BMCR 2003.09.39

Die archaische Literatur von den Anfängen bis Sullas Tod

, , Die archaische Literatur von den Anfängen bis Sullas Tod: die vorliterarische Periode und die Zeit von 240 bis 78 v. Chr. Handbuch der Altertumswissenschaft; 8. Abteilung, 1. Band. Munich: C. H. Beck, 2002. xlviii, 611 pages. ISBN 3406481345 EUR 118.00.


Breathtaking in scope and ambition, the Handbuch der Altertumswissenschaft is familiar to anyone involved in the scientific study of ancient Greece and Rome. Its origins date to what some would consider the Golden Age of (German) classics, that is, the second half of the nineteenth century. In the library, the weighty tomes of the HA stand proudly aside similar monuments of scholarship in our field (such as the TLL or the RE), offering an indispensable port of call for, and towering testimony of, modern research into the classical past. After its foundation by Iwan von Müller (1830-1917) and its expansion by Walter Otto (1874-1958) and Hermann Bengtson (1909-1989), the Handbuch is currently undergoing a continuation under the general editorship of Hans-Joachim Gehrke and Bernhard Zimmermann.1 In the case of section viii, which covers the Latin literature of antiquity, continuation means replacement: in the late 70s and early 80s, the general editors of this subsection, Reinhart Herzog (1941-1994) and Peter Lebrecht Schmidt, set out with the express purpose to render redundant the five volumes of the Handbuch der römischen Literatur which were authored and (re)edited by Martin Schanz, Carl Hosius, and Gustav Krüger between 1890 and 1935. “Ein veraltetes Arbeitsinstrument”, they call it with some justification, a tool of research that has outlived its utility.

Of the projected eight volumes of the new series, three have appeared so far. The proleptic first-born, HLL 5, materialized in 1989: Restauration und Erneuerung. Die lateinische Literatur von 284-374 n. Chr., ed. R. Herzog. Its immediate prequel, HLL 4, followed in 1997: Die Literatur des Umbruchs. Von der römischen zur christlichen Literatur 117-283 n. Chr., ed. Klaus Sallmann. And last year, HLL 1 was published, under the editorship of Werner Suerbaum. It contains Die archaische Literatur. Von den Anfängen bis zu Sullas Tod. Die vorliterarische Periode und die Zeit von 240 bis 78 v. Chr.. As the ultimate front-runner of the new HLL, the last-mentioned volume also features the general introduction to the entire remake of section viii, an “Einleitung in das Gesamtwerk” by P. L. Schmidt.2

To take stock: the new HLL will eventually comprise eight tomes, adding up to ca. 5,000 pages of text; it required three decades (and more) of planning, drafting, writing, editing; and it has been keeping busy two general editors, various subeditors, eight different casts of contributors, and, at their service, an uncounted host of anonymous Hilfskräfte, “karrende Handlanger im Bereich der Geisteswissenschaften” (Suerbaum, alluding to Nietzsche). The monumentality of the undertaking staggers one and cannot help but inspire awe — all the more so since it has clearly come at a price. The prefaces of the three volumes already published bear eloquent witness to the grind and attrition involved in bringing a project such as the HLL to fruition. Whilst Reinhart Herzog’s to HLL 5 abounds in optimism and a strong belief in political and scientific progress, the introductory words of K. Sallmann and P. L. Schmidt to HLL 4 strike a more elegiac note. Inevitably, they revolve around the untimely death of their colleague Herzog and its repercussions for the publication schedule of the series. In the preface to HLL 1, finally, an outright personal voice breaks through: in a matter-of-fact, Thucydidean style, Suerbaum chronicles some of the obstacles he and his helpers had to overcome, from first conception to final product, in seeing HLL 1 to press: the deaths of three contributors, including the youngest; the loss of years of labor owing to a computer crash and other mishaps; untold personal sacrifices; and, last but not least, Suerbaum’s gradual disillusionment with the genre of the handbook. To read these pages is as harrowing as it is humbling.

Still, in the end, Suerbaum et al. have succeeded in producing a monument and milestone of centennial, even millennial, purport. In 611+ pages, HLL 1 reviews about a century of work done on Rome’s preliterary period and archaic Latin literature, primarily between 1935 (the year in which the fourth edition of Schanz-Hosius 1 appeared) and 31.12.1999. What sets the HLL apart from other histories of Latin literature is not only its size, but also the format. In addition to the expository narrative, each paragraph gives the most important testimonia on which this narrative is based in the original Greek or Latin, contains extensive bibliographies, and offers critical discussion of the secondary literature. The compass is encyclopedic.

HLL 1 includes entries on all Roman texts and authors of the period for whom we have any evidence — whether it is Quinctius Atta, who merits half a page, or Plautus, who gets forty-five — as well as a smattering of paragraphs which are broadly thematic in orientation and broach larger questions of cultural history, such as bilingualism, education, or the influence of the Etruscans on the development of Latin literature.

The volume is beautifully produced. The layout is superb, and misprints are so few and unobtrusive as to be negligible.3 As a font of information and facilitator of future research HLL 1 is in a class of its own. Already, it has been cited summarily as a standard point of reference in the field, and it will no doubt remain one for years to come.4 But, precisely since the status of HLL 1 as a benchmark is beyond dispute (the volume will gratefully be consulted as a matter of course by anyone working on early Latin literature), it must be stressed that the scholarship frequently falls short of perfection. HLL 1 features a fair amount of woolly prose. Internal inconsistencies bulk large. The number of (avoidable) factual errors surprises. Some entries are already out of date, needlessly so. And the unfamiliarity of contributors with current theorizing in the humanities has unfortunate consequences for the level of sophistication at which problems of text-context configurations tend to be tackled.5 Finally, there are the various “metahistories” (plural intended) that HLL 1 tells about the beginnings of Latin literature. For reasons of length, I abstain from discussing them in this review. But it is worth stressing that some intriguing ideological agendas are afoot in the volume, which are often at variance with each other and reveal themselves in the reified use of such categories as “Volk”, “Bildung”, “Philhellenismus”, or “Literatur”.

