Scholia Reviews ns 10 (2001) 24.


D. R. Shackleton Bailey, Valerius Maximus: Memorable Doings and Sayings Books I-V. Cambridge, Mass. and London: Harvard University Press, 2000. Pp. 547. ISBN 0-674-99541. UK£13.00.

D. R. Shackleton Bailey, Valerius Maximus: Memorable Doings and Sayings Books VI-IX. Cambridge Mass. and London: Harvard University Press, 2000. Pp. 462. ISBN 0-674-99542. UK£13.00.

David Wardle
University of Cape Town.

The last decade of the millennium has seen a revival of interest in the work of Valerius Maximus of which previous scholars had been largely dismissive;[[1]] its final year has seen a great desideratum met in this new translation of Valerius by Shackleton Bailey in the Loeb series. Even Cecil Rhodes, for whom money was little object, did not find anyone to undertake a translation of Valerius for his private library (which was in many ways a predecessor of the Loeb library) and his agents secured for him a copy of Samuel Speed's 1678 translation, before now the only English translation. A Valerius Maximus has long been a gaping hole in the Loeb collection, and even though Chris Carter announced in the mid 1970s that he was working on a Loeb Valerius, it did not materialise. Now, thanks to Shackleton Bailey, we have a Loeb and Valerius will be accessible to a far wider range of Classics students in the English speaking world.

Shackleton Bailey, the emeritus Pope Professor of Latin at Harvard, who has had a distinguished career as an editor of Latin texts and as a translator (e.g., of Cicero's correspondence), is the author of two articles in which he has proposed a range of textual emendations to Valerius.[[2]] Does his Valerius demonstrate the mastery that has come to be expected of Shackleton Bailey? An answer must be divided in respect of his text and translation.

John Briscoe laboured for a good decade to provide a first-rate, if perhaps overly conservative, text of Valerius in the Teubner series, which was based on a careful re-examination of the major manuscripts, correction of the misreadings which had come into Kempf's earlier Teubner, and a re-assessment of the manuscript tradition.[[3]] This last aspect led Briscoe to follow Schullian and Carter in holding that G preserves an independent tradition from the oldest extant manuscripts, A and L, and is thus of great value in determining the readings of the archetype. Shackleton Bailey tends to reject this: 'I have to state a different impression, admittedly not based on detailed research. G corrects many of AL's errors, but to my eyes its contribution resembles those of GR in Cicero's Epistulae ad familiares or the Leidensis of Tacitus: a farrago of hit-or-miss medieval conjecture with at best occasional survivals from an earlier stratum' (p. 5).[[4]] Should Shackleton Bailey's impression outweigh Briscoe's considered verdict? Neither seems to doubt that G offers many better readings than A and L, but perhaps a way to evaluate G globally is not to look solely at the readings where G clearly improves on AL but also where it shares errors with AL and has errors of its own -- if its scribe has the sense to make many necessary corrections (as Servatus Lupus did to A), how should we assess his less felicitous moments? From a study of Book I only, therefore a limited selection and a study dependent on the readings supplied by Briscoe (i.e. there may be occasions where G has readings Briscoe has not thought worthy of record), it seems to me that G is markedly better than AL, although far from error-free (e.g., four words missed out): Briscoe himself prints the reading of G against that of AL on 60 occasions. Within these 60 occasions in 31 instances G shares the reading of AcLc, in 12 instances that of Ac alone and in 5 instances that of Lc; in 12 instances G's reading is not shared with AL or their correctors. 17 times Briscoe prefers a reading of A or L or both to that of G and 14 times a reading or conjecture found in neither A nor L.

These bare statistics show, I think, that if Shackleton Bailey is correct, then the scribe of G was very intelligent, on a par with, if not better than, Servatus Lupus; if Briscoe is correct, then G is a very valuable manuscript preserving good readings from an earlier stage in the tradition than AL. Briscoe's view seems preferable.

