BMCR 2007.03.04

Text und Stil. Studien zur antiken Literatur und deren Rezeption. Herausgegeben von Christian Schwarz

, , Text und Stil : Studien zur antiken Literatur und deren Rezeption. Stuttgart: Steiner, 2006. 316 pages : illustrations, map ; 24 cm. ISBN 3515088253 €78.00.

The contributions to this collection of studies stem, with one exception, from earlier publications by Ax (henceforth A.) on parody, intertextuality, stylistics, ancient theories of grammar, Varro, and Friedrich Leo, dating from 1984 to 2005. Presented in this volume for the first time is an encyclopaedically concise account of Greek and Roman linguistics, to be published as an entry in the Historisches Lexikon der Rhetorik in 2008. The concept of a rearrangement of not always easily accessible articles by A. into a book has already been put into practice in an earlier volume entitled Lexis und Logos with a focus on Greek and Latin linguistics.1 The focus of this second volume of kleine Schriften is meant to pay respect to papers by A. which focussed more on questions of literary history and literary techniques.

The book is divided into six independent sections. Section 1 presents four articles on “Parodie und Intertextualität”, section 2 has two articles on the “Stilistik des Lateinischen in Renaissance und Barock”, section 3 gives two articles on M. Terentius Varro, section 4 consists of two contributions on “Antike Grammatik”, section 5 has two contributions on “Rhetorik,” and section 6, entitled “Klassische Philologie” concludes the volume with a biographical sketch of Friedrich Leo as professor of Classics at Göttingen.

Each section is written in a captivating and succinct way and is highly enjoyable to read. However, there can be a feeling of disappointment with respect to the extremely promising title of the volume: it evokes a far broader picture of ancient literature and its reception than the book actually presents. This can be especially disappointing for those who are not familiar with A.’s work or the volume Lexis und Logos. The aspect of reception as represented in this volume is perhaps equally frustrating, since it is not contextualised in the framework of the history of ancient literature and classical studies as a whole. Rather, the suggestively open field of “und deren Rezeption” is covered by receptions within antiquity, as discussed in the articles on Varro, grammar and Quintilian, and by the discussion of debates within the professional discourse of classics in the 19th and 20th century. In the case of section two, “Stilistik des Lateinischen in Renaissance und Barock”, the context of reception is provided by the general concept of Antikenrezeption, inherent by definition in the literature of the Renaissance and in the fact that authors like Valla wrote about the elegance of good Latin. In the last case, the analysis of the history of the terms ‘silver Latinity’ and ‘golden Latinity’ is very interesting in itself and of historical and philological value, but still does not tackle the major questions of reception studies .

“Parodie und Intertextualität”, the section most concerned with literature and literary techniques, quite fittingly starts off with an article on the satirical use of the motif of encounters with the dead (“Timons Gang in die Unterwelt. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der antiken Literaturparodie”). By exploiting the example of Timon of Phleius’ Silloi A. shows several modes of quotation, appropriation, imitation and parody on different levels of the narrative and its presentation in his discussion of the text. An appendix to his article (originally published in Hermes) parallels the fragments of the Sylloi given in the Supplementum Hellenisticum with the Homeric lines they refer to according to Wachsmuth in his edition of the Sylloi of 1885.

A.’s article “Der pseudovergilische Culex. Ein Beispiel römischer Literaturparodie?” on the pseudo-Virgilian Culex dates back to 1984. It shows the author’s strong interest in the history of classical scholarship, as he sets out his own position in the ongoing debate about the Culex with a discussion of the techniques of modification and parody of work (Virgil’s poetry) and genre (neoteric epyllion). “Marcellus, die Mücke”, another article on the intentions of the author of the Culex, which was first published in Philologus in 1996, takes up the argument of the previous discussion of the Culex and expands its scope by placing it in the sociopolitical context of its production. A. convincingly argues for the possibility of political allusions about Augustus’ political successors in the last part of the poem and pays tribute to diverse allegorical strategies in its construction, working with intertextual and contextual evidence. “Phasellus ille / Sabinus ille” presents the reader with an analysis of the refined intertextual relationship between Catullus c. 4 and Catalepton 10, trying to modify the general assumption that the latter is merely a parody of c. 4. In it, A. employs comparison of composition, vocabulary and motifs and argues for an intratextual play with generic traditions in c. 4 (unlike Catalepton 10). As a result, Catalepton 10 is interpreted as invective against an imitator of c. 4, and several models of literary imitation and appropriation receive theoretical discussion.

Two chapters cover the field of “Stilistik des Lateinischen in Renaissance und Barock”, one discussing the representation of the history of the Latin language and literature as ages symbolised by different shades of metal (” Quattuor Linguae Latinae Aetates. Neuere Forschungen zur Geschichte der Begriffe ‘Goldene’ und ‘Silberne’ Latinität”), the other discussing the merits of Lorenzo Valla’s Elegantiarum linguae Latinae libri sex of 1449 as the cradle of all later Latin grammar and stylistics and an underestimated source for Renaissance authors.

