BMCR 2017.03.02

Vergil: Bucolica, Georgica / Hirtengedichte, Landwirtschaft. Lateinisch-deutsch. Sammlung Tusculum

, Vergil: Bucolica, Georgica / Hirtengedichte, Landwirtschaft. Lateinisch-deutsch. Sammlung Tusculum. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2016. 334. ISBN 9783110443127. $70.00.

Every new title on Virgil demands justification given the immense size of the bibliography. This small volume deserves attention, both in and outside of German-speaking areas. Niklas Holzberg has done a great service to the Virgilian community in completing his “Sammlung Tusculum” edition of the genuine works of Virgil, a set that commenced auspiciously with his 2015 Aeneid.1 These volumes may be all too easily missed by scholars in North America, and that would be a pity; they repay revisiting and close acquaintance.

Holzberg’s text is essentially that of the recent Teubner edition of Ottaviano (for the Eclogues) and Conte (for the Georgics).2 There are seven divergences (four in the Eclogues, three in the Georgics). In general these differences reflect conservative editorial principles. And so at E. 1.44, Holzberg restores the hic of the manuscripts against Ottaviano’s adoption of Wakefield’s conjecture of hoc; at E. 2.2, the same fidelity to the codices sees the restoration of quid in preference to Gratwick’s conjecture of qui. Holzberg prefers a comma after solem at E. 6.37 (there is a misprint in the note to the text that gives this verse as 6.38).

G. 3.157-165 is, as Conte notes, a “hornet’s nest.”3 Here Holzberg restores the manuscript reading et at 3.159 (with no comma after the preceding inludunt), rather than accepting Conte’s si. It is a rich testament to the puzzles that still perplex Virgilian scholars that four De Gruyter volumes in two years all offer occasionally divergent views on these and other textual problems in the corpus. There is no critical apparatus, in keeping with the usual practice of the series.

For those looking for a German “Loeb” edition of Virgil, Holzberg’s work more than supplies the need. Certainly for German-speaking scholars outside of the classical disciplines who wish a reliable edition of Virgil that offers both a sound text and a reasonably annotated translation, Holzberg’s is now the gold standard. But for the student of Virgil of any level, what makes the present volume a real gem is the understated, high quality of array of aids to the text that Holzberg provides. The book is framed by two essays, the first a more traditional introduction, the second a consideration of the reception of Virgil’s Eclogues and Georgics. These are models of brevity, clarity, and sustained engagement with challenging texts at a high level that never patronizes or intimidates.

Beyond these two exemplary essays, there are brief notes keyed to the translation, and a brief, judiciously excerpted bibliography. The success of the latter is no surprise given the author’s much appreciated labors in the field of Augustan poetry bibliography. The notes are mostly confined to identifications and intertextual cross references; there are occasional interpretive comments, but the constraints of the series do not permit lengthy exegesis even on disputed points.

Holzberg’s new Tusculum edition will inevitably be compared to its Gallic counterpart, the recent Pléiade of the complete works of Virgil.4 The Pléiade is more “convenient” in that it offers all of Virgil (including the spurious works) in one handsome, boxed volume – and it is enriched with fairly extensive notes for an edition of its size. There is also an especially detailed treatment of Virgilian manuscripts. Holzberg’s Tusculum volumes offer valuable lessons in sensible criticism of a difficult poet; if anything, they remind one of the equally easy to overlook, pleasantly rewarding edition of the Aeneid by J. W. Mackail.5 In both cases, one has the welcome opportunity to reread Virgil with a master scholar, with just enough guidance to tell you much about the editor’s view, all the while without imposition of any particular ideological or contentious interpretive bent. The scale is modest – the judgment and critical acumen profound and nuanced.

The last few years have been happy ones for Virgil, not least for the fine work being done on the continent in the service of textual and explanatory aids to the poet’s work. All Virgilians will want to take a careful look at Holzberg’s new editions. Those interested in a refreshing introduction to the poet’s life and work will not be disappointed.


1. Holzberg, Niklas, ed. Vergil: Aeneis. Sammlung Tusclum. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2015. In some regards the present volume replaces the fourth (1981) Tusculum edition of the Eclogues, Georgics, Catalepton, and Virgilian vitae by Johannes and Maria Götte (with Karl Bayer for the lives). The work of the Göttes is still invaluable for extensive textual notes.

2. Silvia Ottaviano, Gian Biagio Conte (ed.), P. Vergilius Maro: Bucolica; Georgica. Bibliotheca scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2013.

3. Conte, Gian Biagio. Critical notes on Virgil: editing the Teubner text of the Georgics and the Aeneid. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2016, pp. 8-14 (with extensive textual exegesis).

4. Virgile, Œuvres Complètes, édition bilingue, traduction, présentation et notes par Jeanne Dion, Philippe Heuzé, Alain Michel. Éditions de la Pléiade, 2015.

5. The Aeneid of Virgil, Oxford, 1930.