In addition to the conjectures made in his articles listed in footnote 2, Shackleton Bailey includes 42 new suggestions for improving the text in the Loeb. Among these, good examples, which I think will win general approval, are 2.10.2 'novis' for the 'nobis' of AL, and 5.1.1a 'si vis verum' for the 'simis rerum' of A and L. There is no room here to enter into discussion of the majority of the emendations proposed, but they do merit a response in another forum.[[5]]

Shackleton Bailey's text, then, is on the whole perfectly good and usable, although Briscoe's Teubner will remain the standard reference text for Valerius for a long time to come.

Regarding the translation, as one would expect from a Latinist of Shackleton Bailey's calibre, the general level of accuracy is very high,[[6]] but there are two aspects in particular of which I am critical, one minor and one major. The minor point concerns the translation of technical terms in the field of Roman religion. nec duobus nisi certis deis una sacrificari solere (1.1.8) is translated by Shackleton Bailey as 'it was not customary to sacrifice to two deities at once, with certain exceptions', but for me this involves a misunderstanding of the term certus deus (cf. Serv. Aen. 2.141 = Varro Div. Ant. XIV Fr. 1 Ag., fr. 87 [apparatus] Cardauns). At 1.6.5 Shackleton Bailey translates praepetes as 'flying straight ahead (?)', which, although it is a solid literal translation, could better be rendered as 'birds of good omen', as suggested by Festus 224L. lustrum condere (4.1.10a) is translated as 'winding up the census', but Ogilvie has shown that the phrase refers specifically to the reception of the fire at the altar during the census ceremony.[[7]]

The major criticism is Shackleton Bailey's frequent lapses into archaic English where no such stylistic feature appears to be to be justified by Valerius' Latin.[[8]] For many of Valerius' examples, those where his source is extant, a clear pattern of construction emerges:[[9]] an introduction, whether a simple linking phrase or an elaborate rhetorical prelude, precedes the body of the example which is taken often with minimal adaptation from his source,[[10]] and finally some kind of conclusion may be drawn, often giving Valerius the opportunity for his most elaborate kind of writing. In the introductions and conclusions to examples, where he is free from his sources, we see most clearly Valerius' own choice of vocabulary and syntax. If features can be isolated in vocabulary and syntax which might justify a translator's choice of archaic English vocabulary to reflect a difference between the language of the exemplum proper and Valerian additions, Shackleton Bailey's practice would be explicable. However, there is no correlation between Shackleton Bailey's archaisms and the lists of 'words used for the first time in prose in Valerius' and '"poetic" vocabulary',[[11]] and, as the examples I will cite below demonstrate, there is nothing 'archaic' about the vocabulary Shackleton Bailey translates archaically.[[12]]

Shackleton Bailey's translation of facta in the work's title as 'Doings' gives the reader an immediate indication of archaism (although when the word appears in the opening sentence of the work it is translated by 'deeds', an unsupportable inconsistency given that Valerius is clearly echoing his title in his text (cf. 5.1.1, 6.4 praef., 7.3 praef.). Here are some examples of individual words or phrases which appear to me to be unnecessary archaisms: officium as 'office' (1.1.9; 5.1.1d, 1f); noluerunt enim prisci viri quicquam . . . adservari as 'men misliked that aught be preserved' (1.1.12); denique as 'in fine' (1.3.2); polenta as 'barley groats' (1.4 ext. 1); indignum by 'not meet' (1.5.1; cf. 'unmeet' at 1.7.1, 2.1.2); voluisse as 'were fain' (1.6.12; cf. 9.3 praef.); patiaris as 'suffer' (1.6.13; 2.6.7; 3.2 praef.); e vestigio as 'straightway' (1.8.2); non invitus as 'nothing loath' (1.8 ext. 8; cf. 'not loth' 5.1.11); opus est as 'it behooves'; omnibus viribus incubuerunt as 'strove with might and main' (2.9.9); occupantes as 'bespeaking' (2.10.5); illic as 'yonder' (3.2.19); tanto robore as 'stuff so stout' (3.3 ext. 1); tulit as 'brook'; iam dudum as 'this while' (4.8.4); sepultura as 'sepulture' (5.1.1b); oportebat as 'behoved' (5.2.8); circumiri as 'overreached' (5.2 ext. 2); orarunt as 'besought' (6.1 ext. 3); arbitrio as 'arbitrament' (6.8.4); subinde as 'anon' (6.9.11, 8.13 praef.); luctatio as 'wrestle' (6.9.14); stupor as 'doltishness' (6.9 ext. 3); tristem as 'glooming' (7.1.2); horridum as 'rebarbative' (7.2 praef.); hospitia as 'hospices' (7.3.9); improbavit as 'reprobated' (7.7.4); discere id cupientibus as 'those wishful to learn it'; blandum as 'cozening'; nihilo as 'no whit'; temerarios as 'temerarious' (9.13 praef.); regesta as 'retorting' (9.14 ext. 3).

