BMCR 2007.08.02

Cicerone nella tradizione europea: dalla tarda antichità al Settecento. Atti del VI Symposium Ciceronianum Arpinas

, Cicerone nella tradizione europea : dalla tarda antichità al Settecento : atti del VI Symposium Ciceronianum Arpinas, Arpino, 6 maggio 2005. Firenze: Le Monnier, 2006. xi, 113 pages ; 24 cm. ISBN 8800204627 €11.50.

1 Responses

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

Every year in early May, for the past twenty-seven years, the city of Arpino has sponsored an annual Certamen Tullianum in honor of one of its most illustrious native sons. The contest itself consists of a written examination of translation and commentary on a passage of Cicero for advanced students in secondary school, with significant cash prizes. And since 2000, the Certamen has been accompanied by a ‘Symposium Ciceronianum Arpinas’ under the direction and with the active participation of Emanuele Narducci, one of the most distinguished modern students of Cicero. Narducci’s recent and sudden death (of which I learned from Rolando Ferri while revising this review) is a great loss to Ciceronian studies. The four papers delivered at the Symposium are published in a slim volume at a reasonable price; in this volume, they are preceded by various official greetings and followed by the transcript of an interview between Narducci and Matteo Castellucci about Cicero that took place a month after the Symposium at the ‘Festival del Mondo Antico’ in Rimini. The official greetings are predictable, the interview is harmless, but more informative about Narducci than about Cicero. The papers themselves are the subject of this review.

The rubric under which the papers are presented—Cicero in the European tradition—is a broad one; the individual papers are in fact devoted to quite precise moments in that tradition, ranging from late antiquity (Canfora) to Petrarch (Feo) to eighteenth-century England (Cambiano) to the Italian renaissance (Narducci). All the papers are concerned more with substance than with stylistics, and in fact they deal largely with issues of Cicero’s role in polemics: Canfora dwells on the contrast between two images of Cicero, as factious and a factional leader, or as a harmonizer, the precursor of Augustus. Feo, among other subjects, discusses Petrarch’s reaction to Jerome’s famous choice between Christ and Cicero. Cambiano focuses on Cicero’s role in political and religious polemics in the eighteenth century, notably between deism and enthusiasm. Narducci concentrates on Alberti’s use of the image of Catiline and discusses possible favorable readings of Catiline against Cicero.

The participants in this symposium are all serious scholars; but even serious scholars may not produce their best work in a conference attached to a high-school Latin contest. Three of the papers, by Canfora, Feo, and Narducci himself, seem to show scholars walking through their paces and referring for detailed discussion of many topics to their own earlier work. Canfora and Feo have produced papers that are strings of observations gathered under a rubric to which they adhere with difficulty. Canfora, allegedly talking about late antiquity, begins with the interpretation of Virgil’s Drances as a version of Cicero (an interpretation I find hard to accept), moves to Livy’s obituary (which he believes more anti-Ciceronian than I do), to the various pseudo-Ciceroniana produced (perhaps) in late antiquity, which in this case seems to extend to the Renaissance, and to the debate between Cicero and Fufius Calenus produced by Dio Cassius. Nothing that he talks about fits my definition of late antiquity (at least post-Diocletianic), and not much fits together. Each of his observations is probably worth pursuing—or at least rebutting—but they do not make a coherent whole of any kind. The same is true with Feo’s paper on Petrarch, moving from an extended discussion of who was responsible for burning the young Petrarch’s classical texts (his wicked step-mother), to his collections of Ciceronian texts, to the Ciceronian/Christian antithesis. Perhaps because I know less about Petrarch than about (not-very-late) antiquity, I found more of interest in this paper than in Canfora’s, but it is again a set of particular observations that contain nothing resembling an argument.

Narducci’s paper is a cut above these, but again it does not entirely cohere, and falls into two major parts plus a coda. He begins with worthwhile comments on the similarity or relationship between Cicero’s portrait of the chamaeleon-like Catiline in Pro Caelio, Sallust’s similar but briefer portrait, and the depiction of the character of Alcibiades in Cornelius Nepos and in the Greek sources. It raises the question of whether Cicero (and, following him, Sallust) modelled Catiline on Alcibiades, but N. eschews any detailed argument about the relationship. In the second part, he has equally interesting comments (which I am less equipped to judge) on Alberti’s use of the same image in different works; he offers a final, tantalizing coda on Napoleon III’s rehabilitation of Catiline—perhaps because of certain similarities between the emperor’s own rise and the character of Catiline (or Alcibiades) himself. The paper is entertaining, but frustrating: a lecture I would have enjoyed hearing, but not compelling as a scholarly discussion.

I have left for last Giuseppe Cambiano’s paper on Cicero in England in the first half of the eighteenth century. It is clearly out of order in the volume (coming, as it does, between Petrarch and Alberti), and it is equally clearly in the wrong company. Cambiano’s article is learned, dense, and original: from the importance of Cicero to Locke (always something of a puzzle, given the philosophical differences between the two), he moves to the importance of De Natura Deorum in the theological and philosophical debates of the time. This review is not the place to explore all the questions raised by this rich study; of particular value for classicists is the placing of debates about Cicero’s own beliefs, both philosophical and religious, in the context of the political struggles of the age of Walpole (the only mistake I note in the paper is C.’s naming Walpole ‘Richard’ rather than ‘Robert’) , moving from the theological and textual discussions of John Toland (Whig) to the Tory philology of that repellent genius Richard Bentley, and ending with a superb analysis of the (Whig) biography of Cicero by Conyers Middleton. C. digresses too much, and tries to pack too much in, which occasionally makes his argument hard to follow. But in the context of papers which say too little, one that has too much to say is very welcome. I hope it becomes a book.

We know so much about Cicero’s life and have so much of his writings that (like all complicated people) no one reading of him suffices. The present volume deals largely with controversies about Cicero; all the more welcome, since Ciceronianism is so often an excuse for reactionary politics and reactionary criticism. To their credit, none of the participants follows the lead of the local dignitary who, in his speech of welcome (x) speaks of the roots of Europe ‘fondate nella cultura classica e nella civiltà cristiana.’ Arpino, of course, produced two local aristocrats in the late republic who went on to fame, glory, and exile in Rome. Cicero is the safer one to honor; but for this reviewer, in an age and a country dominated by a Sullan and sullen regime, it is tantalizing to imagine what a Certamen and Symposium in honor of Gaius Marius would look like.


Luciano Canfora, ‘Immagine tardoantica di Cicerone’

Michele Feo, ‘Petrarca e Cicerone’

Giuseppe Cambiano, ‘Cicerone in Inghilterra nella prima metà del Settecento’

Emanuele Narducci, ‘Catilina e I suoi amici. La fortuna di un ritratto ciceroniano (da Sallustio a Leon Battista Alberti)’.