De Gruyter (2022) 366pp £109 (ISBN 9783110722666)

This formidable and valuable work has three Parts, preceded by an Introduction: (1) Towards a Science of Antiquity (four chapters); (2) The Illusion of the Archetype: Classical Studies in Nineteenth-Century Germany (four chapters); (3) Classical Philology in the Twentieth Century (five chapters). The chapters have separate authors; Ugolini alone contributes six chapters; Lanza died in 2018.

The book opens with an admirable chapter (Francesco Lupi) on Richard Bentley (1662-1742) and Philology as the Art of Conjecture. Of course it covers Bentley’s exposure of the Epistles of Phalaris, his (re)discovery of the digamma in Homer, his assembling of fragments (including Callimachus—he produced over 400), and his rediscovery of synapheia in anapaestic systems, later put to especially good use on the metres of Terence; but the chapter focuses on Bentley’s work on amending the texts of the ancient authors. Here, the author lays much more emphasis, compared to later writers, on the notorious edition of Horace (an author who, as Wilamowitz commented, was not in real need of conjectural emendation), than on other work, such as the edition of Manilius, greatly praised by Housman. Lupi, of course, quotes Bentley’s thunderous Nobis et ratio et res ipsa centum codicibus potiores sunt and, unlike many others, completes the sentence praesertim accedente Vaticani veteris suffragio.

Bentley’s proposed revision of the New Testament was never brought to fruition: it is not difficult to imagine the furore which it might have caused. It has been pointed out that he does not back up his philological knowledge with the formulation of general principles, yet this is more than made up for by the breadth of his interests, the vast spectrum of his research, and his intuition that classical studies should open up to new fields of investigation: centuries later, Hugh Lloyd-Jones would make a similar point against A.E. Housman.

From this point on, the focus (in Sotera Fornaro’s chapter) changes to central Europe. C.G. Heyne (1739-1812) did ‘not go deep’ (so Wilamowitz), but his range was wide, covering Tibullus, Epictetus, Pindar and Apollodorus in addition to Homer and Virgil; after much frankly menial work, he was called to Goettingen at the age of 34 to be Professor of rhetoric and poetry; his Tibullus and Epictetus, noted by David Ruhnken, who had refused to move to Goettingen from Leyden, must have played a big part. Heyne then, influenced by Winckelmann whom he had met earlier, and not focusing on strictly philological issues, gave his first lecture on the moral value of beauty (though aesthetic education was not to be disjointed from historical comprehension). Heyne ‘innovated and modernized the tradition of the inaugural lecture’; he ran a carefully selected seminar; he was the ‘keeper’ of the Goettingen library—and yet, his fame was soon to be eclipsed by F.A. Wolf (1759-1824), in whose Prolegomena ad Homerum of 1795, the Iliad is a collection of scattered oral songs, implying that Homer, as a historical figure, perhaps never existed. A review of this by Heyne, far from unfavourable, enraged Wolf, though on just one point, that the genesis of the Homeric text cannot be traced through the study of the manuscripts, the two were in agreement.

Other figures of the first importance now appear: Schlegel, W. von Humboldt, Goethe, Schiller: despite Schlegel’s downgrading of Heyne’s work as outdated and narrow minded, Fornaro sums up Heyne as laying the foundations for the following institutionalization of a science of antiquity: we are on the way to Altertumswissenschaft.

In the next chapter—F. A Wolf and the Birth of the Altertumswissenschaft—Ugolini returns, and explains that Wolf is universally regarded as the founding father of the new science of antiquity, with all that that entailed, inter alia allowing classical philology to acquire a ‘certain prestige and find its role among the disciplines of European universities’ (page 57, where all this is set out, is essential, indeed compulsive, reading). Wolf had entered Goettingen University specifically as studiosus philologiae, despite advice from Heyne that opportunities for advancement in that field were few. However, after some years in minor positions, in 1783 he became ‘professor of philosophy and pedagogy’ at the University of Halle, where, in addition to the Prolegomena, he founded the Seminarium philologicum.

