Friday, 29 October 2021
Monday, 19 April 2021
Monday, 12 April 2021
Since L’Année Philologique was launched in 1924, the 1920s is three years short, giving an artificial sense of a low base. Thereafter one can see a dip in the 1940s, no doubt the effect of war, and thereafter a steady increase in both total Classical scholarship and these authors, to a level between two to three times larger than pre-war. The decade from 2011 is also under-represented, since no 2020 publications and only some 2018 and 2019 ones have been registered (some items of mine from 2018 are not yet recorded); others from earlier in the decade may also be less likely to have been added. It will be interesting to see in a few years from now whether 2011-2020 really does mark a decline or just a stabilisation. (For the exact numbers and some qualifications on the data, see the appendix at the end of this post).
We can see that Tacitus has always been the most popular of the four historians and Livy has always second. That is perhaps understandable given the range of their works – Livy in seven Oxford volumes and Tacitus with five works in three volumes. Tacitus’ lead over Livy can be explained both by the virtually unanimous admiration for the former’s stylistic and intellectual brilliance and the latter’s limitations as a factual historical source. Sallust, bolstered slightly by pseudonymous works, was long placed third, but Ammianus, who began a long way behind, drew close to Sallust in the 1960s, overtook him in the 1990s, and has not relinquished his small lead. Sidonius until the 1980s exemplifies the marginal place of late antique authors, long behind Ammianus, but there really has been a boom in this case, so that in the last decade he has overtaken both Sallust and Ammianus. Once the 26 chapters of the Edinburgh Companion to Sidonius are added to the list for 2020, the lead may be even longer. I am very glad that Sidonius has his moment in the sun (though I hope Ammianus catches up next decade).
Let’s look at the same information in a slightly different way, this time looking at each author as a proportion of overall scholarly production per decade recorded in L'Année Philologique.
This has the advantage of smoothing out the unevenness caused by incomplete data in the first and last decades. It shows that interest in the three earlier historians has remained roughly at parity, with Livy becoming proportionately more and Sallust less popular; the growth of interest in Ammianus is proportionately almost fourfold and Sidonius well over tenfold. It also suggests, interestingly, that the percentage of scholarship on the historians grew in the 1940s – even if scholarship overall declined. Is this a wartime effect? (I have written elsewhere on the relevance of Sidonius in Second World War France, though there is no significant growth in interest in that period).
So there really has by any standards been a boom in interest in late antique authors! Let us break down the details of this further, by language. Here are publications on Ammianus per decade by language:
Here is the pattern for Sidonius.
Scholarly production is limited and piecemeal from the 1920s to the 1970s, though for understandable reasons French is usually the lead language. The notable story is the growth of Italian scholarship. Franca Ela Consolino’s ‘Codice retorico’ (1974) and Isabella Gualandri’s Furtiva lectio (1979) are normally seen as the foundations for modern literary scholarship on Sidonius, but it is not until the 1990s that Italian takes the lead. In the last, highly productive decade of Sidonius scholarship, French is currently in second place, and English third.
A few thoughts. First of all, and unsurprisingly, sometimes scholarship really does boom/ surge/ explode. National trends or trends within a single academic culture can lead the way. Second, I do not propose here to get into the quarrels on the Classicists’ list, but this much seems clear: it may be that more and more classical scholarship will be written in English in the coming years, but it is very far from evident that this will inevitably be the case.
Some caveats on the source information. L'Année Philologique is not comprehensive and omits many works (a comparison with Jenkins’ Ammianus bibliography or with the bibliography on sidonapol.org would be revealing here). The lack of Spanish works before 1990 seems implausible, for example. It has some deliberate omissions (introductions of edited books are not listed as separate articles, even if they are lengthy and significant contributions). Especially in the last decades of the twentieth century, the tagging of languages is not reliable (as shown here) and so I compiled my own lists; in more recent years, 9 works on Ammianus whose titles begin with Latin elements have been miscatalogued as being in Latin (I have not reallocated them in the tables above). In the older entries there are some doublets, mostly in the case of monographs that were in two or more successive issues because new reviews had appeared since the last issue. For reasons I could not understand, the same search sometimes produced marginally different results (numbers different by one or two), but not to an extent that made a serious difference.
For tables giving figures for the charts above, see here.
