BMCR 2006.10.08

[Quintilian.] Die Bienen des armen Mannes. Grössere Deklamationen, 13

, , Die Bienen des armen Mannes : Grössere Deklamationen, 13. Collana scientifica / Università degli studi di Cassino ; 6. Cassino: Università degli studi di Cassino, 2005. 185 pages ; 24 cm.. ISBN 8883170237 €26.00.

In an ANRW survey of pseudo-Quintilian’s Declamationes two decades ago L. Hakanson concluded by expressing his reticence to speculate on the “value” of the (long-denigrated) pseudo-Quintilianic corpus; more important than red herring generalizations was the scholarly work that lay ahead. Hakanson himself was a key figure in that labor. His 1982 Teubner of the Declamationes Maiores was soon followed by Sussman’s 1987 English translation, and editions of the Declamationes Minores in 1984 by Winterbottom (with commentary) and by Shackleton-Bailey in 1989 (Teubner) and 2006 (Loeb). Though the dust has yet to settle in the textual arena, the groundwork has been laid for research and commentary based on sound, modern editions. For the 19 Declamationes Maiores (hereafter DM) a series of commentaries cum translation from the University of Cassino (Italy) promises to shape discussion for years to come. Three have appeared already.1 Gernot Krapinger (hereafter K.) now adds a fourth. K. provides an introduction, text with facing German translation, and commentary on DM 13, the apes pauperis (“Die Bienen des armen Mannes”). His contribution is an invaluable point of departure for scholars embarking on serious study of this impressive piece of literature.

First to textual matters. D.A. Russell began his 1985 CR review of Hakanson’s Teubner by remarking: “No Latin text is more continuously testing, not to say tormenting, to the reader than the Major Declamations.” With this challenge looming, K. demonstrates both competence and diligence. Though largely indebted to the Teubner, his text still shows independence. No apparatus is printed, but where textual problems surface, the commentary explains the issues at stake and justifies its conclusions. In Section 3, for example, the speaker details the conditions favorable to apiary in his hortulus. Critics have been troubled by one part of the accompanying description, transmitted as “apricus omnibus ventis medius.” The literary tradition (Vergil, Columella, Pliny the Elder), so masterfully drawn upon elsewhere in DM 13, calls for a location protected from the winds. K. summarizes the litany of suggested emendations (n. 67) and prints “apricus, omnibus ventis motus.” It is hard to look past Winterbottom’s preference on rhythmical grounds for “motus” (cited per litteras by K.) against “motus,” but throughout K. provides open access to the critic’s workshop so that others can forge their own readings. We can ask for little more. One quibble: an appendix with deviations from the Teubner would have been welcome, but a list is, in fact, tucked away in the introduction (p. 23).

The translation, the first into German, is equally sensible. K. achieves his goal of remaining in close contact with the Latin (“mit dem Text auf Tuchfühlung zu bleiben”) without sacrificing readability (p. 24). In the somewhat technical prologue, K. renders well “Reus est dives damni iniuria dati” when he translates “Der Reiche ist der widerrechtlichen Schädigung angeklagt.” He captures the adverbial sense of the ablative “iniuria” as an act which is “unlawful”, as opposed to “iniuria” as the affront or injury caused by an action. “Wie teuer es mich zu stehen kommt” in section 1 for “quanti steterit mihi” gives a neat German idiom with “stehen” for a Latin expression with “stare.” In the same section, however, “wer ist darob erbost?” seems a bit stiff (or antiquated) for “quis indignatur?” In section 2 “gewissenhafte Voraussicht” demands undue diligence from “diligentia.” My nitpicking may distort the picture: the translation consistently reads well and renders the Latin faithfully. It is undoubtedly to be welcomed by readers of German.

