- Rosa Maria D'Angelo (ed.),
Carmen de figuris vel schematibus.
Georg Olms Verlag, 2001.
Pp. 178. ISBN 3-487-11345-7.
Reviewed by Dirk M. Schenkeveld,
- Any student of the ancient theories of rhetorical figures and tropes is
aware of their pitfalls: the distinction between tropes and figures is
often imaginary, that between figures of style and those of thought
especially so, and the number of figures, their varying designations
and their differences may lead one to despair. Thomas Conley has culled
from Greek handbooks a long list of figures and tropes,[] a list
which makes one's despair greater yet. One of these handbooks is that
of Alexander, the son of Numenius, a book which has come down to us in
an epitome (Rhet. Graeci ed. Spengel, iii.1-40). Alexander's book was
influential both on the Greek side (e.g. Phoebammon) and the Roman.
There it was heavily used, be it indirectly, by the anonymous author of
the Carmen de figuris vel schematibus, who probably lived in the fourth
or fifth century A.D. This Carmen contains at least 186 lines, divided
into at least 60 stanzas of three lines each (tristichi) and treats in
each stanza a figure of style.[] It now enjoys two modern editions,
one by Maria Squillante (Roma 1993) and the other one by Rose Maria
D'Angelo, which is under review here.
The Anonymus used, as I have said, Alexander's treatise PERI
SXHMATWN. This is done in the second part of the poem. In the
first part of his poem (ll. 1-150) the author has much in common with
Rutilius Lupus' De figuris sententiarum et elocutionis, a treatise
[] which for its part is a (condensed?) Latin translation of a
contemporary work on figures composed by the rhetorician Gorgias, who
lived at the end of the first century B.C. Due to the Greek origins the
examples by which the Anonymus illustrates the figures he discusses
very often are translations of passages from Greek authors such as
Homer, Demosthenes and Lysias. Greek influence is also apparent from
the headings above the stanzas: these are the Greek terms of the
figures, and at least in the first part these Greek terms determine the
alphabetical order of the figures treated. Incidentally, Rutilius Lupus
tells us that Gorgias is his source, but the Anonymous does not so for
his sources. Similarities between our poem and the treatise of Rutilius
Lupus are numerous, but some differences between the two make D'Angelo
think that the Anonymus used a common source, "probabilmente Gorgia"
The Carmen de figuris vel schematibus offers a theory of figures in a
poetical form. In doing so its author places himself in the long
tradition of the authors of didactic poetry. Some of these have done a
great job, like Hesiod, Lucretius and Vergil, but many didactic poems
are just tedious versifications of rather dull subjects, such as
poisons, fishes and stones. One of these latter versificators is
Terentianus Maurus, who in three poems treats letters, syllables and
metres (Gramm. Latini VI.325-413); another one is our Anonymus.[]
Why this man made this choice of versifying the theory of figures we do
not know. Was it because he wished to show his ability in this field
(thus Terentianus Maurus) or did he wish to offer an easier method of
retention? If the latter, he may well have been a schoolmaster, as
D'Angelo (p. 22-3) suggests. He does not state his intentions; he only
dedicates his Carmen to someone, well versed in both prose and poetry.
The implication may well be that this dedicatee will appreciate what he
has done. The dedicatee is named Messius. If this is Arusianus Messius,
the author of Exempla locutionum from Vergil, Sallust, Terence and
Cicero, we have something to go on when trying to fix the time of the
Anonymus for Arusianus Messius very probably wrote his work at the end
of the fourth century or the beginning of the fifth. Another Messius
was praefectus urbis Romae in 470. D'Angelo prefers to identify our
Messius with Arusianus Messius, and one can agree. At any rate, the
treatise is a product of late antiquity.
As to the theory of figures set out in this poem, we may not expect any
new insights for very much of it is also found in the treatises of
Alexander and Gorgias-Rutilius. It also agrees with that found in the
treatises of Aquila Romanus and Iulius Rufinianus, and these two
rhetoricians followed Alexander's treatise. What is new or relatively
novel are a few terms not found elsewhere, such as (ll. 136-8)
PANTA PROS PANTA, a figure of accumulation and
division.[] The most important feature of the Carmen is, of course,
its metrical presentation. All lines are dactylic hexameters with some
peculiarities, set out by D'Angelo (pp. 43-4 and in her commentay).
They do not run very smoothly but that may well be due to the
difficulties the author had in fitting both theory and exemples for
verse. Thus in line 10 on PERIODOS we find a curious
case of tmesis: Circuitus, peri--quam dicunt--odos, orsa duobus eqs..