I am not suggesting that Shackleton Bailey should translate with the sort of limited vocabulary that would suit, for example, a PC spell-checker, but there are occasions where, after reading the translation, I had to turn to the Latin to understand what I had just read and then to the Oxford English Dictionary. The following examples may prove that the reviewer is profoundly ignorant of his own language, but I suspect the vast majority of those using Shackleton Bailey's work will be similarly flummoxed, and, if so, then the translation does not work. Shackleton Bailey translates aspernati as 'scouting' (1.1 ext. 7) and pecuniae as 'pelf' (9.4 ext. 1).

Translating Valerius is often not straightforward. Valerius' style has been disparaged often, most eloquently by Carter,[[13]] who calls his work 'an excellent example of the unsuccessful practice of unexceptional theory', marked by 'a concentration of art and general clumsiness'; 'he exhibits the faults typical of poor and affected writing -- miscalculated effects, over-explanation . . . over- elaboration and pretentious diction, uncontrolled parataxis, frequent use of personal pronouns for clarity and insensitive use of metaphor.' While Carter is overly negative and good examples of Valerius' writing can be pointed out, Valerius is not an easy author to put into lucid English. The following two passages and translations illustrate some of the problems faced by Shackleton Bailey and his predecessors and the different ways in which they tackled them:

(a) Attingam quasi cunabula quaedam et elementa virtutis, animique procedente tempore ad summum gloriae cumulum perventuri certo cum indolis experimento datos gustos referam. (3.1 praef.)

'I will now touch upon some certain infancies and elements of virtue, and of a soul that in process of time is to advance to the top of glory: relating the tastes thereof given from certain experiments of towardliness.' (Speed)

'I am about to touch on certain cradles and elements of valour and shall relate samplings given with sure trial of natural temper of a spirit destined in course of time to attain the highest pinnacles of glory.' (Shackleton Bailey)

'Je vais aborder pour ainsi dire le berceau et les éléments constituifs de la valeur personnelle; les signes qu'une âme donne de sa capacité à atteindre avec le temps le plus haut sommet de la gloire, en mettant à l'épreuve avec assurance ses dispositions naturelles, je vais les exposer.' (Combès)

Valerius' language is very dense and his meaning is brought out most clearly by Combès' translation, the only one which also renders quasi, Valerius' apology for his metaphor. Shackleton Bailey's version, in my opinion, is too abbreviated and too close to the literal meaning of the individual Latin words.
(b) proximum somnium etsi paulo est longius, propter nimiam tamen evidentiam ne ommitatur impetrat. Duo familiares Arcades iter una facientes Megaram venerunt, quorum alter se ad hospitem contulit, alter in tabernam meritoriam devertit. Is qui in hospitio erat vidit in somnis comitem suum orantem ut sibi cauponis insidiis circumvento subveniret: posse enim celeri eius accursu se inminenti periculo subtrahi. Quo viso excitatus prosiluit, tabernamque in qua is deversabatur petere conatus est. pestifero deinde fato eius humanissimum propositum tamquam supervacuum damnavit, et lectum ac somnum repetiit. Tunc idem ei saucius oblatus obsecravit ut, quoniam vitae suae auxilium ferre neglexisset, neci saltem ultionem non negaret: corpus enim suum a caupone trucidatum tum maxime plaustro ferri ad portam stercore coopertum. Tam constantibus familaris precibus compulsus protinus ad portam cucurrit et plaustrum, quod in quiete demonstratum erat, comprehendit, cauponemque ad capitale supplicium perduxit. (1.7 ext. 10)

