According to Aulus Gellius, Ennius claimed to have three hearts, each representing a part of his hybrid cultural identity (Gel. 17.71.1: Quintus Ennius tria corda habere sese dicebat, quod loqui Graece et Osce et Latine sciret). Matching his hearts in number, the three books under review delve into the various Greek, Italic, and Latin influences on Ennius’ eighteen-book Annales, exploring the epic’s literary heritage and reception. One might rightly claim that in the wake of these important contributions (1088 pages for 623 fragments), we have firmly entered an aetas Enniana. The elephant in the room for all those interested in the poem is, of course, its highly fragmentary state of preservation. Instead of serving as an insurmountable obstacle, the scholarly process of interpreting fragmentary texts actually emerges as a shared feature of the methodologies on display in these otherwise quite different works. While Fisher and Goldschmidt push the limits of what an incomplete epic can communicate, Elliott more skeptically tackles the nature of transmission and its impact on our knowledge of the text.
Ennius’ Oscan heart, representing his Italic heritage, takes center stage in Fisher’s study. Many readers will find most original and striking his arguments for the epic resonance and formulaic quality of “traditional” Latin phrases and their links with languages such as Umbrian and Oscan. Fisher relies throughout on the meaningful co-occurrence of communicative words, “traditional collocation” (3), and the use of language from various “traditional” cultural fields such as ritual, prayer, kinship, and the military (he adopts Lowell Edmunds’ concept of “system reference,” 5). According to Fisher, Ennius’ use of these culturally marked forms of language, shaped during the period of the central Italian koine\ (seventh to fourth centuries b.c.e.), allows his epic to include and enact an elevated tone appropriate to the inherited demands of his genre. While Ennius’ revolutionary turn to the hexameter may initially suggest a decision to abandon all that is old (or perhaps old-fashioned) about “native” literary culture, the pervasive presence of the Italic militates against severing Ennius from the lifeblood pumped through his Oscan heart. In fact, the dialogue between “foreign and familiar” aspects of culture is key to Fisher’s demonstration of how the Italic past emerges as a ghostly mediator and occasional replacement of superficially Greek and Homeric elements (10, 56, 85).
With a presumed audience of Latinists, it is somewhat surprising that the introduction, “Ennius and the Italic Tradition,” devotes little time to outlining his rather unique methodology. But Fisher prefers to show rather than tell. On page 5 he jumps right into an analysis of Skutsch Ann. 232 (non semper vostra [End Page 713] evortit nunc Iuppiter hac stat), the language and context of Jupiter Stator in Cicero Cat. 1, and the Oscan Jupiter Versor: he convincingly connects Oscan Iovi Versori with Ennius’ evortit . . . Iuppiter (8). While the particulars of the argument take a winding course through various temples and texts, it is the act itself of probing seemingly commonplace language to reveal linguistic and cultural significance that highlights the best of what Fisher has to offer.
Chapter 2, “The Annals and the Greek Tradition,” traces the Italic features of the epic through what one might call cross-lingual window-allusion. For example, Ann. 1 (Musae quae pedibus magnum pulsatis Olympum) contains a well-known substitution of the Greek Musae for his predecessors’ Camenae, but Fisher draws our attention to the “native Latin tradition” of the Salian priests’ tripudium behind pedibus . . . pulsatis: “if the collocation pedem pulsare is a traditional expression for the performance of the tripudium, then the Greek Muses are, in fact, performing not only a native dance but also a dance known to Umbrian ritual. The verb ahatripursatu, “let him dance the tripudium,” a...