BMCR 2005.05.36

Titus Maccius Plautus. Vidularia et deperditarum fabularum fragmenta. Editio Plautina Sarsinatis, 21

, , , Vidularia ; et, Deperditarum fabularum fragmenta. Editio plautina Sarsinatis ; 21. Sarsinae/Urbini: QuattroVenti, 2004. 120 pages ; 24 cm.. ISBN 8839206736 €15.00 (pb).

This is the second volume to appear in the new critical edition of Plautus, the “editio Plautina sarsinatis,” emanating from the University of Urbino. Since the first volume ( Casina, ed. C. Questa, Urbino: QuattroVenti 2001) has not (yet?) been noticed in BMCR, I will first offer here a few general remarks about the series before getting down to the specifics of Monda’s Vidulara and fragments. (The third volume, Asinaria, ed. R. Danese, has also been published.)

In its thoroughness this new series aims largely to replace, not just W. Lindsay’s OCT of Plautus (revised edition, 1910, in print), or even F. Leo’s edition (Berlin, Weidmann, 1895-6, still available in reprint from Georg Olms), but, indeed, the magisterial but archaic multiple-volume edition prepared by F. Ritschl and his pupils Loewe, Goetz, and Schoell (1871-1894, abbreviated Ritschl 2 in the new series; long out of print). Each play is being edited and released in its own fascicule. The text, which is printed on high quality paper, and in a clear typeset, is printed with generous margins above a double apparatus. The first of these apparatus reports details of scene headings, line attributions, colometry, and so forth, while the second is a generous but selective textual apparatus of variant readings and conjectural emendations, incorporating both older material and the aggregate of scholarship on Plautus that has accrued in the century since Lindsay’s revised OCT.

A significant advantage of this series over existing editions of Plautus is that full ancient testimonia and quotations, sorely missed in the OCT, are here provided. A further advantage is that all abbreviated references appearing in the apparatus are given their full citations in a separate bibiliography appended to the front of the volume. Since these abbreviations are standardized from one volume to the next, we can now all speak merely of ‘Ritschl2’ or ‘Taubmann(us)1’ quickly and easily to distinguish one edition from another. A very brief ‘ monitum,’ and ‘ codicum sigla,’ both written in Latin, are prefaced to each volume. The result is an enormously user-friendly edition that surpasses in format any edition of Plautus now available, and, I will say by way of anticipation, if the editing and sound scholarship of each future volume is of as high quality as these first three are, we will at last have our new Plautus.

I do have one complaint, however. The principles of orthography and other editorial decisions to which the series adheres were set forth by Questa in an article (C. Questa, ‘Per un’ edizione di Plauto,’ Giornate Filologiche ‘Francesco Della Corte’, II, Genova 2001, 61-83) that is not readily accessible to all, and these principles are not repeated in the front of each volume. But readers will want and need this information. I very much hope that this article will be reprinted (and translated into Latin or even other languages as well) at the front of the Amphitruo edition (ed. C. Questa) that is advertised as ‘ mox prodibit‘.

And now on to the present volume.

S. Monda here presents his edition, which began as a Pisa dissertation, of both Plautus’ Vidularia and the fragments of Plautus’ lost plays. Let us take each in turn.


The Vidularia (‘The Knapsack play’) is, alphabetically, the last of the ‘Varronian’ plays of Plautus. Its Greek original was probably called the Schedia, and so was probably the Schedia written by Diphilus. The plot, which involves a shipwreck, a dispute over a vidulus, and one or more recognition scenes, has often been thought to mirror closely that of the Rudens, itself based on a play by Diphilus. (But not universally: see K. Dér, CQ 37 1987 432-443.) The extremely fragmentary text survives only in a few quotations from ancient grammarians (Priscian and Nonius, mostly), and the (probably) fifth-century Ambrosianus palimpsest of Plautus, whose poor condition is well known today. Several efforts were made in the last two centuries to transcribe the Ambrosianus. R. Calderan, the penultimate editor of the Vidularia (in 1982; with a thorough commentary; now re-issued, ed. S. Monda, QuattroVenti, 2004, reviewed at BMCR 2005.05.35), inspected the Ambrosianus himself personally in January 1979, and concluded that, while the Ambrosianus is not completely unreadable, a new collation of it is practically superfluous, because his own readings confirmed what the previous transcribers, Studemund and Goetz, had seen.

In light of this, it is not really a cause for concern that Monda in his edition has taken all his readings of the continuous portion of the Vidularia from Studemund’s, Goetz’, and Calderan’s collations of the Ambrosianus. For the fragments of the play, Monda has re-edited the sources of the quotations, including, in some cases, by inspecting not only numerous editions but some MSS as well of all the source authors. In general, Monda’s editorial work confirms the soundness of previous editions, because, unless I have overlooked something, it appears that none of the MSS newly collated by Monda has resulted in a new reading in the actual text of Plautus. We do learn that in a number of fragments, MS Z (9th c.) of Priscian’s Institutiones, ‘not used by editors’ (why not?), which Monda has himself collated, the original scribe has often omitted the attribution of the fragment or misspelled the title (frr. 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 11, 17), where, however, ‘ in vidularia‘ has usually been added by a second hand (marked ‘z’). As I am not an expert in Priscian, I am uncertain what value reporting these readings really adds, since there seems to be a number of 9th c. Priscian MSS. It would have been helpful for the reader, therefore, to make this clear by providing some further references to this information.

