Scholia Reviews ns 5 (1996) 26.

Dracontius: Oeuvres, tome III. La Tragedie d'Oreste. Poemes Profanes I-V editied by Jean Bouquet and Etienne Wolff. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1995. Pp. 278. ISBN 2-251-01382-2. FFr.325.

P.G. Christiansen
Texas Tech University

Bouquet and Wolff have provided a welcome continuation to the Bude/ edition of the 5th century African poet Dracontius. The first two volumes, covering the De laudibus Dei and the Satisfactio, have already been edited and translated.[[1]] This third volume, representing the doctoral work of two of Moussy's students, covers the Orestis tragoedia and the first five of the Romulea. Presumably a fourth volume will complete the set, including the five remaining Romulea, the De mensibus, and the De origine rosarum.

This work offers text and apparatus, translation, copious notes, and introduction. The editors have given special emphasis to previous editions, to philological issues, and to explanations of material less familiar to students of the Classical period. Much less attention has been paid to the kinds of issues which could be raised by modern literary critics.

The text itself largely resembles that of Vollmer's edition,[[2]] as two examples will show. In the first 18 lines of the Bude/ text, the two significant differences are orthographical: the Bude/ prints impietate for inpietate and Thracia for Traecia. In Rom.I, there is one significant difference: for tunc, which appropriately calls the reader's attention to the apparatus. Bouquet and Wolff affirm the value of Vollmer's text, which represented an advance over Baehrens' work.[[3]] Work subsequent to Vollmer is not cited among the critical editions of the Orestis tragoedia, although Rapisarda's text and commentary[[4]] are cited in the general bibliography, as well as being cited frequently in the notes. Nor is any critical edition subsequent to Vollmer cited for the Romulea, although Diaz de Bustamente's critical edition[[5]] is cited in the general vocabulary, as well as being cited occasionally in the notes. Nine scholarly works, dating from 1906 to 1966, are also used, although these are rarely cited in the apparatus criticus.

The apparatus criticus, which presents a careful examination of previous work, so abundantly recognizes Vollmer's editing that it could be called a clarification and simplification of his work.

The translations, however, break new ground; Bouquet's translation of the Orestis tragoedia is the first translation into French. There is no translation of all the Romulea; only 2, 4, 5, 8, and 9 have been translated into any language before Wolff's doctoral thesis. We now have 1-5, presumably by Wolff.

The introduction will be especially useful to students unfamiliar with Dracontius. Bouquet and Wolff helpfully describe the various provenances of 'L'oeuvre profane' of Dracontius as well as critiquing Vollmer's thesis that the traditional order of the Romulea went back to Dracontius himself. They provide summaries of the Orestis tragoedia and the remaining 'Profane works,' including those awaiting publication in a subsequent volume. There is a discussion of authors imitated by Dracontius, as well as a description of his subsequent influence. There are also sections on manuscripts, editions and translations, and a brief bibliography.

Throughout the introduction is sensible and well-balanced. There are good discussions of the compatibility of epyllia with Christianity (pp. 43-5) and Dracontius' humanity (pp. 55-6), as well as his deep knowledge of authors such as Ovid (pp. 62-3), Lucan (pp. 63-4), Juvenal (p. 64), Statius (pp. 64-6), and Claudian (p. 66). Dracontius utilized these authors, while rejecting Silius Italicus and Valerius Flaccus, as more suitable to contemporary tastes (pp. 66-7).

The notes form a significant part of this work; the Latin text (of 136 pages) is not much longer than the notes, which are found on 116 consecutive pages, as well as occurring at the bottom of every text page but one. These are clearly designed to aid the reader, particularly in comparing standard philological usage and understanding Dracontius' line of thought, especially in its literary context. The approach is interpretive rather than judgmental, as in the remark (p. 162, n.2) that, while Dracontius might appear to be engaging in rhetorical excess, it would be more useful to note that these apparent excesses were effectively creating a desired feeling of horror. It is then noted that Dracontius' taste for the macabre and the horrific approaches that of Seneca (p. 163, n.11).

This edition will be essential for any further work or the Orestis tragoedia and the first five Romulea. One major direction to be noted, for all literary works from Late Antiquity, deals with the use of allusions so prominent in this time. Discussion of 'sources' and 'influences' point to areas to be explored, and these are discussed both in the introduction and in the notes, although it would have been convenient to have a list of the Loci similes, as in the two earlier volumes. In addition, as we move to interpretations of Dracontius in his context, we shall be increasingly interested in contemporary literary scholarship such as that of Bright, who is not heavily cited, and Roberts, who is not cited at all.[[6]]

Dracontius, although not much studied, is an important author in that he serves as an example of a writer who could write on religious matters, while perfectly familiar with the ordinary world. He, Ausonius, Claudian, Sidonius, and Fortunatus are the major writers extant to represent the majority of the membership of the upper and educated classes. The Bude/ series is to be congratulated for doing so much to make such writers more available.


[[1]] Dracontius: Oeuvres, Tome I. Louanges de Dieu, Livres I et II, edited and translated by Claude Moussy and Colette Camus (Paris 1985). Tome II. Louanges de Dieu, Livre III. Reparation, edited and translated by Claude Moussy (Paris 1988).

[[2]] Blossii Aemilii Dracontii Carmina, edited by Fridericus Vollmer (Berlin 1905), in Monumenta Germania Historica, Auctores Antiquissimi, XIV. Vollmer also produced an editio minor of the Romulea and the Orestis tragoedia for the second edition of the Poetae Latini minores, V (Leipzig 1914).

[[3]] Dracontii carmina profana. Orestis tragoedia, edited by Aemilius Baehrens (Leipzig 1883) in Poetae Latini minores, V.

[[4]] Dracontius: La tragedia di Oreste, edited by Emanuele Rapisarda (Catane 1964).

[[5]] J.M. Diaz de Bustamente, Draconcio y sus carmina profana (Santigo de Compostela 1978).

[[6]] David F. Bright, The Miniature Epic in Vandal Africa (Norman and London 1987). Michael Roberts, The Jeweled Style: Poetry and Poetics in Late Antiquity (Ithaca and London 1989).