Skip to main content

An anthology of early Latin epigrams? A ghost reconsidered*

  • Amiel D. Vardi (a1)

In Book 19, chapter 9 of the Nodes Atticae Gellius describes the birthday party of a young Greek of equestrian rank at which a group of professional singers entertained the guests by performing poems by Anacreon, Sappho, ‘et poetarum quoque recentium ⋯λεγεῖα quaedam erotica’ (4). After the singing, Gellius goes on, some of the Greek συμπόται present challenged Roman achievements in erotic poetry, excepting only Catullus and Calvus, and criticized in particular Laevius, Hortensius, Cinna, and Memmius. Rising to meet this charge, Gellius’ teacher of rhetoric, Antonius Julianus, admits the superiority of the Greeks in what he calls ‘cantilenarum mollitiae’ in general (8), but to show that the Romans too have some good erotic poets, he recites four early Latin love epigrams, by Valerius Aedituus (frs. 1 and 2), Porcius Licinus (fr. 6), and Lutatius Catulus (fr. I). The same three poets are listed in the same order in Apuleius’ Apology in a list of amatory poets which he provides in order to establish precedents and thus invalidate his prosecutors’ referral to his erotic poems in their accusation (Apul. Apol. 9). Catulus is also enumerated in Pliny's list of Roman dignitaries who composed ‘uersiculos seueros parum’ like his own (Ep. 5.3.5), and an amatory epigram of his is cited by Cicero in De Natura Deorum 1.79 (fr. 2). We possess no further evidence connecting the other two with the composition of either erotic or, more generally, ‘light’ verse, but a poem by Porcius Licinus on Roman literary history is attested by several sources including Varro, Suetonius, and Gellius himself.

Hide All

1 Fragments are numbered according to Morel-Bländorf, FPL (Stuttgart and Leipzig, 1995). In Courtney, E., The Fragmentary Latin Poets (Oxford, 1993) Licinus’ epigram is numbered fr. 7.

2 FPL frs. 1–5 (Courtney 1–6).

3 M. J. Hertz in his 1883—5 edition of Gellius, vol. 2, p. vi, and especially Marache, R., La critique littèraire de langue latine et le dèveloppement du goût archaïsant au IF siécle de notre ére (Rennes, 1952), 331; id., ‘Fronton et A. Gellius (1938–1964)’, Lustrum 10 (1965), 229–31 (a survey of bibliography); and his edition of Gellius, vol. 1 (Paris, 1967), x-xii.

4 Usener, H., ‘Nochmals Valerius Aedituus’, RhM 20 (1865), 150–1 = Kleine Schriften (Leipzig, 1912–13; repr. Osnabriick, 1965), 2.65; Alfonsi, L., Poetae Novi (Como, 1945), 1112; Luiselli, B., ‘Apul. De Mag. 9; Gell. XIX,9,10 e Valerio Edituo, Porcio Licinio e Lutazio Catulo’, AFLC 28 (1960), 125–33.

5 Holford-Strevens, L. A., ‘Towards a chronology of Aulus Gellius’, Latomus 36 (1977), 93109, at 102—4; id., Aulus Gellius (London, 1988), 16–19; Courtney (n. 1), 71. The connection between Gellius and Apuleius is, of course, confirmed if the ‘amicus meus, οὐκ ἄμουσος adulescens’ to whom Gellius ascribes a Latin adaptation of a Platonic distich (19.11.3) is Apuleius, as many now believe; for which see Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 17, n. 57.

6 On Latin anthologies in general, see Riese, A., Anthologia Latina (Leipzig, 19062), 1.1, viii-ix; Heyworth, S. J., ‘Propertius: division, transmission, and the editor's task’, PLLS 8 (1995), 165–85, at 170–1, 178.

7 see Goldberg, C. (ed.), Carmina Priapea: Einleitung, Übersetzung, Interpretation und Kommentar (Heidelberg, 1992), 30–4.

8 Lyne, R. O. A. M., ‘The dating of the Ciris’, CQ 21 (1971), 233–8.

9 Quint. Inst. 8.3.27–8. see Boerma, R. E. H. Westendorp, P. Vergili Maronis Catalepton (Assen, 1949), xlviii-xlix; and on the Appendix in general, id., ‘Oú en est aujourd'hui l'ènigme de l'appendix Vergilana?’, in Bardon, H. et Vardiére, P. (edd.), Vergiliana, Recherches sur Virgile (Leiden, 1971), 386421; Richmond, J. A., ‘De forma libelli qui Catalepton inscribitur’, Mnemosyne 28 (1975), 420–2.