The text itself of Plautus has, I believe, changed from Lindsay’s in only one place, viz., fr. 18, where ego (labelled ‘ susp. { ectum }’ by Calderan; I would agree) is transposed; the meter is uncertain anyhow. Otherwise, only the ordering of the fragments has changed, which will naturally vary according to how each of us reconstructs the plot. Otherwise, there is little to add; in v. 6, the very fragmentary line that should tell us the name of the original, Monda reports in apparatu a hesitant restoration of Mariotti, Schedia haec vocatur a Graecis comoedia, though he, Mariotti, claimed ( apud Calderan) the expression a Graecis is unparalleled: I am not myself certain whether the restoration is right, but I would point out that Terence Phormio 25f., is not so far off ( Epidicazomenon quam vocant comoediam / Graeci, Latini Phormionem nominant.)

What, then, can we say in sum? Monda’s text of the Vidularia is not very much different from that of Lindsay or Calderan. A few lines are filled out, but almost always tentatively, and it would be wrong to say that our knowledge of the play has increased greatly. On the other hand, we do have a very sensible and conservative construction of the text, and a more complete report of the fragments and their context than ever before, including their variant readings. Future scholars working on the Vidularia will find here everything they need immediately before their eyes.

The Fragments

By the “fragments of Plautus,” we mean specifically quotations from comedies that are not, or cannot be, definitely assigned to any of the twenty-one extant ‘Varronian’ plays (which, as I mentioned above, this series includes together with each relevant play). The majority of these, it must be admitted, are fairly small potatoes. Most of the fragments consist of only a single line, or slightly more, and many are shorter than that. With very few exceptions we cannot even begin to guess at elements of the plot, characterization, or any of the other elements we would like to know about.

Monda is a conservative editor, and, as with the Vidularia, here as well little in the text of Plautus itself has changed. Yet Monda has given us a very solid foundation on which all future work on the fragments of Plautus will be based. Monda quotes generously from the source authors, giving in a separate apparatus alternate readings, not only of the Plautine fragment, but of the surrounding context as well. His presentation of the relevant information all in one place makes reading the fragments intelligently infinitely easier than struggling through the allusive and condensed apparatus of Lindsay.

In preparing his edition, Monda has himself collated, or had collated for him, five MSS of source authors, viz.: Festus, MSS F (the Farnesianus) and A (a 15th c. MS, not used by Lindsay; why not?); Gellius, MSS C (13th c.) and G (12th c.), neither previously used by editors (again, why not?); and Priscian, Institutiones MS Z (9th c.), not used by editors. He also collated MS F (11th c.) of Varro from photographs. As far as I can tell, we do not learn much new from any of these MSS that directly affects the text of Plautus, with one possible exception. From his inspection of F, Monda tentatively reassigns Condalium fr. 2 as ‘ Cophinus (?)’ (“The Basket”) fr. 1, possibly, but by no means certainly, right. (The fragment, however, consists solely of the word ‘ pro‘; there is no other evidence for a Plautine Cophinus.) Otherwise the readings from these MSS largely confirm the textus receptus. In MS A, the only reading of any significance I saw is Faeneratrix fr. 1, line 2, where A reads, erroneously, libertas for libertus. Monda reports that Gellius C reads (undoubtedly right) estur, not est, in Boeotia fr. 1, 7. (But is it the only MS to do so? Lindsay prints estur without any special notice.) Otherwise, this same MS has some obviously mistaken readings, such as writing twice in this same fragment scolarium for solarium (a scribal Freudian slip?); and in Trigemini fr. 1, C has ni for nisi (Monda reads nisi). It appears that MS ‘Z’ of Priscian (the siglum is attributed to M. De Nonno — but where? A discussion of the merits or demerits of this MS would be helpful) is notable chiefly because its original scribe frequently neglected to cite the title of the citations from Plautus; these titles were, however, later added by the same or another scribe.

The ipsissima verba of Plautus are very little changed from what Lindsay prints. Monda reclaims a couple of fragments thought dubia, spuria, or attributed to other (extant) plays of Plautus, and, vice versa, condemns a few that have been otherwise thought authentic.1 In fr. incert. 68, Monda proposes quietalis, perhaps rightly. Where the fragments do differ, it is mostly in Monda’s decision to differ in colometry, which sometimes involves the supplement of a monosyllable metri causa. (Would not the rhythm of Dyscolus fr. 1 be improved by setting the monosyllabic lacuna after virgo, not before it?) Other departures from Lindsay’s text are largely orthographical or colometrical; of this latter group, it is not clear to me on what basis some of these changes have been made. In the prefatory note we are told that Monda will soon publish his defense of these changes, so it seems best to reserve judgment until that time.