HLL 1 falls into three main parts. The first covers the preconditions of Roman literature, the preliterary period, and the development of Roman literature under Greek influence; the second archaic poetry; and the third archaic prose literature. In what follows, I shall first take a (necessarily selective) look at each of the three parts (i-iii), before concluding with some comments on the bibliographies (iv).

i. Erster Teil. Voraussetzungen der römischen Literatur, vorliterarische Periode und Entstehen der römischen Literatur unter griechischem Einfluss

With contributions by G. Radke, H./ A. Petersmann, D. Liebs, and W. Suerbaum.

Part I is subdivided into four sections, which match the three components of the heading only up to a point: section a, entitled “Allgemeine Voraussetzungen der römischen Literatur” contains a ragbag of heterogeneous items, from 103.1. Rom im Rahmen der ethnischen Gliederung Italiens to 103.8. Erziehung und Literatur. The absence of any entry on Rome’s societal order and its historical evolution constitutes a noticeable lacuna and is, unwittingly, programmatic: throughout the volume, the larger cultural context poses challenges of analysis that the authors of HLL 1 frequently fail to meet. Section b on “Gebundene Sprache”, i.e. rhythmically patterned language, reviews the various types of preliterary carmina attested in our sources, as well as more general problems associated with Roman poetry before 240 BCE (such as metre). Section c on “Prosa” does the same for public records and pre-Sullan legal texts, despite the ensuing chronological slippage. Paragraph 110.6., for instance, (Ein Edikt: Edictum censorum adversus Latinos rhetoras) takes us down to 92 BCE. The section ends with a superb paragraph (112) on App. Claudius Caecus by W. Suerbaum. Finally, there is section d, “Das Entstehen der römischen Literatur unter griechischem Einfluss”. The choice of title is odd, given that one of the two paragraphs in this section (113. Der Beginn der römischen Literatur: 240 v. Chr.?) consists of a polemic of Suerbaum against those of his colleagues who place too heavy an emphasis on Greek influence in the emergence of a Roman literature, and the other (114. Zur Literatursoziologie der Schriftsteller der archaischen Epoche) is not particularly relevant to the theme of the section title. It rather complements two entries in section a., i.e. 103.5 Buch, Buchschrift, Bibliotheken and 103.8. Erziehung und Literatur.

Already from the point of view of overall organisation, then, this first part of HLL 1 is less than satisfactory, and the same must be said of the quality of the scholarship. To begin with, there is the fact that the last touches to Radke’s contributions (paragraphs 103.1-3, 104.2-3, 105.1-4 and 108.3) date from March 1995 (see preface xxii). Even Suerbaum, despite his editorial policy of non-interference, here felt the need to intervene. He did so reluctantly, striking a somewhat half-baked compromise between pietas and utilitas. On the one side, he opted against revising Radke’s entries in light of recent research or significantly updating the bibliographies (they stop around 1992); on the other, he felt obliged to insert notices of “reader beware” in several of Radke’s contributions, alerting the users of HLL 1 to the fact that they have just perused highly idiosyncratic or outdated scholarship.6

Furthermore, here more than elsewhere authors are not always in full control of their primary data. To give just a few examples: in paragraph 106.2. Tituli und Elogia, H./ A. Petersmann write that tituli were inscribed on the imagines (“Auf den imagines befanden sich Aufschriften (tituli)….”). Now gravitas will indeed have been written all over the faces of those actors who donned the wax-masks of former magistrates during the pompa funebris, but surely not in literal fashion. I suspect that the notion of impersonated maiores parading through the streets of Rome as walking texts owes itself to a misunderstanding of Val. Max. 5.8.3 (paragraph 106. 2. T. 1d). In paragraph 108.2. Fasti consulares, Fasti Latini, H./ A. Petersmann happen to be at sea with Cic. Att. 4.8a.2 (= 82 S.-B., whose edition they cannot have consulted), and, bizarrely, posit the existence of “a sort of pocket calendar” for Republican Rome.7 Likewise, paragraph 108.5. Commentarii von Kollegien (H./ A. Petersmann) would have contained many fewer conceptual and historical inaccuracies had the authors checked the most recent commentary on their main testimonium (Cic. Sull. 42 = T. 3), i. e. D. H. Berry, Cicero. Pro P.Sulla Oratio. edited with introduction and commentary, Cambridge 1996, esp. p. 217 (on Cic. Sull. 40. 2). Paragraph 108.2. ends in the aporetic sentence: “Die meisten [ fasti ] weisen eine beigefügte Beamtenliste auf und gehen wohl auf ein gemeinsames Vorbild in Rom zurück”. Jörg Rüpke, Kalender und Öffentlichkeit. Die Geschichte der Repräsentation und religiösen Qualifikation von Zeit in Rom, Berlin and New York 1995, 331-68, offers an ingenious reconstruction of what this “gemeinsame Vorbild” most likely was.8 Familiarity with Rüpke’s work could also have prevented the erroneous designation of Ovid’s liber fastorum as a “poetischer Festkalender” (paragraph 108.1. Allgemeines zu öffentlichen Aufzeichnungen). Contrast Rüpke, Kalender, paragraph 3.14: Keine Fasten: Ovids Kalenderdichtung.

Then there are the internal inconsistencies. For instance, users of HLL 1 are best advised to abstain from trying to figure out its position on the so-called annales pontificum. To Suerbaum, they seem to be identical with “Pontifikalchronik”, “Priestercodex”, ” commentarii der Pontifices”, ” tabula apud pontificem” as well as several other terms: see page 353, paragraph 155. Römische Geschichtsschreibung: Einleitung, Überblick, Charakteristika. H./ A. Petersmann, on the other hand, distinguish sharply between annales pontificum (apparently not to be confused with the so-called annales maximi), the commentarii pontificum and the notices on the tabulae pontificum, without specifying on what grounds: see page 61, paragraph 108.4. Annales. In Suerbaum’s entry, distinctions collapse; in the entry of the Petersmanns, they proliferate. In the end, the reader is unsure of whether he is dealing with one or three types of priestly records.

This first part of HLL 1 also features a disproportionate amount of hazy prose. To give just one example: in paragraph 103.3. Schriftsystem und Alphabet (the difference between the two terms is never made clear; in the entry, only Alphabet is used), G. Radke explains the transition from Mündlichkeit to Schriftlichkeit with reference to population growth and a society’s “Mitteilungsbedürfnis”. I can only guess at what “Mitteilungsbedürfnis” means (I had always associated the term with new-age psychology and the milieu of the encounter group), and remain unsure of how Radke construes its causal relation with demography and media. The sentence that follows, i.e. “Für die entstehende Schriftlichkeit brauchte man das Alphabet”, seems to put the cart before the horse, apart from presupposing a rather deterministic view of societal evolution. And so on.

