Scholia Reviews ns 18 (2009) 14.

William Fitzgerald and Emily Gowers (ed.), Ennius Perennis. Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society Supplementary Volume 31. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. Pp. xiii + 172. ISBN 978-0-906014-30-1. UK£22.50.

Enrica Sciarrino
Classics, University of Canterbury,
Christchurch, New Zealand

Born out of a Laurence Seminar held in Cambridge in June 2005 with the title ‘Ennius Perennis: Revolutionary and Figurehead’, the collection of papers edited by William Fitzgerald and Emily Gowers represent yet another welcome and exciting contribution to the recent renaissance of Ennian studies.

In the introduction Emily Gowers (pp. ix-xiii) defines the scope of the volume by regretting its narrow focus on Ennius’s magnum opus and stressing that its concern ‘is less with the original content of the epic and more with its influence, its formative role in the creation of Romanitas and its connections with Hellenization’ (p. xi). Even so, anyone interested in the Annales will find Gowers’s short survey of major scholarship on Ennius very useful, especially if read alongside the introduction to the 2006 Arethusa volume.[[1]] In that same volume readers can also find another piece by Sergio Casali), who participated in both publications, ‘The poet at War: Ennius on the Field of Silius’s Punica’ (pp. 569-94 as well as the revised paper that Thomas Habinek presented at the Cambridge conference, ‘The Wisdom of Ennius’ (pp. 471-88). Although the published contributions are all concerned with the Annales, Gowers notes that at the conference Sheldon Nodelman spoke about portraits of Ennius and Anthony Boyle about the tragedies. Boyle’s thoughts are now integrated in his Roman Tragedy (Routledge 2006).

In the first paper, ‘The Influence of Cicero on Ennius’ (pp. 1-16), James Zetzel surveys Cicero’s quotations from Ennius and offers close analyses of single passages, providing a solid basis for gauging the extent to which our perception of Ennius and the Annales has been wrought by Cicero (pp. 3-8). Zetzel’s attention to the construction of Ennius in the Pro Archia leads him to raise three points: first, Cicero models Ennius’s relationship with his patrons on Archias’s relationship with Lucullus and other nobiles. For Zetzel, two anecdotes thought to be derived from Ennius’s Satires bear witness to a rather different picture by not meeting our expectations of patronage relations (pp. 9f.). Second, the agreed story whereby Ennius planned an epic in fifteen books but later changed his mind and wrote another three is perhaps not that solid. Three, the famous epigram on Scipio consisting of what Zetzel calls ‘an hyperbolic self-praise put in the mouth of Scipio’ (p. 15) should perhaps not be taken that seriously. I expect a great deal of discussion over the validity of these points as well as a sequel of new interpretations stemming from them.

In ‘The Cor of Ennius’ (pp. 17-37), Emily Gowers sets her agenda by articulating a double hypothesis, that the numerous appearances of cor in the epic fragments are all but accidental and that the word is connected with Ennius’s self-conception, with his poetics and the world, and with his later reception (p. 18). What follows is a witty and learned tour de force. Through the ‘hearts’ scattered in the Annales, we encounter Homer (where cor is a mark of epic allegiance and heroic magnanimity), Empedocles (via discordia), and, finally, Ennius in person. For Gowers, his ‘three hearts’ are both a necessary tool for encompassing a cosmopolitan universe and places for ‘holding and regurgitating’ the heritage of three different races (p. 29). The paper concludes with some reflections on Persius, Sat. 6.9-11 where we find a citation of three lines generally assigned to the Satires (pp. 30-32) and a few remarks on Ennius’s preoccupation with other body parts, especially the marrow (pp. 33-37). Overall, Gowers provides excellent materials for further theorizations of the classical body.

In the densely written and footnoted ‘Voices of Ennius’ Annals‘ (pp. 38-54), Jacqueline Elliott looks at the frequency and function of speech and how, through it, the poem displays an openness that counters the ideological trend of a narrative trumpeting Roman’s progressive history. This openness would anticipate the multiple voices that we find speaking in Virgil and comes through especially in post-Virgilian readings of Ennius (pp. 43-45). To corroborate her argument, she turns to Ilia’s dream (Skutsch, pp. 34-50) and points to how her speech fixes her identity as an active subject and opens up a space for questioning the male and triumphal trajectory of the poem (pp. 46-52). A brief analysis of Pyrrhus’s speech (Skutsch, pp. 183-90) as a case of characterization of both Romans and others, and as a locus of contest closes the paper by calling attention to the ambivalent use of patronymics (pp. 52-54). There is plenty to learn here as well as some interesting remarks on the types of sources we rely upon and how differently each of them mediates our readings.

Alison Keith’s ‘Women in Ennius’ Annals‘ (pp. 55- 72) complements Elliott’s paper by focusing on the territorial assignments of gender in Ennius’s imperial narrative (p. 55). Keith begins her exploration by reading in Aeneas’s negotiations with the king of Alba Longa (Skutsch, pp. 26-32) an ‘integrative rhetoric of marriage’ (p. 58): through marriage the property of the Italians is subsumed into the Trojans’, promoting a view on territorial acquisition as a joint project. The same rhetoric shapes the Sabine women’s episode (Skutsch, pp. 98-103) both in the assertion of the Roman men’s domestic mastery over the women and in Hersilia’s invocation of Sabine Nerio and Oscan Heria, marking them as formerly foreign deities appropriated into the new state (pp. 58-61). The story of the destruction of Alba Longa (Skutsch 486-90) recounted from the women’s perspective and their forced migration to Rome match the Sabine women’s episode and symbolize once again territorial conquest (pp.62-63). In turn, the association of Discordia with Paluda reinforces the link between women and landscape. Keith makes the point both learnedly and convincingly, bringing to light the multi- lingual and multi-cultural construction of the deity (pp. 63-69). Keith aptly concludes with the Muses, interpreting their translation as yet another manifestation of gendered territorialization (pp. 71-72)