Monda has justified the existence of his new edition above all by the exciting announcement on the first page of his monitum (I translate), “But a new edition of the fragments of Plautus’ plays is needed primarily because the corpus has to be enlarged by the addition of some fragments.” The claim does not really seem to me to be warranted. While the numbering of the fragments has been increased from Lindsay’s 59 (+ seven fragmenta dubia et suspecta) to Monda’s 76 (+ 40 dubia), the increase is largely because Monda has assigned an individual number to each of the single-word quotations that Lindsay had grouped under the collective heading ‘ vocabula‘. In fact, I count only three new fragments here, viz., the two unearthed by Bischoff in 1932 ( Artemo 4, which is in oratio obliqua, and fr. incert. 34), and the above-mentioned Cophinus fr. 1, previously given by editors as Condalium fr. 2. Since, in fact, there are only really two ‘new fragments’ (i.e., those of Bischoff) in the corpus, I was especially puzzled to find no mention, either positive or negative, anywhere in the book, of the ‘new’ fragments of Plautus allegedly contained in the Cornucopiae, seu Latinae linguae commentarii, written by the Italian humanist Niccolò Perotti (a contemporary of Poggio and Lorenzo Valla) and first published, probably, in Venice in 1489. In 1947 R. Oliver published an article (to little notice, apparently) called “New Fragments of Latin Authors in Perotti’s Cornucopiae” ( TAPA 78, 376-424; dicussion of Plautus on pp. 405-410). In it, Oliver argued that his preliminary investigation revealed that the Cornucopiae contains 428 quotations of Plautus, of which an astonishing 114 either are not found elsewhere or “show distinctive textual peculiarities”. These may have interesting or even influential readings: Oliver observes, for example, that in Agroecus fr. 1, Perotti reads clunes infractos gero ( infractos fero, Pauli Festus, followed by Monda; desertos gero Nonius).

A preliminary examination of the Plautine citations in Perotti was made by A. Tontini in 1992 (‘Citazioni Plautine in Osberno Uguccione Perotti’, Studi Umanistici Piceni 12, 1992, 243-253), wherein Tontini demonstrates that Perotti’s citations do not derive from the works of the medieval lexicographers Osbern of Gloucester2 or Uguccione da Pisa;3 that, in general, Perotti’s citations of Plautus are of a very high quality; that in places they follow Festus or Nonius, but in other places they do not; and that in still other places it is fully unclear from what source they derive.

As far as I know, a comprehensive evaluation of these Plautine fragments in Perotti’s book is still waiting to be carried out; it may indeed prove fruitless, but it certainly seems worth doing. A competent scholar could probably do it in short order, since a modern edition of the Cornucopiae is currently underway.4 But I should certainly hasten to add that any fault may lie with me the reviewer rather than with Monda; I am not aware of any discussion of the fragments of Plautus embedded in Perotti later than that of Tontini’s 1992 article. Any further information from readers, posted as a response to this review, would be most welcome.

Let me stress in closing that this is a very sound edition of the Vidularia and the fragments — certainly the best and most reader-friendly edition of these texts yet. It unquestionably replaces Lindsay’s OCT edition. The generous quotation of the context of the fragments, the careful attention to details (I find no misprints), and the competent and conservative presentation of the text make this volume an excellent basis for all further research.


1. Here one might mention that, while it is now little more than a footnote in scholarly history that the ‘ Oedipus‘ of Plautus listed among the ‘lost plays’ of Plautus by Schanz-Hosius, is merely a ghost arising from a misreading of Epidicus (cf. CP 1950, 39-40); it might have been beneficial to mention this information somewhere in the volume.

2. Claudianus Osbernus Pinnuc (Osbern Pinnock) was a monk of St. Peter’s Abbey, Gloucester. He wrote, from a.d. 1148-1179, a list of Latin words and derivatives called the Derivationes or Panormia, which has recently been edited under the direction of F. Bertini and V. Ussani, as: Osberno, Derivazioni, a cura di P. Busdraghi et al. (Biblioteca di ‘Medioevo Latino,’ 16), 2 vol., Spoleto, 1996.

3. Uguccione da Pisa, Bishop of Ferrara, likewise wrote, in the final third of the twelfth century, a Derivationes, the editio princeps of which was published just last year, under the title: Uguccione da Pisa, Derivationes, edizione critica princeps, a cura di E. Cecchini et al. (Edizione Nazionale dei Testi Mediolatini), 2 vol., Tavarnuzze (Florence), 2004.

4. The Cornucopiae is being re-edited and released in fascicules by J. L. Charlet and other scholars (Niccolò Perotti, Cornu Copiae Seu linguae Latinae commentarii, ediderunt J.L. Charlet et al., Sassoferrato, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1995 ( bis), 1997, -; I have not seen any of these myself).