BMCR 2003.08.17

Das erste Buch der Heroidenbriefe. Echtheitskritische Untersuchungen. Studien zur Geschichte und Kultur des Altertums. Neue Folge. 1. Reihe, Band 20

, Das erste Buch der Heroidenbriefe : echtheitskritische Untersuchungen. Studien zur Geschichte und Kultur des Altertums. 1. Reihe, Monographien ; Bd. 20. Paderborn: Schöningh, 2003. 334 pages ; 24 cm.. ISBN 3506790706 EUR 46.00 (pb).

Otto Zwierlein (hereinafter Z.) on p. 299 of his ‘Die Ovid- und Vergil-Revision in tiberischer Zeit, Band I: Prolegomena’, Berlin 1999 (to which I shall refer as Z. 99), relates how nearly twenty years ago his Latin Seminar at Bonn studied the Heroides. He became convinced of the “faulty quality” of the poems, and decided that a policy of removing suspected interpolations would leave only a “lamentable remnant”. Thus he came to the conclusion that Ovid was not the author of the Heroides, and for detailed proof he refers his readers to Lingenberg’s (hereinafter L.) dissertation, which this book presents in a revised form. It must be said that it is a very useful, thorough and conscientious piece of work. Even those who may have reservations about the conclusions will find a treasury of parallels and a wealth of insights into the difficulties presented by the Heroides. The intractable problems discussed have divided some of the present day’s most prominent critics, so prospective readers will find judging this book a daunting task. Inevitably, the readership must be limited.

This review cannot attempt to evaluate the conclusion in Z. 99 that very shortly after Ovid’s death a Reviser (possibly the poet, Julius Montanus) foisted on Ovid and Virgil most of the works of the Appendix Vergiliana and the Appendix Ovidiana,1 the Medicamina Faciei Femineae, the Ibis, the Heroides, some whole elegies in the Amores and Ex Ponto and innumerable other passages in the genuine works of Ovid and Virgil. After these preliminary announcements in his 600-odd page Prolegomena Z. is now undertaking a more detailed investigation. Z.’s learning is profound and his reasoning acute, so his arguments merit serious consideration; but, as there are evident difficulties in accepting the whole of the picture he presents,2 it seems prudent to maintain for the present an attitude of reserve. L., who acknowledges his deep indebtedness to Z.’s generosity, by and large accepts his results. He agrees with the view that Heroides 1-15 were published as a corpus of three books of five epistles each, relying on the very shadowy indications in the manuscript tradition and on the parallelism of structure between the three groups of five epistles that was discerned by Wilfried Stroh.3 Objections to individual elegies thus become arguments against the whole corpus of fifteen “single Heroides”.

From this background, then, L. undertakes a close scrutiny of the language, style and metre of Heroides 1-5 with the question of the authorship in mind. The book has an unusual structure. It begins with a Prologue (pp. 13-16) discussing three passages from Her.4 4 (1-6, 93-4 and 135-140) which, as L. believes, show evidence that the author has adopted expressions from similar passages in the Ars Amatoria and the Metamorphoses. This implies a date for Heroides 4 later than that implied by the allusion to the epistle given in Am. 2.18.24. Next he presents an Introduction (pp. 17-46) in which he first claims that the serious arguments against the Ovidian authorship of several of the Heroides tell overwhelmingly against the authenticity of the whole corpus, so the Catalogue in Am. 2.18.21-34 must be a falsification to foist the Heroides on readers as an Ovidian work. This involves the corollary that the passages in Ars 341-346 and Pont. 4.16.13-16, which allude to the Heroides, are interpolated. L. accepts that his ascription of the Heroides to an author other than Ovid leads to Z.’s thesis of an extensive revision of Ovid’s work. He realizes that Z.’s task of disentangling the revisions from the original work is to some extent provisional but adopts Z.’s results subject to that proviso and to his own belief that the “double Heroides” are the work of an author different from the author of the “single Heroides”. Next, under the heading of Method, he discusses (i) his method in arguing for the relative priority of passages where it is clear that one author had in mind a passage or phrase from the work of another, (ii) considerations affecting the significance of differences in vocabulary, (iii) conclusions to be drawn from the repetition of expressions in the works under consideration, and (iv) certain criteria he does not consider suitable to his present purpose. This careful discussion shows a clear intelligence at work. Next are set out certain characteristics L. detects in the Heroides (especially singularity of words and expressions, and inconsistency in details). Then L. proceeds to argue that it is not possible to believe that the Heroides are Ovidian poems that suffered interpolation. Finally, he explains that he will constitute his text without emending it to Ovidian standards, and claims the text of 1-5 has not (as is widely believed) an especially poor transmission. In his comments he tends to discuss textual problems only when they impinge on the question of authenticity.