Ingo Gildenhard’s paper, ‘Virgil vs. Ennius, or: The Undoing of the Annalist’ (pp. 73-102), starts out by pointing to Freudian readings of the poets’ relationship with their forebears and by identifying in them a certain affinity with ‘the epistemological dogma whereby to interpret an author in context is an ‘always already’ compromised effort’ (p. 73). From there, Gildenhard moves on to defend historicizing readings suggesting that these ‘pay a double dividend’: ‘apart from improving our sense of what an author tried to do in writing what he wrote (to use the idiom of speech act theory) they frequently aid in understanding the agenda of his successors as well’ (p. 75). Building upon this admirably subtle introduction, Gildenhard unfolds a two-part essay on Ennius and Virgil on the key issues of authorial self-fashioning, political culture, views of the supernatural, and relationship between literary form and conception of history. Each theme is explored with philological expertise and a keen critical eye, both of which are testified by the footnoted discussions that complement the body of the article. In general, I feel that the methodological thrust of Gildenhard’s contribution can be best appreciated if viewed in light of the debate sparked by the re-discovery of early Latin literature in Anglophone scholarship about 10 years ago.[[2]]

Sergio Casali’s, ‘Killing the Father: Ennius, Naevius and Virgil’s Julian Imperialism’ (pp. 103-28), unfolds in great detail how Virgil managed to kill his predecessors to construct an utterly Julian-centric epic. Starting from highlighting that Ennius’s Aeneas came to Italy with a daughter and definitely not with a Trojan son, Casali deftly demonstrates that in modelling the fall of Troy on Ennius’s fall of Alba Virgil resurrected the Julian family from among the people compelled to relocate to Rome (pp. 104-10). Moving his focus on Anchises in Book 6, Casali builds upon Hardie’s suggestion that Aeneas’ relationship with Anchises is also that between Virgil and father Ennius.[[3]] Through a fine-tuned intertextual analysis, Casali manages to bring to light the issue of genealogy as an instrument of political propaganda (pp. 110-14) and describes how Virgil devests the pre-Virgilian Anchises of his prophetic powers only to bestow them back on him after his death in order to authorize his chronological and genealogical corrections of his own forebears (pp. 114- 28). Clearly, Casali’s learned contribution attests to the vitality of intertextuality as a methodology that empowers the interpreter in a manner that is tantamount to the ancient author’s mastery of allusive games.

Philip Hardie’s ‘Poets, Patrons, Rulers: the Ennian Traditions’ (pp. 129-44) opens with a few remarks on Petrarch’s characterization of Ennius in the Africa as a companion of the general and as poeta laureatus et triumphans. Through this introduction, Hardie sets the stage for exploring Gildenhard’s proposition whereby Ennius’s assertions of artistic supremacy inversely corresponds to his abrogation of socio-political authority.[[4]] Starting from the famous scene of the Good Companion (Skutsch, pp. 268-86) traditionally interpreted as an allusive self-portrait, Hardie runs through Ennian allusions in Horace via a short detour in Virgil arriving to some important conclusions. Ennius provided Horace with a model for triumphally claiming poetic innovation and autonomy even while reflecting upon his dependence on social superiors for both socio-economic and literary success (p. 143). Although Hardie recognizes that there is little evidence that Ennius allowed this contradiction to surface in his poem, by pointing to Cato the Censor he obliquely makes a case for trying out historicizing readings of early Roman poetry after all.

The last contribution, by L. B. T. Houghton ‘A Letter from Petrarch’ (pp. 145-58), closes the collection very nicely by offering a translation of a letter of Petrarch to Boccaccio about the composition of his Africa. The letter was found in a Cambridge College library just before the Seminar. It makes a beautiful read and offers new ground for gauging the later reception of Ennius. It is worth staying on the lookout for the publication of the Latin original.


[[1]] Brian Reed and Andreola Rossi (edd.), Ennius and the Invention of Epic in Arethusa 39.3 (2006). The edition used by all contributors is O. Skutsch, (ed.) The Annals of Q. Ennius (Oxford 1985); however, I should like to call attention to the new Italian edition of the fragments. Flores, E., Esposito, P., Jackson, G., Paladini, M., Salvatore, M., Tomasco D. (edd.) Quinto Ennio: Annali (Naples) that is being published piecemeal since 2000.

[[2]] Here some key readings (in more or less chronological order): T. Habinek, The Politics of Latin Literature: Writing, Identity and Empire in Ancient Rome‘ (Princeton 1998); T. Habinek, The World of Roman Song: From Ritualized Speech to Social Order (Baltimore 2005); S. Goldberg, Constructing Literature in the Roman Republic: Poetry and Its Reception‘ (Cambridge 2005); papers in TAPA (2005) 135.1; D. Feeney, ‘The Beginnings of a Literature in Latin.’ Journal of Roman Studies 95 (2005) 226-40.

[[3]] P. Hardie, The Epic Successors of Virgil: A Study in the Dynamics of a Tradition (Cambridge 1993) 103f.

[[4]] I. Gildenhard, ‘The ‘Annalist’ before the Annalists: Ennius and his Annales’, in U. Eigler, U. Gotter, N. Luraghi, and U. Walter (edd.) Formen römischer Geschichtsschreibung von den Anfängen bis Livius. Gattungen-Autoren-Kontexte (Darmstadt 2003) 93-114.