BMCR 2005.09.69

The Student’s Catullus. Third Edition

, , The student's Catullus. Oklahoma series in classical culture ; v. 5. Norman, OK: University Of Oklahoma Press, 2004. xiv, 234 pages : maps ; 22 cm.. ISBN 0806136359. $19.95 (pb).

This is the third edition of a book whose first edition appeared in 1989, followed by a second in 1995. The newest edition, as Garrison states in his preface (x), was a necessary update after the appearance of important works such as D.F.S. Thomson’s big commentary (Toronto, 1997) and H. Dettmer’s Love by the Numbers (New York, 1997). The purpose of the present review is to record the differences from the previous edition and to provide a general assessment of the improvements the third edition contributes. For G.’s literary approach to Catullus (unaltered in the new edition), the reader can easily consult the various reviews to the two previous editions.1

The general structure of the book has remained the same: Preface, Introduction, Further Reading, The Poems, Reference Maps, Notes, Appendix A (People), B (Meters), C (Glossary of Terms), D (Poetic Usage), and, last, The Catullan Vocabulary. The six maps provided are the same. The general quality of the printing has been substantially improved, especially for Appendix B (Meters), whose symbols for short and long syllables no longer look as if they had been added by hand. The introduction is now printed across the full page instead of in two columns. The rest of the book is exactly the same, save for the color of the cover. Unchanged too is the price, $19.95.

In the preface to the first edition G. stated that the book was meant for students who were approaching Catullus for the first time. That was the reason that the author chose “to interfere as little as possible with the reading of the poems” (ix), that is to say, to omit theories or raise problems that would only cause confusion to inexperienced students (thus he does not note that the last stanza of poem 51 is sometimes considered a separate fragment). This choice resulted in considerable criticism in some of the previous reviews (see1). The introduction to the third edition, which is where G. explains his literary approach to the poems, is basically unchanged from the previous edition except for a new paragraph (the third), in which G. tries to mediate among the various readings of the poems. G. still does not feel he needs to decide among any particular views, nor “to decide between a biographical reading of Catullus and one that assumes everything in the poems is literary invention” (xi).

The section on Further Reading (xiv) records all the major books appearing since 1995. It also records with precision new editions or reprints of standard books, as in the case of Quinn’s The Catullan Revolution, reprinted by Bristol Classical Press in 1999. The last paragraph points out recent historical novels concerning the Romans. With the exception of Kroll and Syndikus, all the works mentioned are in English.

The text of the poems G. prints “represents the best current consensus” (xiii). That means, for the most part, Mynors’ OCT text. The main divergences I noticed regard punctuation (G. is fond of parentheses) and paragraph divisions (e.g. in poem 68). In general, G. tries to avoid as many of OCT’s daggers as possible, so as to make the text readable to students. The third edition does not differ from the previous one, but, since none of the past reviewers devoted much attention to the Latin text of the poems, I thought it fit to do so now. From the OCT, the most evident differences I detected are as follows (from now on, I will refer to the text G. prints): 29.3 ante, at l. 23 o piissimi,; 51.8 vocis in ore; 54.2 Hirri rustica; 55.11 reclusa pectus, at l. 13 Herculi; after 62.58 G. does not print OCT’s l.58b; 64.23b iterum, salvete bonarum, after l.253 G. does not record a missing verse, and at l.254 G. prints Cui Thyades; 66.59 Inde Venus; 67.12 est ius populi: ianua quicque; poems 95 and 95b in the OCT edition are printed as one by G., and at the end of 95.9 (= OCT 95b.1) sodalis; 107.3 nobisque hoc, at ll.7-8 est/optandus in vita; poem 111 is given by G. as complete; at 114.6 G. accepts the transmitted text, though he mentions the unusual hiatus in the notes; at 116.7 G. prints acta. I have found two typos: first, already present in the previous edition, the parenthesis at 33.3; second, newly added, the lack of indentation of the last line of each stanza at p.40 (poem 61). Each poem is accompanied by a title. Some of the previous reviewers found this disturbing, others helpful. I think that modern students prefer a title to a bare number, although sometimes one might not agree with the author’s choice. The only difference with the previous edition is in the last word of the title of poem 43, “Mamurra’s Ugly Girlfriend”, written as “Girl Friend” in the previous edition.

The corpus of the notes has not changed considerably. The notes to poems 2-7, 9-15, 17-29, 33-41, 43, 45-49, 51-58b, 60-62, 65-70, 72, 74-75, 77-82, 84-92, 94, 96-115 are virtually identical to those in the previous edition, with just marginal changes, such as word order, internal references, examples, and clearer grammatical explanations. Just to give an idea: at the end of the introduction to poem 13, the sentence “Eleven elisions give the poem a casual rapidity” has been added; at 65.19, the sentence ” ut, just as, compares forgetfulness …” appears in the new edition as ” ut, just as, compares Hortalus’ forgotten words …”; at 69.4, the term “hapax legomenon” is no longer italicized; at 84.11, G. adds the relation of the name Hionios to the Greek χιονέους.

