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CJ-ONLINE  March 2008

CJ-ONLINE March 2008

Subject:

CJ Online 2008.03.02 POWELL, ed., M. Tulli Ciceronis

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M. Tulli Ciceronis De re publica, De legibus, Cato Maior de senectute, 
Laelius de amicitia. Edited by J.G.F. POWELL. Oxford Classical Texts. 
Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. Pp. lxxvi + 390. Cloth, 
$35.00. ISBN 0–19–814669–8.

Order this text for $32.42 from Amazon.com using this link and benefit 
CAMWS and the Classical Journal: 

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/redirect-home/classjourn-20

Print Version: CJ 103.3 (2008): 325–9

Different texts demand different qualities in an editor, and although the 
four texts in this volume are all by Cicero, they are not alike in their 
demands. De senectute and De amicitia are well preserved and solidly 
transmitted; De legibus is poorly transmitted in corrupt manuscripts; and 
De re publica exists only as three sorts of fragments, only one of which 
has any extended transmission at all: a palimpsest, a great many quotations 
and the Somnium Scipionis, one of the most copied of all Ciceronian texts. 
Sen. and Am. require judicious sorting of evidence; Leg. needs a bold 
conjectural critic as well as a careful reader of manuscripts; and the 
skills required by a fragmentary text are hard to define, but very 
different from either of the others. It is a mark of Jonathan Powell’s 
versatility and skill as an editor that he has done a superb job at two of 
the three tasks and a highly respectable job at the third; and if I find 
his treatment of the fragments of Rep. not wholly satisfactory, his edition 
as a whole is a vast improvement over Ziegler’s text. Not all the texts in 
this volume are new: nearly 20 years ago, P. published a full and 
well-received edition of Sen. (Cambridge, 1988), the text of which he 
repeats with slight changes and abridgment of the apparatus. He also 
previously published texts of Am. and the Somnium without apparatus 
(Warminster, 1990); the texts are essentially the same, while the apparatus 
is obviously new. The rest of Rep. and all of Leg. are entirely new 
editions, and it is on those that this review will concentrate. [n. 1]

To appreciate the variations in P.’s technique, one need only compare 
portions of Leg. and Am. with their equivalents in the previously standard 
editions. In Am. 1–32, there are only nine differences (in addition to 
correcting a typographical error and changes of orthography) from Simbeck, 
many of them minor; but the apparatus supporting the text is completely 
different and based on much better evidence. The greatest change, and a 
very valuable one, is in punctuation and paragraphing. In Leg. 2.1–33, on 
the other hand, there are more textual changes from Ziegler–Goerler in the 
first five chapters than in the whole sample of Am., and there are as many 
of P.’s own conjectures as there are changes of any kind in the text of Am. 
In part, the changes stem from P.L. Schmidt’s careful work on the 
manuscript tradition; in part, from P.’s reasonable belief that even an 
unfinished work of Cicero ought to be comprehensible.

Many of P.’s changes to Leg., and some of his emendations, are for the 
better. The addition of decet at 2.27 is certainly needed, and that of Ioue 
at 2.7 is probably right; P.’s treatment of divine etymologies at 2.28–9 
brings clarity, and it is worth noting that he restores good sense or good 
Latinity as often by returning to a manuscript reading (e.g., restoring 
eius at 2.14) as by adopting an emendation. His choices are not always 
convincing: the addition of diuini diuina at 2.22 clarifies, but may not be 
needed, as it repeats the content of 2.19.2. While P. is right to print 
Vahlen’s id est <ut> at 2.5 and Gulielmius’ consessu at 2.13, Lambinus’ 
etenim for ut enim at 2.6 is still necessary. In selecting among manuscript 
variants, P.’s judgment is excellent; the one exception is that he tends to 
favor the 12th-century manuscript P more than is justified. For the most 
part, however, P.’s text is both plausible and intelligible, and where his 
emendations are not convincing, they generally point to a genuine problem.

