BMCR 2010.03.06

Severus Sophista Alexandrinus: Progymnasmata quae exstant omnia. Bibliotheca Teubneriana 2002

, Severus Sophista Alexandrinus: Progymnasmata quae exstant omnia. Bibliotheca Teubneriana 2002. Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2009. lxxii, 133. ISBN 9783110218855. $84.00.

The past several decades have seen a lively and growing interest in the study of rhetorical education in late antiquity, as witnessed by the large number of published articles, monographs, collections, translations, and editions. However, some authors and texts still remain difficult to access and interpret because of the lack of modern critical editions. This authoritative new edition of select progymnasmata and declamations by Eugenio Amato is therefore a most welcome contribution to the field, clearly and expertly presenting both some new texts and some that were previously available only in very antiquated editions. Although this book will be of interest primarily to scholars working on Greek progymnasmata and declamations, it also offers some valuable evidence for later Greek mythography, sexuality studies, historiography, and reception studies.

Four ancient authors are included here. First is the fourth-century author Severus of Alexandria (or perhaps the homonymous sixth-century patriarch of Antioch; see n. 1 on pp. VII-IX); six narrationes and ten ethopoeiae are extant from his progymnasmata. Second are the testimonia and fragmenta of the third-century sophist Callinicus. Third are the testimonia and fragmenta of the second-century sophist (H)adrian of Tyre. The final text is an ethopoeia by an anonymous Christian author delivered in the person of a reformed prostitute. An index of proper names in Severus, an index of Greek vocabulary in Severus, and concordances of Amato’s edition with previous editions of Severus and Callinicus complete the volume.

Severus’s six narrationes (pp. 1-8) include five that are mythological (on the violet, Hyacinthus, Narcissus, Icarus, and Otus and Ephialtes) and one that is historical, the beloved story of Arion from Herodotus 1.23-24. All concern well-known figures, as is appropriate for one of the most elementary exercises in the rhetorical curriculum. Each of these short texts (8-12 lines) is presented with a clear and useful three-level apparatus: references to and elaborations of the theme in other ancient rhetorical texts, key literary sources for the story, and text-critical commentary. All six narrationes have parallel treatments elsewhere, for example in Libanius ( Narrationes 2, 4, 6), Ps.-Nicolaus (4), the Geoponica (1, 3), and Nikephoros Basilakes (1, 3, 5, 6).

Severus’s ten ethopoeiae (pp. 9-30) include five mythological examples (spoken by Briseis, Achilles, Menelaus, Hector, and Heracles), three historical examples (two spoken by Aeschines and one by Demosthenes), and two ethical examples (one spoken by a painter who has fallen in love with a picture of a girl he painted, and one spoken by a eunuch in love). The same three-level apparatus is used with these texts. The first four themes require the student to extrapolate from Homeric texts to imagine, e.g., what Briseis would say as she is being led away by the heralds. The fifth mythological theme is somewhat more obscure, dealing with Heracles’ reaction to Periclymenus’s shape-shifting in battle. Of the ethopoeiae based on historical characters, examples 7 (dealing with Aeschines’ exile) and 8 (a fragmentary ethopoeia on Demosthenes’ reaction to the death of Philip) have identifiable historical circumstances, while the theme of example 6 (“what words would Aeschines say when he finds a statue of Philip in Demosthenes’ house?”) is more reminiscent of those entirely fictional declamations in which a famous historical figure is accused of treason.

In the section on Callinicus (pp. 31-45), Amato presents twelve testimonia, including two not collected in FGrH, and nine fragments, including a twenty-one line fragment from a speech on Rome and two substantial fragments of Callinicus’s history of Alexandria, if the “Callicrates Tyrius” of F9 is really Callinicus.

The section on (H)adrian of Tyre (pp. 47-76) includes thirty-six testimonia about his life, date, teachers and students, and works, the majority of which derive from Philostratus and Lucian. There are also thirty-three fragments from a variety of speeches, as well as from declamations and a technical work on rhetoric. Two of the larger selections belong to declamations, one involving a female poisoner (F1) and one involving mercenaries seeking payment from the Amphictyons for diverting a river (F8). The fragments assembled here do not include the texts numbered 3, 4, and 5 in C. Walz, Rhetores Graeci I 528,24-533,10.

The final text (pp. 77-85) is a new text, an anonymous ethopoeia spoken by a reformed prostitute. The author is apparently late and a Christian, but nothing else is known about him (p. LIII). This theme is also treated by Libanius, Ethopoeia 18 (ed. Foerster).

Amato’s extensive notes throughout the volume will make it easier both to trace the progymnasmata and declamations to their likely literary inspirations and to compare them to other surviving elaborations of the same themes. This collection of new and newly edited texts will prove indispensable to scholars working in imperial-era and late-antique rhetoric.