Scholia Reviews ns 13 (2004) 32.

Hubert Cancik (edd. Richard Faber & Barbara von Reibnitz), Verse und Sachen: Kulturwissenschaftliche Interpretationen römischer Dichtung. Würzburg: Königshausen und Neumann, 2003. Pp. ii + 306. ISBN 3- 8620-2467-2. Euro49.50.

Bernhard Kytzler
University of KwaZulu-Natal

Hubert Cancik's name is well known to classicists the world over as the editor-in-chief of the recently modernized Real-Encyclopaedie, Der Neue Pauly.[[1]] The range of his various other publications is extraordinarily wide and impressive.[[2]] In 1998 a substantial collection of Cancik's studies concerning 'Kulturgeschichte' appeared[[3]] and in 1999 a dozen papers on Nietzsche.[[4]] The present volume presents his publications on Roman Literature, more precisely on Latin poetry, from Republican tragedy up to various smaller genres in Imperial times, including such authors as Martial and Statius. Of the fifteen texts, three discuss Ovid, four Statius, while two are dedicated to Vergil and one each to Horace, Seneca and Lucan. A short study analyses an inscription, the epitaph on a slave (CIL 6.24162).

What Cancik finds doubtful in contemporary German Classical Philology is best described as 'die starke Spiritualisierung, der lastende Tiefsinn und ein tragisches Weltgefühl, das sich gelegentlich exaltiert zu äußern versucht' = 'the strong spiritualisation, the weighty thoughtfulness, and a tragic perception of the world, which sometimes tries to express itself an exalted manner' (p. 53). To counterbalance all this, he sets out '[1] den kulturgeschichtlichen Hintergrund . . . zu erhellen und [2] festzustellen, welche Bedeutung dieser Hintergrund oder Rahmen für das Gedicht als Ganzes hat' = '[1] to shed light on the background in cultural history and [2] to observe what this cultural background or frame might mean for the poem as a whole' (p. 54). According to this programme, Cancik provides here not only a 'Sociology of Bucolic Love' (p. 58f.), he later on also discusses among other things the impact of 'Amphitheater' (pp. 189-204) on the spectators. The penetrating study culminates on page 202 in the sentence: 'Das Amphitheater ist ein Schicksalsort: Seine Götter sind Nemesis, Fortuna und das Publikum' = 'The Amphitheater is a place of fate: its gods are Nemesis, Fortuna and the spectators.'

Cancik has a happy knack for coining such short enlightening gnomai. When discussing the entrance to the Underworld, he describes the frightening phenomena at 'Der Eingang in die Unterwelt (Aen. 6.26-272)': 'Der antike "psychologische" Name für diese Situation ist "furor", der mythische Hecate.' = 'The ancient psychological name for this situation is furor, the mythical one Hecate' (p. 74). The enormously wide range of his views may be seen from his side remark about a sequence of steps in the ritual of an ancient sacrifice: 'Derartige Sequenzen sind mediterrane Koine seit der Bronzezeit' = ' Such sequences have been part of Mediterranean koine since the Bronze Age' (p. 92, n. 18).

The book is full of gems of this sort -- insights into the nature, the developments, the problems of Roman poetry, insights into the ancient world so different from ours, insights finally into the shortcomings of modern classical scholarship. And also hints about how to overcome them. Cancik's collection can be seen as an introduction into the aims of the methodology of Der Neue Pauly -- which may itself be seen as a thesaurus of information concerning this precious collection of 'Verse und Sachen'.


[[1]] See Bernhard Kytzler, 'The New Pauly', Scholia 6 (1997) 126-30, and idem, Scholia Reviews 9 (2000) 22 (

[[2]] The Germanless reader is invited to explore Cancik's recent publications in English, such as 'The History of Culture, Religion, and Institutions in Ancient Historiography: Philological Observations concerning Luke's History', Journal of Biblical Literature 116.4 (1997) 673-95; 'The End of the World, of History, and of the Individual in Greek and Roman Antiquity' in John J. Collins (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Apocalypticism (New York 1998) 1.84-125; 'Persona and Self in Stoic Philosophy' in Albert I. Baumgarten et al. (edd.), Self, Soul and Body in Religious Experience (Leiden 1998) 335-46; 'Lucian on Conversion: Remarks on Lucian's Dialogue Nigrinos' in Adela Yarbro Collins (ed.), Ancient and Modern Perspectives on the Bible and Culture (Atlanta 1998) 26-48; 'Idolum and Imago: Roman Dreams and Dream Theories' in David Shulman and Guy G. Stroumsa (edd.), Dream Cultures (New York/Oxford 1999) 169-88; 'The Reception of Greek Cults in Rome', Archiv für Religionsgeschichte 1.2 (1999) 161-73; 'The Truth of Images: Cicero and Varro on Image Worship' in J. Assman & A. I. Baumgarten (edd.), Representation in Religion (Leiden/Boston/Köln 2001) 43-61 (with H. Cancik-Lindermaier); 'The 'Pre- Existent-Form [Präexistenz-Form] of Christianity' in Adela Yarbro Collins & Margret M. Mitchell (edd.), Antiquity and Humanity (Tübingen 2001) 413-34 (with H. Cancik-Lindermaier); '"Parallels" -- How the Ancients compared their Religions', Hyperboreus 7 (2001) 308-23 (with H. Cancik-Lindemaier); '"Dignity of Man" and "Persona" in Stoic Anthropology' in D. Kretzmer & D. Klein (edd.), The Concept of Human Dignity (Den Haag/London/New York 2002) 19-38.

[[3]] Hubert Cancik (edd. Richard Faber et. al.), Antik-modern: Beiträge zur römischen und deutschen Kulturgeschichte (Stuttgart/Weimar 1998).

[[4]] Philolog und Kultfigur: Friedrich Nietzsche und seine Antike in Deutschland (Stuttgart/Weimar 1999) with H. Cancik-Lindemaier.