In Rep., although there are places where the text is obviously corrupt as 
well as incomplete, there is less need for radical change, and P. is 
accordingly less radical. Again, some of the changes from Ziegler’s overly 
cautious Teubner edition are excellent: P. is right to follow Steinacker in 
transposing “de qua modo dicebatur” at 1.28, to accept Francken’s vicina 
for vitia at 1.44 and to insert ita at 1.57. On the other hand, his 
transposition of “cum … queant” at 1.9, while superficially attractive, 
leaves it unclear to whom auxilium is being brought. At 1.29 his conjecture 
quapiam is clumsy; the transmitted quam is problematic, but can be 
explained. At 1.48 the supplement regna (Moser) is wrong: the topic is 
oligarchy, not monarchy. P. similarly fails to understand the problem with 
ciuitatum at 1.51, where a reference is needed to citizens, not states; 
Kenney’s ciuium (not reported in P.’s apparatus) or something similar is 
needed. At 1.30 P.’s atqui for atque and possimus for possumus are possible 
but unnecessary, while in the same paragraph he is unduly conservative in 
defending, with very awkward punctuation, the transmitted si modo aliquid 
valent. P.’s punctuation, indeed, deserves a separate review: at times it 
is excellent, and restores much sense to the text, but it frequently 
substitutes British academic style for German academic style, which is no 
improvement. There are places where the profusion of commas resembles 
nothing more than a plague of locusts. In this matter, less is better.

P.’s generally excellent judgment in editing coherent text, however, does 
not extend to the organization of fragments, particularly in Rep. Book 3. 
His single largest change to the familiar text is not an emendation, but 
the rearrangement of the later leaves of the palimpsest: what has 
traditionally been 5.6–7 has become 3.3, and 3.4–6 have been moved to 
follow 3.7. P. is right (see his discussion, vii–viii) that pages 199–200 
of V cannot be securely located, but his arguments both textual and 
substantive for relocating it are unconvincing, and the preface of Book 3 
as he prints it veers unhappily from broad cultural anthropology, to a 
fairly narrow description of the task of a Roman rector rerum publicarum, 
back to a statement of the prevalence of wise men in all states, and then 
to a broad distinction between practitioners of the contemplative and 
active life, ending with the combination of both in the protagonists of 
Rep. itself. Ziegler’s version placed the description of the rector in 
Scipio’s mouth in Book 5, which we know to have concerned the role of the 
statesman; the preface of Book 3 moved from cultural history, to the 
contemplative and active lives, to the presence of wise men in all states. 
The only virtue of P.’s revision is that the preface ends with reference to 
the protagonists, but that is not enough to justify his rearrangement.

P.’s other major reshuffling in Book 3 is equally unsatisfactory: in 
Philus’ speech, he places pp. 1/2 and 11/12 of V earlier than Ziegler in 
the collection of fragments, on the ground that this order corresponds more 
closely with the summary in Lactantius Inst. 5.16. But as P. himself 
admits, a large portion of Philus’ speech corresponds to nothing in 
Lactantius’ summary, and it is arbitrary to use the silence of a 
tendentious Christian apologist as evidence for detailed reconstruction of 
Philus’ speech: no critic that I know ignores the order given by 
Lactantius, but no one other than P. tries to press it so far. P. gives 
little credit to Ferrary’s brilliant reconstructions of the speeches of 
Philus and Laelius, which make philosophical as well as philological sense.

In dealing with the fragments of Rep. preserved in quotations, P. prides 
himself on excluding from the text all words not by Cicero himself. That 
leaves the fragments in their naked incomprehensibility; and while Ziegler 
put too much in the text, P. relegates too much to an apparatus. Similarly, 
he deliberately does not (except in Philus’ speech) try to place fragments 
in an order corresponding to any reasonable reconstruction: he groups them 
by subject and leaves any whose location is not absolutely secure in a 
group at the end of each book (or of the whole text). The arrangement draws 
attention to the precariousness of reconstruction—but it abandons the 
editor’s responsibility to make the text as comprehensible as possible.

The treatment of fragments is not the only way in which P.’s edition is 
unhelpful: he fails to give references to the source (or other edition) of 
texts quoted (e.g., Ennius at 1.30 or Homer several times in Leg. 2); he 
often fails to set off quoted lines of poetry and gives an inadequate 
apparatus for the famous (and famously corrupt) verses from Ennius’ 
Iphigenia at 1.30; he is inconsistent in telling the reader where to find 
fragments he has moved; and he breaks up testimonia in a manner that makes 
them almost impossible to comprehend as units (again, Ziegler went too far 
in the other direction). Ziegler got a great deal wrong in his 
reconstructions, particularly of Book 3; but at least he was generous in 
quoting testimonia and supplying adequate information about the fragments. 
P.’s is a bare-bones version, and is organized in a way that makes it 
difficult to find the evidence even when he has given it.

