BMCR 2005.05.43

Cato Censorius in der Forschung des 20. Jahrhunderts

, Cato Censorius in der Forschung des 20. Jahrhunderts: eine kommentierte chronologische Bibliographie für 1900-1999 nebst systematischen Hinweisen und einer Darstellung des Schriftstellers M. Porcius Cato (234-149 v. Chr.). Bibliographien zur klassischen Philologie, Bd. 2. Hildesheim: G. Olms, 2004. 312 pages. ISBN 3487125897 €44.80.

When it was proclaimed that the Library contained all books, the first impression was one of extravagant happiness. All men felt themselves to be the masters of an intact and secret treasure. […] As was natural, this inordinate hope was followed by an excessive depression. The certitude that some shelf in some hexagon held precious books and that these precious books were inaccessible, seemed almost intolerable. (Jorge Luis Borges, The Library of Babel.)

Werner Suerbaum (who will subsequently be referred to as WS) had already produced a number of important bibliographies (e.g. on Virgil and Tacitus),1 when he initiated the series “Bibliographien zur Klassischen Philologie.” To its first volume on Ennius,2 WS has now added this bibliography on M. Porcius Cato, which is an invaluable tool for anybody interested in the earliest writer of Latin prose.

The introduction informs us about bibliographical sources used, the (reasonable) limitations of the endeavor, and the structure and layout of the presentation of the voluminous material (there are more than 1000 major entries, listed reviews not included).

The bibliography itself comprises two parts. The first one presents the literature on Cato chronologically (from 1900-1999), with brief comments on its content. It is preceded by a survey of the most important publications on Cato in the 19th century and supplemented by separate lists of publications by Fraccaro and Simovicova (apologies for missing diacritics) as well as a synopsis of editions of Cicero’s, Nepos’, and Plutarch’s Catones and a prospect of publications in 2001/2. The second part is structured thematically (and is a very helpful tool for anybody working on a particular aspect of Cato’s life or oeuvre). After a general overview and a list of editions, anthologies, indices, and bibliographies, more comprehensive discussions of Cato Censorius are assembled, followed by work addressing his biography and political activity. In section 4 literature concerning certain aspects of Cato as a politician is listed, followed by the four sections that collate the literature dealing with Cato’s literary output ( Origines, Orationes, De agricultura, Libri ad Marcum filium and other work). The final section of this second part comprises work published on the reception of Cato.

There are two further sections: one serves as the alphabetical index of scholars, and the final reproduces excerpts of ωσ’ presentation of Cato’s life and work in HLL 1.3

While working on Cato’s Origines and Orationes, I repeatedly resorted to this bibliography and found it comprehensive (with one exception),4 and WS’s brief comments on scholarly work helpful and accurate. The usage of it is facilitated by the user-friendly and clear presentation of the material, and the number of inaccuracies surprisingly low.

The daily growing risk of getting lost in a “Babel of scholarship” will be successfully kept at bay thanks to accurate bibliographical maps like this one; with them the scholar will know where to find the “precious books.”


1. See his “Hundert Jahre Vergil-Forschung. Eine systematische Arbeitsbibliographie mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der Aeneis.” ANRW II 31.1, 1980, 3-358. On Tacitus: “Zweiundvierzig Jahre Tacitus-Forschung. Systematische Gesamtbibliographie zu Tacitus’ Annalen 1939-80”. ANRW II 33.2, 1990, 1032-1476. ωσ’ other bibliographical works are listed on p.14-15 of the bibliography on Cato.

2. W. Suerbaum. Ennius in der Forschung des 20. Jahrhunderts. Eine kommentierte Bibliographie für 1900-1999 mit systmatischen Hinweisen nebst einer Kurzdarstellung des Q. Ennius (239-169 v.Chr.), Hildesheim 2003.

3. Handbuch der lateinischen Literatur der Antike, Bd. 1: Die archaische Literatur. Von den Anfängen bis Sullas Tod. Hrsg. von Werner Suerbaum, München 2002, 380-418.

4. The following title seems to be missing: Carbonero, Orestes 1993. Thermopylarum gloria deminuta apud Thucydidem et Catonem. In: Latinitas 41(4): 327-329.