Michael Roberts, Philip Hardie: Classicism and Christianity in Late Antique Latin Poetry. in:

Gnomon, page 225 - 228

GNO, Volume 93 (2021), Issue 3, ISSN: 0017-1417, ISSN online: 0017-1417,

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Bibliographic information
M. Roberts: Hardie, Classicism and Christianity 225 Philip Hardie: Classicism and Christianity in Late Antique Latin Poetry. Oakland, California: University of California Press . VIII, S. £. In his Sather lectures, now published by the University of California Press, Philip Hardie, a distinguished scholar of Virgil and Latin epic in general, turns his attention to the Latin poetry of late antiquity. He concentrates primarily on the three major figures from the last years of the fourth and the first years of the fifth century, Claudian, Prudentius (particularly the Psychomachia), and Paulinus of Nola, though with notice of Ausonius in his first chapter and an occasional venture into later Latin biblical poetry. Rutilius Namatianus features, but only his account of his departure from Rome and his hymn to that city. After an introductory chapter on the correspondence of Ausonius and Paulinus of Nola, raising some of the issues that will be tackled more comprehensively in subsequent chapters, Hardie devotes two chapters to the influence of Virgilian plot structure and thematics in late Latin poetry. The remaining five chapters address topics related to the poetics of late antiquity. Hardie’s preferred critical methodology is that of intertextuality. The interplay of classical and Christian texts is central to his study, density of allusion is specially valued. In his first chapter Ausonius and Paulinus provide an excellent test case of this approach. Their shared literary education allows the exchange between them, with their conflicting views on moral and religious obligations, to be played out in the language of classical poetry. Hardie’s evocation of the relationship between Horace and Maecenas, as presented in Epistles , makes a particularly illuminating comparandum. Chapters two and three are primarily exercises in reading late Latin poetry through Virgilian eyes. In the first of the two chapters Hardie identifies large scale narrative structures in the works of that classical poet that shape late antique texts: themes of restoration and renewal, of exile and return, and of a dualist conflict between the forces of good and evil. Virgil’s Allecto serves as a model of malign discord, while Eclogue presents a countervailing image of a new age and Aeneid , and especially the shield of Aeneas, a take on Roman history and renewal. In chapter three Hardie explores the continuation of a distinctive Virgilian theme — the order of the cosmos — in writers of late antiquity. He emphasizes the panegyric dimension of cosmic imagery and its importance for imperial ideology. Claudian’s poetry is a primary witness, especially his poem on the sixth consulship of Honorius, for which again Aeneas’ shield is a major intertext, but he also pursues cosmic imagery in the Panegyrici Latini. The chapter ends with a study of cosmic aspects in the Old Testament biblical poets, with emphasis on classical, primarily Virgilian, influences. The final five chapters concentrate on aspects of late Latin poetry that have often been identified as characteristic of the period: ‘Concord and Discord’, ‘Innovation of Late Antiquity: Novelty and Renovatio’, ‘Paradox, Mirabilia, [and] Miracles’, ‘Allegory’, and ‘Mosaics and Intertextuality’. Of these five the second, focusing on novelty and renewal, stands a little apart, being primarily thematic in nature with little in the way of stylistic or compositional implications. Hardie pursues the theme of rebirth and renewal in the two phoenix poems from the period, by Lactantius and Claudian, as well as the reference to that legendary bird in Claudian’s poem on the consulship of Stilicho. He proposes a metapoetic GNOMON 3/93/2021 M. Roberts: Hardie, Classicism and Christianity 226 reading for Lactantius’ poem, as well as for the description of the scepter of Sapientia in Prudentius’ Psychomachia, a wooden staff that continues to regenerate, unlike Latinus’ scepter in Aeneid . Both Christian poems communicate an image of new birth or growth from a previous parent or stock in a manner analogous to the employment of classical allusions in the service of the Christian message. In writing of concord and discord Hardie discusses the importance of harmony in imperial propaganda and in the language of the church, where it is employed in combating heresy and promoting concordia apostolorum as guarantee of the primacy of Rome. His treatment of the aesthetic dimensions of concordia discors and the complementary roles of variety, in contributing discordant elements, and unity, in bringing those elements together in a harmonious whole, usefully supplements Fitzgerald’s recent