Other matters of presentation are equally problematic. At Rep. 1.30 (a 
passage cited earlier) P. prints si modo aliquid, valent where Ziegler 
printed Mueller’s si modo aliquid, <id> valent and I printed Alanus’ si 
modo aliquid <valent, id> valent, both at least plausible emendations. P.’s 
apparatus reveals nothing. Nor is his silence here unique: I note 
reasonable emendations in Book 1 not reported at 1.21, 22, 42, 50, 51 and 
59. Indeed, throughout the volume P. seems grudging in reporting the work 
of other scholars: most emendations that are mentioned are those P. 
accepts, or at passages where he accepts another correction. That makes it 
difficult to tell, when his text disagrees with other editions and there is 
no note in the apparatus, which editor is in error or if something is 
simply missing. At Am. 4, Simbeck reads fuisset while P. (in both of his 
editions) reads fuerit; in context, the former is more likely to be right. 
At Rep. 1.7, P. reads conservandorum civium gratia, Ziegler conservandorum 
civium causa; the latter is correct. At Leg. 2.22, P. reads impium esto, 
Ziegler–Goerler impie commissum esto; the former seems right, but neither 
text has any note in the apparatus. Irrelevant displays of learning appear 
in the apparatus from time to time: what is the point of the long note on 
aequabilis at Rep 1.43, where there is no textual problem? And why, when 
earlier editors have got something right, does P. occasionally take the 
trouble to suggest that they were wrong? At Am. 9, he prints Galum 
(correctly) in the text and in the apparatus comments that “editors” have 
printed Gallum. True enough for Ziegler in Rep., but not for Simbeck in the 
precise passage on which P. makes the comment. At Am. 16, printing quae in 
the text, P. wonders in the apparatus whether the transmitted reading was 
quom—again, Simbeck’s reading in the text. But because P. is so concerned 
to harmonize spelling to its pasteurized early imperial form, he is 
reluctant to admit that a form like “quom” could be both transmitted and 
correct for Ciceronian Latin.

As a reviewer, one concentrates on problems, and there are not a few in 
P.’s text: above all, that he seems reluctant to give his reader any aid 
beyond the bare minimum. He even comments, in the preface (p. l), that he 
would have preferred to leave out the (editorially supplied) indications of 
speaker in Leg., but was persuaded that readers might be annoyed. Indeed 
they would, just as they should be at the unnecessarily stingy information 
given about the fragments of Rep. and various other user-unfriendly 
elements of this edition. But despite these carpings, and despite the fact 
that for Rep. and Leg. this edition supplements but does not replace the 
older standard texts, P. deserves our profound thanks. His careful and 
thorough work on the manuscripts, his thoughtful text and intelligent 
selection of readings and his massive improvement of punctuation and 
paragraphing in all the texts are of greater value than the weaknesses of 
presentation and (occasionally) judgment. This volume is both valuable and 
necessary for any student of Cicero. [n. 2]

JAMES E.G. ZETZEL
Columbia University in the City of New York

[n. 1] For the purposes of this review I have not commented on the text of 
Sen., which has been reviewed before: see, for example, Douglas, JRS 79 
(1989) 198–9; Fantham, CW 83 (1989/90) 123–4; Fedeli, Gnomon 62 (1990) 
689–92. I base my observations on a full collation against earlier standard 
editions of sample passages from the different texts: Rep. 1.1–59 and 
3.1–32 against Ziegler (Leipzig, 1969); Leg. 2.1–33 against Ziegler 
(Freiburg–Würzburg, 3rd ed. rev. by W. Goerler, 1979); Am. 1–32 against 
Simbeck (Leipzig, 1917, repr. 1961).

[n. 2] I note also that in at least three places (Rep. 1.25, 43, 47) the 
press has printed a line without dividing the words. A corrected reprint is 
needed.


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