I break off discussion of specific problems here to focus on an issue of more general relevance. Those who read HLL 1 from cover to cover, rather than merely dipping in to retrieve select pieces of information, cannot help but notice that the volume argues for a fundamental re-assessment of cultural activities in Rome’s preliterary period. Suerbaum (all of the pertinent paragraphs are authored by him) is clearly on a mission. The overarching interpretation of literary activities in pre-240-BCE Rome that he has embedded in HLL 1 is worth a more detailed look, partly because he has here decided to transgress a generic boundary he laments in the preface, namely that a handbook necessarily looks back and takes stock, rather than actively participating in current scientific discourse (preface, xvii). Yet in his efforts to unearth an indigenous Roman literary culture, Suerbaum writes with the pronounced ambition to frame the research agenda for the future and has accordingly endowed his prose with a prescriptive touch. The two items that have to carry the main burden of his argument are the carmina convivalia and what he calls “Rome’s oral tradition”. The latter receives fullest exposure in the third part of HLL 1, in connection with the rise of historiography, and will be discussed below. His use and presentation of the former need to be considered here.

Already declared long extinct by Cato the Elder, the so-called carmina convivalia (the term is modern) have received a sort of revival in recent years, primarily in the wake of several publications by Nevio Zorzetti, and HLL 1 follows his lead in trying to boost their return to the center of scholarly discussion. They receive their own entry, paragraph 106.3. Carmina convivalia (‘Tafellieder’), the sensible work of H./ A. Petersmann. Suerbaum also invokes them in variety of places throughout the volume, and they figure particularly large in his efforts to render plausible the existence of a preliterary lyric culture at Rome to which he devotes paragraph 107.1. Die Konzeption einer lyrischen Kultur (Cic. Tusc. 4,3f.). Here is not the place to debate anew the reliability of our evidence or even to assess the plausibility of the hypothesis that an indigenous tradition of Roman poetry (still) existed in the third century BCE. All I want to do here is dip in and illustrate with regard to the first half of one sentence only what jumping on the Zorzetti bandwaggon does to the conceptual precision and empirical accuracy of Suerbaum’s prose. After listing the three types of poetry that Zorzetti posits for archaic Rome (gnomic poetry; poetry of praise and blame; and eulogizing hymns, which he identifies with the carmina convivalia), Suerbaum continues:

“Aufgeführt wurden solche Kompositionen seit jeher bei Symposien (rituellen Banketten von sodalitates, etwa bei den Megalesia) und in den Chorliedern der Salier (T.2 [Cic. de orat. 3.197]; vgl. auch Dion. Hal. ant. Rom. 2,71. 7,70-73), vielleicht auch schon früh bei anderen religiösen Begehungen…”

Here are the problems I have with this sentence (apart from the purely formal — but note that the bracket after Megalesia is misplaced; it belongs after sodalitates):

a. The use of the temporal specification “seit jeher” with reference to the Megalesia is historically inaccurate. This festival was introduced to Rome in 204 BCE, that is, at the very end of the period that Suerbaum is talking about. (The requisite historical information is provided by Blänsdorf on page 148). Besides, if we follow the information given in paragraph 106.3 (the Petersmanns on the said carmina), no such songs would ever have been performed at this festival: “Die Sitte … war allerdings schon zu Catos Zeit längst ausgestorben” (41). b. The second temporal marker “vielleicht auch schon früh” confuses matters further. Does “vielleicht auch schon früh” imply even earlier than “seit jeher”? If so, what would this mean? Does “seit jeher”, perhaps, refer to the early years of the Republic (the period Cicero has in mind in the proem to Tusc. 4, given as T.1) and “auch schon früh” to the royal period? It would not have come amiss if Suerbaum had provided a rough indication of the centuries (!) he has in mind. Unwittingly, his chronological waffle reveals one of the most striking deficiencies of Zorzetti’s model: it floats in an ahistorical limbo, covering, without further distinction, a period of over half a millennium (ca. 750 to 240). The changes that Roman society underwent in this period were immense. And any discussion of Rome’s “musical culture” in the preliterary period would do well to take such changes into account.9

c. Apart from chronological difficulties and lack of empirical evidence, the idea that the various types of sympotic compositions identified by Zorzetti were performed “in (!) den Chorliedern der Salier” does not impress. I pass in silence over the various assumptions involved in having the dilettante recitals of young aristocrats (see the next point) at symposia reappear in the ritual songs performed by the priesthood of the Salii and confine myself to the observation that this idea seems to have arisen from a misunderstanding of de oratore 3.197, the only passage cited in its support (T.2). There, Cicero, in a general argument about the power of rhythm in language, to show that this point was already appreciated by Numa and the maiores, adduces as examples the flute- and lyre-playing at banquets and the verses of the Salii ( … ut epularum sollemmnium fides ac tibiae Saliorumque versus indicant). In other words, he gives two separate items, musical entertainment at banquets and a specific type of ritual verse performed by a priesthood, clearly juxtaposing as distinct what Suerbaum unwisely conflates, presumably in the attempt to gain a social context for his carmina convivalia. These, one may add, are mentioned nowhere in the de oratore. Moreover, the assertion that carmina convivalia, which, according to Cato, contained the laudes atque virtutes of famous men, could pop up in the song of the Salii stands in flat contradiction to the information provided by Radke in paragraph 105.3. Das Carmen Saliare, where one reads that “Die von ihnen gesungenen ‘Salierlieder’ waren entweder an die Götter insgesamt oder an einzelne Gottheiten gerichtet.”

d. Suerbaum’s thinking about the social agents who supposedly carried out the performance is equally muddled. It makes a difference whether a song is sung by members of a priesthood or “young aristocrats” whom he introduces five lines later. “Ausübende waren ursprünglich junge Aristokraten”, he avers, with a supporting quotation from Livy 6.42.13: a patriciis iuvenibus. On the principle in dubio pro reo I am inclined to believe that Suerbaum, rather than consulting the Latin original, simply copied the Livy reference and its interpretation from someone else, most likely Zorzetti. The passage in question says precisely nothing about young aristocrats performing symposiastic songs.10