treatment of varietas, which tends to downplay the importance of such emergent unity.1 My own inclination would be to stress even more than Hardie does the importance of discord to this aesthetic. Concordia discors has panegyric/political, cosmic, aesthetic, and liturgical dimensions, promoting both consensus and concentus. The panegyric passages he cites from Virgil, Martial, and Claudian all emphasize the emergence of unity from multiplicity and enumerate the regions or peoples that come together under a single ruler or leader. These enumerations, not quoted by Hardie, supply the diverse constituents of discordia. The enumerative and the antithetical are closely related; whether difference becomes opposition is to some degree a matter of perspective. In ending the chapter with a discussion of Paulinus of Nola’s remarkable variations on the image of the lyre, Hardie traces a model of harmony produced from dissonance, but one that is deeply rooted in the biblical and liturgical. The role of antithesis, allied frequently with paradox, is central to Hardie’s sixth chapter. In it he addresses the view of late antique aesthetics embodied in a quotation from Peter Brown that «the ability to contrast and to connect opposites was deeply embedded in the late antique aesthetic sense». He approaches this subject from two directions: on the one hand exploring the centrality of paradox to Christian theology, with examples from poetry; on the other studying some of Claudian’s epigrams to show that at least in those cases the verbal effects are not simply superficial glitter. The chapter ends with a coda on the riddles of Symphosius. Hardie’s treatment, as far as it goes, is persuasive, but it omits a wide range of examples that are intermediate between the paradoxes of Christian doctrine and the niceties of natural philosophy in Claudian’s epigrams. As a consequence he underestimates the pervasiveness of the antithetical cast of mind and the challenge such language can present to assessing the tone of a passage. When, for instance, Avitus describes the Red Sea as ‘concealing dangers in the depths it had laid bare’,2 the paradox of concealment and revelation depends on that «ability to contrast and to connect opposites» that Brown refers to. And in Venantius Fortunatus’ moving epitaph for the young barbarian wife Vilithuta, who died in childbirth at the age of seventeen along with her child, how are we to assess the tone of a succession of antithetical and paradoxical conceits 1 William Fitzgerald, ‘Variety: The Life of a Roman Concept’ (Chicago, ). 2 De spiritalis historiae gestis . : Nudo celans discimina fundo. GNOMON 3/93/2021 M. Roberts: Hardie, Classicism and Christianity 227 culminating in ‘They [husband and wife] would have been more, if they had been childless; the addition of offspring subtracted what already was there’?1 Hardie’s chapter on allegory draws parallels between Prudentius’ Psychomachia and the allegorical and typological dimensions of the Aeneid. In part, as he says, this is an exercise in reading the Aeneid through the Psychomachia, though he also argues that Virgil’s allegorical practice is an influence on Prudentius. In emphasizing the classical precedents for late Latin allegory, however, he runs the risk of giving the innovative nature of Christian poetry less than its due. After a century of exegesis and commentaries, of sermons and catechetical instruction, the persons and events of the Bible were capable of a wide range of interpretations: not just typology in the narrower sense of prefigurations of the New Testament in the Old, but prefigurations too of events in the history of the church and in the life of individual Christians, of the Christian sacraments, and of the eschatological promise of the final coming. Such a rich, multi-leveled system of exegesis exceeds anything classical literature can offer. It is repeatedly exploited in poetry in a way that arguably constitutes a qualitative, not just a quantitative, difference from the classical tradition. In the final chapter of his book the author explores the analogy that is often drawn between mosaics, so prominent in the art of late antiquity, and the poetry of the same period. He traces the history of this comparison in the Renaissance and in modern scholarship. Although aware that the mosaic analogy is used of compositional technique as well as intertextuality, his argument concentrates on the latter comparison. Specifically he criticizes the analogy as inadequate to do justice to the often dense interweaving of allusion that transcends what can be achieved by the juxtaposition of mosaic tesserae, citing an example from Claudian’s poem for the sixth consulship of Honorius to illustrate the kind of allusive density he has in mind. Like him I too am uncomfortable with the mosaic analogy for intertextuality, though for a different reason. In the mosaic the