BMCR 2005.09.16

Anonyme de Séguier. Art du discours politique

, , Art du discours politique = Technē tou politikou logou. Collection des universités de France . Série grecque, 442. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2005. xcix, 61, 150 pages ; 20 cm.. ISBN 2251005269 €47.00.

Michel Patillon’s new edition of the rhetorical treatise known as the Anonymus Seguerianus should become the default choice for serious study, both for the quality of the text and translation, and for the extensive and characteristically informative introduction and notes.1 That recommendation will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the impressive series of editions of rhetorical texts that Patillon (henceforth P.) has produced in recent years.2 Among these, the edition of Theon was especially notable for making accessible the Armenian version of the chapters lost in the Greek paradosis. In this case, too, P. gives us, not just a good text, but more text than previous editors. To understand this, some background may be needed.

The Anonymus Seguerianus (henceforth AS) was discovered by Séguier de St Brisson, and first published in 1840. Its authorship is unknown. Graeven argued in his ground-breaking edition3 that the author was called Cornutus, a suggestion that is still able to trap unwary non-specialists into a confusion with the first-century Stoic. But AS is a compilation of material drawn from named authorities, at least some of whom date to the second century AD. Graeven was not guilty of an elementary chronological blunder; his idea was that there must have been a third-century rhetorician of that name. But the argument, which crucially depends on the fact that the definition of kolon in AS 242 identical to that attributed elsewhere to Cornutus, is not compelling: more probably, the compiler of AS inherited this definition from the first-century Stoic through one of his proximate sources.

Dilts and Kennedy, in the introduction to their edition,4 report that Graeven’s ‘theory that Anonymous Seguerianus is a shortened version of a work on rhetoric by a rhetorician of the third century named Cornutus … has been discredited’ (xi). That is misleading. Though the attribution to a hypothetical third-century Cornutus has been rejected, it remains virtually certain that the text which Séguier discovered is a shortened version: parts of a more extensive version are preserved in the indirect tradition. At the indisputable minimum, an anonymous commentary on [Hermogenes] On Invention contains passages which cite the same range of authorities as AS in the same manner; these passages partially overlap with AS, but also present material missing from the version preserved in manuscript.

Previous editors of AS have not thought it their business to edit the material from the anonymous commentary (some do not even advertise its existence), and getting at it has hitherto posed a formidable challenge. Parts of the commentary were printed in volume 7 of Walz’s Rhetores Graeci ( RG 7.697-860); the parts omitted from volume 5 have to be constructed from the text and apparatus of volume 5. Walz is not a user-friendly work at the best of times, and only the most obsessive devotees of fragmentary rhetoricians would contemplate the task of reassembling the lost sections of AS from Walz’s diaspora. So it is immensely valuable to have the relevant parts of the anonymous commentary (henceforth αξ properly edited from superior manuscript evidence, in P.’s accessible Budé. Though I believe that the relationship between AS and the material preserved in AC is not as inscrutable as P. supposes (xxiii), the decision to place this material separately in an Annexe rather than contaminating the two versions is methodologically correct. In what follows I cite AC using P.’s section numbers.5

P.’s treatment of the opening section of AS illustrates both the conservative and the interventionist tendencies in his editorial practice. He retains the words ἤτοι δικανικὸς which other editors have plausibly suspected as an interpolation. That suspicion is encouraged by the fact that John of Sardis ( PS 358.6 Rabe) omits the words. P. mentions and discusses this evidence in a note, but does not acknowledge it in his apparatus. (That is not the only case in which P.’s apparatus is less informative than it should be: an edition’s users are entitled to expect that the apparatus will supply them with all the relevant evidence and should not have to hunt about in notes.) A few lines later, however, P. adopts Aujac’s διηγήσεων in place of the transmitted διηγήσεως, thus achieving consistency with the adjacent plural proems, proofs and epilogues. But anyone who compares, for example, 2.1 ( περὶ προοιμίων) with 40.1 ( περὶ δὲ τῆς διηγήσεως), or considers the promiscuous mix of singular and plural proem(s) and epilogue(s) in 27-28, is likely to conclude that this intervention is unnecessarily fussy. Similarly, in technographic prose it seems misguided to assume that every ὅτι -clause needs to be furnished with an explicit λέγειν (40.6) or εἰπεῖν (43.3, following Kennedy).