Or take line 138 Est coniunctio conque gregatio, cum adcumulo res. They
may remind the reader of similar cases in the poetry of Ennius, and
indeed, this phenomenon and others, such as the use of indupetravi (l.
66) are explained as archaisms used to heighten the stylistic level of
the poem (D'Angelo p. 43). The commentary is
"philologisch-linguistisch", as the backflap says. Here D'Angelo
discusses the constitution of the text, linguistic peculiarities as
well as parallels from rhetorical works. At the end we find an
extensive bibligraphy, a very useful analytical index and a list of
scholars quoted in this book.
One aspect I reserve for the end of this review. There are some
differences between the first part (ll. 1-150) and the second one
(ll.151-86). The presentation differs, for instance. In the first part
almost all stanzas give in the first line a definition of a figure,
introduced by fit or est and in the two other lines an example or
examples. In the second part this regularity is also used but with more
freedom. The first part has the lemmata in an alphabetical order, the
second not. These differences have led scholars of the 19th
century--inevitably, one may add--to the idea that the Carmen consists
of two parts, each made by a different author, the second one being a
pupil of the first one. D'Angelo's own position in this matter is not
wholly clear to me. After reviewing the arguments of the older scholars
in favour of a double authorship she adds (p. 23) that "una trattazione
unitaria" is imposed by the elements undoubtedly common to both parts:
composition in stanzas, exemplification of the figures by quotations
most times drawn from classical authors, and the unity in prosody and
metre. Thus one author for both parts? At p. 32, however, she still
speaks about "gli autori delle due parti", but at p. 45 of "l'Anonimo"
as if he is one person. There is no reason, I think, to side with the
19th century scholars. The author first follows the Gorgias-Rutilius
tradition and at the end he adds (without saying so) some more figures
he takes from the Alexander tradition. He changes to some extent his
format of presentation, but keeps to his main principles of
composition. Let us not forget, moreover, that the material ancients
are working in (roll or codex) has as its consequence that insertions
and additions are difficult to place except at the end.
Having written this review, I had time to consult Schindel's
publication on this Carmen.[] I was glad to see that he and I agree
on many issues. The paper is very rich in content and one looks forward
to the wider discussion of the Carmen in the publication announced in a
note.[] For instance, Schindel has an ingenious and convincing
explanation about the order of the figures in the second part and an
equally convincing argument about the dedicatee being Arusianus
Messius. D'Angelo refers to it in her preface but does not state that
she has not used it at all for her own book (it is lacking from her
bibliography). At least she could have said that it was published too
late to pay attention to it.
1. Byzantine Teaching on Figures and Tropes, Rhetorica IV.4, 1986,
2. In line 1 (dedicatory stanza) the author identifies his subject as
in lexi schemata quae sunt. The figures he discusses are all figures of
style according to the Gorgias-Rutilius tradition; the fact that some
of these are sometimes classified elsewhere as figures of thought is
not enough reason to suppose with D'Angelo p.19 that the author means
by the words I have quoted both figures of style and figures of
3. Modern editions are that by Edward Brooks Jr., Leiden 1970 (see my
review in Mnemosyne 27, 1974, 427-9) and the one by Giuseppina
Barabino, Genova 1967. The work as we have it consists of two books and
only discusses figures of style. Gorgias had written about the subject
of figures (of both style and thought) in a work consisting of four
books, as Quintilian 9.2.102 tells us. Quintilian goes on to say that
Rutilius in unum suum transtulit the four books. The emendation of
Ahrens (1843) in usum suum transtulit is very attractive.
4. See W.-L. Liebermann, Lehrdichtung A-B.1 in G. Ueding,
Historisches Wo+rterbuch der Rhetorik, Bd. 5. 93-107, Tübingen 2001.
5. Of course, these "new" figures and terms may well originate from
parts of Gorgias' books which were not preserved by Rutilius Lupus. One
may regret that D'Angelo does not look at the theory of figures of
Gorgias-Rutilius-Anonymus in the wider perspective of the theory of
figures in antiquity. This was done by K. Münscher, art. Gorgias 9 in
[RE] 1912. 1604-19. See also W. Kroll, art. Rhetorik in [RE], Suppl.
VII, 1940, section 33. Ulrich Schindel announces on internet a study on
Die Rezeption der hellenistischen Figurenlehre bei den Römern. Private
communication confirms the date of publication as being October 2002.
6. Ulrich Schindel, Entstehungsbedingungen eines spätantiken
Schulbuchs: Zum ,Carmen de figuris' (RLM 63-70) in Siegmar Döpp,
Antike Rhetorik und ihre Rezeption. Stuttgart: Steiner, 1999, pp. 85-98