- Ovidio. Metamorfosi. Vol. 1: Libri I–II, and: Ovidio. Metamorfosi. Vol. 2: Libri III–IV
These are the first two installments in the long-awaited collaborative commentary produced by the Fondazione Valla under the general editorship of Alessandro Barchiesi. The first two volumes augur well for the whole project’s spectacular success. The series Scrittori greci e latini aims both to distill the received wisdom of previous scholarship and to advance understanding through new insights. The commentaries of Barchiesi (on Books 1–3) and Rosati (on Book 4) fulfill these ambitious goals to a very high degree. There is, in fact, no comparable guide to reading the first four books of Ovid’s masterwork. We will continue to turn to Bömer’s sprawling commentary for matters of usage and Realien, to the literary interpretations of Anderson on Books 1–10, and for their many useful observations to the more compact comprehensive commentaries of Galasso and von Albrecht–Haupt–Ehwald, and those on individual books by Lee, Hollis, and Hopkinson. Barchiesi and Rosati consistently offer fresh interpretations, while ably presenting the state of the question on relevant philological, historical, and literary matters.
Each volume includes, besides the commentary, a text with apparatus and an Italian translation by the late Ludovica Koch. Tarrant’s OCT is followed with only a few exceptions, mostly inclusions of some verses that he would expunge as interpolations. Volume 1 somewhat oddly contains two introductions to the poem. First comes “Il corpo e l’io nelle ‘Metamorfosi’ di Ovidio,” a stimulating eighty-five-page essay on gender, identity, and metamorphosis by the late Charles Segal, which, while ranging widely through the poem, seems out of place in this context. Barchiesi then brilliantly surveys the central issues of contemporary Ovidian scholarship in fifty-seven dense pages. Each brief section offers a helpful point of departure on matters like Ovid’s role in the ancient and later western mythological traditions, his transformation of Hellenistic models, the problematic of “Greek” vs. “Roman” narrative authority, structural openness, the mysterious quality of the Ovidian universe, productive ambiguity and lightness of touch or incoherence, cinematic dynamism, autoreferentiality, power, Augustan ideology, spectacle, style, genre, performance, morality and justice.
The commentary itself features overviews at the head of each episode—some quite extensive—followed by remarks on a host of issues in the usual lemma format. Good examples of the former are Rosati’s headnotes to the “Perseid” and (within that) the Liberation of Andromeda at 4.663–739: e.g., earlier treatments in art and literature; Perseus as a Mercury-figure; elements of elevated style in depicting the poem’s first hero to be given his own narrative cycle; relationship to the Aeneid; the sea-beast compared with Python and Cadmus’ snake; the duel’s careful choreography and reminiscence of a [End Page 87] circus venatio. A short review cannot assess in depth a commentary bristling with such learning, so I here list a sample of typical comments to give an idea of the range and quality of the volumes. On Daphne in Book 1: to introduce Apollo as the first lover is as innovative as styling Daphne his first beloved; possible Seleucid background to the contemporary political dimension of the story; apostrophe at 488–89 implicating the reader in masculine objectification of the girl; the repeated moderatius at 510–11 stylistically dissonant in context, even as it simultaneously evokes a Delphic maxim and a favorite Augustan saying. Ocyroe in Book 2: implicit reminder at 636–38 that mythical characters express themselves in Greek; language of 640 both sacral and hinting at destructiveness; at 643–48 hymnic models adapted to dramatic context (as often in Met.); the prophecy of a salvific puer may evoke Verg. Ecl. 4; the disquieting silencing of the prophetess with a Roman (a kind of sibyl) and Augustan...