BMCR 2020.03.13

Lettori latini e italiani di Ovidio: atti del convegno, Università di Torino, 9-10 novembre 2017

Federica Bessone, Sabrina Stroppa, Lettori latini e italiani di Ovidio: atti del convegno, Università di Torino, 9-10 novembre 2017. Quaderni della Rivista di cultura classica e medioevale, 18. Pisa, Roma: Fabrizio Serra editore, 2019. 124 p.. ISBN 9788833151687 €38,00 (pb).

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

In 2017 several commemorations of the bimillenary of Ovid’s death took place all around the world. The book under review, edited by Federica Bessone and Sabrina Stroppa, collects nine papers presented in a conference held on such an occasion in Torino, focusing on Ovid’s reception from Antiquity up to the 16th century in Latin, Neolatin and Italian literature, either in prose or in verse. The papers are more or less chronologically arranged, and, on the whole, offer stimulating approaches to Ovid’s variegated afterlife.

Mario Labate (13–25) studies the Ovidian influence on the failed love affair of Encolpius/Polyaenus and Circe in Petronius’s Satyrica (125ff.). As expected, he insightfully analyses the importance of Am. 3.7 for the impotence situation described in the episode (16–20), while singling out other hypotexts or elegiac topics at play. In any case, Labate further argues (here lies the true novelty of the paper) that a larger intertextuality pervades the whole episode and shows that all characters, especially Circe and Chrysis, have assimilated the praecepta offered by the magister amoris in the Ars (20–25).

Luca Graverini (27–39) engages with Ovid’s presence in Pompeii’s graffiti. After a brief survey of some literal quotations, which illustrate that Ovid and Propertius were a main source for erotic graffiti (27–29), he comments on allusions to Ovid, as well as on Ovid-inspired compositions. He contends that some passersby were able to comment further on them by facetiously adding other Ovidian allusions (29–34). Since most of these hypothetical literary comments are very fragmentary, little can be demonstrated in conclusive terms; I must concede, however, that Graverini’s ‘enlightened speculation’ is riveting. For instance, his interpretation of CIL IV 1837a as two linked comments drawing on Virgil and Ovid respectively about an earlier Ovid-reminiscent graffito, CIL IV 1837, is as learned and fascinating as it remains conjectural (30–34). The same can be said of his commentary on the obscure (and clumsy) CLE 2056 (34–37) and on the fragmentary CIL IV 5303 (38). It is undeniable, however, that Ovid can contribute to a better understanding of some graffiti (37–38), which Graverini exemplifies with CIL IV 5251, and that he must have played a significant role in the lively Pompeian cultural environment, among high and lower classes alike (38–39).[1]

Stefano Briguglio (41–49) studies Hypsipyle’s portrayals in Flavian epic and their relationship with Ovid’s elegiac Herois and self-interested narrator. On the one hand, Valerius Flaccus offers a glorifying epic variation on her story, following Apollonius (44–45). On the other hand, almost as a response to that, Statius took the Ovidian material and narrative techniques as his starting point. Thus, while remembering,[2] expanding or correcting Hypsipyle’s elegiac past (unlike Ovid, he lets us hear her complete story), Statius creates an ambivalent tale and seems to instigate suspicion about narrative truthfulness, something Ovid is well known for.

Maria Luisa Delvigo (51–58) surveys Ovid’s limited presence in Servius and Servius Danielis’s commentary on Virgil, amounting only to 24 citations (most of them about mythographical questions). Delvigo examines 10 of these quotations,[3] of which I will consider only two. A careful analysis of the commentary ad Ecl. 5.10 allows Delvigo to correct an assumption by Thilo[4] (and hence by Mountford and Schulz),[5][and exclude the Her. from the Ovidian works Servius cited (52–53). Thus it seems that Servius only quoted from Am. (twice), Fast. (twice) and Met. (the remaining instances). Delvigo then turns to Servius’s note ad G. 4.522 (55). According to her, the scholion indicates that, if Ov. Met. 11.59 is truly spurious (Riese and Tarrant), the line had already found its way into Ovid’s text by Servius’s time. I believe, however, that the scholiast could have written the same even if his Ovid lacked 11.59 (lines 58 morsusque inferre parantem and 60 congelat … indurat contain the essential information), nor does Danielis’s interpolation serpens seem decisive to me. In other words, I do not think that any discussion of the line’s authenticity can rely much on Servius.[6]Lastly, Delvigo (56–58) comments on Servius’s note ad Aen. 4.37, where there is no Ovidian reference whatsoever. She persuasively shows that Servius could have just rightly quoted Her. 7.153-4, a text apparently not among Servius’s library. Delvigo concludes that the subtle connection between the two passages must remain the domain of sophisticated ‘critici moderni dell’intertestualità’ (58).