10 But see Tränkle, H., Appendix Tibulliana (Berlin and New York, 1990), 16, who argues for a later date.

11 I admit that Porphyio's ‘saturarum scriptor, cuius sunt electae… saturae’ is not altogether clear. Dr S. J. Heyworth has suggested to me that this might mean a composition in imitation of selected passages from the earlier authors of Saturae, but though a possessive with verbs of composition may carry this meaning (e.g. Gell. 9.9.3 ‘Vergilius cum aut Homeri… locos effingeret”), I am not sure the combination with electae could have been understood in this sense. The possibility that Florus made a pastiche of passages from the authors is not to be ruled out, but in that case he would have produced a sort of miscellaneous anthology just the same.

12 For Suffenus cf. Cat. 22, and for his possible identification with Alfenus Varus, Frank, T., ‘Catullus and Horace on Suffenus and Alfenus’, CQ 14 (1920), 160–2.

13 Fordyce, C. J., Catullus. A Commentary (Oxford, 1961, repr. 1965), 135. The view that Calvus compiled the collection himself is also held by E. T. Merrill (Cambridge, MA, 1893), and Ferguson, J., Catullus (Lawrence, KS, 1985). Among scholars who assume a published anthology are Kroll, W., Catullus (Stuttgart, 19593), 30; Quinn, K., Catullus: The Poems (London, 1970), and Thomson, D. F. S., Catullus, Edited with a Textual and Interpretative Commentary (Toronto, 1997).

14 For this meaning of litterator, see Suet. Gram. 4.

15 For the ‘practical joke’ interpretation, see Kroll (n. 13), Merrill (n. 13), Ellis, R., A Commentary on Catullus (Oxford, 1889), Ferguson (n. 13), and Fraenkel, E., ‘Catulls Trostgedicht fur Calvus’, WS 69 (1956), 278–88, at 281. That Catullus regarded Calvus’ gift as a practical joke is implied by salse in line 16, but, as Thomson (n. 13), 244, observes, the joke could just as well consist of choosing to send his friend a published anthology of particularly bad poems.

16 For example, Quint. Inst. 2.15.24; Plin. Ep. 6.20.5; Fro. M. Caes. 2.8.3,3.9.3, 3.19.2;Ant.Imp. 3.8.2, 4.1.1. For the use of such anthologies in education, see Marrou, H.-I., Histoire de l'èducation dans l'antiquitè (Paris, 1965), 233; Pfeiffer, R., History of Classical Scholarship, vol. 1: From the Beginnings to the Endofthe Hellenistic Age (Oxford, 1968), 145.

17 Cavenaile, CPL 24, Pack2 2918.

18 see Reynolds, L. D., Texts and Transmission (Oxford, 1983), 343.

19 On the Gallus fragments, Heyworth, S. J., ‘A note on the Gallus fragment’, LCM 9 (1984), 63–4; Courtney (n. 1), 264. On Propertius’ Monobiblos, Heyworth (n. 6), 175–8.

20 see Gallazzi, C., ‘P. Narm. inv. 66.362: Vergilius, Eclogue VIII53–62’, ZPE4 (1982), 75–8.

21 see Friedrich, O., Publilii Syri Mimi Sententiae (Berlin, 1880), 48; K. Horna, RE Suppl. 6, 74ff.; Barns, J., ‘A new gnomologium with some remarks on gnomic anthologies’, CQ 44 (1950), 126–37 (esp. 133–7) and CQ 1 (1951), 1–19.

22 For example, Knoche, U., ‘Erlebnis und dichterischer Ausdruck in der lateinischen Poesie’, Gymnasium 65 (1958), 146–65 at 151–2.

23 Quint, Inst. 8.6.73 ‘Et quod Cicero [est] in quodam ioculari libello.’ Tac. Dial. 21.6 ‘nisi qui et carmina eorundem (= Caesaris et Bruti) miratur. fecerunt enim et carmina et in bibliothecas rettulerunt, non melius quam Cicero, sed felicius, quia illos fecisse pauciores sciunt'Anna, ‘Alcune osservazioni sulle fonti di Gellio, N.A. XVII.21 e sulla cronologia geronimiana dei poeti latini arcaici’, ArchClass 25/6 (1973/4), 166–237 at 196–8.

