Scholia Reviews ns 15 (2006) 5.

Benjamin Todd Lee, Apuleius' Florida: A Commentary. Texte und Kommentare: Eine altertumswissenschaftliche Reihe Band 25. Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2005. Pp. viii + 215. ISBN 3-11-017771-4. Euro82.24, UK£70.00.

John Hilton
Classics, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban

Lee's commentary on the Florida of Apuleius follows closely after Hunink (2001) and, more distantly, Opeku (1974).[[1]] According to Lee (p. 27) another commentary on this anthology by Claudio Marangoni is soon to appear. This plethora of publications on a collection of rhetorical fragments raises a number of questions about the nature and purpose of commentaries in the twenty-first century -- questions that are currently being quite extensively debated.[[2]] What has emerged from this discussion is that while commentaries have been part of Classical scholarship since antiquity, there is no universally agreed way of going about them and that commentators bring their own individual interests and talents to the task. A broad distinction may be drawn between paedagogical and scholarly commentaries, but all three authors mentioned above undoubtedly write for their peers rather than for beginners.

A brief comparison of the authorial comments of Lee, Hunink, and Opeku may bring out the particular character of the work under examination. Opeku avoids 'stylistic study' and comments 'mainly on subject matter, on the language (including points of grammar), and on anything of general or special interest that appeared to throw light on the meaning and intention of the author' (p. 2); Hunink points out that 'these texts have much to offer for those who love the Latin language' and hopes 'that the present volume . . . will enable readers to gain a better understanding of Apuleian rhetoric' (p. 8); and now Lee states: 'I have focused above all on Apuleius' artistic and aesthetic use of the Latin language' and '[t]he commentary also explores the complex intertextual relationships of the Florida to earlier Greek and Latin literature, as well as the work's extensive links to Middle Platonism, the Second Sophistic, and the rest of the Apuleian corpus, particularly his philosophical works' (p. vii).

Lee's prefatorial comments do not mention rhetoric, but it is clear throughout the commentary that he has a strong interest in this area. He discusses modern theoreticians of this art in addition to its ancient practitioners.[[3]] These authors provide support for Lee's contention that the speeches in the Florida are simply oratorical showpieces but seek to 'strengthen a consensus' around 'his major themes: rhetoric, Middle Platonic philosophy, education, and citizenship' (p. 23). I could not help feeling that there was something circular about at least the first of these, but there can be little doubt that the fragments we have do celebrate the issues that concern practitioners of epideictic oratory in the second century as has been demonstrated so emphatically in recent scholarship.[[4]] Nevertheless, Lee observes a critical distance here -- apropos of a recent comparison between Apuleius and a rock concert performer he observes (p. 24): 'If such a rock concert addressed and urged the study of philosophy, a Middle Platonic reading of providence, and also defended rhetoric's role in philosophy, we could agree.'[[5]] That said, the introduction provides a detailed and useful discussion of the highly rhetorical character of these epideictic pieces and their similarities with and differences from their immediate intellectual and cultural contexts (pp. 20-25).

Lee has also taken considerable pains to investigate the manuscript tradition of the Florida. Three important issues emerge here: the division of the fragments into four books, the division of the text into fragments, and the relationship between the Florida and the preface to the De Deo Socratis. Lee avoids discussion of the final point altogether and omits the five fragments of the false preface to the DDS from his text entirely, even though it is difficult to see how they tie in exactly to the themes of this work. This is particularly unfortunate as the editors of the DDS often return the compliment, leaving them in no-man's land, although at least two recent studies argue that they are integral to the DDS.[[6]] On the first matter, Lee holds the view that the book divisions were 'an attempt to organize the fragments as we have them, rather than being traces of an "original" collection of complete speeches in (at least) four books, or a set of excerpts written out on four rolls or papyri' (p. 31). The distinction between a short collection of fragments reflecting the divisions of the original four complete books and a collection of fragments in four short books is a fine one, but it has the advantage of explaining the arbitrary separation of fragment 9 into two books. On the question of the division of the text into fragments, Lee shows that this was largely the work of successive editors from Scioppius (1594) on. He believes (with Oudendorp) that this division is sometimes unjustified, as in the case of fragments 22 and 23, which appear to be thematically connected and may have come from the same speech. Lee could perhaps have gone further by following Opeku, Hunink, and some earlier editions of the Florida, who link fragment 22 with fragment 14, on the grounds that both mention Crates. Lee is prepared to make bold hypotheses, however, as when he suggests that 'all the shorter fragments containing exempla can be related to similar themes in the longer orations' (p. 14) and relates this to a decision by the original excerptor to begin with short fragments, fill up the space with longer texts, and to complete the remaining pages of codex with shorter pieces. All this must be complete guesswork, as Lee concedes (ibid.).