Making the most of not much is typical of scholarship on early Rome, and there is nothing wrong with it in principle. But the scarcity of our sources makes it all the more important to scrutinize critically the reconstructions that have been put forward as well as the kind of evidence and the assumptions on which these reconstructions are based. Elsewhere, HLL 1 is good in this respect. But when Suerbaum writes on verbal artistry in pre-Andronican Rome, he tends to throw standards of evidence and methodological caution out the window. Virtually every formulation and assertion in the cited sentence begs a question, and the same happens to be the case wherever he advocates his view of a Roman “preliterary literature” (his paradox: see page 85). For Suerbaum, it is simply a given that the Roman people had their own traditions of narrative, dramatic, and lyric poetry (see paragraph 102. Einleitung in HLL 1, page 5), and it is this unproven premise, rather than any regard for evidence, that guides his pen. Readers are therefore well advised not to take the information and argumentation in the relevant paragraphs at face value, but always to check up on the testimonia and the implicit assumptions on which his hypotheses are based.

ii. Zweiter Teil. Die Archaische Dichtung

With contributions by J. Blänsdorf, E. Lefèvre, E. Stärk, W. Suerbaum.

The organisation of the material in part II is more straightforward, and the scholarship overall more reliable. The five main sections are: I. The archegetes (containing the paragraphs on Livius Andronicus, Naevius, and Ennius). II. Drama, with subsections on tragedy and praetexta, palliata, togata, atellana, and mime and mimiambus. III. Epos and didactic poetry. IV. Satire. And V. Occasional poetry (“Gelegenheitsdichtung”) and minor genres (“Kleinformen”). By grouping together Livius Andronicus, Naevius, and Ennius, who all wrote in a variety of genres, under the heading “archegetes”, before proceeding along generic lines, HLL 1 strikes a neat compromise between an author- and a genre-centred exposition (cf. paragraph 101. Einleitung in das Gesamtwerk, xlvi). Entries on authors for whom substantial evidence has survived follow a basic scheme, which is handled with some flexibility. For instance, paragraph 116. Cn. Naevius (W. Suerbaum) contains sections on (A) biography; (B) the oeuvre (with the subsections: a. plays: general information; b. comedies; c. tragedies; d. praetextae; e. epos: Bellum Punicum; f. doubtful material, wrong attributions, homonyms); (C) “appreciation” (in German: Würdigung); and (D) reception. Overall, the quality of these subsections exhibits a standard variation throughout the volume (with the entry on Naevius being my chosen case in point):

Those that treat the biography of authors are mostly good. Contributors tend to presuppose (perhaps a bit too readily) the authenticity of such information as we have and to rehearse it in extenso. In the case of Naevius, this means that we hear a lot about the Metelli. But it must be said that more sceptical voices are given their full due in the discussion of the secondary literature. So Suerbaum writes with the necessary frankness: “Die ohnehin spärlichen Angaben in den antiken Testimonien zur Biographie des Gnaeus Naevius (Naev.) erscheinen einem Grossteil der modernen Forschung fast alle verdächtig” (105).

Sections on Das Werk offer useful summaries of those texts that have come down to us intact (for the period covered in HLL 1 these are only the comedies of Plautus and Terence as well as Cato the Elder’s de agricultura) and try to reconstruct, as far as this is possible, the works of which only fragments have survived, with meticulous attention to the often highly controversial scholarship. At times, these entries go beyond a mere rehearsal of the existing literature and offer original suggestions. Thus, in the case of Naevius, Suerbaum argues that the bipartite structure of the Bellum Punicum, which seems to have featured, apart from coverage of the first Punic War, a detailed account of Rome’s foundation story (though it is unclear how this part was integrated into the epic), is owed not to Naevius’ reliance on, and combination of, two Greek historiographical genres ( ktisis and contemporary history), but reflects the “hour-glass” outlook of Rome’s oral tradition (112).

Those sections that contain some form of Würdigung or “appreciation” tend to raise the most misgivings. At times, they border on the superfluous, merely recapitulating points already covered in previous sections but without the earlier attention to nuance. In the case of Naevius, for instance, the highly controversial suggestion advanced in section B that the design of the Bellum Punicum may best be explained as a reflex of Rome’s oral tradition has become a weirdly phrased fact in section C: “Er [sc. Naevius] knüpfte in seinem Epos an die oral tradition der römischen Geschichte an… .” Also, it is here that contributors are most ready to put forward hypotheses about the impact of authors on their audiences, or, indeed, Roman society at large. Such hypotheses tend to be among the weakest aspects of HLL 1. Thus Suerbaum writes on Naevius: “Mehr noch als die griechische Prosa-Historiographie des späteren (allenfalls gleichzeitig schreibenden) Fabius Pictor konnte seine lateinische Geschichtsdarstellung als Ausdruck römischer Überlieferungen und Wertvorstellungen auf ein breiteres Publikum wirken.”

In this sentence, which takes some unpacking, Suerbaum formulates three assumptions. None of them stands up to close scrutiny. First, the comparative phrases “mehr noch” and “breiteres Publikum” imply the existence of three differently sized audiences: a relatively small one for texts he never names; a broader one for Fabius Pictor; and an even more numerous one for Naevius. This puzzles. On the one hand, there were genres that easily reached a broader audience than either epic (Naevius) or historiography (Pictor): any form of dramatic display at one of the public festivals, for instance, which was generally witnessed jointly by both aristocrats and common people. On the other hand, there is every indication that Fabius’ and Naevius’ audiences were by and large the same: Rome’s elite, which was towards the end of the third century increasingly bilingual. Secondly, Suerbaum seems to aver that Pictor’s narrative, because it was written in Greek, was less an articulation of Roman traditions and values than Naevius’ Latin epic. This, at least, is implied in the antithesis of “griechische Prosa-Historiographie” and “lateinische Geschichtsdarstellung”. But, I submit, Roman traditions and values did find articulation in Fabius’ Greek narrative, most likely even more so than in Naevius’ epic. Pace Suerbaum, the language in which a text is written does not determine its contents. And thirdly, Suerbaum argues that simply because of its contents (Roman traditions and values) the Bellum Punicum had a greater impact than Fabius’ historical narrative. But even if we were to grant for the sake of argument that Naevius’ epic contained a stouter endorsement of Roman ideology than Fabius’ historiography, it would not necessarily follow that it was more influential. Content is only one of the factors that condition the impact of a literary artifact, and Suerbaum fails to consider any of the others, such as the social standing of the author. In Rome it mattered who was speaking (or writing). And the auctoritas of Fabius vastly outranked that of Naevius. (Another way to determine the impact of a literary creation is to take a look at the history of reception. Whereas Naevius’ Saturnian epic did not find imitators among Rome’s ruling elite and turned out to be an artistic dead-end from a metrical point of view, Fabius’ Greek historiography triggered a number of similar enterprises by his senatorial colleagues (L. Cincius Alimentus, A. Postumius Albinus), probably received a translation into Latin, and eventually spawned a full-blown tradition of Roman historical writing.) Finally, it is worth noting that Suerbaum remains conspicuously silent on what, exactly, he thinks the Wirkung of either Naevius or Fabius consisted in.

