Perhaps a new edition of the De viris illustribus Urbis Romae ( DVI) is not likely to set the world afire. It is, nonetheless, a mildly important text, a late-antique summary of Republican history arranged in a biographical fashion, from Proca, king of the Albans, to Cleopatra. It is also a text that has been very poorly served by its editors. The present edition by Martin has been long awaited, first announced to my knowledge more than twenty years ago. With this volume, the Budé edition of the Corpus Aurelianum, which began with Dufraigne’s 1975 edition of Victor’s De Caesaribus and continued with Richard’s 1993 Origo gentis Romanae, reaches its third and final volume.
The current edition of record of the DVI is F. Pichlmayr’s Teubner of 1911, despite the fact that its value is patchy at best. The other twentieth-century edition, by W. K. Sherwin (Lincoln, NE 1973), failed to gain much traction due to the fact that its idiosyncratic editorial rationale diminished the text’s general utility. Major problems in the text and transmission remain to be worked out, such as the relationship of the two extant versions (one, called A, in 86 chapters transmitted with Victor, the other, called B, in 77 chapters, circulating independently in scores of manuscripts). For these reasons, a new edition is very much an event to be celebrated.
The structure follows the familiar Budé pattern of extensive introduction, followed by text and facing French translation, with notes keyed to the latter, and placed both at the bottom of the page and in almost hundred pages of small print at the end. Much of the introduction is devoted to proving the authenticity of the long version (contra Sherwin), and Martin demonstrates as cogently as possible that the extra chapters in A are an integral part of the original work (see particularly the arguments drawn from continued parallels with Ampelius, p. xxxvi, and the lexical demonstration, on pp. xlv-xlix.). This entails the important consequence, as Martin emphasizes, that the author of the DVI considered the end of the Republican period as coming with the grant of the title Augustus to Octavian in 27 BC. The translation is serviceable, although it does have the curious quirk of translating deletions in the text in square brackets. The notes are extensive and the product of painstaking research into both primary and secondary materials. Indeed, at times they seem to serve as a compendium of ancient sources for various bits of lore; the vast array of parallels from other ancient historians marshaled may indeed well be prove useful to a wide range of scholars, not only those interested in ancient school summaries of Roman history
Unfortunately, the volume displays some weaknesses in its handling of manuscript material and constitution of the text. Martin usefully adds three manuscripts (two others do not seem to offer much), but he misdates one of them, Pavia 68, to the fifteenth century when it is actually dated to before 1376, and does not mention that this manuscript was uncovered and collated a century ago by G. Ferrara. His use of San Daniele del Friuli 71 is a genuine advance, but he misclassifies it as a D manuscript due to its marginal contamination.1 He does not provide a number or even a library for his Leovardiensis (ζ), following Pichlmayr; but Leeuwarden codices (in the Provinsjale Biblioteek fan Fryslân) have been catalogued since 2007, and this manuscript is presumably ms. 53.2 He lists another manuscript, again following Pichlmayr, as Oxoniensis 147. But Oxford has a dozen libraries that could contain it, and one of those libraries has a dozen plausible fondi: it should be Oxford, Bodl. Can. class. lat. 147. He lists the date of Vat. lat. 1917 as 1328, making it by far the earliest codex and close to the archetype; unfortunately, it was actually written in 1392.3
The stemma on p. lxxv is misleading: it makes w a source of the D tradition, despite the fact that it was written in 1442 while the earliest D manuscript was written before 1367. It tentatively adds a third branch to the tradition called E, which consists solely of the Naples manuscript, Biblioteca oratoriana dei Girolamini XL pil. VI 13 (z) and Matoci’s lost text; that is consistent with Martin’s account of z in the introduction, but not consistent with either his classification, where he lists it as a D manuscript, or his actual text, where he does not accord preference to Bz over A, which a tripartite stemma would demand. He provides no indication whatsoever of the relationship of the D manuscripts to one another, which is an area that sorely needs attention in the tradition of the DVI.
The apparatus criticus is vastly more substantial than in any previous edition, and readers interested in the textual history of the DVI will be very grateful to have so much more material at their disposal. So, for example, compare Pichlmayr with Martin at 7.1, where the latter is not only much fuller but also much more accurate:
Spuri Cornicularii A θ Publii ω pur C pueri ζ cett. codd.
Spurii θ x : spuri A pur C puer w pueri ζ puri μ f s V y pirri v publii ω Arn. cett.
But the apparatus’s usefulness is marred by not infrequent carelessness. At II.3 (p.4) – iteretur ] uteretur Ƒιvwz uocaretur θκρvS – manuscript v is cited for two different readings. One should clearly be V, but which? The answer to that might have some stemmatic relevance. The same thing happens at xxxiii.7 (p. 39) where κ is assigned two different readings; perhaps one of them ought to be ζ? Even worse, at iv.1 (p. 8), he lists a reading of ρfRv. But R is nowhere to be found in his list of manuscripts; instead it is one of Sherwin’s sigla for a manuscript Martin did not use. I have not generally checked his readings against the manuscripts, but I have looked at κ for iv.4 and found that the main text clearly reads edilitio, and not delicio as Martin reports, a significant difference since the correct reading is elicio.