Friday, 26 March 2021
One of the hobbies of Latinists – nearly as common as finding acrostics in poetry, but healthier and more plausible – is finding scraps of Latin verse in the midst of prose. I don’t mean quotations, but bits of prose that scan like lines or part lines of poetry, which in the complex quantitative metres of Latin is a lot harder than, say, an accidental pentameter in English (‘To boldly go where none has gone before’, as Star Trek didn't say). Notoriously the first line of Tacitus’ Annals is a rather awkward hexameter (I use macrons and breves for long and short syllables – scansion fonts are too complicated):
The city of Rome from the beginning was governed by kings…
This is a theme of historical writing, as Sallust’s Jugurtha similarly began with a hexameter, in this case a spondeiazon:
Bēllūm / scrīptū/rūs // sūm / quōd pŏpŭ/lūs Rō/mānŭs…
I am about to write the war that the Roman people…
And Livy’s massive history with most of a hexameter:
Fāctū/rūsn(e) ŏpĕ/raē // prĕtĭ/ūm sīm / si…
Whether I would be doing something worthwhile if…
And it is indicative, perhaps, of historiographical pretensions that the first emperor began the inscription of his deeds, the Res Gestae, with a hexameter (still metrical for most of the second line, indeed):
Rērūm / gēstā/rūm // dīu/(i) Aūgūs/tī quĭbŭs / ōrbĕm
tērrā/r(um) īmpĕrĭ/ō // pŏpŭ/lī Rō/mānī…
Of the deeds achieved by the defied Augustus in which [he subdued] the world to the power of the Roman people
Recently, Tony Woodman (‘Numerosus Horatius?’, CQ 69 (2019), 911-12) spotted that another Augustan prose inscription, that commemorating the Secular Games of 17 bc (CIL 6.32323 = ILS 5050), referred to the poet Horace’s Carmen saeculare in metre – not the sapphics in which it was written, but another of his favoured metres, the first Asclepiad:
cārmēn / cōmpŏsŭīt // Quīntŭs Hŏrā/tĭūs
The poem was composed by Q. Horatius Flaccus
Today I was discussing with colleagues software to scan prose and identify prose rhythm – a rather different matter, not least since Latin prose rhythm normally shuns poetic metres, and has less fixed rules. Still, electronic searches could identify many more instances of verse fragments in prose. In any case, the discussion inspires me to jot down a couple of other cases of verse in prose that I have spotted over the years.
In Seneca’s Apocolocyntosis 9, a proposal is made in the Olympian senate to accept the recently deified Claudius as a god:
censeo uti divus Claudius ex hac die deus sit, ita uti ante eum qui optimo iure factus sit, eamque rem ād Mĕtă/mōrphō/sīs // Ŏvĭd/(i) ādĭcĭ/ēndăm
I propose that the deified Claudius from this day be a god, just as anybody before him who has been made one with full rights, and that this matter be added to Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
The jesting reference to Ovid’s epic of unnatural transformations is matched by the figure of the prose turning into the last five feet of a hexameter (scanning adicio, as is common, as adjicio).
Half a century later, in Tacitus’ Histories, the historian pronounces a notorious judgment on the emperor Galba (Hist. 1.54):
…omnium consensu ‘căpāx / īmpĕrĭ/ī nĭs/(i) īmpĕr/āssĕt’.
By general consent capable of imperial rule – if he had never reigned.
This is a phalaecian hendecasyllable. In Tacitus’ day the first two syllables of the metre were normally both long, but its greatest Latin practitioner Catullus had allowed one of the two to be short. It is tempting to wonder whether we might not be dealing with a quotation from a poem.
Tacitus, though a famous orator, is not usually seen as an adherent of conventional prose rhythm – that is of the artistic rhythms at ends of clauses, differing from those of verse, that were imported from Greek into Roman oratory in the late republican period, and that spread into many other genres. History-writing, at least up to Tacitus, is not thought to be one of those genres. However, the recent article of Tom Keeline and Tyler Kirby, ‘Auceps syllabarum’, in Journal of Roman Studies 109 (2019), 161-204, uses electronic searching to look systematically at metrical prose rhythm across a great number of early imperial authors. While Tacitus shuns conventional artistic rhythms in the Annals and in most of the Histories, his Dialogue on orators has a statistically significant number of them, unsurprisingly for a famous orator; so does the Germania and the speeches in both the Agricola and the Histories. Keeline and Kirby do not find the Agricola outside the speeches significantly clausulated.
But there are dangers of looking statistically for prose rhythm, rather than reading the text. The rhetorical preface of the Agricola does read to me as clausulated, none less than the last phrase of the first paragraph: tam saeua et infesta uirtutibus tempora, so savage and hostile to virtues were the times. Not just the conventional clausula of the double cretic (long short long), but four cretics in a row:
Tam / saēu(a) ĕt īn/fēstă uīr/tūtĭbūs/ tēmpŏră.
Tacitus spoke of fifteen years of literary silence under Domitian. This blog has been silent for a shorter period, of about a year, under circumstances trying for most of us. In any case, things will get better, and I will try to add further posts, extending this series on prose rhythm, in the coming weeks.