The best, and most original, tend to be the D-sections, that is, those that treat the reception of authors and their works, from antiquity to modern times. In Naevius’ case, the section ranges from a discussion of Ennius’ polemics against his epic predecessor in the Annales and the more positive evaluation of his comedies by Volcacius Sedigitus (see paragraph 144) to the Sylva Nutricia of Politian (1496) and the first edition of the fragments by Henricus Stephanus (1564), the archetype of Morel’s Fragmenta poetarum Latinorum. Suerbaum here had the advantage of being able to draw on the magisterial account of the history of transmission by M. Barchiesi (“Fundamentalwerk”: see page 111, Lit.17), which he meticulously acknowledges but also updates with references to more recent secondary literature. Here and elsewhere, the D-sections succeed admirably in conveying a sense of classics as a discipline concerned not just with works in their immediate historical context but also with critical and creative responses to ancient authors, from their own times to the present.

Errors and inconsistencies of the type discussed with regard to part I continue to occur in part II. Thus Blänsdorf comes up with the curious idea that a special form of encore existed at Rome. He posits that, from time to time, the audience of dramatic performances deliberately violated the ritual prescriptions of public festivals to ensure the run of a popular play due to repeated instaurationes : “Nur auf diese Weise liess sich die gewünschte Wiederholung einer Aufführung herbeiführen.” (Paragraph 119. Die kulturhistorische Seite des Dramas: Theaterwesen und Schauspieler, p.148). The Livy passages cited in support of this thesis (25.2.8; 29.11.12; 33.25.2) of course say nothing of this sort, though they imply that these instaurationes were partly motivated by the desire of the presiding aediles to impress the people with extraordinary largitio. Some mistakes are due to sloppiness. Thus, on p. 172, the Rudens features as Plautus’ longest play (1423 verses), whereas on p. 204, it is the Miles (1431 verses). Both entries are authored by Blänsdorf. Stärk, in turn, informs us on p. 151 that dramatic performances at the ludi Romani began in 240. This is not just wrong — with his outspoken commitment to the Epochenjahr 240, he also turns himself into a prime target of the polemics that Suerbaum unleashes in paragraph 113. Der Beginn der römischen Literatur: 240 v.Chr.? against a one-sided and tendentious Hellenocentrism that belittles or ignores Roman cultural activities before the emergence of Latin literary texts on the basis of Greek models.11

For Stärk, however, this slip is exceptional. Otherwise, his entries stand out. He writes a prose that sparkles with insight and esprit, and reading what he has to say on the fragmentary Latin dramatists is pure pleasure and enlightenment. To give a few examples: in paragraph 122. L. Accius, Stärk pinpoints as the hallmarks of this playwright “die Gewaltsamkeit der Affekte bei höchster Angespanntheit der Sprache” and goes on to bring alive both aspects through truly felicitious formulations. Thus we read of “handfeste Verbrechernaturen” (Atreus, Tereus), and that “Nicht selten sucht sich die Wucht der Ereignisse Luft im gespreizten Ausdruck”, of “Wirkungen von grossartiger Undeutlichkeit”, and that “Zumal in den Klangfiguren fand Accius des Guten nie zuviel”. Well chosen citations (such as trag. 456: lassitudo poplitum, brilliantly rendered with “Ermattung der Kniekehlen”) enhance the vividness of his prose. For the comic entries, in turn, Stärk has chosen a dry, witty prose through which even such shady figures as L. Pomponius, supposedly the first author of written Atellanae, come alive. On the thematic outlook of his meagre fragments, Stärk writes: ” Verba sordida und humilia sind das Lebenselement, comedere und cacare die Betätigungsfelder. Cacare findet sich häufiger verwendet als etwa amare” (paragraph 136.1, page 270).

Stärk’s entries are an excellent illustration of a more general point: HLL 1 tends to be at its best and most useful on minor and fragmentary authors. Still, the entries on Plautus (paragraph 127, Blänsdorf) and Terence (paragraph 129, Lefèvre), which make up the bulk of part II, do offer reliable guidance for each play along the scheme Inhalt – Charakteristik – Forschungsprobleme, and have very rich entries on “Tradition und Rezeption” (222-28; 249-54).

iii. Dritter Teil. Die Archaische Prosaliteratur

With contributions by D. Liebs and W. Suerbaum

The third and last part of HLL 1 falls into three main sections: VI. Historiography and related genres (such as autobiography and epistolography); VII. Literary oratory (“Literarische Redekunst”); and VIII. Technical prose (“Fachprosa”), with subsections on (a) philosophical and scientific; (b) historical-antiquarian; (c) grammatical-antiquarian, philological, and rhetorical; (d) legal; (e) agricultural; and (f) other writings of a similar nature. With the exception of VII. d) Die vorklassischen juristischen Fachschriften, which comes from the pen of Liebs, Suerbaum has taken on the Herculean task of authoring this part of HLL 1 entirely on his own, including the Anhang, which contains paragraphs 198, an excellent survey on the reception of archaic Roman literature in antiquity, and 199, a chronological table on the history of Roman literature 240-78 BCE.12 As elsewhere, Suerbaum is at his best when he tackles positivistic problems and he offers reliable guidance on philological matters and the current state of scholarly debate. But he is frequently out of his depth when addressing issues that involve larger contextual parameters. The way he wields Rome’s (entirely hypothetical) “oral tradition” as a magic key to unlock all sorts of problems in early Roman literature is a case in point.13