Editorial intervention is, of course, necessary when one is dealing with an abbreviated technical text preserved in a single manuscript, and the judgements that need to be made are inevitably delicate and uncertain. So it is not surprising that P.’s proposals do not all command assent. I select a few illustrative passages for comment.

In AS 20 P. prints his own supplement, poih/somen to prooi/mion. He claims support from a parallel in RG 4.428.27f., which offers ἑλκοποιήσομεν γὰρ τὸ προοίμιον. P. describes that variant as ‘difficult’, but the corruption from κακὸν … ποιήσομεν to ἑλκοποιήσομεν is barely credible. Though the expression is surprising, the image is appropriate and compelling: you should address your opponent’s arguments only where you need (and have the opportunity) to counter them; to give them free publicity in the proem is to turn the proem into (as we might say) a self-inflicted wound. Here, as in AS 1, P. underestimates the contribution of the indirect tradition.

In AS 74, by contrast, he overestimates it. P. supplements the text of a discussion of lexical brevity from a parallel passage in John of Sardis’ commentary on Aphthonius (22.18-20 Rabe). But the context in John is constructed out of alternating extracts from AS and Theon, and the words in question are found in Theon. It seems obvious that John has inserted a note from Theon into a passage from AS. P. counters (82 n.3): ‘mais on la lit aussi chez J. Doxapatrès, qui ne dépend pas de J. de Sardes.’ But that is simply false: Doxapatres presents a similar conflation of AS and Theon, and one striking agreement ( συνυπακούεται, inspired by Theon 84.12, for λείπει in AS 75.2f.) proves his dependence. This supplement is therefore to be rejected decisively.

AS 149 reports Neocles as specifying three categories of artificial proof based on fact: εἰκός, τεκμήριον, and παράδειγμα; but the following discussion confusingly refers to σημεῖον as well. P. eliminates the confusion by reading ‘four’ for ‘three’, and inserting an entry for σημεῖον into the list. This is an initially attractive solution to a passage that I have always found difficult. But on reflection, I think the problem is with Neocles’ exposition rather than the text. σημεῖον does not have a stable enough independent existence in the following discussion to merit this place in the classification: in AS 152 σημεῖον is defined as a kind of τεκμήριον, and as equivalent in customary usage to εἰκός. Moreover, now that AC is so much more accessible, it is easier to see the structure of Neocles’ theory of proof in its entirety: in particular, it is clear that when Neocles maps his classification of proofs onto a classification of epicheiremes, he has in mind a three-part classification without any reference to σημεῖον (AC 81-82). An understanding of the complex structure of Neocles’ theory is also, in my view, the key to solving the puzzle about how the AC material is to be integrated into the material transmitted in AS; but that is a question that goes beyond the scope of this review.

In AS 170 most editors adopt Spengel’s emendations (or some variant on them), and see a distinction between theorists: among topics, some people have found ones that are common across all the issues, others ones that are special to individual issues. Yet the opening genitive creates the expectation of a distinction between kinds of topic, as at (e.g.) AS 145. P. meets that expectation by preserving the transmitted κοινῶς τινα … εἰρήκασιν and reading ἴδιοι for ἰδίως : some topics have spoken certain things in common across all the issues, while others are special to individual issues. But can κοινῶς τινα … εἰρήκασιν really be translated ‘sont des énoncés appliqués communément’? The more common approach gives the section a continuity lost if P.’s proposal is adopted: some have found topics that are common across all the issues, others ones that are special to individual issues; but Aristotle found both common and special topics.

P. would not be worried by this rupture of the ‘some-others-Aristotle’ sequence. If the sequence is maintained, then Neocles is the source for the Aristotle citation as well as the initial ‘some-others’ contrast. If the sequence is broken, it becomes possible to suppose that the reference to Aristotle was inserted by AS himself. And that is what P. suggests (xxvii-xxviii). He speaks of AS having undertaken ‘une vaste enquête chez les théoriciens anterieurs’, and adds: ‘Aristote en particulier a été lu pour cette occasion’ (lxxxix). Yet AS’s knowledge of Theodorus and Apollodorus appears to be mediated by Alexander, and I have little doubt that his knowledge of older tradition was also indirect. At AS 207-8 the cluster of references to Plato, Chrysippus and Aristotle is suggestive of a doxographic source; Neocles refers to the Stoics at AC 181; and the reference to Aristotle at AC 191 surely derives from Alexander.