25 see Coleman, R., Vergil: Eclogues (Cambridge, 1911)ad Ecl. 6.12; Geymonat, M., ‘Ancorasul titolo delle Bucoliche’, BICS 29 (1982), 1718.

26 see Von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, U., Textgeschichte der griechischen Bukoliker (Berlin, 1906), 127–9; A. S. F. Gow's edition of Theocritus (Cambridge, 1952), lix-lxii; K. Gutzwiller, ‘The evidence for Theocritean poetry books’, in Harder, M. A., Regtuit, R. F., and Wakker, G. C. (edd.), Theocritus—Hellenistica Groningana II (Groningen, 1996), 119–48, esp 138.

27 Dahlmann, H., ‘Studien zu Varro “de poetis”’, AAWM (1962), no. 10, 602.

28 This possibility is suggested by Dahlmann, H., ‘Varros Schrift “de Poematis” und die hellenistisch-römische Poetik’, AAWM (1953), no. 3,147, n. 2.

29 ‘Negat Cicero si duplicitur sibi aetas, habiturum se tempus quo legat lyricos.’ The term lyricus was used by Romans to designate all types of light verse: Porphyr. ad Hor. C. 3.1.2–3 (on Laevius’ Erotopaegnia); Diom. Keil, GL 1.483.5–6 (on Archilochus’ poetry). See Cicero, Hortensius, ed. A. Grilli (Milano-Varese, 1962), firs. 4, 6, 8–12.

30 See n. 4 above.

31 Buttner, R., Porcius Licinus und der litterarische Kreis des Q. Lutatius Catulus (Leipzig, 1893).

32 Catulus’ connection with Antias: Cic. Brut. 132; with Archias: Cic. Arch. 5; with Antipater of Sidon: Cic. de Oral. 3.194. 33 For discussions of Büttner's theory, see Bardon, H., ‘Q. Lutatius Catulus et son ”cercle littèraire”’, LEC 18 (1950), 145–64; id., La litterature latine incomue (Paris, 1952), 1.115–32; M. Pinto, ‘II “circolo lettèrario” di Q. Lutazio Catulo’, GIF 9 (1956), 210–33; Alfonsi, L., ‘Sul “circolo” di Lutazio Catulo’, in Hommages á Lèon Herrmann (Brussels, 1960), 61–7; Granarolo, J., D'Ennius á Catulle (Paris, 1971), 32–6. Against the identification of Licinus with Licinius, a client of Catulus and a litteratus homo, who is mentioned by Cicero in de Oral. 3.225, see Rawson, E., Intellectual Life in the Late Roman Republic (London, 1985), 45, n. 7.

34 Ross, D. O. Jr, Style and Tradition in Catullus (Cambridge, MA, 1969), 139–43.

35 Cameron, A., The Greek Anthology from Meleager to Planudes (Oxford, 1993), 51–6; also Day, A. A., The Origins of Latin Love-Elegy (Oxford, 1938), 102–4. Note that Gellius’ Julianus calls all three poets ‘antiquiores ante eos’ in 9. The naming of Laevius among the disapproved poets of Catullus’ generation in 7 does not hamper this dating, since Gellius might have overlooked strict chronology in drawing a distinction between the studied and intricate poetry of the Novi and the directness and simplicity he often associates with ancient literature. See e.g. 9.13.4 ‘[Quadrigarius] simplicique et incompta orationis antiquae suauitate descripsit’; 13.27.3 ‘Homeri simplicior et sincerior, Vergilii autem νεωτερικώτερος et quodam quasi ferumine inmisso fucatior’; and, with some reservations, 10.3.15 ‘si quis… amat… priora idcirco, quod incompta et breuia et non operosa’. See also F. Leo, ‘Die romische Poesie in der sullanischen Zeit’, Hermes 44 (1914), 161–95 at 180, n. 1; and for similar modern views of Laevius’ position in the history of Roman poetry, Ross (n. 34), 155–60.

36 Hutton, J., The Greek Anthology in Italy to the Year 1800 (Ithaca, NY, 1935), 1019; Ross, D. O. Jr, ‘Nine epigrams from Pompeii (CIL 4.4966–73)’, ITS 21 (1969), 127–42.

