BMCR 2001.01.10

Traditio Latinitatis. Studien zur Rezeption und Überlieferung der lateinischen Literatur (edd. Joachim Fugmann, Martin Hose, and Bernhard Zimmermann)

, Augustus-Vater der res publica : zur Funktion der drei Begriffe restitutio-saeculum-pater patriae im augusteischen Principat. Stuttgart: Steiner, 2000. 320 pages ; 24 cm. ISBN 3515076964 DM/sFr 188.

Peter Lebrecht Schmidt (hereafter S.) is perhaps best known to classicists as general editor of the new edition of Lateinische Literatur der Antike in the series “Handbuch der Altertumswissenschaft,” of which vols.4 and 5 have so far appeared, but his work ranges much more widely, as this volume shows. Under review is a collection of selected essays prepared on the occasion of S.’s retirement from full-time teaching. It unites papers spanning more than 30 years and scattered among books and journals produced in various countries; hence it is helpful to have them collected and reprinted.

The editors have, as the title shows, selected their materials with an eye on two main themes, the reception and transmission of Latin literature. However, the division in the table of contents is tripartite: (1) textual criticism and the history of transmission; (2) history of reception; (3) Medieval and Neolatin. There is thus a crossing of two classifications, (1) and (2) being by subject matter, (3) by period, and even the boundaries between these categories are fluid; thus no.10 (“Zeugnisse antiker Autoren zu Ciceros Werk De legibus“) could have fallen under either textual history or reception (more easily the former in view of the detailed discussion of variant readings), and the papers on Petrarch’s relation to Cicero, Livy, and Horace (nos.18-20) could have gone under the history of reception. The table of contents somewhat conceals S.’s interest in Latin of the later Empire (nos. 4-6), which has no separate rubric, and gives prominence to Medieval Latin, represented by only one paper (no.16; however, no.9, though placed under “Rezeptionsgeschichte,” is mostly medieval in content). But so many overlappings made it exceptionally difficult to divide the material clearly. It is regrettable, however, that the editors found it necessary for reasons of space (p.8) to omit S.’s well thought out papers on the history of modern Latin studies.1 The papers are reprinted with cross-references added to this volume but are not otherwise updated; typos are few, the typography and layout clear. The volume concludes with a list of all S.’s publications, with the ones included in this volume in boldface; it would have been helpful if the date of publication had been indicated at the beginning of each reprinted paper in order to save the reader time in searching through the Schriftenverzeichnis. There is, unfortunately, no index. Limitations of space force me to be selective in discussing the contents.

A “Vorwort” of two pages explains the origin of the volume and gives a thumbnail sketch of S.’s career and conception of Latin studies. S. has taught (and continues teaching on a volunteer basis) for more than 30 years at the University of Constance, and the venue has influenced him in various ways; for instance, his 1968 book on Julius Obsequens resulted from the presence in Constance of the rare 1508 Aldine edition, which, in the absence of the base manuscript, is the only surviving source of the text. The editors of this volume are keen to find in S. a synthesis of philologist and Literaturwissenschaftler and see, for instance, his Habilitationsschrift as uniting both perspectives. In fact, the nature and significance of his early work on Cicero is underappreciated here. The 1959 dissertation, Interpretatorische und chronologische Grundfragen zu Ciceros Werk De legibus is a remarkably mature work of scholarship2 and is still mostly unsuperseded; this was condensed into the 1969 book Die Abfassungszeit von Ciceros Schrift über die Gesetze, which, while settling once and for all the date of composition, is too radically shortened, omitting much of the detailed interpretation. S. continued his studies of this text with a penetrating analysis of the indirect tradition (paper no.10 in this volume) and then followed up with a typically thorough and definitive analysis of the manuscript tradition (including modern editions), namely the 1974 Habilitationsschrift Die Überlieferung von Ciceros Schrift ‘De legibus’ in Mittelalter und Renaissance. The three works on De legibus form a unity, a project that was meant to issue in a new edition of the text.3 There can be no question of the 1974 book combining philology and Literaturwissenschaft : it is pure philology, and the view of textual tradition developed there controls S.’s subsequent work on the subject with remarkable consistency.

An instance of this is the first paper of the collection, “Lachmann’s Method: the History of a Misunderstanding.” In his work on De legibus, Schmidt had observed several editorial methods in the mid- to later nineteenth century, one influenced by Madvig, which attempts to classify manuscripts by families, the other influenced by Lachmann’s practice of settling quickly on a “best manuscript” and taking that as the basis of the edition. In this paper he finds this dichotomy running through a number of editions of that era. Timpanaro had already set Lachmann into the context of several contemporaries (Ritschl, Madvig, Bernays) working toward the stemmatic method.4 Schmidt goes further, showing that “Lachmann’s method” is, in view of Lachmann’s practice, a misnomer, first applied, apparently, to the stemmatic method by its opponent J. Bédier in 1913 (p.18).