'The next dream is rather lengthy, but wins admission because it is so remarkably graphic. Two Arcadians, friends travelling together, came to Megara. One betook himself to a private host, the other lodged at an inn. The one in the house saw in sleep his companion entreating him to come to his aid because he was entrapped by the treachery of the innkeeper; he might be rescued from imminent peril if the other ran swiftly up. Roused by the vision the man sprang forth and made to seek the inn where his friend was lodging. But then the other's baneful fate caused him to renounce his kindly intent as unnecessary, and he went back to bed and sleep. Then his friend once more appeared before him stabbed and begged him, since he had neglected to bring help in life, at least not to deny him vengeance in death; for his body, said he, done to death by the innkeeper, was at that moment being carried to the gate in a wagon, covered with dung. Constrained by his friend's reiterated prayers, he ran to the gate forthwith, seized the wagon indicated to him in his sleep, and brought the innkeeper to capital punishment.' (Shackleton Bailey)

'Although the next dream is a little longer, it nevertheless secures inclusion because of its extreme distinctiveness. Two friends from Arcadia travelling together came to Megara; one went to a friend's, the other lodged at an innkeeper's establishment. In a dream the one enjoying his friend's hospitality saw his companion begging him to come to the rescue -- the treacherous innkeeper had tricked and trapped him: his swift advent could extract him from the threatening danger. Roused by this vision he leapt out of bed and endeavoured to seek the inn in which he was lodging. To his friend's calamitous misfortune he condemned a most humanitarian resolution as superfluous and sought his bed and sleep again. Then the same figure presented itself before him all wounded and implored him, since he had neglected to bring his life aid, not to deny at least murder vengeance. Butchered by the innkeeper his body was in a cart and being hurriedly taken to the city-gate buried in dung. Compelled to action by his comrade's highly persistent entreaties he forthwith rushed to the gate, apprehended the cart which had been pointed out to him in the dream and delivered the innkeeper to capital justice.' (Carter)

'The next dream, although it is a little longer, because of its extraordinary clarity demands not to be omitted. Two Arcadian friends travelling together came to Megara; of these the one took himself to his host's, the other turned aside to hired lodgings. In his dreams the one who was with his host saw his companion begging him to come to his aid, as he was in the grips of an attack by the innkeeper: for if he came quickly he could extract him from the danger which threatened. Woken by what he had seen, he leapt up and tried to find the inn in which the other was staying. Then by a deadly chance he condemned his most generous resolution as superfluous and returned to his bed and to sleep. Then the same man presented himself to him wounded and implored him, since he had failed to help save his life, at least not to deny him vengeance for his death; for his body, slaughtered by the innkeeper, was at that very moment being carried to the gate in a wagon, covered with faeces. Forced by the persistent pleas of his friend, he ran straight to the gate, stopped the wagon which had been pointed out in the dream and delivered the innkeeper to his execution.' (Wardle)