37 See e.g. Hubaux, J., Les thémes bucoliques dans la poèsie latine (Brussels, 1930), 2632; Day (n. 35), 102–4; A. Perutelli, ‘Lutazio Catulo Poeta’, RFIC 118 (1990), 257–81; Cameron (n. 35), 52.

38 Cameron (n. 35), 50.

39 See n. 33 above.

40 Gell. 9.4; see Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius (n. 5), 50–1.

41 ‘D. Chr.’ Or. 31.21: οὐδ⋯ν τò παιδευθ⋯ναι το⋯ φ⋯ναι πρòς τò δοκεῖν διαφ⋯ρει; see Barigazzi, A., Favorino di Arelate: Opere (Florence, 1966), 77–8, 329.

42 The attribution of harsh sound to Iberian Latin poetry is traditional; see Cic. Arch. 26.

43 See especially Perutelli (n. 37).

44 For the manner in which Gellius uses his sources, see Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius (n. 5), 52–8.

45 see West, M. L., Carmina Anacreontea (Leipzig, 1993), ix-x; id., ‘The Anacreontea’, in Murray, O. (ed.), Sympotica: A Symposium on the Symposium (Oxford, 1990), 272–3; and for epigrams ascribed to Anacreon in the Greek Anthology, Page, D. L., Further Greek Epigrams (Cambridge, 1981), 123–1.

46 Corpus Paroemiographorum Graecorum, ed. E. L. von Leutsch and F. G. Schneidewin (Göttingen, 1839), 1.148–9; Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius (n. 5), 62 and n. 6. See also ibid., 53–4, 175, for a line Gellius ascribes to Parthenius in 13.27.1 which is imitated in AP 6.164.1.

47 Or perhaps in Favorinus’ Παντοδαπ⋯ ‘Iστορία, as suggested by E. Maas, De Biographis Graecis Quaestiones Selectae (Berlin, 1880), 105, n. 112. See also Page (n. 45), 129.

48 see Mejer, J., Diogenes Laertius and his Hellenistic Background (Wiesbaden, 1978), 86–7; Cameron, (n. 35), 37; Hunink, V., Apuleius of Madaurus, Pro se de Magia (Amsterdam, 1997), 2.49–50.

49 Butrica, J. L., ‘Hellenistic erotic elegy: the evidence of the papyri’, PLLS 9 (1996), 297322.

50 Quint. Inst. 10.1.58 ‘quod in cenis grandibus saepe facimus, ut, cum optimis satiati sumus, uarietas tamen nobis ex uilioribus grata sit. Tune et elegiam uacabit in manus sumere, cuius princeps habetur Callimachus, secundas confessione plurimorum Philetas occupauit.’

51 If, as I believe, the text in Gell. 19.9.10 should read ‘quibus mundius, uenustius, limatius, pressius Graecum Latinumue nihil quicquam reperiri puto’ (pressius Fγ: persius Q: pessius Z: tersius Salmasius followed by most editors; see A. D. Vardi, ‘Brevity, conciseness and compression in Roman poetic criticism and the text of Gellius, Nodes Atticae 19.9.10’, AJPh 121 [2000], forthcoming), the mention of the quality of conciseness (pressius), characteristic of epigrams, lends further support to the assumption that the chapter deals with Greek and Latin erotic epigrams.

52 Cameron (n. 35), 26–33. One aspect in which Meleager's thematic arrangement differed from later collections is that it did not separate heteroerotic poems from paidika, a distinction which Gellius’ source certainly did not maintain either. Of the four epigrams Gellius cites, the first is addressed to a woman, the fourth is homoerotic, and the second and third do not disclose the gender of the beloved, Phileros the torch-bearer in Aedituus’ second epigram being probably a slave accompanying the lover rather than his beloved.

53 For the text of this line, see Holford-Strevens, L. A., ‘Adversaria minora Gelliana et Apuleianum’, LCM 10 (1985), 112.

* An earlier version of this paper was presented at a guest lecture at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and I am grateful to the audience for their comments. As always, I owe special thanks to L. A. Holford-Strevens for his helpful suggestions. The research involved in preparing this paper was supported by The Israel Science Foundation founded by The Israel Academy of Science and Humanities.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Classical Quarterly
  • ISSN: 0009-8388
  • EISSN: 1471-6844
  • URL: /core/journals/classical-quarterly
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed