BMCR 2001.03.10

Antike Rhetorik und ihre Rezeption. Symposion zu Ehren von Professor Dr. Carl Joachim Classen D. Litt. Oxon. am 21. und 22. November 1998 in Göttingen

, , Antike Rhetorik und ihre Rezeption : Symposium zu Ehren von Professor Dr. Carl Joachim Classen D. Litt. Oxon. am 21. und 22. November 1998 in Göttingen. Stuttgart: Steiner, 1999. 181 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm. ISBN 3515075240 DM 88.

Carl Joachim Classen is one of the most distinguished German classical scholars alive. In this Festschrift, containing papers given during a conference held at Göttingen University to mark the occasion of his 70th birthday, Classen’s international reputation is demonstrated by an impressive Tabula gratulatoria, while the wide range of his scholarship manifests itself in a no less impressive (and useful) List of Publications at the end of the volume. Between these two lists, there are eight essays by German pupils and Göttingen colleagues, with the exception of Michael Winterbottom of Oxford, where Classen received a doctorate (a fact that is, unnecessarily to my taste, recorded in the subtitle of this book). Fitting one of Classen’s central research interests, all contributions are, in a broad sense, on rhetoric,1 in this case on Roman and later rhetoric, the earliest subject being Cicero, the latest a comic strip from 1972.

Let me start with Winterbottom’s paper, “In Praise of Raphael Regius” (the only one written in English). It deals with a chapter in the history of textual criticism, the contributions to the text of Quintilian’s Institutio by the Italian humanist Raffaele Regio, who lived from about 1440 to 1520 and was active first in Padua, then in Venice; his most famous achievement is his showing that the Rhetorica ad Herennium, or Rhetorica secunda, was not written by Cicero.2 As Regio is not touched upon in several standard treatments,3 the essay is a welcome addition. Winterbottom gives some historical background: he describes Regio’s intense rivalry with another academic, in which scholarly and personal disagreement were combined in a way not unfamiliar to us, and shows that Regio’s commitment to the emendation of ‘depravationes’ in the text of Quintilian apparently springs from his sympathy for the latter’s educational impetus. But the main focus is on Regio’s methods in textual criticism, as expressed in his treatise on the text of Quintilian, the “Problemata” of 1492. Winterbottom is, of course, especially qualified here, as he has himself produced a standard edition of the Institutio.4

It becomes clear that Regio, though typical of his time in his insufficient appreciation of the relationship of manuscripts, had many methodical insights that are still valid and useful for the modern textual critic. For instance, he attaches greater importance to his own judgement (‘ratio’) than to manuscript consensus in order to restore the original wording (a Bentleian view), but at the same time he imposes the restraint on the critic that an emendation should be governed by ‘verborum similitudo’, i.e., the emendation should not deviate too extremely from the word(s) it has replaced; he was aware of the principle that a reading can be confirmed by another passage by the same author; he saw how glosses can corrupt a text. That these are not only theoretical insights is shown by the simple and astonishing fact that 45 per cent of Regio’s emendations are adopted in the text of the OCT. So Winterbottom is surely right that Regio’s “Problemata” (of which there is no modern edition or reprint) are instructive for the textual critic (especially as Regio often gives reasons for his decisions), and so is his essay.5

From a Renaissance scholar’s reading of Quintilian, we move to Cicero’s reading of Greek philosophy. In the famous preface of Tusc. 2, in which he defends the occupation in philosophy, Cicero attributes the practice of pro and con debates on any given subject (‘de omnibus rebus in contrarias partis disserere’) to ‘the Peripatetics and the Academy’ ( Tusc. 2.9). Cicero says that he is fond of the method because it is not only the way to approximate to truth but also an effective rhetorical exercise. Scholars have been puzzled by the reference to the Peripatos, by which Cicero, as becomes clear in the same paragraph, means Aristotle, who, he says, was the first to use the method (‘princeps usus est’). Klaus Nickau in his paper on the problem (“Peripateticorum consuetudo. Zu Cic. Tusc. 2, 9”) convincingly argues that Cicero cannot just be thinking of the delivery of contradictory speeches here (this procedure does not originate with Aristotle, but with the sophists),6 but that something more specific must be meant, viz. the dialectical argumentation theory developed in the Topics and elsewhere. The exercise in this field can be seen as the closest link between rhetoric and philosophy in hellenistic times,7 and this is why Cicero mentions both Aristotle and the Academics.