'Le songe qui voici est un peu plus long à raconter que ceux qui précèdent, mais sa clarté particulière nous interdit de l'omettre. Deux Arcadiens liés d'amitié faisaient route ensemble quand ils arrivèrent à Mégare: l'un d'eux se fit héberger par quelqu'un avec qui il était en relations et l'autre descendit dans une auberge. Celui qui avait été hébergé vit dans son sommeil son compagnon le prier de lui venir à l'aide parce que l'aubergiste l'avait enfermé dans sa chambre et l'attaquait: il pouvait en effet, s'il se pressait de'accourir le sortir du danger qui lui ménaçait. Cette vision éveilla l'autre qui se leva et se mit en marche vers l'auberge où son ami était installé. Puis le destin funeste qui attendait celui-ci fit que l'autre, trouvant inutile son projet plein de bonté, y renonça, regagna son lit et reprit son sommeil. Alors de nouvel son ami lui apparut: il était blessé et il lui suppliait, puisqu'il avait négligé de venir au secours de sa vie, de ne pas refuser au moins de venger son assassinat; car l'aubergiste l'avait tué et était en train de transporter son cadavre sur un chariot vers la porte de la ville après l'avoir recouvert de fumier. Les prières si insistantes de son compagnon le poussèrent à courir aussitôt vers la porte; il y arrêta le chariot qu'il avait eu devant les yeux pendant qu'il dormait, il fit condamner l'aubergiste à mort et le fit conduire au supplice.' (Combès)

When Carter compared Valerius' version of this story with that of his source, Cicero, and that of his own epitomator Julius Paris he stressed the deficiencies of Valerius' style: 'ponderous dramatics and stumbling syntax' of the opening sentence, 'pedestrian sentence-structure . . . conflict[ing] with the outcrops of ambitious phraseology and mixed vocabulary'.[[14]] In translating perhaps the greatest problem is with the pronouns relating to the two friends, but the most noticeable characteristic of Shackleton Bailey's version is archaisms unwarranted by Valerius' vocabulary: 'betook', 'ran . . . up', 'sprang forth' and 'made to seek'. Carter's version is lively and shows what we have lost in the non-completion of his projected translation, while again Combès' version flows best.

Before concluding, some comment is needed on the explanatory notes, which are brief, in the style of the Loeb series, and present basic information succinctly, often with cross-references to MRR. These notes provide the basic minimum for the reader's guidance, often clarifying Valerius' misunderstandings (e.g., those of prosopography at 9.2 ext. 1). There is a problem of expression at 4.7.4 (p. 419); and Coelius Antipater was not an historian of the First Punic War, but of the Second (p. 87). The volumes are excellently produced. Typographical errors are few: liberalitatii for liberalitati at 5.1 praef.; Ticinus for Ticinum at 5.5.3 (trans.); 'send' for 'sent' at 7.2 ext. 11 (trans.).

Although I have spilt considerable ink in pointing out what I consider to be shortcomings in Shackleton Bailey's translation and text, he has done the students of classics an enormous service in producing these volumes. Even though Valerius cannot be described as a major author, his absence from the Loeb library, and therefore from the grasp of the majority of students in our disciplines today, was serious. The editors of the Loeb Classical library and Shackleton Bailey are heartily to be thanked.


[[1]] There have been the monographs of W. Martin Bloomer, Valerius Maximus and the rhetoric of the new nobility (London 1992), C. J. Skidmore, Practical ethics for Roman gentlemen: the work of Valerius Maximus (Exeter 1996) and A. Weileder, Spiegel kaiserlicher Selbstdarstellung (Munich 1998), the Budé translation by R. Combès, Valère Maxime: Faits et dits mémorables livres I- III (Paris 1995), Valère Maxime: Faits et dits mémorables livres IV-VI (Paris 1997) and the collection of essays J.-M. David (ed.), Valeurs et mémoire à Rome: Valère Maxime ou la vertu recomposée (Paris 1998).

[[2]] 'Textual notes on lesser Latin Historians', HSCPh 89 (1985) 158-67; 'On Valerius Maximus', RFIC 124 (1996) 175-84.

[[3]] J. Briscoe, Valeri Maximi Facta et Dicta Memorabilia (Stuttgart and Leipzig 1998). See review by D. Wardle, BMCR 99.9.25.