Given his experience with the tradition of Leg., it fell to S. to discuss “the most complicated transmission of all ancient authors,”5 namely that of Ausonius, for vol.5 of the Handbuch der lateinischen Literatur. The insight into the differences between Late Antique and Medieval transmission thus gained was decisive in enabling S. to sketch a more realistic picture, as compared with J.B. Hall, of the transmission of Claudian’s Carmina minora, with interpolation and contamination becoming a major factor only in the eleventh to thirteenth centuries (no.4, esp. p.57). A complementary study (no.5) tests the hypothesis that the transmission may shed light on problems of authenticity among the poems of the appendix of Claudian’s corpus and concludes that a combination of internal and external criteria is needed (p.71). Another collection of Late Antique poetry, the Romulea of Dracontius, presents a curious case of transmission: it survives in a single Neapolitan ms. (Neap. IV E 48) copied ca. 1500 from an original in precarolingian minuscule (seventh-eighth centuries) but it received its complete editio princeps only in 1871. Here S.’s careful reconstruction of the archetype leads to inferences about the origin of the collection (no.6, esp. p.82), textual history thus contributing to literary history.

Classical scholars have traditionally investigated the history of texts for editorial purposes; a collateral interest in the reception of classical texts in later epochs was first cultivated by scholars of comparative literature (cf. p.86). Given his precise studies of textual traditions, S. was well placed to take the step from history to reception of texts, especially when the latter had been given a new theoretical foundation by his Constance colleague H.R. Jauss, who made the recipient an active partner in the process rather than a merely passive acceptor of tradition.6 In a series of papers S. has combined textual history and history of reception very skillfully. The chief of these is no.15, a detailed study of the transmission and reception of Seneca’s tragedies to the end of the thirteenth century, which is required reading for any advanced student of this corpus. A special problem of great interest within the history of reception is the formation of canons of authors; S.’s examination of a dozen lists of select authors (no.9) sheds bright light on reading habits from Late Antiquity to the twelfth century. Both here and in the paper on Johannes Vallensis (no.16) a clear distinction emerges between the approaches to ancient authors of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, the former looking for exempla of general applicability, the latter seeking to construct a coherent biography of the individual (e.g. Cicero). The humanist reception of classical texts is strikingly exemplified by Petrarch, to whom six papers are devoted in whole or in part (nos.11, 12, 17-20); another group clusters around the seventeenth century German Jesuit Neolatin poet Jakob Balde (nos. 22-24). S. draws the summa from this line of research in the masterly paper “Rezeptionsgeschichte und Überlieferungsgeschichte der klassischen lateinischen Literatur” (no.7).

For non-German readers, a word of explanation about S.’s conception of Latin studies: He is one of the leaders of a movement currently active in Germany that aims, in light of the decline of the humanistic Gymnasium, to make Latin studies less exclusively a partner of Greek and to broaden the scope so as to encompass late antique, medieval, and Neolatin texts. S. and others see this as an opportunity to free Latin to play a role in the humanities, as a partner not only of Greek but also of disciplines dealing with the Middle Ages and Renaissance (cf. no.17 of this vol.: “Die Humanistenzeit in der Schullektüre am Beispiel von Petrarca”). To the outside observer this program seems likely to effect a more thorough integration of Latin studies into German universities, the Philosophical Faculties of which tend to be dominated by scholars of history and/or modern literatures; whether it will also inspire students to choose to study or continue to study Latin may depend, however, on the teaching ability of its apostles. The study of neglected texts is good per se; insofar as it may instill freshness and vigor in the teaching of Latin it is a strategy well worth considering; it may not, however, be a panacea for the problems of classical education in Germany or elsewhere.

This volume, then, gives a good picture of S.’s work; characteristic is the precise study, well supported by palaeographical, codicological, and historical knowledge, of the transmission of Latin texts, with the study of transmission sometimes serving as a base for forays into the history of reception. The editors deserve gratitude for making this important set of papers more readily accessible. In several places S. laments the decline in Germany of studies of palaeography and textual history in the tradition of Ludwig Traube (p.91; loc. cit., n.1, p.501); one wishes this volume a lively reception that may alter that trend.


1. These have now been increased by the paper “Ludwig Traube als Latinist” in Wilamowitz in Greifswald, ed. W.M. Calder III et al., Spudasmata 81 (Hildesheim, 2000), 491-503, which appeared too late for inclusion in the bibliography.

2. In this early work the handling of Greek sources is sometimes less assured, and there is on occasion a too schematic dichotomy of “Greek” and “Roman”; see my commentary (forthcoming) on 1.23 and 36; but these are minor defects in a dissertation that is both important and neglected.

3. Cf. M. Tullius Cicero, De Legibus, ed. K. Ziegler, 3rd ed. rev. W. Görler (Freiburg/Würzburg, 1979), 115.

4. S. Timpanaro, La genesi del metodo del Lachmann, 2nd ed. (Padua, 1981), ch.5.

5. Characterization by G. Jachmann, Ausgewählte Schriften, ed. Ch. Gnilka (Königstein/Ts., 1981), 526, n. 42 (orig. 1941: “die verwickeltste [sc. Überlieferung] aller antiken Autoren”).

6. Cf. esp. the seminal Literaturgeschichte als Provokation der Literaturwissenschaft (Constance, 1967).