As we have already had occasion to notice, Suerbaum invokes Rome’s oral tradition to explain the peculiar structure of Naevius’ Bellum Punicum. He makes the same heuristic move with respect to the overall outlook of Fabius Pictor’s narrative, attributing to the first Roman historiographer the remarkable feat of transliterating Rome’s oral tradition into Greek (paragraph 157. Q. Fabius Pictor, page 366). Even in the idiosyncratic design of Cato’s Origines Suerbaum sees the influence of oral tradition at work (paragraph 162. M. Porcius Cato (Censorius), page 391). More generally speaking, he believes that oral tradition underwrote the Geschichtsbild of mid-Republican Rome and gave the Romans of this period meaning and identity (see paragraph 155. Römische Geschichtsschreibung: Einleitung, Überblick, Charakteristika, page 353). In short, according to Suerbaum, Rome’s oral tradition is one of the research topics of the future. Other problems to do with early Roman historiography, such as the distinction between annales and historiae, are said to pale in significance (paragraph 155, page 355). The fact is, however, that it would be difficult to find an archaic society less amenable to analysis along oral-tradition lines than mid-republican Rome.

Oral traditions tend to sport a bipartite structure, offering extensive coverage of the mythic foundation period and present times (roughly the last three generations within living memory). This accounts for two of their most notorious characteristics, their “hour-glass” outlook and the so-called “floating gap”, into which the historical time between foundation and present disappears. As Suerbaum puts it, “die Zwischenzeit, die offenbar für das Selbstverständnis der jeweiligen Gegenwart unwichtig ist, wird praktisch übersprungen” (354). As a spate of recent studies has shown, in terms of the selected data, the choice of specific media of commemoration, and the socio-political base and relevance of the remembered facts, in the Roman republic it was precisely this supposedly “dark”, intervening period that happened to be of primary importance for shaping the historical consciousness and the identity of the ruling elite and hence the populace at large.14

Oral traditions tend to privilege legendary or mythic origins. The Roman nobility primarily remembered historical facts and figures: former office-holders and their deeds. Suerbaum is unable to specify the social settings in which Rome’s oral tradition might have taken place (page 355). It is easy to do so for the historical memory of Roman gentes : the atrium of noble domus with their tituli and shrines for the wax-masks awarded to those members who had been voted into a magistracy of the res publica; the spectacular ritual of the aristocratic funeral with its breathtaking pompa and concluding laudatio, delivered in the forum by the son of the deceased or another close kin, an event which Egon Flaig has called “das semiotisch aufwendigste und szenographisch wichtigste kommemorative Ereignis der römischen Kultur”15; and the very topography of the city, which, in the course of the third century, became increasingly cluttered with spoils, temples, and statues, all charged with commemorative significance.

In mid-republican Rome, oral and written, material and monumental modes of communication and commemoration co-existed. Pace Suerbaum, it is this complex, multi-media memorial culture of the Roman nobility, not the “zu erschliessende Wichtigkeit der oral tradition”, which provides the most promising point of departure for research programmes on the initial absence and eventual rise of historiographical narratives at Rome.16

iv. The bibliographies

Finally, a word on the bibliographies, which constitute such an important component of HLL 1. They are mostly excellent, at times even minor works of art, esp. those from the pen of Suerbaum, who is a known master of the genre, as the author of several monstrous bibliographies, with thousands of entries, for ANRW (cf. his preface, xvii). HLL 1, where space is at a premium, has afforded Suerbaum the opportunity to display his skills in subtler fashion. To give just one example of his bibliographical wizardry, chosen virtually at random: Lit. 3a of paragraph 102. Einleitung in HLL 1 (on the role of translation from the Greek in Roman literature) contains twenty-three entries, most of which are endowed with illuminating remarks that summarize, in a minimum of space, the main point of the item. Important reviews find mention as well as translations into other modern languages. Suerbaum also indicates which books contain further bibliography. Yet in the entire section, he has supplied only one entry with an evaluative comment. To “LENNARTZ, Tragiker” (the abbreviated title refers the reader to the Siglenliste and K. Lennartz, Non verba sed vim. Kritisch-exegetische Untersuchungen zu den Fragmenten archaischer römischer Tragiker, Stuttgart u. a. 1994), he has added “grundsätzlich wichtig, gerade auch für Liv. Andr.”, thereby flagging, with eagle-eyed precision, the one truly outstanding contribution to the field in recent years, and implicitly anticipating the crucial role that Lennartz’s work plays in several later paragraphs of HLL 1.17 In brief, here and elsewhere, Suerbaum manages to offer, with insurpassable economy, an impressive amount of critical guidance, enabling the reader to negotiate his bibliographical catalogues with ease and profit.

Still, in two respects the bibliographies of HLL 1 are somewhat deficient. First, while no one would wish to cavil with the omission of this or that obscure item in lists which clearly strive towards the comprehensive, it is striking that some recent Italian and Anglophone scholarship of the first order has not found entry into HLL 1. Thus on page 3, Lit. 1a (histories of Roman literature), Suerbaum fails to mention the one by G. B. Conte et al. either in the original Italian or in its English translation.18 But not only has the latter version established itself as a standard textbook for graduate students, both in classics and neighboring disciplines, at least in the United States; it also contains one of the most intelligent endeavors to conceptualize the possibility of a genuine history of Latin literature in the age of historicization, around the categories of genre and intertextual dialogue. Likewise, S. E. Hinds sleek libellum Allusion and intertextuality. dynamics of appropriation in Roman poetry Cambridge 1998, makes, as far as I can tell, no appearance in HLL 1, despite the fact that its chapter two would have made a brilliant addition to Suerbaum’s discussion of Ennius’ reception of Naevius (see above). In Lit. 1g of 103.7. Die Griechen und die römische Literatur: Bilingualismus und Mythologie, which lists “recent, general literature” on the “Kulturbegegnung Roms mit den Griechen” one misses a reference to D. C. Feeney, Literature and Religion at Rome. cultures, contexts, and beliefs Cambridge 1998, surely the new point of reference and departure on the issue for Anglophone scholars. Paragraph 107.2. Die Entwicklung der dramatischen Kultur (Liv. 7,2) fails to mention S. P. Oakley’s commentary on Livy, though it is here where most English and American classicists would presumably look first for further bibliography on the subject — with ample rewards. Lit.1 of paragraph 142. Die Lehrdichtung: Allgemeines und Überblick would have gained much in value had it listed A. Schiesaro, P. Mitsis, J. S. Clay (eds.). Mega nepios. Il destinatario nell’epos didascalico, MD 31, 1993 (cf. M. Lowrie BMCR 95.06.13). And so on. These gaps, while perhaps insignificant in and of themselves, add up to a more general point. Apparently, in the planning phases of HLL 1, no one thought of enlisting a high-profile Italian or Anglophone Latinist, who could have alerted contributors to potential lacunae in the bibliographical coverage. In this respect, HLL 1 falls somewhat short of Herzog’s outspoken commitment to a truly international conception of Wissenschaft.19

