BMCR 2022.01.32

Massimiano: Elegie

, Massimiano: Elegie. Mondadori: Fondazione Lorenzo Valla, 2020. Pp. 528. ISBN 978804724124 €50,00.


This book is included in the Scrittori Greci e Latini series of Fondazione Lorenzo Valla. It contains an introduction to Maximian’s Elegies, the author’s edition of the Latin text, ab Italian translation, a commentary, an appendix, and indices. During the last twenty years, several translations and commentaries of the “last love elegist of Antiquity” have been produced in the principal European languages: Schneider 2003 (in German), Canali 2011 (in Italian), Pozo 2011 (in Spanish), Goldlust 2013 (in French), Franzoi 2014 (in Italian), and Juster 2018 (in English).[1] In addition, there have been other detailed studies of such matters as Maximian’ poetics and Ovid’s influence upon him.[2] Thus, D’Amanti’s book follows a general scholarly trend of our times.

The introduction is a thorough and well-organized study of Maximian’s poetry. In the first part, D’Amanti discusses the biographical hints that exist in the poems (mainly in Elegies 1, 3, and 5). The second part is a complete overview of the content of Maximian’s six poems. He mentions two intratextual links between Elegies 1 and 2 (p. xv). I believe it would have been a good idea to mention the other links here as well, e.g. between Elegies 3 and 4, 4 and 5, 6 and 1; in this way, he would make the case from the beginning of the book that these late Latin elegies were a carmen continuum and not six separate poems (although he does discuss this subject on pp. lix–lxii). In the third part, D’Amanti deals with two principal features of Maximian’s poetry, namely old age and the feeling of being an exile. Here he offers some stimulating intertextual connections between Maximian and the classical Greek and Roman authors who dealt with this subject matter, such as Mimnermus, Anacreon, Cicero, and Ovid.

In the fourth part of the introduction, the author studies Maximian’s place in the panorama of classical elegiac poetry. He examines certain well-known elegiac motifs (such as the foedus amoris and servitium amoris). His observation regarding the similarity between the Graia puella’s paraclausithyron in Elegy 5 and the fragmentum Grenfellianum (p. xxix) is convincing. I find the fifth part of the introduction, where D’Amanti deals with the characters of Maximian’s poetry and its models, very interesting. There he offers valuable information about the personae of the Elegies (senex, mater, paedagogus). Moreover, he discusses the influence of several poets (Mimnermus, Anacreon, Lucretius, Horace, Ovid, Ausonius, Boethius, Prudentius, Cassiodorus, and Rutilius Namatianus) and genres (such as Roman comedy, tragedy, epigram, pastoral, and the Priapic tradition) within Maximian’s poetics.[3]

In the sixth part, D’Amanti studies the well-known subject of the forgery of Pomponius Gauricus, who published Maximian’s Elegies under the name of Cornelius Gallus in 1502. The author presents Gauricus’ fraud well enough, but he would have benefited from White’s recent monograph on the subject, which unfortunately probably appeared too late for D’Amanti to take into account.[4] The seventh part of the introduction is a thorough study of Maximian’s reception from medieval to modern times. I find this section excellent. It is here that there is a less recent bibliographical omission, namely Brooke Hunter’s 2015 article, which offers valuable information on the use of Maximian’s Elegies as a medieval textbook.[5]

The following section of the introduction is well-organized and concerns the text of Maximian’s Elegies, a field that D’Amanti knows extremely well.[6] Here the author examines a variety of subjects, such as the manuscript tradition, the structures of the poems (including the question of a carmen continuum), and their diffusion (editions and translations of and commentaries on Maximian’s work in different languages). In the final part of the introduction, D’Amanti presents his criteria regarding the next sections of his book (the edition, translation, and commentary).