Additionally, Nickau gives another reason for the reference to Aristotle (and this is the most original part of the paper): he thinks that Cicero wants to draw an indirect parallel between Aristotle and himself: when Cicero mentions that rhetorical and philosophical questions are treated at different times of the day, this is an allusion to the anecdote according to which Aristotle offered courses on rhetoric in the afternoons as an alternative to Isocrates’ instruction. This combination of rhetoric and philosophy is what Aristotle and Cicero have in common, only that the syllabus differs: in the Lyceum, the great philosopher teaches philosophy in the morning and rhetoric in the afternoon, whereas at Tusculum the great orator and rhetorician holds his conversations about philosophy in the afternoon after having discussed rhetoric in the morning. This is surely an attractive idea.

In the last part of his paper, Nickau discusses the question where Cicero got the information about pro and con debates as an Aristotelian heritage: from the exoteric writings, from the esoteric writings, or from indirect tradition? Nickau’s very diplomatic answer is: from all three. This (quite short) paper is well argued, gives interesting references, and it is worth reading. I add two trivia: 1) Nickau might not be cautious enough when he discusses the possibility that Cicero had read Aristotle’s Synagoge technon.8 2) I am not convinced that ‘itaque’ at the beginning of Tusc. 2, 9 expresses the complicated connection with the preceding paragraphs that Nickau tries to elaborate at p. 17; for the less precise use of itaque see Kühner-Stegmann 2, p. 131.

Otta Wenskus reviews instances of rhetoric as a subject of Roman epistolography (“‘Gespräche’ unter Freunden. Rhetorik als Briefthema bei Cicero und Plinius”). Wenskus’ interest here is neither in the letter-writers’ contributions to, or comments on, rhetorical theory, nor in what they say about their own experiences as orators, but in the ‘communicative function’ of the subject. The paper is not very well organized. For instance, the common view that letter-writing is a sort of a conversation and that a letter is ‘one of two parts of a dialogue’ (to use the formulation of Artemon at Demetr. de eloc. 223) is touched upon at the outset, and a bit later Wenskus mentions the interesting letter in which Cicero ( ad Att. 15.1a) speaks of rhetorical subjects and says he will discuss them more thoroughly in a later oral conversation with Atticus, but the relationship between dialogue and correspondence is, despite the title of the paper, not further elaborated.

Another problem is that it is not entirely clear whether Wenskus thinks that there was a change in attitudes towards rhetoric as an epistolographic subject from Cicero’s to Pliny’s time; it is acknowledged that the loss of Ciceronian letters on rhetoric, especially the correspondence with C. Licinius Calvus, makes it difficult to draw general conclusions from the extant evidence, but that is exactly what Wenskus does in a subsequent paragraph when she states that writing about rhetoric in private letters was not yet common (‘noch keineswegs gängig’) in late Republican times (p. 32). What I found more compelling is the observation that one did not write about rhetoric when the addressee was a woman. Wenskus argues convincingly that this is due to the role of rhetoric in the upbringing of male citizens; while some literary education was available to high class women, especially in the imperial era, rhetorical education was confined to young men who needed to acquire oratorical skills in order to become a part of the political establishment. This observation is rightly connected with the pedagogical and hortatory character of ancient letter-writing.9 I am not sure, however, that Wenskus is right when she contends that this restriction of rhetoric to men is the very reason why so few of Pliny’s published letters are addressed to women.

In sum, there are some interesting points in this paper (including also some good remarks on the exchange of rhetorical criticism between Cicero, Brutus, and Calvus as mentioned at Tac. dial. 18), but as a whole I find it chaotic and not very recommendable.

