BMCR 2005.09.30

Longo Sofista, Dafni e Cloe

, , Dafni e Cloe. BUR classici greci e latini. Milan: BUR, 2005. 512 pages ; 18 cm.. ISBN 8817006092 €10.00.

Like all such series, BUR is a mixed blessing, but, when it gets something right, we can only wonder how they do it. Here we have Daphnis & Chloe in Greek (basically Vieillefond’s text, rather than Reeve’s) with a facing Italian translation, ample and learned introduction (including a useful section on translations and reception), explanatory notes and a generous and up-to-date bibliography, all for 10 euros. The format of this paperback means that the small font-size of the sometimes lengthy notes and footnotes does not necessarily make for strain-free reading, but it would be more than churlish to complain. Here is a job that has been well done. These are in fact remarkable times for Longus. Pattoni joins John Morgan’s recent Aris & Phillips edition (2004), and a Cambridge ‘Green & Yellow’ by Ewen Bowie is eagerly awaited; there are very obvious reasons why, of the canonical Greek novelists, Longus enjoys this privileged status with modern commentators, but it is at least possible to express the hope that some fraction of this concentrated effort will soon be devoted to commentaries on the other novels as well.

Pattoni’s implied reader is a fairly sophisticated and knowledgeable student of ancient literature. The book begins not, as one might have expected, with discussions of the identity of the author, place and date of composition etc. etc., but with a long introductory essay on Longus’ use of literary models and particularly his technique of ‘contaminazione’. Much of this material will be familiar to specialists as it has appeared before in Materiali e Discussioni 53, Eikasmos 15, and Lexis 22. P has sensitive and acute discussions of Longus’ engagement with the epic and dramatic tradition: Daphnis as a tragic hero, Lycaenion as a mixture of Penelope and Nausicaa viewed from a very different perspective, Dorcon as another hapless Dolon etc. So too, P deals at length with the lyric and bucolic tradition in extended discussions of the paraklausithyron scene of Book 3, the ‘beauty competition’ between Daphnis and Dorcon, the descriptions of physical beauty, and the mannered parallelism between the adventures of the two central characters. P squeezes everything she can out of these allusions, and I suspect that some readers may not follow her all the way (e.g. on echoes of Sophocles’ Philoctetes in the relationship between Lycaenion and her young ‘pupil’), but nothing here is plain silly and all of it commands respect.

What this introductory essay does do, of course, is to highlight possible subjects for discussion which one might have expected to find in such a book, but does not. There is, for example, very little in the introductory essay or in the following ‘Schede informative’ about how the work fits into the world of the Second Sophistic, which is where P thinks it belongs (pp. 123-4); here, as elsewhere, there is a sense that P is writing for those who already know their way around this world. So too, P has a good eye for humour and irony, but there is little discussion of narratorial voice (to which Morgan pays close attention); the ‘test case’ passage at 1.30.6 on swimming cows receives merely a reference to P’s discussion in Prometheus 31, where she argues (on quite other grounds) for deletion of the last sentence. Another subject which seems underplayed throughout the volume is what we may loosely call its sexual politics; the absence from the bibliography of Jack Winkler’s The Constraints of Desire and Simon Goldhill’s Foucault’s Virginity might be thought telling. In part this will be a result of the different views which may be held on what can properly be discussed in this format, but in part too it is a missed opportunity. To take a famous example: P does not try to explain the apparent contradiction between the narrator’s introduction of Gnathon as a ‘paederast by nature’ (4.11.2) and Daphnis’ arguments from the animal world against homosexual acts (4.12.2); the lack of prominence of paederastic desire in the novels generally is compared to the position of New Comedy (p.453), but there was certainly more to be said. That P’s note on the description of Gnathon as ‘nothing other than jaw and belly and the parts below the belly’ (4.11.2) notes the inversion of Hesiod’s ‘mere bellies’ but leaves the matter at that shows where the focus of the volume lies (contrast, for example, the very full footnote (pp. 154-5) on the use of Thucydides in the episode of the young men of Methymna). So too, some may think that, in the laudable fullness of the book, too little space is devoted to discussion of ‘mystical’ and other all-embracing interpretations of the novel (pp. 147-51), but here again P offers more than enough direction for those who wish to pursue the matter further.

The ‘Schede informative’ which follow the introductory essay offer helpful summaries of the standard views on questions of authorship and date, but other matters such as the ecphrastic proem, the structure of the work, the presentation of the countryside, language and style, and the textual tradition (including ‘the Courier affair’) all receive useful treatments with many bibliographical pointers. As for the notes, these are for the most part well focused and to the point, but P also uses them to discuss broader matters such as the included mythological narratives (pp. 280-2), the repeated descriptions of lovesickness (pp. 292-4), Longus’ generic consciousness (e.g. pp. 354-7) and (at every turn) the use of the literary heritage. P is sensitive both to Longus’ artistry (e.g. pp. 494-7 on the contrast between Dionysophanes and Megacles) and to the nuances of his language. Students of the novel and of the bucolic tradition will find this a very useful volume.