But the university was closed by order of Napoleon in 1806, and Wolf, disheartened, turned to Goethe who urged him to devote himself to writing an expanded philological encyclopaedia (which Wolf had already been creating via his lectures on methodology). The result was the Darstellung (presentation) der Altertumswissenschaft (1807), dedicated to Goethe, celebrated as a connoisseur and representative of the Greek spirit (Geistes): the philological and the aesthetic were both important if the desired objective of a historical understanding of ancient texts was to be achieved; more than that, here was a cultural project that would lead to the ‘rebirth of the German spirit through the appropriation of ancient Greece’. There was still more: excluded were (inter alios) Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, Jews: this, says Ugolini, carries with it a number of important implications. Yes, indeed it does. Wolf, with William Humboldt, played an important part in the foundation of the University of Berlin (1810), to which a chapter is devoted; in it Humboldt’s own conception of the function of a university, and indeed of the education system, is set out in great length. Hence comes the ‘Second Humanism’.

In Part II, ‘The Illusion of the Archetype’, we return to classical scholarship in the person of Karl Lachmann, a man not famed for generosity to his predecessor Jacob Bernays, whose work on Lucretius had in turn expanded on work by Madvig: Fornaro gives a clear account of, especially, Timpanaro’s The Genesis of Lachmann’s Method: ‘it is precisely in the reconstruction of the genealogical relationships that connect manuscripts that Lachmann’s original contribution was very limited and Lachmann’s simplification had a negative impact on some of his followers, who set off to find an unlikely codex optimus to favour over every other source’. Noteworthy, as Fornaro points out, are Lachmann’s harsh review of Heyne’s Tibullus and his review of the great Gottfried Hermann’s Ajax, which, while duly appreciative of the (much) older man, complained that Hermann had paid insufficient attention to the manuscripts: as for the Lucretius, let us be satisfied with Wilamowitz: ‘the book from which we have all learnt critical method’. We shall encounter Lachmann again.

Hermann (1772-1848) is the subject of the following chapter (by Ugolini), or rather, his quarrel with Boeckh (1785-1867) is, involving ‘the philology of the word’ against the ‘philology of the thing’: Hermann may be taken as exemplifying the first, while Boeckh went beyond linguistic and textual skill to encompass other fields, and thereby achieve a ‘reconstruction of antiquity in its complex and multifaceted entirety’. We are given an admirable account of Hermann’s career, including of course his distinguished work on metrics—but his editorial activity was ‘virtually inexhaustible’. Boeckh’s own career and output is itself highly distinguished, notably including The public economy of Athens, and his Metrological Investigations (i.e. weights and measures), as well as studies on Pindar (with emphasis on colometry) and an edition of Antigone.

The quarrel with Hermann over the ‘metrics’ of Pindar seems to have been resolved in Boeckh’s favour; far more important was the controversy over the edition of the Greek inscriptions, a project under Boeckh’s leadership: when the first fascicle appeared, it was aggressively reviewed by Hermann who deplored the methodological foundations and inadequate results of the edition, but he also intended to destroy Boeckh’s academic reputation. The positions of both parties are set out at length (Boeckh putting forward a manifesto for historical philology with language as one of the many ‘things’ integral to a complete understanding of a civilisation). It cannot be said, writes Ugolini, that ‘one prevailed over the other’. Another quarrel arose between Hermann and Karl Otfried Mueller (who died in his early forties from sunstroke in Greece) over the latter’s edition of Aeschylus’ Eumenides: in essence, this was a replay of the earlier quarrel, with Mueller taking the role of Boeckh. There were simply two different methods of research and study (Mueller memorably attacks Notengelehrsamkeit [pedantic erudition]). This is not the last notable academic disagreement which we shall encounter.

Before his later fame as a philosopher, Nietzsche (1854-1900) made his name as a classical scholar, having been educated at (Schul)Pforta, four years before Wilamowitz. In 1872, at the age of 28, he was already, rather fortunately, a full professor of classical philology at the University of Basel (one thinks instinctively of Gilbert Murray at Glasgow). Early work included an essay on Theognis and a study of the sources of Diogenes Laertius. The book that was to stamp his name indelibly in the roster of scholars, however, was The Birth of Tragedy (1871), with its Apolline and Dionysian elements, a book described by Nietzsche’s friend Rohde in a review as a ‘philosophical reflection on art’, and by Ugolini as an ambitious and naïve attempt to refound classical philology, using philosophical relevance as a discriminant. Wilamowitz was not slow to respond. He accuses Nietzsche of creating a ‘mystagogical text’ that falls completely outside the realm of science; he opposes the idea that the Dionysian played an essential role in the creation of the tragic genre, as well as the association of Apollo with the realm of dream and appearance. And without specifically doing so, he implicitly accepted the sparse observations offered by Aristotle in his Poetics: the long quote from Wilamowitz’ pamphlet that is given here is well worth reading; he even suggests that Nietzsche should resign from his ‘usurped’ Chair at Basel.