The notes to poems 16, 31-32, 42, 59, 64, 73, 76,83, 95 are still very similar to those in the previous edition, but some revisions need to be recorded. At 16.12-13 s.v. marem, G. explains further what masculinity meant for the Romans; he also adds a bibliographical reference to Williams’s Roman Homosexuality. In the introduction to 31 G. contrasts the joy of this poem with the depression of 30; and at l.14 he adds references to Aeschylus’ PV and Lucretius’ DRN. As for 32, G. adds that Ipsitilla could be “a veiled attack on a real person.” At 42.4-5, G. explains the etymology of pugillaria,and at the end adds some conclusions on the “double point of view” this poem may suggest At 59 G. adds that the name Rufulum may refer to M. Caelius Rufus and that Rufa could be an allusion to Lesbia. At 64 G. inserts a new note at 171 ( utinam ne), and underlines that this is “a tag from the beginning of Euripides’ Medea.” At 73.6 G. adds that some scholars read qui instead of quae and points to the importance of the noun amicum. On poem 76 G. has revised the notes on lines 13 and 15-16 (in which the term tricolon crescendo is first introduced). On poem 83, there are further grammatical aids at ll.2-3. In the introduction to 95 G. explains the textual problems and why some editors take the last two lines as a separate poem.

The poems which have undergone the most revisions are 1, 8, 30, 44, 50, 63, 71, 76, 93, 116. Poem 1 benefits from a new introduction in which G. explains its programmatic aspect (the term recusatio is used, though nowhere explained), and how it exemplifies Catullus’ “intentions as a poeta novus in the tradition of Callimachus.” Entirely new (and useful) entries can be found for both dono (l.1) and Italorum (l.5). Also, for poem 8 G. has reworked the introduction, pointing, among other things, to the “interesting antecedent in Menander Sam. 350-56.”2 Notes on verses 9 and 15-18 have seen some revisions; two entirely new notes have been added for fulsere (l.3) and invitam (l.13). The changes affecting poem 30 (especially in the introduction and notes on 10 and 11-12) concern mainly its relation to 64. Poem 44 is perhaps the most extensively reworked of all. Particularly helpful are the revised notes on 11, 15 (a long note explaining the identity of Antius), 18-19 and 21. New are notes on 5 and 14. At poem 50 most evident is the new note for poema, whose Greek derivation is for G. the sign that this word refers to poem 51. In the Attis poem there are a new note for veluti iuvenca (l.33), several bibliographical references to the cult of Cybele at l.76, and new notes at 78 and 86. In poem 71 the introduction has been rewritten and, the revised note on 6 changes the interpretation of the whole from that in the previous edition. G. tries to do his best to explain a poem that, also because of the uncertain text of l.4, is still puzzling. In the short 93 G. now explains the expression albus an ater in terms of homosexual roles. As to the last poem of the collection, G. stresses its character of “inverted dedication”, as opposed to the friendly tone of poem 1. Hence in this edition G. prints mittere at l.2 (formerly vertere), and at l.2 he points to the similarity of language with 65.16.

I have found a few typos in the notes, some of which are carried on from the previous edition. At 4.1, the Greek word for phaselus is printed as φαοηλς. At 39.10-13 there is printed Transpadinus (though rightly Transpadanus in the Vocabulary). At 62.6-10, the word the should be capitalized. At poem 64, there should be a space between 31-42 and 31, and between 215-37 and 215. At 81.3 the city of Pisaurum is said to be in northern Italy. However, both geographically and culturally, Pisaurum (modern Pesaro) is in central Italy. At 114 modo ipse should be preceded by the number 6. In the introduction to 116 I think that the author meant “scholars” and not “students.” At any rate, some of the old typos have been corrected. At 79.1, there was a wrong space in the previous edition. At 63.91, there was a wrong semicolon after the number 91.

The six maps provided are very useful, but I must agree with E. Block’s review to the first edition (see1) that mixing Latin, English and Italian in the same context is confusing. In map II, e.g., Italy (90), the reader will find Ariminum, Esino, Rome, Arezzo (Arretium), Naples and Bologna!

The Appendix A (People) is unchanged except for the addition of “Antius”.