I find D’Amanti’s introduction to be comprehensive and multifaceted. He offers important information about Maximian’s poetry, the influence of previous poets on him, his text, and its reception. The one thing that he could perhaps have added is the possible influence of Byzantine epigrammatists (e.g. Agathias’ Cycle and Paul the Silentiary), since Maximian likely spent some of his life in Constantinople, as he tells us in Elegy 5. Nevertheless, D’Amanti’s introduction is a valuable and well-written guide for specialists and students alike.

The next section is a thorough bibliography, divided into two categories; the first lists the editions, translations, and commentaries, and the second the relevant monographs and articles. In the second category, I would add three further studies that contribute to the analysis of Maximian’s impotence poem, i.e. Elegy 5, by Arcaz Pozo, McLaren, and Lavery.[7] Furthermore, Malick-Prunier’s 2011 book can contribute to the subject of the female body in the Elegies.[8] A list of abbreviations appears at the end of this section.

The next part of the book presents Maximian’s text on the left and its Italian translation on the right. A catalogue of sigla precedes. I believe that D’Amanti’s edition is one of the best, along with that of Schneider (2003). He mainly follows the codices antiquiores, but in some cases adopts the variants found in the more recent codices, where they have demonstrably better readings than the older manuscripts and preserve plausible emendations made by humanist scholars. The positive apparatus criticus is very helpful and also contains the most important conjectures by Maximian’s modern editors. The punctuation of the Latin text helps the reader, and it is maintained in the Italian rendering. The translation follows the Latin text and clarifies its meaning. Accordingly, it can stand alone, although it is not in verse (as is Juster’s translation).[9]

And D’Amanti’s book is indeed a thorough study: it is 528 pp. in length, which is huge, especially when we consider that other books of this kind—introduction, text, and commentary—are half this size, even when they include the Appendix Maximiani and other relevant texts.[10] D’Amanti’s commentary is 310 pages. Here the author covers many subjects, such as textual criticism, intertextuality, and the influence of other genres on Maximian’s poetry. I would like to make only a very few remarks. In commenting on the word lanquor of El. 1.6 (p. 92), D’Amanti offers many useful quotations, but not Fielding’s very interesting comments.[11] Moreover, he could have noted that the adjective alterno of El. 1.32 includes a significant metapoetic meaning, as it implies the alternation of the hexameter and pentameter in the elegiac genre.[12] Poetological hints with Callimachean connotations exist also in El. 1.79–80 (tenues, pingues, brevis, and longa). However, these omissions are totally justified by D’Amanti’s type of book, as the aforementioned remarks would be the subject of a monograph on Maximian’s poetics, rather than a commentary. To sum up, then, the commentary is thorough and offers great assistance to specialists and students of Maximian’s poetry. Undoubtedly, it is the most complete commentary on Maximian’s Elegies, and D’Amanti truly deserves congratulations for his huge contribution.

In the Appendix, the author includes the poem De senectute or Imitatio Maximiani (probably from the ninth century) by an anonymous poet and an Italian translation.[13] In a footnote he notes all the required information for this work and the modern bibliography on it. Like his translation of the Elegies, D’Amanti’s translation of this poem is very good. Editions and Italian translations of the six poems widely known as Appendix Maximiani would have been a welcome addition to this volume.

The last part of the book includes the indices (an index nominum et rerum and one of linguistic, stylistic, and rhetorical terms). As the author notes (p. 398), these do not record all occurrences of a word, only the most significant.

To summarize: D’Amanti’s book is a very welcome contribution to the studies of Maximian. His introduction and commentary are particularly thorough, providing a detailed analysis of previous scholarship on Maximian’s poetry while simultaneously offering valuable new insights and conclusions (e.g. on the manuscript tradition, Maximian’s reception, and the influence of several other genres on Maximian’s late love elegy). It is a well-written academic book, and pleasant to read; its bibliography is almost exhaustive (with only a few omissions, as noted above). It is also carefully edited. An English translation would ensure the wider readership that it deserves.