We shall perhaps not be surprised that Wagner enthusiastically supported Nietzsche, as did Rohde, or that Wilamowitz speedily returned to the charge, much later writing that Nietzsche became ‘the prophet of a non-religious religion and an unphilosophical philosophy’: but by then Nietzsche was dead. The controversy is summed up in an admirably non-controversial way by Ugolini in a little over four pages (181-5) in which full credit is given Nietzsche for emphasizing the importance of music, the attention given to the religious and cultic framing of the tragic performances, the role of suffering in knowledge, and the function of Dionysus and Dionysism, besides the idea that tragedy can be understood outside the framework of Aristotle’s categories.

The final chapter in Part II is given—again by Ugolini—to Wilamowitz: Philology as Totality. Wilamowitz was the most distinguished scholar of classical antiquity of his generation, and as Pfeiffer observed, he exercised an ‘outstanding global influence in the field of philology, as almost no other philologist in Europe since the times of Scaliger and Erasmus’. By the philological study of antiquity, Wilamowitz meant the ability to approach scientifically the different aspects of the Greco-Roman culture, without ever losing sight of the full picture. The theme is convincingly developed, and it appeared to overcome the profound dichotomy that had characterised such phases of antiquity studies as the clash (see above) between Wortphilologie and Sachphilologie (sc. Hermann and Boeckh): but of course it needed a scholar of Wilamowitz’ calibre to reify the concepts, and such a scholar is hard, not to say impossible, to find. It is in his edition of Euripides’ Herakles that he best put into practice that ideal of ‘totality’ that he had theorized and pursued: it became a ‘paradigmatic model for the following generations of scholars’—especially, it is suggested, Giorgio Pasquali. Wilamowitz asks ‘What is an Attic tragedy?’ For him, it seemed right to follow the Aristotelian testimony, according to which tragedy derived from ‘Those who led the dithyramb’—but Wilamowitz then goes on to develop and broaden the theme via a broad-ranging excursus. It ends with a definition of an Attic tragedy as a ‘self-contained episode of the heroic legend poetically wrought in an elevated style, in order to be performed by a chorus of Attic citizens and two or three actors, and meant to be staged in the sanctuary of Dionysus as part of a public divine service’: a definition which can be applied only with reservations to, say, Euripides’ Helen. Wilamowitz ‘unquestionably severs the connection to the spiritual aspect of the Dionysian religiousness’. The chapter concludes with a thoughtful section on Wilamowitz as translator (‘true translation is a metempsychosis’): but the subject is one which is unlikely ever to command general consent.

It is impossible to read these chapters on Wilamowitz without realising what a towering figure he was and remains. It may be worth noting that the word ‘classic’ was one which he explicitly rejected, perhaps because it implies it is something dead and gone—whereas he sought throughout his life to give blood to the ghosts.

Part III takes us into the twentieth century; Ugolini opens with a chapter on Werner Jaeger (1888-1961) and the ‘Third Humanism’, the first two being those of the Italian Renaissance and William Humboldt’s ‘On the study of antiquity and Greek antiquity in particular’ (1793), with its (roughly) ten subjects. Jaeger’s humanism aimed at a new pedagogic approach based on the ‘perennial value of ancient culture’. The most important trait of Jaeger’s system was its absolute focus on the idea of paideia, which became the motto of Third Humanism—as well as being the title of Jaeger’s book-cum-manifesto (three volumes, 1934-47). The concept claimed for itself the pedagogic role of the classical not only in educating the youth in schools but also in curing the social ills of the moment. Ugolini quotes a long passage which evidences the ‘elitist and markedly aristocratic character of the political message conveyed by third humanism’. In 1936 Jaeger (who had a Jewish wife) prudently moved from Berlin to the USA to work at Chicago and then Harvard; the relationship of third humanism with Nazism is cautiously explored, and it was in fact greeted by the Nazis with scepticism and later complete rejection: the Third Humanism did not appeal to the Third Reich. Paideia, says Ugolini, is a ‘great book’, but not everyone will agree: Hugh Lloyd-Jones called it ‘one of the dullest books of our century’. In the USA, Jaeger continued to fight for the survival and propagation of classical ideals, ‘in the face of a culture where classical studies played a completely marginal role’.