P.’s willingness to credit AS with direct use of Aristotle is characteristic of his distinctively high estimation of the author, to whom he attributes about 57% of the text (the passages attributed to AS are listed — and miscounted — on p. xxx). On P.’s view, the author moves fluidly between reporting the views of named authorities and providing his own summary of common doctrine. By contrast, Dilts and Kennedy see him as a pure compiler who ‘never advances an opinion of his own’ (xi). I am not unsympathetic to P.’s position in principle: it is too easy to think of the composition of technical works as a process of mindless compilation from sources. Yet AS is overtly compilatory in its approach, and the absence of a name does not prove the absence of a source: the unattributed definition of πάθος at AS 6 is the same as that at AS 223, where the source (Neocles) is named. Further, the author’s helpful habit of refreshing the introductory identification of a source by name with the occasional parenthetic ‘he says’ sometimes leaves orphans when the introductory naming has been lost in the abridgement. P. convincingly argues that ‘he’ in AS 142 is a case in point: the source has switched unannounced to Harpocration at AS 138. Yet at AS 89 and 94 he emends φησί to φασί, allowing him to attribute the whole of the long, carefully structured exposition of the three virtues of narrative in AS 63-98 to the compiler himself. Certainly this tightly integrated section should not be divided between different sources, as it is by Dilts and Kennedy. But I see no reason to doubt that AS is dependent here on one of his regular sources. I think the indirect tradition supports an attribution to Alexander son of Numenius, and provides evidence of Alexander’s debt to Dionysius of Halicarnassus; but that, too, goes beyond the scope of this review.

Though P. does a service in making the additional material from AC available, his treatment of the rest of the indirect tradition is less satisfactory. He overlooks a scholion to Demosthenes (sch. Dem. 20.5 (20 Dilts)) which provides a plausible variant ἐπαγωγήν at AC 197. I suggested earlier that he fails to appreciate a variant at RG 4.428.27; in my view, there is a strong probability that the unabridged AS was available to the compiler of this section of the scholia to Hermogenes (misattributed to Marcellinus by P., who has overlooked Rabe’s corrections to Walz).6 Graeven’s attempts to identify traces of the unabridged AS are sometimes misconceived; but some have more to say on their behalf than P. acknowledges. And there may be instances that even Graeven missed: I have begun to wonder whether the definitions of invention in John of Sardis’s prolegomena ( PS 357.21-358.5, immediately before his rendition of AS 1) might not derive from AS. But that, yet again, goes beyond the scope of this review.

I began describing Patillon’s edition as the default choice for serious study of AS. The doubts and disagreements I have expressed here are not intended to cast doubt on that judgement. No edition of a technical compilation preserved in an abridged form in a single manuscript can hope to answer all the questions conclusively. The relevant criterion is the extent to which it enables discussion to move to a new level. Patillon amply satisfies this criterion. It is precisely because his work puts me in a stronger position to engage with this text and pose questions about it than ever before that I have been able to reach conclusions that sometimes go beyond and sometimes diverge from his. Not for the first time, I have come away from one of Patillon’s editions immensely stimulated and with a profound sense of admiration and gratitude.


1. The stimulus which this edition gave to my own study of the treatise quickly overflowed the limits of a review. An expanded version, more fully annotated and illustrated, and pursuing in greater depth a number of issues that I only allude to here, can be found in ‘Notes on the Anonymous Seguerianus’, LICS Discussion Paper 2 (2005).

2. Theon (1997, with G. Bolognesi); [Apsines] (2001); Longinus and Rufus (2001, with L. Brisson); [Aristides] (2002). An edition of [Hermogenes] On Invention is promised.

3. J. Graeven, Cornuti artis rhetoricae epitome (Berlin 1891).

4. M.R. Dilts and G.A. Kennedy (ed.), Two Greek Rhetorical Treatises from the Roman Empire: introduction, text, and translation of the Arts of Rhetoric, attributed to Anonymous Seguerianus and to Apsines of Gadara (Leiden 1997). P. refers to another recent edition, which I have not seen: D. Vottero (ed.), Anonimo Segueriano: Arte del discorso politico (Alessandria 2004), including text, Italian translation, and commentary.

5. P.’s forthcoming edition of [Hermogenes] On Invention will include the anonymous commentary in its entirety.

6. According to H. Rabe, ‘Aus Rhetoren Handschriften: 11. Der Dreimänner Kommentar ωι RM 64 (1909), 578-89, at 588, the section beginning at RG 4.422.18 has the puzzling heading ‘Metrophanes, Athanasius, Porphyry, and Polemo’.