- The Loeb Statius
In memory of James L. Butrica
atque utinam Fortuna mihi dare manibus aras,par templis opus, aëriamque educere molemCyclopum scopulos ultra atque audacia saxaPyramidum, et magno tumulum praetexere luco.
The many volumes of the Loeb Classical Library have long provided a convenient and economical aid to serious scholars and an indispensable crutch to the incompetent and unscrupulous of all academic ranks and callings. They have always varied in the quality of the texts and translations offered, and in the degree of annotation provided. In recent years, however, new editions have been brought out of many ancient authors which far surpass their predecessors in detail and scholarly comment. The most impressive include Sir Hugh Lloyd-Jones’s Sophocles, G. P. Goold’s Manilius, and the volumes of Martial, Valerius Maximus, and the letters of [End Page 57] Cicero on which Shackleton Bailey expended so much labour to such good effect before, in these present volumes, turning his hand to Statius. Some may grumble at the marketing trick whereby an author previously appearing in two volumes now must be paid for in three, but superior texts provided with superior annotation are surely worth the small additional expense. That is certainly true of the volumes reviewed here, since they provide much of real value that is not found in their predecessors (Mozley 1928). In addition to judicious introductions to the life of Statius and to his manuscript tradition by the editor-translator himself, they also offer detailed surveys of modern scholarship on Statius (provided by K. M. Coleman), something particularly welcome in an edition of a poet whose works have received more attention in the last thirty years than they have for centuries. Coleman aims to describe rather than to evaluate, but even so her robust sense of historical probability makes short work of some of the wilder political speculations of recent literary criticism of the Thebaid in particular. Furthermore, the volume containing the Silvae discusses in a richly detailed critical appendix a good proportion of the most difficult passages of a text that has suffered very badly in transmission, while the first and third volumes each include a superb index of the vast proliferation of personal names and mythological and geographical terms whose frequent appearance in Statius’ poetry can baffle all but the most learned readers.
The translation itself is for the most part a real treat. It nicely catches in particular the mix in the Silvae of the grand and the homely that gives this eclectic collection of the monumental, the ceremonial, and the avowedly ephemeral much of its charm. The English will perhaps appear to some not to have moved far enough from the archaic diction and grammar that often earn the older Loebs some mockery. For instance, when Statius gazes at the emperor during a banquet and cries out “medius videor discumbere in astris” (Silv. 4.2.10) Mozley’s “Methinks I recline …” becomes “Meseems I recline ….” Even so, the differences must be noted too: Mozley’s Statius reclines “with Jove” and addresses him as “thou”, but Shackleton Bailey’s reclines “with Jupiter” and uses the pronoun “you”. The new Loeb appears to aim at greater readability while commendably refusing to pretend that Statius wrote in workaday prose, and for all that it is easy to follow and enjoy, it will still serve to make readers remember that part of the value of Statius’ verse for his patrons was precisely that the quotidian was memorialized in a lofty epic dialect that no one ever did or would ever want to speak.
These superior and more elaborate new Loeb editions, however, are to be judged with a more critical eye constantly kept on the text itself, by which I mean that it is not enough that they should translate well the Latin they print, but that the Latin they print deserves to be judged by a [End Page 58] higher standard than one might apply to their predecessors. Anyone seeking to edit the whole of Statius’ work on such terms has a hard task before him, because the different poems have...