Appendix B (Meters) could have been further improved. When the terms caesura and diaeresis are first introduced (175), they are not explained (the reader needs to consult Appendix C). G. explains why two consonants make the preceding syllable long by position, saying that they “have the effect of slowing down pronunciation of the syllable, whether or not they are technically part of that syllable” (176). I wonder if a student will understand what this means. The schemes provided for the various meters are useful. In the previous edition the first syllable of the iambic tetrameter catalectic and of the iambic trimeter was only short, in the new edition, the symbol for the long has been added as well. In the treatment of the hendecasyllabic it has been added that Catullan usage has a strong tendency to begin with three long syllables. In the list of the poems employing choliambics 37 has been rightly added.

Appendix C (Glossary of Terms) is useful and clear, and students will find it very helpful. The new edition improves on the previous one. In the introduction, G. has added a very recent bibliographical aid, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms (Oxford, 2001). New examples have been added s.vv. asyndeton (poem 5.5), double dative (poem 12.15) and synapheia (poems 11 and 51). New entries are polyptoton and tricolon crescendo. In general, this Appendix is well done. Yet, although most terms derive from Greek, the entries do not conform to a consistent pattern. They vary from ” amoebean (Greek amoebaios, ‘giving like for like’)” to ” apo koinou ( ἀπὸ κοινοῦ)” to ” apostrophe : a ‘turning away’ ” to ” ecphrasis (‘digression’)” to ” topos : lit. a ‘place’.” I do not understand why G. chooses not give for each term both its Greek (in original) derivative and the English translation, always and in the same format.3 There is a new typo s.v. iambic shortening : read cave (with the symbols for short above the vowels) for cv. One last observation: s.v. synizesis G. writes that this phenomenon “is like elision, but within a single word.” I think that such a definition is both technically incorrect and confusing to the student.

Appendix D (Poetic Usage) is unaltered in content from the previous edition, but its printing quality has worsened. The various entries are no longer spaced, thus creating a sense of confusion. Old typos have not been corrected: under – is = – es, acc. pl. of the third declension, the example of omnis (86.6) is twice repeated. This is minor [?] , but the sentence that reads “forms of eo such as dessem” (187) should have been corrected. A new typo appears: quîs = quibus (187). About the nominative singular in -os (188), the author could have pointed out, as he did for the acc. pl. in -is, that the scansion helps distinguish it from the acc. pl. of the second declension.

The last section of the book, The Catullan Vocabulary, is the most useful, especially in view of its potential users. It is generally accurate, though I detected two typos: the quantity of the syllable plo in imploro is not marked as long; the quantity of the syllable ci in occido is erroneously marked as long (but the rest of the entry is correct). I also noticed some imprecisions. The translation of the reflex. pron. se, sese is given as “him/her/itself” only, but not also “himself/herself and them/themselves” (as is instead correctly given in the translation of sibi). When two words have the same entry, as in the case of levis, -e with either short or long le, the text generally has a separate entry for each word followed by continuous numbers (e.g., levis 1, levis 2, etc.). Yet, this practice is not consistently followed. Thus, while dico, -are and dico, -ere are followed by numbers, lego, -are and lego, -ere are not. However, this is a small matter which does not affect the overall quality of the Vocabulary and with which the student will easily cope.

To conclude, this new edition is better overall than its predecessor. The differences are not substantial, but enough to justify a new edition. Most of the old typos have been corrected, but a few remain, and some new ones have been unfortunately added. As to the quality of the text as a teaching tool, I have used it in the past to teach the fourth semester of Latin, and I would still recommend it. It is not faultless, but the best commentaries on Catullus nowadays available are far too advanced for beginners. I find it useful whenever a textbook refers to a standard Latin grammar for further explanations. G. says (xiv) that his “commentary makes occasional reference” to Allen and Greenough. Indeed this is one of the best grammar books available in English, and yet it is too advanced (and expensive) for beginners. My experience suggests to me that very few students will bother to check it out. Moreover, G’s references to it are very “occasional.” I believe that, for textbooks of this level, students should be referred to a text they are familiar with, such as Wheelock, or to a relatively accessible and inexpensive grammar such as Bennett’s.

G.’s The Student’s Catullus is a solid textbook, helpful and well structured, and the student who is reading Catullus for the first time will appreciate its clarity , relative simplicity, and the helpful tools it provides.


1. Reviews to the first editions are by Elizabeth Block (BMCR 1991.02.04), David A. Traill ( CW 84.3: 1991), J.C. Yardley ( Phoenix 45: 1991), P. Pietquin ( LEC 60: 1992), and Roland Mayer ( CR 43.2: 1993); to the second edition by Brian Arkins ( CI 8: 2001), and Pol Tordeur ( AC 69: 2002).

2. For a fuller account see R.F. Thomas (1984), ‘Menander and Catullus,’ RhM 127: 308-16.

3. A similar thing happens in the notes, too (e.g. p.159 χιονέους, but p.118 akmé).