Moving forward to Renaissance, in a brief and judicious paper, Giovanni Zago (59–61) hypothesizes that the incontestable conjecture by Bentley and Leo piscibus at Sen. Phaed. 472, which rests firmly on Ov. Met. 1.74–75, was perhaps anticipated by Marullus. He seemingly alludes to the Senecan passage in Hymn. Nat. 2.7.18–20, apparently with the correction already in place. Zago’s theory seems quite convincing to me, although he offers no definitive proof that Marullus was actually correcting Seneca ex Ovidio. Perhaps a short discussion of Seneca’s presence in Marullus’s poetry and on his ‘philological’ poems (e.g. Epigr. 3.11, 29, 45; Epigr. Var. 1) would have been welcome.

With Concetto Del Popolo’s contribution (63–75) we turn to ‘Italian readers of Ovid’. The author examines the version of Narcissus’s myth in the anonymous Novellino,[7] in which, among other innovations, Narcissus drowns and is transformed into an almond tree (68–70). The same metamorphosis is also attested in another tale of MS Panciatichiano 32 of the Biblioteca Nazionale di Firenze (71).[8] As in other high medieval Italian texts,[9] everything seems to indicate that both texts were composed without direct knowledge of Ovid. Del Popolo suggests (71–72) that their common source could have been an oral tale (although admittedly this cannot be proven) and puts forward a theory on the possible origin of the metamorphosis into almond tree (73–74).

In a very erudite but slightly unsystematic paper, Luca Marcozzi (77–86) investigates the importance of Ovid throughout Petrarch’s poetic career, from his early knowledge of Ovid’s elegiac work (79–80) and his ‘discovery’ of the Metamorphoses as a student in Bologna (81–82). Marcozzi argues that Ovid, seen with admiration and moral prejudice alike, could have played an important role in the overall organization of Petrarch’s poetic discourse: the high undertakings of Met. or Fast. as opposed to the more modest endeavours of elegy (83–84), and that the tensions between passionate love and the supposed partial palinode in Rem. (84–86) can be seen as parallel to the oscillation in Petrarch’s poetry between youthful love and aged wisdom, between his instructive proposes and his incessant falling for Laura. Marcozzi also analyses two material witnesses. One is the expression Ovidius praesertim in maiori in Petrarch’s somewhat enigmatic libri peculiares (Parisinus Latinus 2201, f. 58v). This is usually taken as a reference to Met., but Marcozzi contends that it also alludes to Fast. and even Rem. (77-9). To my mind, however, the fact that the magister amoris found his way into the medieval school or that Ovid is remembered as ‘maggiore’ in the Tesoretto does not truly prove the point. Conversely, Ovid himself named the Met. his maius opus, as did Boccaccio.[10] The second witness is MS London, British Library, Harley 3754, which is the only codex known to have been in Petrarch’s possession containing part of Ovid’s work. Unfortunately, none of the marginalia on Ovid can be attributed with confidence to Petrarch’s hand (81–83).

Erminia Ardissino (87–97) tries to show that the first Italian vulgarizations of the Met., from the 14th well into the 16th century, were influenced by the lively coeval novel. After swiftly surveying Ovid’s presence in Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio (87–89), she focuses on the versions of Narcissus’s episode by Arrigo Simintendi da Prato and Giovanni di Bonsignori (89–92). As opposed to the novelistic ambiance recreated in the Novellino, the former remains quite adherent to the original, while the latter offers a free allegorized version, heavily dependent on Giovanni del Virgilio. However, when we reach the Minyads episode, both translators retain and intensify the novelistic narrative context of the original and highlight its (apparently) straightforward pleasure of narrating.[11] Simintendi calls each narrative ‘novella’ and Bonsignori strengthens the novelistic element by adding a dialogic frame to the multiple embedded narratives of the original (92–95). In the 16th century Nicolò degli Agostini, Ludovico Dolce and Giovanni Andrea Dell’Anguillara continued to use similar procedures to enhance the novelistic context, until Fabio Marretti by the second part of that century wished to return to literality and deprived his translation of the novelistic apparatus (95–97).

