BMCR 2000.03.19

Lucio Anneo Seneca: I Frammenti

, Lucio Anneo Seneca: I Frammenti. Bologna: Patron, 1998. 534. L. 60,000.

Over the past 25 years interest in Seneca Tragicus has risen enormously in the United States (as elsewhere), heralded by the appearance in 1976 of R.J. Tarrant’s edition with commentary of Seneca, Agamemnon. 1 The rise in popularity, however, has not meant a concomitant rise in the attention given to the prose works here in the Colonies, and Seneca Philosophus remains neglected for the most part; the lack of critical and exegetical English commentaries for the prose works is a manifestation of the problem. Scholars from both parties — both the many and the few — should, however, note the appearance of this important addition to the field.

Vottero’s (hereafter V.) contribution to Senecan scholarship is notable (see his work on the Naturales Quaestiones),2 but the present volume will certainly be viewed as his most valuable accomplishment to date. It fills one of the longest-standing gaps in Neronian scholarship; no longer will Senecan scholars have to resort to their long-outdated and probably decaying standard edition by Haase (hereafter H.), who published the fragments of Seneca’s lost works at the end of the third volume of his 1853 L. Annaei Senecae opera quae supersunt (pp. 418-445; repr. 1886, 1902). V.’s edition brings the texts up to date (for instance, the text of F1 H. [= T1 V.] has been improved substantially in 10 places) and adds introduction and commentary (both lacking in H.), compiling and thankfully distilling the ever-growing body of research on the fragments over the intervening 145 years, which owes most to Bickel3 and Lausberg,4 both of whose plans for a new critical edition never came to pass. The volume also corrects H.’s occasional sloppiness which has led the uncritical to error: e.g., fragment 109 H. ‘Seneca in X epistularum ad Novatum viginti quattuor sestertia, id est talentum Atticum parvum’ is from Seneca the elder, Controversiae X, not the younger (even Lana, 157, goes astray); Seneca did not write a De Amicitia, but omodo itia continenda sit (correct Motto-Clark, “Seneca on Friendship” Atene e Roma [1993] 91-98). In short V.’s edition is now standard.

The volume is divided into three parts: 1) Introductory discussion in 21 sections, dealing with Seneca’s lost works both in general and in specifics as well as a review of past editions of these works (pp. 7-107); 2) the Fragments and Testimonia, carefully distinguished, with facing Italian translation (pp. 112-216); and 3) Exegetical Commentary (pp. 219-358). V. beneficially adds extensive bibliography (pp. 361-384); indices nominum, verborum, fontium, auctorum antiquorum recentiumque (pp. 385-519); and two concordances for the respective editions of fragments, keyed once to H., once to V. (pp. 525-534). All of these tools will allow the occasional user effortless reference to both fragment and scholarship.

The organization of the edition may cause some annoyance in at least one respect, as the discussion of the lost works are in the introduction and not in the commentary. The volume would have been better served if the introductory remarks on each work or genre preceded the commentary so that the user does not need to flip back and forth between discussion of the language of the fragment found in the commentary and the general remarks in the introduction. Overall, however, the introductory remarks are well done; in each case V. discusses what we know about, or what we can infer from, each lost work, and he reviews the problems and scholarship surrounding the fragments and defends the omission and inclusion of certain fragments into his edition. The introduction for each section is brief but not negligent, well-annotated and informative. The notes in the commentary are instructive though occasionally prolix.

I question V.’s omission of certain fragments found in Haase. He omits the testimony of, and fragment from, Seneca’s 22nd book of Epistulae Morales found at Gellius 12. 2.2-13 (frr. 110-115 H.). While his defense (p. 9) is justified — it is edited at the end of the critical editions of the letters — it still falls under the purview of an edition of fragments, and it deserves both comment and exegesis, which it does not receive in the other editions. The same is true for the fragments of the lost books of De Clementia. I list some further issues, mostly minutiae: 1) under Section IV (‘Lettere’ p. 14) there should be some notice of Seneca’s letter to Marullus indicated at Ep. 99.1 and why it is omitted in the present volume, presumably because Seneca himself gives the bulk of its text in the letter (cf. Lausberg [1989] p. 1954); 2) for the attribution of Seneca’s name to the so-called ‘Senecan Epigrams’ one may now add Michael Armstrong, Hope the Deceiver, Spudasmata Band 80 (Hildesheim 1998) pp. 10-30; 3) V.’s authority for the dates of Seneca’s Dialogi is Lana (e.g., pp. 31 n. 133; 36 n. 164; 46 n. 121-22), where one should prefer Giancotti, Cronologia dei “Dialoghi” di Seneca (Turin 1957); 4) The introductory comments on amicitia (pp. 37-41) should include Seneca’s discussion of the topic at De Tranquillitate Animi 7.3-7.6, and one might note the appearance in 1997 of Greco-Roman Perspectives on Friendship, ed. John Fitzgerald (Atlanta); 5) The discussion of Seneca’s attitude towards the Jews (p. 51; cf. 314-316) should include the opinion of his fellow Stoic Persius at 5. 179-87 with Kissel ad loc.; 6) The commentary to F 60 n. 31 should include a reference to fuco quodam at De Tranquillitate Animi 1.3 with Schiroli ad loc.; and 7) I did note one misprint in an otherwise carefully edited book: on p. 39 n.179 ‘Moreschini (1980’ read ‘Moreschini (1977’.

The thoroughness of the volume is occasionally overwhelming, and to be sure some critics will wonder why a new edition so often restates what has been said elsewhere where a simple reference will do. But in a reference tool (which this is sure to be) too much is certainly more desirable than too little, and all should appreciate the diligence V. has shown in compiling this volume. The edition is a must for any library, and at L 60,000 it is possible for scholars who work on Seneca, Cicero, Panaetius, Jerome, Lactantius, Augustine, Roman Geography, Natural Science, or Religion-Superstition in Antiquity to afford their own copy.


1. See W. M. Calder III, “The Rediscovery of Seneca Tragicus at the End of the XXth Century” in Imperium Romanum (Stuttgart 1998) 73-82 and the bibliography by B. Seidensticker and M. Armstrong, “Seneca tragicus 1878-1978 (with Addenda 1979 ff.),” ANRW II.32.2 (1985) 916-968.

2. “Note sulla lingua e lo stile delle ‘Naturales quaestiones’ di Seneca” in Atti della Accademia della Scienze di Torino. Classe di Scienze Morali, Storiche e Filologiche 119 (1985) 61-86, and Questioni naturali di Lucio Anneo Seneca, a cura di Dionigi Vottero (Milano 1990).

3. Diatribe in Senecae philosophi fragmenta, vol. 1 Fragmenta de Matrimonio (Leipzig 1915).

4. Untersuchungen zu Senecas Fragmenten (Berlin 1970) and “Senecae operum fragmenta: Überblick und Forschungsbericht,” ANRW II.36.3 (1989) 1879-1961.