- Statius, Thebaid 2: Edited with an Introduction, Translation, and Commentary by Kyle Gervais
Kyle Gervais's excellent commentary on book 2 of Statius' Thebaid is the first since H. M. Mulder's (Groningen 1954). The book, an expansion of Gervais's 2008 Otago dissertation, offers a welcome addition to the recent exegetical works on the Thebaid, like A. Augoustakis on Thebaid 8 (Oxford 2016) and R. [End Page 444] Parkes on Thebaid 4 (Oxford 2012). It will surely be the standard commentary on Thebaid 2 for years to come.
Gervais has provided a "secondary" text using the apparatuses of several modern editions. He follows recent practice by taking into account Hall's innovative edition (J. B. Hall, A. L. Ritchie, and M. J. Edwards [eds. and trs.], P. Papinius Statius: Thebaid and Achilleid. 3 vols. [Newcastle, 2007–2008]) and Harald Anderson's groundbreaking collation of the manuscripts (The Manuscripts of Statius. 3 vols., rev. ed. [Arlington, VA, 2009]). The upshot is that MS P is not afforded star status any more, and variant readings from other manuscripts are taken seriously. That said, Gervais's text is relatively conservative (see for example the lemma on lines 185–187), following D. E. Hill's older edition (P. Papini Stati Thebaidos libri XII [Leiden 1996]) more often than that of Hall(xxiii). There is a full apparatus at the foot of the text, and the commentary provides adequate justification for all emendations on paleographical, grammatical, and literary grounds (see for example on line 316).
The translation is clear and workmanlike, aiming to convey meaning more than style. This frequently involves breaking up long sentences (115–119, 269–273, 736–740), reversing active and passive constructions (261, 584, 599, 655), changing nouns or adjectives into verbs and vice versa (25, 111, 190, 640), and various other methods of "turning" the Latin (for example 51–52, inversion of subject and object). Because of this, and because of the relative paucity of grammatical discussion in the commentary, the book is not a useful crib for Statian novices.
Gervais is quite attuned to the complexity of Statius' intertexts. The introduction (xxxiii–xlix) details Statius' allusive relationships to various Roman authors including, as is the recent (and perhaps controversial) trend, Statius' near contemporaries Valerius and Silius. The commentary proper frequently provides analysis of particularly intricate intertexts. Consider line 15, the brief description of the ghost who taunts Laius. Gervais points out how Statius combines a Vergilian commonplace about the harmlessness of the dead (Aeneid 11) with an allusion to some questionable figures in the Vergilian underworld (Aeneid 6). The same passage also combines and inverts contexts and themes in Vergil and Ovid to emphasize the darkness of the underworld and to amplify the distastefulness of the ghost's invidia. On another passage, Gervais (284–285) illustrates how the death of one of the Thebans in the ambush scene alludes to no less than four other deaths or mutilations. Not only do the intertexts help characterize and amplify Tydeus' heroism, but they also serve to offer an ominous prefiguring of Tydeus' later distasteful acts. The allusion to Ovid's Philomela in particular points forward to Tydeus' cannibalism in Thebaid 8.
Stylistic, rhetorical, and metrical matters appear prominently in the commentary, and Gervais is especially attentive to sonic effects like alliteration and assonance. Generally speaking, however, he is restrained in his interpretation of these effects, often mentioning them without comment. Full discussion does appear at times. For example, Gervais illustrates the poor style of Tydeus' oratory (208–209) and demonstrates how Statius' language reflects the sounds of the Bacchic revels he describes (286–287). Similes also receive particular attention, and Gervais is very good at describing how patterns of simile (for example ships, 101–102; bulls, 117–119) operate throughout the Thebaid as a whole.
Gervais tends to stay away from politicizing the poem. Although he notes Roman political terminology (like plebisque patrumque in line 443) and points [End Page 445] out allusions to Lucan, generally speaking no...