The chapters on Varro were first published in 2000 and 2005 and carry the marks of their respective first audience. The first chapter, “Dikaiarchs Bios Hellados und Varros De Vita Populi Romani,” gives an interesting discussion of both works and the features of the genre bios and the dynamics of its transferral from the description of individuals to that of the Greek people and argues for Varro’s mediated literary dependency on Dicaiarchus. Strangely placed after this chapter is a rather general portrayal of Varro’s life, work, and reception, which was A’s contribution to a collection of portrayals of ‘Europe’s Latin teachers’.2

The section on Varro is followed by a section on Roman grammar and grammarians, consisting of four chapters: a reply to Dirk M. Schenkeveld and Wilfried Stroh regarding the De voce chapter in Roman grammars; a chapter on textual linguistics in ancient grammars, first published in a volume on syntax in antiquity;3 a lexicon entry about Sprachwissenschaft in antiquity (to be published in 2008); and a handbook entry on Roman grammatical literature.4 All four chapters show their author’s eagerness to prove his position (especially in contrast to Schenkeveld’s and Stroh’s reservations) and his ability to classify technical terms in a clear and descriptive way. However, the order of their appearance in the book is rather puzzling, as the reply to Schenkenveld and Stroh, which is probably of interest only to specialists, is followed by fairly basic accounts of what we know about Roman grammar and grammarians.

The second to last section is entitled Rhetorik and consists of two papers originally given as Festreden. Of course, the original context of the chapters does not necessarily spoil the reading pleasure, but one keeps wondering whether they actually contribute to our knowledge of ancient rhetoric or not. ‘Les lauriers de César’ analyses a section in a 1972 cartoon of the French series Astérix as part of the history of the reception of Roman rhetoric.5 The chapter ‘Quintilians Darstellung der Peripatetischen Rhetoriktradition’ was originally intended to entertain guests of a conference on the tradition of Aristotelian rhetoric and is perhaps not ideally placed after the humorous talk on Caesar’s laurels.

The historical sketch of Friedrich Leo as professor of Classics at Göttingen in the final section, entitled “Klassische Philologie”, rounds off the volume and once more illustrates A.’s scholarly interest in the history of his subject. Again, even though the article, originally a Festvortrag given at the University of Göttingen, demonstrates both diligent research and a passion for the subject, the title given to this section seems inappropriate, if not pompous. It is very enjoyable, however, to sense the wit and subtle irony with which A. seasons some of the formulations in this paper more than in others. The style of this chapter as well as its subject perhaps contributes most to the overall impression of the book for its reader. Namely, that the volume is a collection of highly enjoyable, well-argued papers on the history of classics and questions of Literaturwissenschaft as well as Sprachwissenschaft. Problematic in his treatments of those questions, however, is A.’s decisive refutation of alternative understandings of the Latin definition of syntax and its features (see his attacks on Stroh and Schenkenveld on pp.197-213), which seems immoderate especially in contrast to the space he reserves for the visual documentation of his own position by graphic illustrations. Not so much problematic but rather unfortunate is the lack of a broader conception of reception and the neglect of approaches to texts and literature from academic disciplines other than classical philology. This is of course mainly owed to the fact that the articles collected in the volume are not actually from 2006 but date back 1up to 23 years. However, with A.’s strong emphasis on intertextuality as the main textual strategy which reveals aspects of adaptation and innovation in the process of reception, one would have hoped for some other arguments to support his observations. The methodological one-sidedness of this approach leads to the impression that the texts are not fully exploited in A.’s interpretations and his results often seem rather forced and unbalanced. And yet, A.’s enthusiasm for the detection of instances of intertextuality and for the history of Greek and Latin literature from the fifth and fourth century BC down to the Renaissance and, indeed, Astérix, is compelling, very charming, and, as such, of a certain persuasiveness.

The broad range of interests and ideas gathered in this book are a fine representation of A.’s remarkable erudition and enthusiasm. To have them all collected and arranged by subject in a well-presented format makes an encounter with A.’s lively spirit even more enjoyable. But the merit of the book goes further than that. Intrigued by the title, a larger audience with an interest in Greek and Roman literature and its reception may want to consult A.’s collection of essays to find out more about questions of ‘Text und Stil’. The volume could serve as illuminating reading for anybody wishing to find out more about some aspects of Latin parody, baroque stylistics or the classification of authors such as Varro. However, classicists interested in those questions will already be familiar with most of A.’s articles and find not much new insight in their reprinting or any new information in the editor’s preface to the collection (both also the case for A.’s previous collection of papers Lexis und Logos). Indeed, as at least five of the fifteen contributions were originally aimed not at classicists but at the common reader of a handbook (in two cases) or a broader audience of a Festvortrag or Ringvorlesung (in three cases), one cannot help feeling a lack of consistent academic relevance in the collection as a whole. In brief, the use of this volume might be most rewarding for those from other subject areas with an interest in A.’s favourite fields of research. It seems to be an improvement over Lexis und Logos, which offered no index at all, that this volume is not merely a crude reprint of articles already published elsewhere. However, it is regrettable that there is only a short Sachregister and an Autorenregister but no index locorum to the volume. Even more regrettable is the fact that references to the first publications are given only in the form of a general list at the end of the book. It would certainly have been helpful to have the pagination of the original articles also at hand.


1. Ax, Wolfram, Lexis und Logos. Studien zur antiken Grammatik und Rhetorik. Herausgegeben von Farouk Grewing, Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag 2000.

2. Ax, Wolfgang (ed.), Lateinische Lehrer Europas. Fünfzehn Portraits von Varro bis Erasmus von Rotterdam, Cologne: Böhlau Verlag 2005.

3. Pierre Swiggers, PierréWouters, Alfons (eds.), Syntax in Antiquity, Leuven/Paris 2003.

4. Fögen, Thorsten (ed.), Antike Fachtexte – Ancient Technical Texts, Berlin/New York: De Gruyter 2005.

5. Les lauriers de César. Zu einem humoristischen Fall moderner Rezeption der römischen Rhetorik, in: Döpp, Siegmar (ed.), Antike Rhetorik und ihre Rezeption. Symposion zu Ehren von Prof. Dr. Joachim Classen D.Litt. Oxon. am 21. und 22 November 1998 in Göttingen. Stuttgart 1999, 145-164.