Meinolf Vielberg’s contribution is on the Clementina, the anonymous devotional novel written as an autobiographical account of Clemens Romanus’ participation in St. Paul’s missionary tour (“Bildung und Rhetorik in den Pseudoklementinen”). The aim of the paper is to show that pagan education and its relations with the Christian mission are central issues in that novel. As far as I can see, there is not very much that will be controversial here. Instead, the chapter can serve as a good introduction to the Clementina, and to some aspects of early Christian literature’s attitude to classical paideia. In one section, Vielberg traces the influence of the canonical erudition ( trivium and quadrivium), and he concludes that the Clementina, especially the Recognitiones (the parts of the work transmitted in a Latin translation by Rufinus), although not expressing any programmatic conception of encyclopedical learning, show ‘a clear sense of the basic subjects of liberal education’.10

Some of Vielberg’s observations are somewhat trivial here (in the modern sense!), for example when he acknowledges alliteration as a sign of rhetorical erudition, or when he explains well-known facts about ancient mnemotechnics. In a second section, Vielberg shows that the Clementina do not totally condemn pagan learning but subordinates it to the Christian paideia. This ambivalence is personified in the figure of St. Peter, who is a god-inspired illiterate but full of pagan erudition at the same time.11

Hans Bernsdorff has written an interesting piece on a late third or early fourth century A.D. papyrus fragment which contains verses describing Hesiod’s ascent from the bucolic sphere of his home town to the ‘higher’ subject matters of his didactic epics (“Hesiod, ein zweiter Vergil? Bemerkungen zu P. Oxy. 3537r, 3-28”). This concerns rhetoric only so far as it belongs to the instructional genre of poetical ethopoiia, which ‘illustrates the grey area between rhetoric and poetry so typical for the literature of the Roman empire’.12 As the evolutionary model of this papyrus, according to which Hesiod was not inspired by the Muses simply to produce poetry (as opposed to being a herdsman) but to produce another, more sublime sort of poetry, is not part of the conventional biographical tradition, Bernsdorff argues that it might have been inspired by the example of Virgil and his development from bucolic to epic poetry, as represented by Virgil himself as well as in subsequent literature. Bernsdorff concedes that the influence of Roman, especially Augustan, poetry on later Greek poetry is a contested matter, but that does not, it seems to me, take away very much of the strength of his argument.

Ulrich Schindel summarizes the results of his research on the so-called Carmen de figuris, a late-antique handbook of rhetorical figures written in hexameters, to be published in a book and a new edition announced in his paper (“Entstehungsbedingungen eines spätantiken Schulbuchs: Zum ‘Carmen de figuris’ (RLM 63-70)”). The paper contains mainly Quellenkritik. The readers may be referred to Schindel’s forthcoming publication.13 It may also be asked whether a paper which tells you repeatedly that ‘the evidence will be found in my book’ is particularly useful. Given the abundance of scholarly literature to be digested by the academic community, it would, in my opinion, be best if this sort of intermediate publication could be avoided. After all, the Carmen de figuris is not the human genome.

Siegmar Döpp, Classen’s successor in Göttingen, acutely analyses an epideictic text published in 1722, a eulogy of Karlshafen, a small town near Göttingen, written by a fifteen-year-old student (“Oratio Panegyrica…in laudem atque encomium urbis Carolshaviae: Analyse eines Stadtlobs von 1722”).14 The piece is only of great interest to local historians, and it is, as Döpp concludes, ‘certainly not a masterpiece’; thus it seems almost heroic that he takes pains to give an interpretation of it, including informative remarks on the history of the genre of laudes urbium.

Wolfram Ax elegantly rounds off the volume with a rhetorical analysis of a scene in the Asterix comic strip series (“Les lauriers de César: Zu einem humoristischen Fall moderner Rezeption der römischen Rhetorik”). He impressively shows the didactic potential of comic strips, and makes it probable that René Goscinny, Asterix’s creator, had some knowledge of ancient oratory — even though it is Gallic oratory, of course, that wins in the speech discussed (and translated into Latin) by Ax.15 The paper deserves to be read, being more than the by-product it seems to be. It is a contribution to the classical scholarship devoted to comic strips,16 and, in a broader framework, it is part of a tendency, seen not least in Germany, to aim at serious cultural interpretations of this literary sub-genre.17

I have not tried to make this review more coherent than the book is. It contains some interesting material; a considerable portion, though, will appeal only to specialists in the respective fields. Any better classical library will make sure to obtain a copy, but as with many collectanea in these days of academic over-production, the days in which Cicero made the following statement seem to be long over: Nobis videtur, quicquid litteris mandetur, id commendari omnium eruditorum lectioni decere.18


1. For his 60th birthday, Classen had received a Festschrift concerned with historical matters: W. Ax (ed.), Memoria rerum veterum: Neue Beiträge zur antiken Historiographie und Alten Geschichte, Festschrift für Carl Joachim Classen zum 60. Geburtstag, Stuttgart 1990 (Palingenesia vol. 32).