Valter Boggione (99–124) studies some aspects of Ovid’s massive presence in Giovan Battista Marino’s Adone. First he shows that the poet’s autobiography in book 9 is (too) closely modelled on Ovid’s own biography in Trist. 4.1 and 10 (100–104). More importantly, Boggione shows that in his poem Marino applied many narrative techniques used by Ovid in the Met., including the use of complex embedded narratives and an intensive generic contamination (107–109). Furthermore, he points out that there are also strong thematic and conceptual parallels between the two poems (109–11, 115–16, 121–22). Boggione thus validates Lorenzo Crasso’s claim that Marino eventually blended into the Adone some materials originally conceived for his Transformazioni, an epic poem never finished, perhaps never written, but often announced (104–107, 111–13). Chief among these is the role of Love. According to Tommaso Stigliani’s testimony, it was the principle meant to set the action into motion in the Transformazioni. In Boggione’s somewhat speculative interpretation of the Adone, it is also the fundamental force that drives the whole cosmos (113–24).

I can only praise the authors and editors of this book who, in their joint efforts, have succeeded in producing a very fine volume about the manifold transformations of the poet of the mutatae formae. Echoing the editors’ foreword (11–12), a small book indeed, but a precious one.

Table of Contents

Profilo dei contributori. 9–10
Premessa, di Federica Bessone e Sabrina Stroppa. 11–12
Mario Labate (Università di Firenze), Ovidio magister amoris e le disavventure di Encolpio a Crotone. 13–25
Luca Graverini (Università di Siena-Arezzo), Ovidio a Pompei. 27–39
Stefano Briguglio (Università di Torino), Ipsipile tra Ovidio e l’epica flavia: ritratti di signora. 41–49
Maria Luisa Delvigo (Università di Udine), Virgilio, Ovidio e l’esegesi virgiliana antica. 51–58
Giovanni Zago (Università di Firenze), Marullo lettore di Ovidio. Poesia e intuizioni filologiche nell’Inno a Venere. 59–61
Concetto Del Popolo (Università di Torino), Narciso diventa mandorlo. 63–75
Luca Marcozzi (Università di Roma Tre), Ovidius presertim in maiori: il poeta delle Metamorfosi dalla giovinezza alla maturità di Petrarca. 77–86
Erminia Ardissino (Università di Torino), Le Metamorfosi nel Trecento volgare. Narrazioni e allegorie. 87–97
Valter Boggione (Università di Torino), Marino e Ovidio: le metamorfosi di Amore. 99–124


[1] This contribution could be complemented with a recent paper, presented in another bimillenary conference, on Ovid’s presence in Pompeii’s mural paintings: A. Wallace-Hadrill, ‘Ovid and Mythological Painting in Pompeii’, in P. Fedeli, G. Rosati (eds.), Ovidio 2017. Prospettive per il terzo millennio. Atti del Convegno Internazionale (Sulmona, 3/6 aprile 2017), Teramo 2018, 299–312.

[2] The paper successfully establishes how Statius’s Hypsipyle ‘remembers’ her elegiac past, even if some of the ‘Alexandrian footnotes’ detected (45–46) do not seem convincing or are too speculative (e.g. understanding the repetition of iterum in Stat. Theb. 5.478 as an allusion to Ov. Fast.3.471–72 and hence as an affirmation of Hypsipyle’s connection to elegy seems a little too contrived).

[3] Three at some length: ad Aen. 1.259 (a quotation both by Servius and Servius Danielis, with a phantom reference, 51–52), Ecl. 5.10 and G. 4.522. She otherwise comments and sorts into classes the quotations dealing largely with linguistic matters (53–55): ad Ecl. 4.19, 6.54; G. 2.7, 3.341; Aen.4.462, 5.409, 10.145.

[4] G. Thilo, Servii Grammatici qui feruntur in Vergilii Bucolica et Georgica Comentarii, Lipsiae 1887, 55.

[5]J.F. Mountford, J.T. Schultz, Index rerum et nominum in scholiis Servii et Aelii Donati Tractatorum, Ithaca 1930 (repr. Hildesheim 1962), 124-5 (s.v. Ovidius).

[6] Cf. S. Díez Reboso, Edición crítica y comentario textual del libro XI de las Metamorfosis de Ovidio, Diss. Huelva 2014, 36-48, esp. 45-8.

[7] Nov. 79 of ‘Ur-Novellino’ and XLVI of the ‘vulgate’.

[8] Ff. 75v-78r. Nov. VIII (S. Lo Nigro, Novellino e Conti del Duecento, Torino 19682, 372-7).

[9] In the first section of the paper, Del Popolo surveys some overlooked late and Medieval Latin references to Narcissus (63-6), as well as ancient Italian texts (13th-14th cc.) that explicitly mention either the young man (66-7) or the homonymous flower (67-8).

[10] I also wonder why Petrarch would refer to all these works collectively in singular.

[11] As far as Ovid is concerned, embedded narratives and their frames are usually anything but innocent.