Harvard UP: Loeb Classical Library (2020) h/b 531pp £16.95 (ISBN 9780674997370)

In  S.’s scholarly commentary on the Satyricon (2011) which was printed without a text, he promised a critical edition ‘which should be considered a companion to this commentary’. Now to fulfil that promise S. presents his text (including all 51 fragments) with facing translation, brief notes and apparatus criticus in the Loeb Classical Library. The longest section of the introduction (pp. 22-50) offers a history of the manuscript tradition and early printed editions. The Latin is presented in a helpful way that makes precise reference to the text easy: the 141 sections are divided into subsections which are numbered and divided from each other by a vertical line (the text of Apocolocyntosis likewise marks subdivisions). In addition, the manuscripts which are the authorities used for each subsection of Satyricon are indicated in superscript at the line breaks. The inclusion of Seneca’s Apocolocyntosis (if it is by Seneca) may seem strange when S., relying on Tacitus and Seneca’s own work, calls him ‘a dour, austere man, a pseudo-philosopher, and underneath it all a parody of an interesting human being’ (p. 460), his philosophy branded ‘cracker-barrel’ (p. 458).  S. is, however, prepared to admit the possibility ‘that for once in his life Seneca displayed some wit and invention’ (p.460). Nevertheless, Apocolocyntosis receives due attention to authorship, date, title, genre and manuscripts. S. is circumspect where there are doubts. On Seneca’s and Petronius’ authorship of these works he says, ‘Scholars have … assembled enough information to convince most others’—a neat fence on which to sit.

This being a Loeb, it will attract not only scholars but less experienced readers too, and S. has paid due attention to producing a translation that both elucidates the meaning of the Latin text but could also stand alone for the English reader. Colloquial abbreviations are employed (‘Why’ve you acted…’ or ‘Where d’you learn…’ Sat.17.4) and low language: at Apoc. 4.3 ‘Oh my, I think I just shat myself’ renders vae me, puto, concacavi me more idiomatically than Hestletine’s 1913 (rev. 1969) Loeb, ‘Oh dear, oh dear, I think I have made a mess of myself’.

Curiously Hestletine is omitted from S.’s bibliography. The translation lacks the panache of J.P. Sullivan’s (Penguin 1965) but S. was working on Satyricon with Sullivan until the latter’s untimely death; besides, S. has to be a literary funambulist to satisfy readers who want accurate, readable translations and textual critics who will be interested in the spelling of sausages (S. prefers thumatula—sprinkled with thyme [thumum]—to tomacula, Apoc.11.1 ). And succeed he does. There are very few mistakes, and those positively minor: Apoc 9.1 existimavit translated as future (existimabit is a variant reading) or laudatam … opus, a misprint for laudatum (Apoc. 4.1). The brief explanatory notes are mostly aimed at readers with little knowledge of the classical world: for example Sophocles and Euripides are identified (along with Aeschylus) as ‘the great tragedians of 5th C Athens’ (on Sat. 3.3). Although S. has had to target somewhat different audiences, he has produced an admirable Loeb for the next generation.


Alan Beale