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  • Fragments of Roman Poetry: c.60 BC–AD 20
  • James E. G. Zetzel
Adrian S. Hollis . Fragments of Roman Poetry: c.60 BC–AD 20. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Pp. xviii, 440. $150.00. ISBN 978-0-19-0814698-8.

Latin poetic fragments are different from Greek poetic fragments. By now, thanks to papyrus discoveries, fragmentary texts are a large portion of surviving Greek literature, the number grows steadily, and the editing of fragmentary Greek poets is a very lively growth business. With Latin fragments, by contrast, boring stability has reigned for a long time. In Adrian Hollis' fine new edition of 262 poetic fragments from the late Republic and early Empire, the only text I find that was not known a century ago is the Gallus papyrus.

In such a small and stable world, the list of serious editions is predictably short. The old Teubner edition of Willy Morel (1927) looks good only in comparison with the revisions made successively by Büchner and Blänsdorf. In the last twenty years, however, two important and intelligent editions have appeared: that of Edward Courtney, The Fragmentary Latin Poets (Oxford 1993), and now Adrian Hollis' Fragments of Roman Poetry. The two are very different, but both are indispensable for any student of Latin poetry. Courtney's discussions are short, sharp, and always self-assured; he is a brilliant if not always convincing textual critic, and he comments primarily on what interests him. Hollis is equally learned, but his strengths lie less in editing than in explaining: he is leisurely, judicious, and didactic. Courtney is a gifted critic; Hollis is a patient and helpful commentator. Courtney's work is often editorum in usum; Hollis' is definitely for students. Courtney is the dazzling lecturer; Hollis is the section-leader who actually explains what is going on. In short, we need them both, but Hollis is the first place to go.

Simple numbers show something of the difference between them. For Cinna, the first of the neoterics, Courtney and Hollis report the same fragments; Courtney takes 13 pages, Hollis 38. Courtney's commentary is nonexistent or telegraphic; Hollis gives a thorough discussion of every word and nuance. His knowledge and explanations of meter and prosody are outstanding; his knowledge of both Hellenistic and Latin poetic language is profound; but to find out what he thinks about a fragment can take some time.

Other differences weigh on both sides of the scale. Hollis is to be applauded for including translations of every fragment. On the other hand, the absence [End Page 347] of the definite article in the title of Hollis' book matters: Courtney prints every nondramatic fragment he knows of Latin poetry, other than the early epic poets, from the beginnings until Symmachus in the fourth century. Hollis limits himself to the period from roughly 60 B.C.E. to 20 C.E., thus ignoring precursors of the neoterics such as the early epigrams and the fragments of Laevius; at the later end he leaves out the parodies of Virgil (although, unlike Courtney, he includes the ten verses prefixed to Horace, Satires 1.10), and even for his chosen period he omits the fragments of Cicero and thus implicitly—and at times more explicitly—constructs an extremely traditional and dubious history of Latin poetry: Cicero and Lucretius old style, Cinna and Catullus an Early Clue to the New Direction. When Courtney offers strange literary history (as with his early dating of Lucretius) he at least tells you so. In that respect, using Hollis requires caution.

Hollis' apparatus is seriously inadequate, and he tends to promote some very unappealing emendations; in that respect, Courtney is far ahead. And there are some strange omissions in his notes: who now can discuss the fragments of the egregious Julius Montanus (221–23) without at least mentioning Zwierlein's attribution to him of much of Virgil and Ovid? Hollis is much more at home in the techniques of poetic style than he is in explaining the content of technical or scientific poetry: for such fragmentary texts as Varro Atacinus' Chorographia and Ephemeris, one needs to turn to Courtney.

Hollis sets out more clearly than Courtney some...


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