond to diductis nostris … navibus of the preceding sentence, C. translates thus: “And when the ships did lie together, the Albici…” The emendation takes advantage of Heller’s attractive reading, but will only improve upon Heller if Caesar can be shown to truncate his participial clauses in similar fashion elsewhere. It seems somewhat unnatural for Caesar to write an ablative absolute with an inferred subject. In fact, I can find no syntactic parallel in the text of the BC and must conclude that C.’s emendation is not tenable.

II.9.5, C.: ‘storias autem ex funibus ancorariis in longitudinem parietum … fecerunt.’ Apparatus criticus: “ancorariis III in v, correxi.“—Kraner-Hofman-Meusel make sense of this by commenting: “III=tres in longitudinem parietum=ad long. p. entsprechend der Länge: jede der drei Decken war also 30 Fuss lang, so lang die Mauer war, und hing 4 Fuss herab.” C., on the other hand, considers such defense inadequate and the text unsound. C.’s explanation of the textual corruption—that through scribal reduplication of -iis from the preceding word an original numeral such as XXI may have crept out of the text—seems attractive because of its simplicity.

Beyond these eleven independent conjectures, C.’s text presents a worthwhile evaluation of the textual scholarship on the BC. 5 The appearance of a new Caesar text in the English-speaking world calls to mind not only the long anticipation of a new critical edition, but the disappointing obsolescence of the standard texts. The Teubner is quirky; the OCT has long been in need of a complete overhaul. And whereas C. does not presume to offer that overhaul, his edition reminds us how long overdue a new BC is. Hopefully this is a harbinger.

C.’s commentary contains notes keyed not to the text but to the English translation, a course that is not entirely satisfactory. Thus, on I.3.5 terrentur infirmiores, dubii confirmantur, the translation approximates the English idiom by using the active voice for each verb. In the commentary, one finds the note for this passage under the English “frightened the less resolute and emboldened the hesitant.” The commentary, ad loc, is somewhat uninspired and bland: “The ‘less resolute’ are those against war, ‘the hesitant’ Pompey’s followers.” Generally students get better help from C.’s notes. But, seldom do a note’s contents engage the Latin text, in order to elucidate grammar or otherwise. At the note on II.26.1 it is explained that the term res gestae—translated by C. as “exploits” in this context—may either imply “noteworthiness and often a very great deal more” or impart the more pedestrian meaning of “things done.” C. supplies this information to support his observation of sarcasm in Caesar’ s tone. Regretably, such reference to the words of the original text is in C.’s commentary much more often the exception than the rule.

Central to most discussions of BC is an evaluation of Caesarian mendacity. Criticism has ranged from Rambaud’s attacks on Caesar’s “déformation” to Raaflaub’s statement of what he calls the “verblüffende Offenheit” of the work. C., according to the back-cover blurb, strives “to elucidate not only matters directly referred to in the text, but the whole context of their presentation.” Indeed, in the course of his commentary C. demonstrates many points of contention in Caesar’s text. However, the analysis of such passages usually fails to meet the expectation the blurb creates. The sketch provided in the introduction and the numerous observations scattered throughout the commentary are useful, to be sure; but, ultimately, a more sustained discussion of Caesar’s virtuosity as narrator is called for.

In the writing of his notes, C. tends too much toward brevity to represent the “whole context of presentation” for most matters. In a series of notes on II.4.3-5.2 C. comments effectively, though very sparingly on Caesar’s use of dramatic structures in the account of the second naval battle at Massilia. In 5.3-5 Caesar masterfully retards the narrative so as to heighten the pathos of the moment before the battle. Momentarily Caesar diverts the reader’s attention away from the front lines and into the heart of Massilia. From Trebonius’ battlements the very young, the infirm, the women and children of town may be seen pleading with heaven, entering the divine precincts of the city, and falling prostrate before the gods’ images in hopes of effecting a victorious outcome in the ensuing battle. This teichoscopeia effectively sets the dramatic mood by retarding the narrative. C. rightly alludes to Caesar’s deft use of pathetic detail. He calls this “an effective literary device”, but gives no other substantiation of its effect than a reference to the (for C. himself) “obvious parallel” at Thucydides 7.71, the indirect narration of the Athenian defeat at Syracuse. 6 Though there is a difference in narrative techniques in question—Caesar narrates the prelude to the battle, whereas Thucydides narrates the battle itself through the eyes of the Athenian troops—C.’s note ought to be appreciated by students. Given more space he might have included references to similar passages in the Caesarian corpus, such as BG 1.39.4 or, in a broader intervention, BC 3.83. However, C.’s observation on Caesar’s editorial injection of pathos will likely be sufficient for most undergraduate readers of the commentary; again, advanced readers and scholars of Caesar will find less utility here.

Physically, the book is well made—stitched signatures, heavy paper—as is customary of this series, so that it may long outlast the next printings of DuPontet’s OCT and Klotz’ Teubner. One hopes that C. will apply himself soon to the maius opus of Caesar’s third Book.

  • [1] Klotz’ division of the whole into two books is not followed. [2] The standard text of the BC, Klotz’ Teubner ed. 2 of 1969, is troubled, “marked by a remarkable indifference to what the manuscripts actually read” (M. Winterbottom in L. D. Reynolds, Texts and Transmission [Oxford 1983] 35, n. 1). [3] Aware of the shortcomings of Fabré’s text, C. looks ahead with warranted anticipation to Brown’s forthcoming edition. C.’s voice joins a chorus that has grown steadily since Brown published the preliminaries of her text in 1972. [4] Cf. MRR III.136, s.v. L. Manlius L. f. L. n. Torquatus Pat. [5] Incidentally, at II.29.3 C. wisely—very wisely—takes “the least unsatisfactory course” (C. ad loc) in printing the text as received. Notably he takes no particular position on the issue of what has happened to the text at this point. He only states three alternate opinions (Fabré, the majority, Klotz) and refers in the apparatus to the textus receptus as “non sanandus“. [6] C. also makes reference to Thucydides’ seventh book in his introductory discussion of the Curio episode. The “crypto-tragedy”, as he calls it, of the African debacle is a fertile ground for analysis of Caesar’s virtuosity. C. calls the Curio narrative a temporary transformation of Caesar’s “chosen style of writing into something much deeper and more satisfying”.