representational surface is made up exclusively by the tesserae. In a poem, unless it is a cento, allusion figures in a larger structure of narrative, argument, prayer or celebration that has its own logic independent of any intertextual elements. (For this reason I resist the tendency sometimes found to collapse the distinction between a cento and an independent composition.) Hardie’s book as a whole is a stimulating contribution to the study of late Latin poetry. I have a somewhat different approach to that material but benefited a great deal from engaging with the issues he raises. In particular I regret his consistent theme that late antique poetry represents a rerun of Virgilian and firstcentury trends, thereby potentially distracting from the specific qualities of that body of texts. In part, I think, Hardie underestimates what is distinctive about the production of the period, especially in his chapters on allegory and paradox. There can be no doubt, it is true, that many of the features of late Latin poetry have precedents in the first-century poets, especially Ovid and Statius, but the intensification of these practices in the period amounts to a significant quantitative difference and constitutes a coherent set of preferences and criteria of poetic excellence that gives rise to a distinctive poetics. The handling of the narrative 1 Carm. . . – : Plus fuerant soli, si tunc sine prole fuissent; / addita posteritas abstulit id quod erat. GNOMON 3/93/2021 M. Roberts: Hardie, Classicism and Christianity 228 and the treatment of units of composition at all levels of integration, topics that Hardie does not pursue in any detail, also contribute to this aesthetic. Throughout his book Hardie shows a subtle awareness of intertextual allusion. Often clear contextual relevance of the imitated to the imitating text enriches understanding of the latter, though occasionally recognition of allusion seems an end in itself. I confess, though, to a certain degree of disquiet about a methodology that relies to such an extent on privileging the classical in the poetry of a period that in other respects — religion, art, politics — shows such distinctive features.1 In that respect the characterization of late fourth-century poetry as a product of the ‘Theodosian Renaissance’, however applicable that term is to art, is a misnomer. This is not a period in literature characterized, as art can be, by a return to the classics. After the third-century poetic hiatus, the classics in general and Virgil in particular had for a full century been sources of inspiration, as the poetry of Nemesianus, Juvencus, Proba, and Ausonius demonstrates. In his introduction Hardie expresses the hope that his book will contribute ‘to further[ing] the cause of late antique Latin poetry among a wider audience’. It is an aspiration all students of that poetry, still a rather small band, at least in the English-speaking world, share. His sensitive readings of a number of poems from the period will certainly promote that goal. At the same time, I hope that future students will retain a sense of the particular qualities of that poetry along with recognition of what it owes to its classical predecessors. Middlefield Michael Roberts * Elena Franchi, Giorgia Proietti (Edd.): Conflict in Communities. Forward-looking Memories in Classical Athens. Trient: Università degli Studi di Trento. Dipartimento di Lettere e Filosofia . S. (Quaderni. .). Die Erforschung von Memorialkulturen hat immer noch Konjunktur. Mit dieser Aufsatzsammlung legen die Editoren Elena Franchi und Giorgia Proietti bereits den dritten Band einer Forschergruppe vor, die sich im Rahmen des ‘Laboratorio di Storia Antica’ an der Università di Trento seit mit antiker Memorialkultur befasst.2 Der Fokus des hier vorliegenden Buches liege vor allem auf der Frage, inwiefern die Memorialkultur im klassischen Athen auf zukünftige Perspektiven und Erwartungen ausgerichtet sei, betonen die Herausgeberinnen: «By combining a traditional focus on the ancient evidence with a memory studies approach, all of the contributors try to answer the same question: how were collective memories of the past influenced by present needs and future perspectives and expectations? And how does a specific image of the past in turn influence its future receptions and uses?» (S. ). Neben der Einleitung und Indices enthält der Band drei in Englisch und drei in 1 See Marco Formisano, ‘Displacing Tradition: A New-Allegorical Reading of Ausonius, Claudian, and Rutilius Namatianus’, in Jas Elsner and Jesús Hernández Lobato, eds., ‘The Poetics of Late Latin Literature’ (Oxford, ), – . 2 Vgl. E. Franchi, G. Proietti (Hgg.), ‘Forme della memoria e dinamiche identarie nell’antichità greco-romana’, Trient , sowie E. Franchi, G. Proietti (Hgg.), ‘Guerra e memoria nel mondo antico’, Trient . GNOMON 3/93/2021

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