2. See J. J. Murphy and M. Winterbottom, “Raffaele Regio’s Quaestio Doubting Cicero’s Authorship of the Rhetorica ad Herennium: Introduction and Text”, Rhetorica 17 (1999), pp. 77-87.

3. There is no mention of Regio in R. Pfeiffer, Die Klassische Philologie von Petrarca bis Mommsen (Munich, 1982), nor in L. D. Reynolds and N. G. Wilson, Scribes & Scholars (third edition, Oxford, 1991), nor in A. Grafton and G. W. Most, “Philologie und Bildung seit der Renaissance”, in: F. Graf (ed.), Einleitung in die lateinische Philologie (Stuttgart and Leipzig, 1997), pp. 35-48, to name but the most common works.

4. OCT, 1970. He is so modest as not to mention himself when he speaks of scholars who ‘have in very different ways profoundly advanced the textual criticism of Quintilian’s Institutio‘ in the opening paragraph of his essay. — I note in passsing that according to D. M. Schenkeveld, Mnemosyne 50 (1997), p. 730, ‘a new edition and translation’ of Quint. inst. by Donald Russell is to be expected.

5. By the way, it is amusing to see how exasperating Regio found what in his eyes were wrong conjectures by the ‘semidocti’ — textual criticism seems to be a less emotional business nowadays.

6. Nickau should have noted at p. 22 that Cicero himself ascribes the exercise of opposing speeches to the sophists at Brut. 47 (cf. De orat. 3.107).

7. See, for instance, H. v. Arnim, Leben und Werke des Dio von Prusa (Berlin, 1898), pp. 81-83; M. Griffin, in Griffin and Barnes (edd.), Philosophia Togata vol. I (Oxford, 1989), pp. 9-10.

8. On this matter see K. Schöpsdau in Fortenbaugh and Mirhady (edd.), Peripatetic Rhetoric after Aristotle (New Brunswick, N.J., 1994), pp. 192-216.

9. A reference to precursors in Greek literature, e.g. Isocrates (cf. epist. 5 and 6 in particular), would have been adequate.

10. When he discusses liberal education (as evolving in late antiquity) at pp. 55-56, Vielberg conceals the disagreement between J. Christes and I. Hadot about the question whether ‘artes liberales’ and ‘enkyklios paideia’ are the same thing or not.

11. Note that Vielberg has recently published a monograph on the Clementina : Klemens in den pseudoklementinischen Rekognitionen: Studien zur literarischen Form des spätantiken Romans (Berlin, 2000).

12. In addition to the scholarship referred to by Bernsdorff, see also R. Webb, “Poetry and Rhetoric”, in S. E. Porter (ed.), Handbook of Classical Rhetoric in the Hellenistic Period , 330 BC-AD 400 (Leiden, New York and Cologne, 1997), pp. 339-369 (with further references).

13. Entitled “Die Rezeption der hellenistischen Theorie der rhetorischen Figuren bei den Römern” according to Professor Schindel’s Göttingen University webpage.

14. The text, which is preserved in a printed copy in the Marburg University library, is given in full as an appendix to Döpp’s paper.

15. In contrast to quite a few volumes of the Asterix series, “Asterix and the Laurel Wreath” is not yet translated into English.

16. See K. Gaus, M. Haase, and B. Eickhoff, “Comics”, Der Neue Pauly, vol. 13 (1999), coll. 656-674.

17. See, for instance, P. Bahners, Entenhausen: Die ganze Wahrheit, forthcoming (Munich: C. H. Beck).

18. Cic. Tusc. 2.8.