- Statius, Thebaid 8, Edited with an Introduction and Commentary by Antony Augoustakis
Unlike much classical literature, Flavian epic poses commentators the unusual challenge of having a substantial number of extant sources. This wealth of material affords a privileged glimpse into the workings of several Latin poets and, [End Page 586] by extension, Roman writers more generally. At the same time, it forces the critic to make some tough choices regarding topical and methodological content. One of the principal contributions of recent studies of Flavian epic has been to embrace the depth and breadth of comparanda pertinent to these poems, and in particular to map out an intertextual landscape that does justice to, but does not overemphasize, the importance of the Aeneid. Augoustakis’ model commentary on Thebaid 8 balances philological and interpretive concerns and possesses an unusually wide range of reference, including not only the canonical Augustan and post-Augustan influences but also Greek and Roman republican authors as well as several medieval writers.
After brief accounts of Statius’ life and an overview of the Thebaid, the substantial introduction focuses on the main episodes in book 8. Augoustakis traces first the Greek, then the Latin, sources of each scene, clearly indicating when a text is likely to have been a direct model for Statius. As with J. J. L. Smolenaars’ detailed exposition of Statian intertextuality in his commentary on Thebaid 7 (Leiden 1994), Augoustakis’ introduction can likewise serve as an entrée for those seeking to understand the poem’s manifold links to literary and cultural history, complementing the usual suspects with numerous references to Accius and Pacuvius or to material culture, especially the Etruscan representation of Tydeus’ cannibalism. The literary legacy of this scene, most famously treated in Dante’s Inferno, makes the de rigueur section on reception feel less routine. In the commentary itself, the notes on cannibalism at 735–739 naturally cover Latin literary precedents such as Vergil, but they also provide a detailed survey of Tydeus’ representation in Greek literature, drawing on sources as varied as Homer and Pausanias in order to demonstrate the novelty of Statius’ hero. Augoustakis then goes on to highlight the ancient philosophical debate about cannibalism by citing Zeno and Seneca before turning to Statius’ medieval reception by Joseph of Exeter and Walter of Châtillon. For some readers this host of comparisons will be bewildering or distracting, but for others it will be enormously liberating as Augoustakis reveals time and again the diversity of research opportunities open to any student of Flavian epic.
Many of the notes involve discussion of the text itself, which by and large follows Donald Hill’s edition (Leiden 1983) with selected readings taken from J. B. Hall and other sources. Augoustakis does not automatically prioritize modern editions; older conjectures are also revived, such as Barth’s mixti over miseri at 613, and fata, approved separately by Kohlman, Wilkins, and Garrod, over facta at 227. Augoustakis’ approach in reporting textual discussions tends towards the comprehensive. On occasion, however, as with Schrader’s horrens for ardens at 655, Augoustakis provides positive reasons for the emendation but no argument in favor of the manuscript reading, even though the standard image of the blazing of serpents’ eyes (Aen. 5.277) suggests that the manuscript lectio merits at least some defense.
Augoustakis’s handling of scholarship is no less expansive and accommodating of others’ views. The note on the simile of the Parthian prince (286– 293) not only recapitulates much of the historical information from an article by Adrian Hollis, but also quotes almost an entire paragraph of another article by Stefano Rebeggiani. In a similar vein, Augoustakis provides extensive quotations of the ancient authors to whom he refers, allowing the reader to engage in the discussion along with him without having to go off in search of a copy of the relevant text. All of the above should give some indication of the lengths to which Augoustakis has gone in order to make his volume as...