Lee's commentary is distinctive therefore in its emphasis on rhetorical practice during the Second Sophistic and in its close attention to the text and manuscript tradition. It is also different in providing a neat solution to the common problem in such works, namely how to move from the particular to the general; Lee has a summative discussion (labelled 'Notes') before his specific remarks on each fragment. In this, he goes rather further than Hunink's brief paraphrase and overall discussion and the introductory remarks of Opeku. Nevertheless, a further question -- how much these three commentaries have in common -- remains. Publications of this kind are prone to be tralatician in character, especially ones that employ the traditional, philological method of annotating the text and build on the work of their predecessors, as these to some extent do (Lee refers to Hunink in his bibliography but not in his preface or notes, but makes more use of Opeku than Hunink, which clearly came out after he had written most, if not all, of the commentary). Comparison of the treatment of a short fragment like number 23 by Lee, Hunink, and Opeku, for example, shows surprisingly little overlap. Opeku confines his discussion largely to matters of language and usage (apart from a longish note on the ancient tablinum, Hunink comments on rhetorical matters, Apuleian style, and the imagery of ship and doctor in popular moral philosophy, Lee remarks on the relationship between fragments 22 and 23, the parallels with Maximus of Tyre Dial. 8, problems in the manuscript tradition (mobili clavo and procero malo), architectural matters (tabulina perpulchra), and linguistic points.

In this book Lee makes a thoughtful and scrupulously thorough contribution to Apuleian studies. Despite the seeming redundancy of yet another commentary on the Florida he brings to the task a detailed knowledge of the manuscript tradition, a keen interest in Apuleius' language and style, a useful discussion of the rhetorical character of the text, and a relentless pursuit of intertexts (for example, Flor. 10.4 and Cic. DND 2.98, Flor. 12.1-12 and Pliny HN 10.58f., together with the general analysis in the introduction, pp. 26-30). Although this is an expensive product, it is an excellent piece of scholarship and will hold its value for some years to come.


[[1]] Vincent Hunink, Apuleius of Madauros: Florida (Amsterdam 2001); Fabian Opeku, A Commentary with an Introduction on the Florida of Apuleius (Diss. London 1974). On Flor. 16, see also A. Toschi, Apuleio neosofista: discorso per la sua statua a Carthagine (Floridum 16). Introduzione, test, traduzione e commento (Parma 2000).

[[2]] See G. W. Most, Commentaries -- Kommentare (Göttingen 1999); Roy K. Gibson and Christina Shuttleworth Kraus, The Classical Commentary: Histories, Practices, Theory (Leiden, Boston, Koln 2002).

[[3]] Hence the citation of Ch. Perelman (tr. W. Kluback), The Realm of Rhetoric (Notre Dame 1982); J. Walker, Rhetoric and Poetics in Antiquity (Oxford 2000).

[[4]] See G. N. Sandy, The Greek World of Apuleius: Apuleius and the Second Sophistic (Leiden 1997); S. J. Harrison, Apuleius: A Latin Sophist (Oxford 2000).

[[5]] The comparison was made by Sandy [4] 172, following the more restrained analogy of earlier scholars.

[[6]] A recent example of this is Matthias Baltes, Marie-Luise Lakmann, John M. Dillon, Pierluigi Donini, Ralph Häfner and Lenka Karfíková (edd.) Apuleius: De Deo Socratis: Über den Gott des Sokrates (Darmstadt 2004). For the view that the fragments belong to the DDS see Vincent Hunink, 'The Prologue of Apuleius' De Deo Socratis', Mnemosyne 48.3 (1995) 292-312; Teresa Mantero, 'La questione del prologo del De Deo Socratis' in Argentea Aetas: In Memoriam E. V. Marmorale (Genoa 1973) 215-59.

[[7]] Some errors have found their way into the text. 'Holford-Stevens' (pp. 9, 196) should be 'Holford-Strevens'. Thomasson (1996) is mentioned on p. 3, but on p. 12 is unidentifiable as the bibliographical details have not been added to the bibliography. Similarly Walker (2000) is not included in the bibliography, although other one-off references are. Typos include 'paulsiper' for 'paulisper' (p. 63).