Another area of weakness is the treatment of the early editions before Schott’s 1577 Douai text. In the introduction (p. lxi), for example, Martin lists the editio princeps as Rome 1470, without attribution, followed by Naples 1471, attributed to Aurelius Victor. These two editions are one and the same, printed without any indication of location or date by Sixtus Reisinger either just before he left Rome for Naples in 1470 or just after. Different owners and different libraries would then catalogue the edition with different dates and places of printing. No edition before Schott is attributed to Victor. Editors have not yet made much use of the pre-Schott editions, and Martin has made no advance on this front. Occasionally this produces misunderstanding, such as at iv.4 mentioned above where Martin writes elicio edd. a Schott when in fact that reading is found a century earlier in the editio princeps (with the trivial orthographic variant elitio).
The most unfortunate mistake in the apparatus, however, comes from z. Martin is correct that z shares some readings with A and is therefore a significant textual witness. (It is, incidentally, a pity that he ignored Baltimore, Walters 388, another D manuscript contaminated from A, signalled by Sherwin in 1972).4 But z also contains masses of additional material: new sentences, new anecdotes, new whole lives. Martin suggests (xxxviii) that it may have once contained as many as 98 chapters, and be closely connected with the archetype of the whole B tradition, a possibly ancient manuscript discovered by Giovanni de Matociis at Verona around 1330. He muses on Barriera’s century-old suggestion that the Naples manuscript may represent a third ancient version of the DVI (p. xxxix). Nonetheless, in the text itself, he is much more cautious, and consigns z’s many additions to the apparatus. The problem is that these are Renaissance supplements, closely related to an easily identifiable fifteenth-century source—a fact which only a few minutes with a search engine can turn up.5 They have no business cluttering up an already full apparatus.
The text itself is nonetheless a useful contribution to DVI scholarship, and represents an improvement on Pichlmayr. Its principle virtues consist of its much fuller apparatus—not faultless, to be sure, but vastly more accurate and ample than that of the Teubner—and its explanatory notes, which are informative and at times lively. Martin also makes a real advance over Sherwin by demonstrating the authenticity of the A version. For these reasons, Martin’s edition is probably the best since Wijga’s (Groningen 1890), but still contains too many problems to become the standard edition of the DVI. 6
1. Martin does not mention that this manuscript was already discovered by N. Zorzetti, ‘Il Codex Danielensis del De viris illustribus,’ Atti dell’ Accademia delle Scienze di Torino. II. Classe di scienze morali, storiche e filologiche 105 (1971), 109-122.
2. J. van Sluis, Handshriften Provinsjale Biblioteek fan Fryslân (Leeuwarden 2007), 13.
3. Martin cites Billanovich for this point, when in fact Billanovich demonstrates the opposite: G. Billonavich, ‘Petrarca e gli storici latini’, in Tra latino e volgare. Per Carlo Dionisotti, vol. 1 (Padua 1974), pp. 67-145.
4. W. K. Sherwin, ‘ De Viris Illustribus : Two Unexamined Mss in the Walters Art Gallery’, Classical World 65 (1972): 145-6.
5. That source is the Supplementum chronicarum of Giacomo Filippo Foresti (first printed in 1483), which is also the source for the other texts in z, and which is based upon earlier Renaissance sources. The passage on Lucullus’ dining habits (printed in Martin, p. 80), to give just one example of many, is clearly derived from the 1416 translation of Plutarch’s Lucullus by Leonardo Giustinian:
uolumus inquit o luculle apud te coenare hodie hac condicione ut nihil noui nostra causa parari iubeas quod lucullus recusauit sed in posterum diem parari conuiuium postulauit (as printed by Martin)
Volumus, inquit, apud te coenare hodie, sed ea conditione, ut nil noui nostri causa parari iubeas. Subrecusabat id Lucullus, & in posterum diem differri conuiuium postulabat (Plutarch, Lucullus 41, trans. Giustinian, from ed. Basel 1535, f. 213v)
6. There are typographical errors in the Latin of the apparatus criticus, for example, on p. 80, salulato for salutato, familiars for familiares, and quail for quali. There are also a number of problems in the bibliography: Sweeny in Rheinisches Museum 1968 is cited without a title, as is Billanovich in the Festshrift for Carlo Dionisotti, with strange page numbers, and no volume listed; Barriera in Athenaeum 1916 is given the wrong volume number (it should be 4, not 30); Merrill in Classical Philology 1910 is given the wrong pagination (it should be 175-188). There are spelling and typographical errors in both English and German.