- Virgilio, Eneide 2: Introduzione, traduzione e commento ed. by Sergio Casali
The author, already well known for his work on Vergil—a number of articles, on a variety of topics, some in Italian, some English—here turns his attention to an entire book of the Aeneid. The text he offers agrees with N. Horsfall (Virgil, [End Page 449] Aeneid 2: A Commentary. Mnemosyne Supplements, 299 [Leiden 2008]) against G. B. Conte's Teubner (Berlin and New York 2005) twice as often as vice versa. It is accompanied by a facing-page Italian translation and is preceded by an introduction and followed by a substantial, detailed commentary, as well as the usual indexes and bibliography of works cited. Given the translation, Casali rarely explains the grammar, but on 664–667 his note is somewhat fuller than those of R. G. Austin and Horsfall.
Austin's commentary on book 2 (Oxford 1964) is considerably shorter than Casali's and very much shorter than Horsfall's. As a result of the differing scale and also of readers' growing expectations, it now appears spotty in its coverage of relevant subjects. On the quo me vertam? topos in 69–72, Austin says nothing. In regard to the flame that plays harmlessly about Ascanius's head (682–684), he settles decisively the disputed meaning of apex, but offers no general comment on auguria oblativa and impetrativa within the poem, as Casali does, usefully. Nonetheless, of all commentaries Austin's does the most to view Vergil's poem within the broadest context of European literature. On 643 he adduces a passage from a thirteenth-century Sicilian writer that makes for a helpful contrast, and prints in an appendix three modern poems that illustrate the continuing power of the Troy tale.
The remainder of this review will be a comparison between Casali's and Horsfall's editions. Not that they address the same audience. Whereas Casali addresses university students and their teachers, Horsfall aims his commentary at advanced scholars, who overlap, one hopes, with the latter group of Casali's readers. In their content, the two commentaries necessarily share much material and many stances. Both regard the Helen episode (567–588) as not authentic. Yet Casali regularly refers and defers to Horsfall's treatment of certain, often rather technical matters, such as the confusions among the Latin terms for lightning and meteors (698), or the relation of Vergil to the Vatican statue of Laocoon and sons (199–227). Conversely, he expatiates on matters upon which Horsfall hardly touches, such as the role of the various forms of augury in the poem (685–691) or the many competing traditions about Aeneas' sons (563).
Casali is more of a literary interpreter than Horsfall. He sometimes goes beyond his predecessor in treating echoes from earlier authors—Lucretius, for instance. Both commentators note the Lucretian echoes in quidquid id est (49) and salsus … sudor (173–174), but Casali alone suggests that the former phrase is particularly appropriate as uttered by Laocoon, the demystifier of falsa religio, and that the latter is paradoxical in that it relies on Lucretian language to express a divine prodigy. Some remarks of this sort may strike readers as overly subtle and unpersuasive.
The more literary, more interpretive nature of Casali's commentary is especially evident in his introduction. Especially keen throughout to employ the pre-Vergilian accounts of Troy's fall and Aeneas's escape in order to sharpen the reader's sense of Vergil's innovations and so of his aims, Casali argues here, inter alia, for the following positions: that the puzzling episode in which Aeneas and his men exchange armor with Greeks (386–395) may be an attempt to explain how the tradition arose that Aeneas had betrayed Troy; that Venus' words to Aeneas at 619–620 may allude to a version of the story that he has in fact discarded, one in which she herself guided her son from Troy to Rome; that ultimately Aeneas is responsible for the...