A similar point can be made as regards the second aspect in which the bibliographies tend to be defici They frequently ignore work done in neighboring disciplines. This is problematic, and not just from a bibliographical point of view. As we have seen, quite a few entries address issues that presuppose a sound knowledge of the wider historical and cultural context. In a good number of cases, a closer familiarity with work currently done in, say, ancient history would have resulted in superior scholarship. To give just two examples: W. Eck, “Altersangaben in senatorischen Grabinschriften: Standeserwartungen und ihre Kompensation”, ZPE 43, 1981, 127-34, contains an excellent discussion of the cultural anxieties that inform the elogia for P. Cornelius Publi f. Scipio and L. Cornelius Cnaei f. Scipio and should have been both used in paragraph 106.2. Tituli und Elogia (H./ A. Petersmann) and listed in paragraph 153. Anonyme Epigramme in metrischen Inschriften, p. 334, number 20 and 21 (W. Suerbaum). And the bland paragraph 119. Die kulturhistorische Seite des Dramas: Theaterwesen und Schauspieler (J. Blänsdorf) could have profited much from the incisive study of the politics of the Roman theater to be found in E. Flaig, “Entscheidung und Konsens. Zu den Feldern der politischen Kommunikation zwischen Aristokratie und Plebs”, in: M. Jehne (ed.) Demokratie in Rom? Die Rolle des Volkes in der Politik der römischen Republik Stuttgart 1995, 77-127.

In line with the laws of the genre, this review has put the emphasis on disagreements and critique. So let me conclude by stressing again that none of the shortcomings discussed above seriously compromises the overall value of HLL 1 as a terrific Arbeitsinstrument.


1. This follows the information given in the most recent volumes of the HA, after the shuffle, that is, in which Bengtson, initially designated Fortführer, became, like Otto, an Erweiterer to make room for the new “continuators” Gehrke and Zimmermann.

2. For the rationale for why the series began in the middle, see Herzog’s preface to HLL 5. There Herzog also mentions an “Übersicht zum Gesamtwerk am Eingang dieses Bandes” (xiii), which is supposed to be given by the editors of each volume. “Am Eingang” I looked for such an “Übersicht” in vain, but in the back of all volumes, the press (C. H. Beck) has included a table with the requisite information. Collating the contents of this page in HLL 1, HLL 4, and HLL 5 is not without interest. For the originally targeted publication dates, see F. Paschoud’s review of HLL 5 in Gnomon 63, 1991, 205-13 (206): apparently, HLL 1 was initially supposed to appear in 1992.

3. The occasional typo or slightly off-target cross-reference does exist, but is easily corrected. The only aesthetically displeasing misprint I noticed occurs in the headings of pages 529 and 531: for “Philosophiesches” read “Philosophisches”.

4. See A. Barchiesi BMCR 2002.06.26, fn. 6: “[HLL 1] includes full coverage of all topics and texts mentioned in my review.”

5. Some of these inadequacies are due to Suerbaum’s hands-off approach to editing. As he says in his preface, “Alle Autoren haben ihre Paragraphen in eigener Verantwortung geschrieben” (xxi), and he deliberately abstained from harmonizing “differierende Standpunkte zwischen den einzelnen Mitarbeitern.” The decision baffles. A handbook is not the ideal genre to flaunt the inviolability of individual authorship, and it is partly on account of the lack of synergetic teamwork that HLL 1 struggles more than it should to be greater than its parts.

6. See paragraph 104.2. Der Saturnier, Lit. 2b: “Die in paragraph 104.2 vertretene Terminologie … und Auffassung kann keineswegs als communis opinio betrachtet werden”; or paragraph 108.3. Der römische Kalender, Lit. 1b: “Noch nicht rezipiert werden konnten von G.RADKE die neuen Forschungen von J.RÜPKE zu Kalender und Fasti, auch zur kommunikativen Funktion kalendarischer Textgattungen in Rom.”

7. The passage contains Cicero’s bitterly sarcastic quip that the members of the first triumvirate had privately fixed the future consuls as far in advance as the official list of consuls reached back in time. From this, the Petersmanns infer that “Zu Ciceros Zeit scheint es schon eine Art Taschenkalender mit einer blossen Konsulnliste gegeben zu haben (T. 2)” (58), a contradictory statement that flies in the face of their earlier insight that the term fasti is ambiguous: “Die von dem eigentlichen Kalender abgetrennten Beamtenlisten … wurden nach diesem ebenfalls als fasti bezeichnet.”

8. To find a summary of Rüpke’s argument, the user of HLL 1 has to read on until the end of Lit.1 of the next paragraph (108.3), authored by Radke, which contains a comment by Suerbaum (Lit. 1b) that Radke was unable to take into consideration the new research by Rüpke, with the additional notice: “vgl. immerhin paragraph 108.2; paragraph 190.3 Lit.3b”. And there, on page 537, one indeed finds the bibliographical information of relevance for the end of 108.2. In turn, those interested in a review of Rüpke’s opus will have to stumble upon the information on page 77, paragraph 111.3. Cn. Flavius (D. Liebs). This is a bit like chasing wild geese — an irritating adventure in a work of reference whose value depends much on the ease with which the relevant information can be retrieved.

9. Cf. paragraph 106.3 Lit.4 where one finds juxtaposed discussion of the polemics of Cato the Elder (234-149) against poetae with the remark that archaeologists like to speak of the “Homeric character” of middle Italy in the seventh century BCE.