The bulk of the book (pp. 47-251) follows: the whole text of 1-5 is set out in passages of one or more couplets, and immediately subjoined to each passage is an exhaustive discussion concentrating on the vocabulary and phraseology and on the parallels to be found in the poets of all periods. On a casual glance one might think this portion of the book was a conventional text and commentary. The use of computer searches has led to a high degree of completeness.5 The reader is rather overwhelmed with information about word usage. To give prospective readers an idea of what they may expect I have given a specimen later in this review.

A section (pp. 253-274) entitled On the Double Epistles summarises arguments that these six epistles (16-21) must have an author other than the writer of the “Single Epistles”. Here the lexical arguments seem to be the most cogent. (Many, of course, believe that the differences point to composition at a later period of Ovid’s life.) A brief Epilogue (pp. 275-276) pays tribute to the poet of the “Single Epistles”, in particular to his free and imaginative use of traditional materials, his originality in inventing a new literary genre, his literary playfulness, and his capacity for deep feeling. Still, he is firmly placed in a rank below Ovid.

Appendix I (pp. 277-278) briefly discusses the problem of the correct title of the collection; Appendix II (pp. 279-292) argues that in addition to the many lines condemned in Z. 99 the following passages are not the work of Ovid: Ars 1.681-706; Rem. 249-290; Fast. 2.415-416; he also condemns Aen. 9.154-155 as not by Virgil. A Bibliography and Index Locorum (pp. 293-334) round off the work.

As promised, the following translated specimen (with style partly changed to the conventions of this review) will give a fair idea of what is offered in the detailed discussions (pp. 47-251):


‘Devorer ante, precor, subito telluris hiatu
aut rutilo missi fulminis igne cremer,
quam sine me Phthiis6 canescant aequora remis
et videam puppes ire relicta tuas!’

‘hiatus’ occurs in Ovid only in the Fasti and Metamorphoses, yet seven times there.

‘cremare’ also is alien to Ovid’s Love Poetry; the verb is frequent in the Metamorphoses, and in addition is represented sporadically in the Fasti and the Tristia.

‘fulmina missa’ occurs in Ovid three times in the Fasti and Metamorphoses (Fast. 4.50, 834; Met. 1.154f.). The examples in the Love Poetry ([Her.] 7.72; Rem. *370) are just as spurious as [Nux] 162 (there also likewise ‘missi fulminis igne’).

‘canescere’ is very rare in Latin Poetry. If one neglects a fragment of Mucius Scaevola,7 Ovid has first used the word in the Fasti and Metamorphoses, once for the hoar-frost of morning (Fast. 3.880), then for dried-out meadows (Met. 2.212) and the aging Iasion (9.422). The relationship of our passage to Manilius 1.708 (Ba)8 ‘freta canescunt sulcum ducente carina’ is evident, yet permits no conclusions about priority. On the unusual use in Am. *1.8.52 (“to grow old”, applied, however, not to a human entity but to ‘tecta’) v. McKeown ad loc.9 After Ovid the word is met again in Lucan, Silius and later authors.

Additionally one ascertains a very similar distinction between the Heroides-poet and Ovid in the word ‘canere’ at [Her.] 5.54 (v. inf. ad loc. and cf. [Her.] 18.137; Barchiesi refers to both passages and recalls also the unusual ‘spumescere’ at 2.87 [v. sup. ad loc.]).

On ‘ire relicta’ v. sup. ad 1.8.

