Scholia Reviews ns 14 (2005) 18.
D. R. Shackleton Bailey (ed. & tr.), Statius: Thebaid and Achilleid. Cambridge, Mass. and London: Harvard University Press, 2003. Pp. 459 (Vol. 2) ISBN 0-674-01208-9; pp. 441 (Vol. 3) ISBN 0-674- 01209-7. UKú14.50 each volume.
Classics, University of Michigan
The renaissance in Statian studies of the past thirty some years has now this new edition and translation of the Thebaid and Achilleid to boast, a feat following in the footsteps of an earlier Loeb volume by Shackleton Bailey containing Statius' Silvae. These replace the long outdated two- volume Loeb translation of Statius' entire oeuvre by J. H. Mozley, first published in 1928.[]. Since the new edition and translation is poised to replace Mozley in the future, comparisons with his work and with D. E. Hill's edition (1983)[] are in order.
The separation of the Silvae into a separate volume is a logical move, even though less economical. Now one has to purchase three Loeb volumes to own all of Statius' work. Nevertheless, scholarship in recent years has focused attention on the Silvae as a separate field of study and this justifies its separation from the epics in the Loeb volumes.
Shackleton Bailey's introduction to the Thebaid and Achilleid is necessarily sketchy due to the greater amount of information on Statius available to Shackleton Bailey's readers in comparison to that available to Mozley's. However, given the fact that Shackleton Bailey offers not just a new translation, but also a new edition, more room could have been allotted in the introduction to a discussion of the manuscript tradition as well as to the author's editorial choices. Now the reader, in order to get a full picture, has to go to Hill (for a comprehensive review) or to Mozley (who has a brief but systematic section on the transmission of Statius' text throughout the ages). Shackleton Bailey does not believe in a second edition done by the author, although the only hard argument that he cites against this theory is the parallel situation with Martial's manuscripts (see Introduction p. 6).
Kathleen Coleman's overview of recent scholarship on the Thebaid and the Achilleid gives a useful and concise bird's-eye view of the great strides made in the study of Statius' Thebaid not only in English, but also in German, Italian and Dutch. She outlines the many and sometimes mutually conflicting interpretive trends on the ground and puts together a basic eight-page bibliography that can serve as a solid starting point for any student of Statius' epic.
The presence of an index distinguishes Shackleton Bailey's version from Mozley's and enhances the readability of the text. It saves space for more intra- and inter-textual referencing and comments that help the modern reader to follow the often convoluted thread of the narrative. The index not only explains personal and place names, but also lists the passages where the names occur. It is additionally helpful that the indices to the Thebaid and the Achilleid appear separately.
Shackleton Bailey's textual differences from Mozley's text are numerous, therefore the reader gets not just a new translation, but a significantly enhanced and improved original. Many of Shackleton Bailey's editorial decisions converge with those of Hill's edition. Therefore, his text can be positioned closer to that of Hill and farther from that of Mozley. In his editorial decisions, Shackleton Bailey generally sides with P, except where the rest of the manuscripts (w) prevail by merit (p. 6). 'Merit' here stands for Bailey's own editorial freedom and it is exercised judiciously and most often convincingly. In 1.10, he sides with Gronovius in the reading Tyriis against the entire manuscript tradition. This choice has the distinct advantage of making not the mountains Tyrian, but the walls (from the previous context, Statius clearly means the city of Tyre). Here he is in agreement with Hill and differs from Mozley. However, Shackleton Bailey often differs from Hill. To give a little statistic: in the entirety of Book 1 Shackleton Bailey makes approximately ten decisions that contradict Hill. He convincingly prefers a lectio difficilior in 1.71 where Oedipus digs out his eyes digitis cedentibus (P and Shackleton Bailey), 'with yielding fingers' instead of digitis caedentibus (w and Hill, Mozley), 'with tearing fingers', even though this choice has to be explained away as a transferred epithet. Most of the differences from Hill are to be acclaimed as distinct improvements contributing to a better, more logical and satisfying reading of the text.
Examples in Book 1 that stand out as smoothing out logical blunders are Shackleton Bailey's choice of Schrader's emendation of mitem Corinthon (all manuscripts) 'meek Corinth' to ditem Corinthon (1.334) 'rich Corinth.' He also chooses Madvig's emendation nebularum intendit amictu (1.630) 'covers with a blanket of fog' instead of nebularum incendit amictu, 'burns with a shroud of fog.' Similarly, Shackleton Bailey's adoption of Hall's emendation of the manuscripts' exoratus abis ('you go away having prayed) to exoneratus abis (1.666 'you go away cleared of blame') is far more satisfactory because the phrase is addressed to Coroebus who had just received an unexpected pardon from Apollo. The modern reader now has a more tightly coherent and more carefully edited text of the Thebaid.
Many of the new readings in this edition are a product of Shackleton Bailey's in-depth and long- standing engagement with Statius' manuscript tradition, reflected in his two publications of 1983 and 2000.[] Often these new readings have important interpretive ramifications, such as the reading latior (7.701) instead of laetior, represented in P, but ignored by former editors. The sky turning more favorable (laetior) right before Amphiaraus' disappearance in a chasm opening in the earth is certainly a reading that one happily lets go, especially since the more contextually fitting latior (the sky turning wider) is backed by P. A long-standing editorial blunder is thus set aright. Examples of such brilliant insights can be further multiplied, but I will not do so, leaving the pleasure of discovering and appreciating them to the careful reader. Besides, they are discussed in the articles mentioned above (n. 3). However, from a literary interpretive point of view, one cannot but miss in Shackleton Bailey's edition the priceless text-critical notes to virtute in 9.6. Here, textual criticism and literary interpretation clash over the poet's ironic use of virtute referring to Tydeus' act of cannibalistic vengefulness. The use of virtus here has upset the sensitivities of numerous textual critics, thus generating a flurry of proposals for emendation, diligently reported by Mozley.
Shackleton Bailey improves upon Mozley's often Latinized structures by rendering the text into more literary, idiomatic, and readable English that is enjoyable and easy to follow. Apart from occasional archaisms, the translation successfully captures subtle nuances, unpacks obscure images, and offers a helpful hand in the notes to bridge gaps in the meaning. However, the normalization of the apostrophe in 1.666 by turning the second person verb into the third person is stylistically problematic, given the fact that apostrophes are an important feature serving as a vital component in Statius's dialogic style. To sum up, for those who want to read the poem in translation and prefer a lucid prose rendition to Melville's verse, the new Loeb is a must. It entirely replaces Mozley's now dated version and provides a well-edited text equipped with the most essential commentary to those who want to read the epics in the original. The indices additionally enhance the value of these volumes by helping the reader keep track of people and places and trace their movement across the entire text more easily.
[] J. H. Mozley (ed.) Statius with an English Translation. Cambridge, Mass. and London 1928).
[] D. E. Hill, P. Papini Stati Thebaidos Libri XII (Lugduni Batavorum 1983).
[] D. R. Shackleton Bailey, 'Notes on Statius' Thebaid', Museum Helveticum 40 (1983) 51-60; D. R. Shackleton Bailey, 'On Statius' Thebaid', Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 100 (2000) 463-76.