10. The passage in question reads: Ita ab diutina ira tandem in concordiam redactis ordinibus, cum dignam eam rem senatus censeret esse meritoque id, si quando unquam alias, deum immortalium [causa libenter facturos] fore ut ludi maximi fierent et dies unus ad triduum adiceretur, recusantibus id munus aedilibus plebis, conclamatum a patriciis est iuuenibus se id honoris deum immortalium causa libenter facturos [ut aediles fierent]. (For a discussion of the textual difficulties, see S.P. Oakley, A commentary on Livy. Books VI-X. Volume I (Oxford 1997) 723-24.) Quite apart from the fact that we are in the year 367 BCE, several centuries later, that is, than is reconcilable with the adjective “ursprünglich”, Livy here reports on a tussle about who would bear the brunt of financing the prolonged games. Livy 7.2.5-12, which Suerbaum also cites, comes from his famous history of dramatic performances at Rome, but there the historiographer has, again, nothing to say about an indigenous “lyric culture”. The passage from Dion. Hal. contains a description of the dance of the Salii and other processions and also does not tell us anything about an early sympotic culture at Rome or young aristocrats singing convivial songs — quite apart from the “Greek lens” that Dion. Hal. here brings to bear on Roman culture in his forced search for cultural derivations and homologies.

11. Even if we do not wish to follow to the letter Livy 7.2 (introduction of dramatic performances at the ludi Romani of 364: the passage is discussed in extenso by Suerbaum, paragraph 107.2, pages 51-57; see also Blänsdorf, paragraph 119, page 148), we have to reckon with some type of dramatic displays at this festival long before the second half of the third century.

12. The excellent index which concludes the volume is the joint work of E. Danay and Suerbaum.

13. As with his enthusiastic endorsement of Zorzetti’s speculations about a lyric culture in archaic Rome, Suerbaum here gets his inspiration primarily from one idiosyncratic piece of work, namely J. von Ungern-Sternberg’s article “Überlegungen zur frühen römischen Überlieferung im Lichte der Oral-Tradition-Forschung”, in: id. and H. Reinau, (eds.) Vergangenheit in mündlicher Überlieferung Stuttgart 1988.

14. The following account draws on such studies as T. Hölscher, “Die Anfänge römischer Repräsentationskunst”, MDAIR 85, 1978, 315-57; E. Flaig, “Die pompa funebris. Adlige Konkurrenz und annalistische Erinnerung in der Römischen Republik”, in: Oexle, O. G. (ed.). Memoria als Kultur. Göttingen 1995. 115-48; H. I. Flower, Ancestor masks and aristocratic power in Roman culture. Oxford 1996; and K.-J. Hölkeskamp, “Exempla und mos maiorum. Überlegungen zum kollektiven Gedächtnis der Nobilität”, in: Gehrke, H.-J. and Möller, A. (eds.) Vergangenheit und Lebenswelt. Soziale Kommunikation, Traditionsbildung und historisches Bewusstsein. Tübingen 1996. 301-38. Suerbaum has read Flaig (see paragraph 187.1. Laudatio funebris: Allgemeines und einzelne Leichenreden) but has not realized the implications of his article for our understanding of early Roman historiography.

15. The passage is worth quoting in full: “F[lower] macht die — unausgesprochene — Voraussetzung, dass diejenigen Ereignisse oder Daten besonders bedeutsam sind, welche entweder ‘ganz alt’ sind — die Ursprünge — oder erst neulich geschahen. Das ist in der ‘oral history’ tatsächlich der Fall. F. konstruiert demnach die semantische Wertigkeit derjeniger Daten, die bei der pompa kommemoriert werden, entlang dem Muster der ‘oral history’. Ein solches Ritual — das semiotisch aufwendigste und szenographisch wichtigste kommemorative Ereignis der römischen Kultur — zu erforschen, verlangt jedoch danach, die konzeptuellen und konzeptionellen Errungenschaften der Memorialforschung der letzten beiden Jahrzehnte anzuwenden. Tut man das, dann stellt sich die pompa funebris dar als ein Ritual, das auf radikale Weise diesseits der ‘oral history’ funktioniert: Es ist diejenige soziale Veranstaltung, in welcher die römische Vergangenheit auf formierte und wiederholbare Weise erinnert und fixiert wurde. Der Adressat dieses Rituals, die hauptstädtische Bürgerschaft, war daran gewöhnt, dass diese Eckdaten feierlich aufgerufen und im individuellen Gedächtnis der Bürger reaktiviert wurden; die Adressaten erwarteten dies auch.” (E. Flaig, “Kulturgeschichte ohne historische Anthropologie”, IJCL 7, 2001, 226-44 (232).)

16. The best starting point for further research on early Roman historiography is now the volume edited by U. Eigler, U. Gotter, N. Luraghi, U. Walter Formen römischer Geschichtsschreibung von den Anfängen bis Livius. Gattungen — Autoren — Kontexte. Darmstadt 2003, with the introduction by Gotter und Luraghi on the significance of annales (dismissed as unimportant by Suerbaum, p. 355) and the contributions by Flower (on the various media of display and commemoration practiced in mid-Republican Rome), Blösel (on the memorial culture of the Roman nobility), Beck (on Fabius Pictor), and Gotter (on Cato’s Origines). Cf. C. Krebs, BMCR 2003.06.36.

17. See paragraph 115. L. Livius. Andronicus, Lit.6 (page 98); paragraph 117. Q. Ennius (page 127); paragraph 120. Die Tragödie: Einleitung und Überblick (pages 152-53, which contain a full discussion and critique of Lennartz’s main thesis).

18. See G. B. Conte et al. Latin Literature: A History. Baltimore 1994.

19. See HLL 5, preface, xv: “Dieses Unternehmen knüpft, im hundertsten Jahr des von Müllerschen Handbuchs, an eine Tradition der deutschen Altertumswissenschaft an, aber es versucht sie als gemeinschaftliche Aufgabe der europäischen Philologie fortzuführen.” I remain puzzled by the geographical qualification “European”. It raises the question whether Herzog decided not to recruit experts in a given field because they worked, say, in the United States and, if so, how he would have justified such a policy. As far as I can see, the international component of the new HLL is limited to collaboration with French experts in the area of patristic literature. The contributors to HLL 1, at any rate, are all “German-speaking” (see HLL 1, preface, xxi).