Furthermore, these four verses are a variation of Virgil Aen. 4.24-27 (Lo+):

Sed mihi vel tellus, optem, prius ima dehiscat / vel pater omnipotens adigat me fulmine ad umbras, / [pallentis umbras Erebo noctemque profundam,] ante, pudor, quam te violo aut tua iura resolvo’. One sees at once that the relationship to Virgil is no more successful than that to Ovid; what would be a meaningful “divine action” to prevent Dido from violating ‘pudor’, becomes in the mouth of Briseis a pointless cursing formula; Briseis is certainly not on the point of perpetrating a crime, if she fears that she must observe the departure of Achilles.

[L.’s NOTES]

. Catullus 64.12f in particular could be a common model: ‘quae … rostro ventosum proscidit aequor / tortaque remigio spumis incanuit unda’.

. See Palmer; in addition, with more detail, Barchiesi.

. Again, Zwierlein ascribes this verse to the revision by our poet.

The discussion is kept severely to the matter in hand, and the reader is left with a vast store of facts that may be difficult to assess. Partly the difficulty arises from the decision to set the material out in the order in which the words occur in the text, and partly from the use of square brackets and asterisks to indicate works and passages considered non-Ovidian. The many words found in the Heroides (single or double), in the allegedly spurious portions of the Amatory works, in the Metamorphoses, Fasti and works of exile, but seldom or never in the accepted portions of the amatory poems, imperceptibly must make an impression on the reader. However, the attempt to put this information in perspective (pp. 31-36, 40-42) involves much listing in footnotes referring to the line-by-line commentary, and busy readers may sigh for a synoptic presentation of the main evidence.

There is always the danger that the accumulation of evidence to build up an overwhelming case may, by the inclusion of debatably relevant items, merely bewilder the reader: is anything significant added by the statement that, e. g., ‘tarde … credimus’ (2.9-10) is next to be found in Latin poetry in [Sen.] Oct. 360 and Statius? The collection of such details is always useful, and for this reason alone the present work merited publication; the selection and marshalling of material to make the case for the non-Ovidian authorship might with advantage have been more sharply separated from the former task. No doubt, the author’s familiarity with the subject, the genesis of the book as a dissertation, and reasons of economy argued for the course adopted: if the publisher consulted an independent reader, it would be interesting to know whether this point was raised. In n. 44, p. 31, L. pleads that each reader will place the border of insignificance at a different place.

Among my marginalia were the following:

P. 105 (2.117-118): a reference to Aen. 4. 166-168: ‘prima et Tellus et pronuba Iuno/ dant signum: fulsere ignes et conscius aether/ connubiis, summoque ulularunt uertice Nymphae’ is missing from the discussion. Computer searches have their limitations, but Peter Knox cites the passage in his commentary.

P. 148 (3.133-134): possible confusion between the third person perfect tense and the infinitive should have been removed by adding “(Infinitif)” after the second ‘comminuere.’

P. 148, n. 72: The name of the codex is Puteaneus, easily mis-spelled, as I know to my cost.

P. 166 (4.29): it is argued that the fact that ‘plenis … ramis’ is found only here and at Nux 69 indicates identity of authorship rather than reminiscence especially as the phrase is Ablative in the former and Dative in the latter passage. This seems less than compelling.

P. 181 (4.85-86): “Wie in 8 verdanken wir einen merkwürdigen Text dem unglücklich imitierenden Dichter und nicht der Überlieferung” is obscure to me: L. accepts ‘materia’, which Dörrie ascribes to ‘EFGLV omnes’.

P. 188 (4.132 a/b): It is perverse to accept this couplet by arguing (i) that it is transmitted by E, (ii) that 14.62 ends in a trisyllabic word, (iii) that the text runs somewhat more smoothly with the couplet. Contra, (i) extra verses in E are often suspect, (ii) (a) the final short open vowel is particularly objectionable, and (b) the text at 14.61-62 shows signs of imperfect transmission,10 and (iii) an interpolation may be inserted to secure a smoother transition.