Solid technical know-how elucidates points of syntax, language, and legal background. K. provides wonderful notes on namque and its post-Ciceronian Nachleben (nn. 65 and 112), the use of quemadmodum versus ut or velut (n. 113), of an for num (n. 173), or of puta as an interjection in the declamations, with a useful comparison of similar occurrences in legal texts (n. 179). K. also makes full use of Lausberg’s rhetorical handbook as well as of the “Historisches Wörterbuch der Rhetorik.” Succinct discussion clarifies the handful of legal terms likely to trip up even seasoned Latinists (e.g., taxatio versus aestimatio in n. 151). Likewise, the TLL is constantly called in to illuminate aspects of usage or meaning. K. is sensitive to different registers of language, pointing out solemn or elevated expression (n. 4 on denuntio, n. 32 on aevum agere, n. 60 on arvum) and the sustained use of military metaphors (n. 73 lists them all), a central aspect of the depiction and anthropomorphization of the bee-world. N. 355, which remarks on the military resonance of statio in the phrase “cotidiana statione laboris adsidui,” could have pointed out its use to denote the beehive at Georgics 4, 8 “sedes apibus statioque petenda.” Whether this is an (indirect) reference can be debated. But the connection of statio to labor, a value fundamental in both works, would seem to present yet another instance of the comparisons drawn between the bees and their keeper.

The introduction cites and translates ancient material concerning the lex Aquilia and briefly summarizes the law’s origins and function. I wholly support K.’s claim that the juridical context is indispensable for a full appreciation of this text, and he provides useful additional background throughout the commentary. However, I had hoped to see his expertise at work in helping to bridge the murky waters between legal and declamatory texts. This is not simply an issue that concerns DM 13. The complicated relationship of declamation to law has long been a focal point of discussion, more often than not among the genre’s detractors, who sought to bolster the conclusion (or assumption) that declamations are vacuous prose soufflés, cooked up in the declamatory schools for consumers of dubious taste. A modern study dedicated to law in declamation remains a chief desideratum in the scholarship, but K. could have provided further interpretation for the profani. At the very least a reference to recent bibliography, like that in Kaster (2001),2 would point the reader to discussions of the issues at stake.

As with the notes on language and law, K. impressively documents the ample echoes and borrowings in DM 13. His encyclopedic diligence will benefit scholars wishing to investigate the adaptation of literary forerunners. Yet the impressive insight into the work’s mechanics leaves the reader wanting to know more about its motivations. We catch a brief glance of some of the broader issues in n. 407, when K. discusses the sustained comparison of the bees to human (Roman) society and that analogy’s Vergilian precedent. He hesitates to ascribe a social significance to this aspect of the text, but goes on to suggest declamation’s role in the acculturation of Rome’s male elite, an approach now mildly orthodox (in the Anglophone scholarship, at least).3

K. seems little interested by the serious challenges issued in recent decades to the traditional conception of Vergil’s ideal community; he speaks of the bees in n. 382 in terms of “eine utopische Idealgesellschaft.” Regardless of one’s allegiances to either the “optimists” or the “pessimists” (or “ambivalents”) in the debate over the attitudes expressed in Vergil’s writings, the possible consequences for an understanding of our text should be acknowledged. For example, the meaning and implications of labor in Vergil remain a point of scholarly contention.4 K. notes the speaker’s assumption of this key Vergilian concept (n. 85: “Unser Redner übernimmt einen vergilischen Schlüsselbegriff,” cf. also p. 24), but leaves it at that. To what extent Vergilian attitudes toward labor surface in DM 13 merits discussion, either because they might bear some essential relevance to DM 13, or because it may in turn have something important to tell us about Vergil.

Additional moments in DM 13 would repay further probing along these lines. K. notes the repeated characterization of the rich man, for example, with the term licentia (n. 168) and rightly points the reader to its political dimensions as discussed by Hellegouarc’h. But K. does not make much of the speaker’s peculiar exhortation of the judges to punish the rich man: “exerite libertatem fortibus verbis, si quid offenderit” (Section 6). Libertas is a loaded word (with a dense body of scholarship). The speaker’s implication that siding with his case is tantamount to claiming one’s libertas should give cause for reflection (and further comment).