[1] W. Schneider, Die elegischen Verse von Maximian: Eine letzte Widerrede gegen die neve christliche Zeit: Mit den Gedichten der Appendix Maximiana und der Imitatio Maximiani (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag 2003); L. Canali, Massimiano. Elegie della vecchiaia. Prefazione e traduzione (Borgomanero: G. Ladolfi 2011); A. Pozo, Maximiano Etrusco, Poemas de amor y vejez. Traducciόn, introductiόn y notas (Madrid: Escolar y Mayo 2011); B. Goldlust, Maximien Élégies, suivies de l’Appendix Maximiani et de l’Épithalame pour Maximus d’Ennode de Pavie. Introduction, traduction et notes (Paris: Les Belles Lettres 2013); A. Franzoi, Le elegie di Massimiano. Testo, traduzione e commento. Note biografiche e storico-testuali. Appendix Maximiani a cura di P. Mastendrea e L. Spinazzè (Amsterdam: Adolf M. Hakkert 2014); and A. M. Juster, The Elegies of Maximianus, with an introduction by M. Roberts (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press 2018).

[2] See, for example, J. Uden and I. Fielding, “Latin Elegy in the Old Age of the World: the Elegiac Corpus of Maximianus,” Arethusa 43 (2010): 439–60; A. M. Wasyl, Genres Rediscovered: Studies in Latin Miniature Epic, Love Elegy, and Epigram of the Romano-Barbaric Age (Krakόw: Jagiellonian University Press 2011),113–61; and I. Fielding, Transformations of Ovid in Late Antiquity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2017), 128-81.

[3] I should also note that Candida looks like the Quintia of Carmen Priapeum 27, not 26 (p. xxxiv).

[4] P. White, Gallus Reborn. A Study of the Diffusion and Reception of Works Ascribed to Gaius Cornelius Gallus(London and New York: Routledge 2019).

[5] B. Hunter, ‘Boethian Humor and the Pseudo-Boethian De disciplina scolarium’, Viator 46 (2015): 161-80.

[6] See his papers, ‘Le Elegiae di Massimiano nel ms. Oliv. 1167’, Studia Oliveriana 4 (2016): 69-88, and ‘Sul testo della I elegia di Massimiano’, Quaderni urbinati di cultura classica 112 (2016): 177-90.

[7] J. Arcaz Pozo, ‘Passer mortuus est: Catulo (carm. 3), Ovidio (am. 3.7) y Maximiano (el. 5, 87-104)’, Cuadernos de filologia classica: Estudios latinos 8 (1995): 79-88; A. McLaren, Impotence: A Cultural History (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press 2007); and H. Lavery, The Impotency Poem from Ancient Latin to Restoration English Literature (Farnham: Ashgate 2014).

[8] S. Malick-Prunier, Le corps féminin dans la poésie latine tardive (Paris: Les Belles Lettres 2011), especially pp. 30-54 for Maximian.

[9] See above, n. 1. For a brief sample, cf. El. 1.1-4: Aemula, quid cessas finem properare, senectus? | Cur et in hoc fesso corpore tarda uenis? | Solue, precor, miseram tali de carcere uitam: mors est iam requies, uiuere poena mihi into ‘Vecchiaia ostile, perché indugi ad affrettare la morte? | Perché persino in questo mio corpo stremato procedi lentamente? | Libera, ti prego, la mia vita infelice da una simile prigione: | ormai per me la morte è riposo, vivere sofferenza’.

[10] Goldlust and Franzoi, which include the Appendix Maximiani, are 220 and 270 pages respectively. Juster, which also includes the Appendix Maximiani and other texts relevant to Maximian, like Cassiodorus’ Variae 1.21 and the Imitatio Maximiani, is 240 pages.

[11] See Fielding (n. 2, above), pp. 142 and 145-47.

[12] See OLD, s.v. alternus, 1c, p. 120.

[13] Juster (n. 1, above, pp. 92-93) published an edition of the Latin text of this, but not an English translation.