P. 208 (5.7): ‘patiare’ – the subjunctive indicates the generalizing second person, as Knox points out.

P. 222 (5.59): The appearance of ‘ergo’ with a short o in the manuscripts at Trist. 1.1.87 (cited by Knox) should be mentioned. The phenomenon is complex, and a reference to Platnauer’s brief discussion (Latin Elegiac Verse [Cambridge 1951], pp. 50-53) would have been useful. There it is recalled that Housman (JPh 21 [1893] 160 [= Classical Papers 1.276]) defended Prop. 3.9.35 ‘mare findo’ with a reference to ‘fretum … findere’ (16. 31-32), but this will be further evidence for Z. in condemning Prop. 3.9 as work of the Reviser (Z. 99, p. 7, n. 2).

The tense of ‘rediture’ here has troubled some commentators, including L.: the idiom refers to what will be found to be the true situation. “The thought is inexactly expressed”, as Bennett says in ‘Syntax of Early Latin’ 1.45; he gives a good example from Plaut. Asin. 734; cf. Kühner-Stegmann 1.143, Anmerk. 2.

P. 234 (5.104) L. seems to interpret Knox’s very brief note in isolation, but the cross-reference of the latter to his note on 7.97 suggests that he had not virginity in mind.

I congratulate L. on his serious and careful work, but one may hope that, if any consensus emerges on Z.’s analysis of the transmitted texts of Virgil and Ovid, some adversary will then assess the rich material in this book, and present the results in as simple a form as may prove possible. A high standard of accurate printing has been achieved.


1. Z.’s use will give currency to this title introduced by G. Baligan in his uncritical Appendix Ovidiana (Bari 1955), p. 6.

2. Described as ‘this bold thesis’ (Z. 99, p. 299) and ‘the really breath-taking thesis of an extensive revision’ (L., p. 23).

3. The parallelism in the situation of the heroines in 1-10 is arguable, but hardly overwhelming: 1 Penelope, 6 Hypsipyle (“each a sundered wife”); 2 Phyllis, 7 Dido (“each betrayed by a guest resolves on death”); 3 Briseis, 8 Hermione (“each handed over to an unloved man”); 4 Phaedra, 9 Deianira (“each in seeking to secure the love of a man causes his death” — yet Her. 4 makes no clear reference to the death of Hippolytus); 5 Oenone, 10 Ariadne (“each abandoned by a departed lover nevertheless survives” – that Ariadne hints at death (10.150) is hardly an objection). However, the remaining epistles (11-15) are hard to fit into any convincing scheme, though some ingenious speculation by M. Pulbrook may be found in Hermathena No. 120 (1977) 37-40.

4. Usually I refer to the Heroides with a numerical reference only; as I quote L’s abbreviation Her., I have used it rather than the epist. of the ThLL, which I should prefer. I also follow L. in using Dörrie’s line-numbers.

5. The argument that the parallels between ‘hospite capta’ 5.126, ‘hospita capta’ 2.74, and ‘hospita … captos’ Culex 126 argue for the identity of authorship of the two works seems to be an illusion arising from the method adopted by the searcher.

6. In transcriptions of two successive Greek aspirated consonants Latin shows no aspiration of the former (G. [= W.] Schulze, ‘Orthographica’, Marburg 1894 [reprinted Rome 1958], pp. xxxii, li); p. 175 (on 4.68): ‘Gnosia’ is another faulty spelling (A. E. Housman, CQ 22 [1928] 7 [= Classical Papers 3.1142]).

7. In carm. 1: L. occasionally omits references to passages which readers might conceivably wish to examine, e. g., Manilius mentioned on p. 165.

8. This, in accordance with L.’s scrupulous practice, indicates that Barchiesi first remarked the parallel. [ Strictly speaking, how can it be said that neglect or lack of use makes a house ‘grow old’? The antithesis with ‘nitent usu’ in v. 51 may suggest that R. Meister (ThLL 3.249.65) may have been correct in taking the verb literally as ‘id quod albescere.’ If so, the reference is hardly to bleaching by the sun, but rather to the pale colour of dust; cf. ‘et iacto canas pulvere fecit aquas’ Ibis 390 (La P.).

10. M. Platnauer, Latin Elegiac Verse, pp. 15-16, does not allow it even as a doubtful case. Housman characterises the pentameter as “the ridiculous and unmetrical verse which we call 62” (CR 11 [1897] 287 [= Classical Papers 1.406]).