The next—very long—chapter (Luciano Bossina) concentrates in valuable detail on the career of Giorgio Pasquali (1885-1952): one might reasonably suspect that a similar book to the one under review, if produced in this country, would have substituted Housman for Pasquali (who himself admired Housman). Here I cite Bossina’s opinion that Pasquali’s philology was the most fruitful injection of method, pragmatism and originality experienced by classical studies in Italy in the first half of the twentieth century. He had to deal not only with Romagnoli, a proto-fascist who called Wilamowitz an ‘extremely mediocre schoolboy of classical antiquity’, but also—from the philological aspect far more importantly—he came up against Paul Maas. In 1929, Pasquali was invited to review Maas’ Textual Criticism (1927): the review—twice as long as the book—in due course, after Maas’ reply, became Storia della tradizione e critica del testo: key points were (a) the non-mechanical origin of many corruptions, (b) the widespread diffusion of ‘horizontal’ contamination, (c) the consequential non-existence of a single archetype, (d) the possibility of countering horizontal contamination with a principle of choice (which might counter Maas’ famous dictum that ‘no medicinal herb has yet been found against contamination’). Maas replied to Pasquali (details adequately set out here, later neatly countering Pasquali’s recentiores non deteriores with comburendi non conferendi). These four pages, 251-255, are (for the reviewer) some of the most interesting of the book.

P.M. Pinto’s chapter (New Antiquities: The Papyri) gives a conspectus of the development of the field and the major finds (Bacchylides seems to have escaped notice, and the titles of the main Menander discoveries are not mentioned), including the Artemidorus papyrus and the recent Sappho find, where questions of authenticity and legality have been raised. This book is anything but Anglocentric; even so, such scholars as Edgar Lobel and Peter Parsons would have deserved more than a mention in a footnote on p.285.

Andrea Rodighiero, in Retelling Antiquity: Words and Images looks, inter alia, at film treatments, noting that ‘some directing and writing choices are symptomatic of an inevitable casualness in the treatment of the ancient text and the universe that it represents’: it could hardly be otherwise. On translation, she suggests that it is worth translating ‘the less known authors of technical treatises, the anonymous creators of epigraphic texts, the more or less known compilers of lexicons, and the editors of Scholiastic corpora’: the reviewer finds this a sensible approach—if publishers can be found.

Finally, in Postwar Philology: New Perspectives, Diego Lanza looked at Bruno Snell’s The Discovery of the Mind: it aimed to show new research paths in philology. Earlier, Snell had published a long review of the first volume of Paideia, in which, says Lanza, he realised its great importance, while countering ‘third humanism’ with a historical vision modelled on Hegel: Lanza then develops that theme to give an overall appraisal of Snell’s work. This is followed, unexpectedly, by consideration of the work of E.R. Dodds. Dodds, he says, ‘had a talent for making the most different texts dialogue with one another’, and goes on to quote a long passage from ‘The Fear of Freedom’, the last chapter in The Greeks and the Irrational (1951). Have we failed, we are asked, to leave behind that ‘age of anxiety that had characterised the troubled and contradictory times in which (Dodds) lived?’

All the chapters are given their own relatively brief bibliographies. Inevitably, even in a book as large as this, there are omissions. UK readers will look in vain for any account of Porson or Elmsley, Jebb or Housman. Dutch readers will be disappointed by the absence of the Heinsii, and those in the USA will not find Gildersleeve in the Index (though they will find that distinguished scholar of classical history, Anthony Grafton). An Excursus on the impact on classical studies, especially in the UK, of the diaspora of Jewish scholars in the 1930s would have been welcome. But, as Aristotle put it in a different context, one has to stop somewhere. Readers who wish to delve more deeply into the issues and scholars discussed here might well consult (e.g.) Brigg/Calder Classical Scholarship: A Biographical Encyclopedia (1990), Wilamowitz’ own short history of the subject (1921), of which there is an English translation (1982), or the several volumes of Hugh Lloyd-Jones’ papers.

The book is admirably produced (I can recall only one, insignificant typo); the translation reads easily and well, and the editors and De Gruyter deserve our congratulations on bringing so complex a book, published originally in Italian in 2014, to a much wider public.

Colin Leach