Interpreters of this text are confronted with two potentially contradictory paradigms: 1) declamation as the reproduction of the social order through acculturation (an approach which K. briefly acknowledges, but does not pursue); 2) declamation as the refashioning of a Vergilian background with considerable subversive potential (a discussion in which K. does not engage). Put otherwise, do we find here a forceful celebration of Roman cultural organization, or is some equally powerful voice of dissent to be read? The somewhat jejune attempt to skirt around larger questions stands in sharp contrast to K.’s munificent detail on technical points.

K. documents well the myriad borrowings from the honorable likes of Varro, Columella, Pliny the Elder, and the Augustan poets (Vergil most of all, but there is much Ovid, too). Again, the usefulness of his commentary in this regard cannot be overstated. One misses, however, some (even basic) discussion of the operations of imitatio in the work and of the aesthetic or social stakes of refashioning literary predecessors. K. limits himself to cataloguing “Abhängigkeiten und Textassoziationen” (p. 9). Yet to see, even implicitly, only debt and dependency is to obscure the DM’s significance as an independent literary construction. This, in turn, risks having that construction and its meaning collapse, like Lucan’s Pompey, under the weight of a distinguished past.

All this is not to take away from the commentary’s many virtues. Rather, it is intended to underscore the richness and complexity of the declamatory corpus, often reduced to a warehouse of literary references, fantastical themes, and histrionic sententiae. Such pigeon-holing has been a tacit and insidious reason for declamation’s long road toward respectability; that journey is on-going, and readers need to be shown the way. Though some larger issues remain outside the scope of K.’s commentary, he is undoubtedly successful in his stated aims; the presentation and proof-reading are likewise excellent.5 K. has given readers an indispensable tool for further study of DM 13.


1. Antonio Stramaglia. [Quintiliano] I Gemelli Malati: un Caso di Vivisezione, Declamazioni maggiori, 8 (Cassino, 1999); Antonio Stramaglia. [Quintiliano] La città che si cibò dei suoi cadaveri, Declamazioni maggiori, 12 (Cassino, 2002); Catherine Schneider. [Quintilien] Le soldat de Marius, Grandes déclamations, 3 (Cassino, 2004). Two other valuable recent editions, not in the series, should be mentioned: Thomas Zinsmaier. Der von Bord geworfene Leichnam. Die sechste der neunzehn grösseren pseudoquintilianischen Deklamationen: Einleitung, Übersetzung, Kommentar (Frankfurt, 1993). Graziana Brescia. Il Miles Alla Sbarra, [Quintiliano] Declamazioni Maggiori, 3 (Bari, 2004).

2. Kaster, R. A. “Controlling Reason: Declamation in Rhetorical Education at Rome,” In Y. L. Too, ed. Education in Greek and Roman Antiquity, (Leiden, 2001), 317-37.

3. Mildly orthodox, but still extremely productive. In addition to the works listed by Kaster (see preceeding n.), Gunderson’s recent work cannot be overlooked. Gunderson, E. Staging masculinity: the rhetoric of performance in the Roman world (Ann Arbor, 2000); Declamation, paternity, and Roman identity: authority and the rhetorical self (Cambridge, 2003). Declamation junkies eagerly await their next fix: M. Imber. Imagined Families: Roman Declamation and Society in the Late Republic and Early Principate (Harvard, forthcoming).

4. This is surely not the place to rehearse that debate. But the views expressed by, for example, R. F. Thomas in his 1988 Cambridge Commentary on the Georgics are a good starting point. The notes to Book 1, lines 145-6 provide a succinct account of his take.

5. The text is beautifully printed and easy to read, though it should be said that the use of footnotes in the translation, keyed to the notes at the back, became rather distracting (441 notes for 18 pages of text). I noticed few errors: at n.136 read “relinquunt” for “relinquont;” at n. 147 read “libertatem” for “paupertatem;” I was unable to find Pöhlmann (1894) in the bibliography and referred to in n. 27. Though not an error per se, newcomers to the DM may need to be reminded that the three digit numbers followed by an “H.” (e.g. “268 H.”) and printed next to the Latin text refer to the page number in Hakanson’s Teubner.