[[4]] P. K. Marshall, review of Briscoe [3], CR 50 (2000) 457f., in considering whether G is a 'constant carrier of genuine tradition' or bears the fruit of a medieval scholar with brilliant conjectural capabilities, warns against underestimating the acumen of such scholars, but accepts the value of G as a primary witness to the text.

[[5]] I permit myself one example where even Shackleton Bailey seems unconvinced by his own idea. At 2.6.12 Shackleton Bailey supplements with a si, but his translation appears to ignore the new supplement. At 1.1 ext. 1 Shackleton Bailey rightly abandons his earlier emendation of ALG's deae to aedi, without any reference to it.

[[6]] The following is a (not exhaustive) list of disagreements with Shackleton Bailey of various kinds. part{i}s is translated as 'country's (1.3.3) -- which fits better with Mai's emendation patri{i}s; Lavinii is translated as 'Lanuvium' (1.6.7), a very different location; eius should be rendered as 'his' not 'the' (1.6 ext. 1b); at 1.7. ext. 3 Shackleton Bailey's text has memoriam, the emendation of Gudius, but the translation appears to be based on the memor of ALG; the reverse error appears at 1.7 ext. 4 where the translation reflects the violentiae of ALG and the translation Madvig's emendation violentia; connixum is translated as if it were connixi (2.2.5); for infantry's hangers-on sentina is oddly translated as 'bilge water' (2.7.1), better perhaps 'scum' (cf. OLD); alacri animo, of Leonidas' frame of mind at Thermopylae, is rendered 'cheerfully' (so also Speed), but would seem to require rather the idea of passion or enthusiasm (3.2 ext. 3); the translation of furore by 'error' (3.8 ext. 3) is too weak -- ALG read errore, but Briscoe and Shackleton Bailey accept Cornelissen's emendation furore -- was Shackleton Bailey's translation based on the manuscript reading?; 'murderer' (4.5.6) and 'villain' (6.5.7) are too mild for the ultimate term of abuse parricida (cf. D. Wardle, 'The Sainted Julius: Valerius Maximus and the dictator', CP 92 [1997] 334); at 5.5 praef. Shackleton Bailey's text quam copiosae enim suavitatis illa recordatio est is at odds with the translation 'how abundant is the sweetness of that remembrance' which appears to be based on Kempf's emendation copiosa of AL's copiosae; the clause quoniam ita ratio belli desiderabat (7.4.4) is attached to tetendit by Shackleton Bailey whereas Valerius' word order suggests it belongs with praesentiam . . . mentitus; a similar misattachment of cum omnibus ornamentis quae rettuli, which belongs closely with Magnum Pompeium (8.15.9).

[[7]] R. M. Ogilvie, 'lustrum condere', JRS 51 (1961) 31-39.

[[8]] For an example of a justified archaism to render a Valerian sound effect in a prominent position, see 5.2.8: non solum praecipuus sed etiam praepotens as 'not only preeminent but also prepotent'.

[[9]] See R. Guerrini, Studi su Valerio Massimo (Pisa 1981) 13-28.

[[10]] See e.g. D. Wardle, Valerius Maximus Memorable Deeds and Sayings (Oxford 1998) 16-18.

[[11]] These lists are helpfully presented by Combès [1] 56-58, distilled from the detailed works of J. Ungewitter, De Vellei Paterculi et Valerii Maximi genere dicendi quaestiones selectae (Munich 1904) and E. Lundberg, De elocutione Valerii Maximi (Uppsala 1906). None of the examples of words which Ungewitter isolates as used in early Latin authors, but not found in Caesar and Livy, and which might justifiably be considered as archaisms are rendered archaically by Shackleton Bailey.

[[12]] As seen from W.D. Lebek, Verba Prisca (Göttingen 1970).

[[13]] C. J. Carter, 'Valerius Maximus', in T. A. Dorey (ed.), Empire and Aftermath: Silver Latin II (London 1975) 26-56, esp. 45f.

[[14]] Carter [13] 43f.