« AnteriorContinuar »
works, or of some portion of the works of a Greek tragedian; and some fragments of a chorus and of some iambic verses were traced by Wetstein through the more modern writing. He supposes that Sophocles was the author. We think that some reasons might be stated for assigning it to Euripides. Professor Knittel discovered in the Wolfenbuttel Library a palimpsestus of the N. T. in which some of Galen's works had been written, in capital letters; a sure proof of great antiquity. Many other instances are given by Montfaucon in his 'Palæographia,' and in his 'Diarium Italicum.'
It is obvious, therefore, that no inconsiderable part of the havoc, which has been made in the writings of antiquity, must be attributed to the mercenary ignorance of transcribers. We have now positive proof, that some portion of the Greek drama, many orations of Cicero, and some plays of Plautus, have been thus lost to the world; and we may reasonably conclude, that the mischief done in this way was far more extensive than we have now any means of ascertaining.
We have thought it not unadvisable to prepare the way, by the foregoing observations, for our notice of the interesting discoveries recently made by Mr. Angiolo Mai, Professor of the oriental languages in the Ambrosian Library at Milan; who has detected in that collection several of these re-written manuscripts, from which he has, with considerable difficulty and labour, extracted the fragments, of which the titles stand at the head of this article.
The history of these MSS. is somewhat curious. The following account is extracted from a Dissertation of Mr. Mai. In the year 612, Columbanus founded a convent of Benedictines at Bobbio, anciently Bobium, a town situated amongst the northernmost Appennines. This religious society, as Tiraboschi informs us, was remarkable not only for the sanctity of its manners, but for the cultivation of literature, of course it possessed a considerable collection of manuscripts; and Muratori has published a catalogue of that collection, written in the tenth century, in which are the names. of several grammarians, historians, orators, and poets. The Ambrosian Library, being founded at the beginning of the seventeenth century by the Cardinal Federigo Borromeo, was enriched by him with a great number of manuscripts, collected at a vast expense. from various quarters, especially from Thessaly, Chios, Corcyra, and Magna Græcia.* In addition to these, he gained possession, by means of large presents, of the most valuable books of the Bobian collection, which are still distinguished in the Ambrosian Library by the title of Codices Bobiani. It is obvious, that amongst these, all which are mentioned in the catalogue published. by Muratori, must be of very considerable antiquity; and those
* Montfaucon. Diarium Ital.-p, 11.
which are palimpsesti must be of great antiquity; because they were obsolete and disused at the time of their being re-written; which must have been before the tenth century. The account which Mr. Mai gives us of his first discovery of a palimpsestus, is so truly in the style of a virtuoso, that we must give it in his own words:
Amongst the Bobian MSS. I found one, which contains the works of the Christian poet Sedulius; and while I was examining it very closely; "O immortal God," on a sudden I exclaimed, "what is it that I see? Behold Cicero! behold the light of Roman eloquence buried in unmerited obscurity! I recognise the lost orations of Tully, I perceive his eloquence flowing with godlike force from these fountains, abounding with sonorous words and noble sentiments." By degrees the titles also of the works disclosed themselves in the margin of the MS. Judge with what rapture I was filled, when I detected large unpublished fragments of three orations of Cicero, to wit, pro Scauro, pro Tullio, and pro Flacco. They are written in large and beautiful characters, each page being divided into three columns. The oration pro Scauro is surrounded with elegant scholia, of which some are written in very ancient, though minute, capital letters; others in a ruder hand, but still ancient, and, as it appears, from the same author. The writer of these scholia I suspect to have been Asconius Pædianus. For the style and complexion, and kind of writing, seem to point him out. The MS. is in octavo, because the monkish transcribers of Sedulius doubled the quarto leaves. The character of the Sedulius is of a very ancient form, but very different from that of the Cicero. It is the opinion of several antiquaries, that the former may be referred to the eighth century of the Christian æra, and the latter to the second or third. The four books of Sedulius are mentioned in the ancient catalogue published by Muratori, and this Codex continues them, though in a mutilated state.'
Mr. Mai describes the great labour and difficulty of following the almost evanescent traces of the old writing, and of putting into their proper order the leaves which had been transposed by the copyist. In the editions of the Roman orator we have only a few short fragments of the oration pro Scauro. Mr. Mai has extracted a part of the exordium, the division of the subject, and two sections of the speech. These, together with the scholia, and the remarks of the editor, fill about seventeen pages. The following passages are very spirited, and are good specimens of that impetuous expression of contempt which Cicero often employed with so striking an effect:
Quæ potest eloquentia disputando ignoti hominis impudentiam confutare? Non agam igitur cum ista Sardorum conspiratione, et cum expresso et coacto sollicitatoque perjurio, subtiliter, nec acu quædam enucleata argumenta conquiram; sed contra impetum istum illorum impetu ego nostro concurram atque confligam. Non est unus quisque mihi ex illorum acie protrahendus, neque cum singulis decertandum atque pugnandum. Tota est acies illa uno impetu prosternenda.-p. 3.
Venio nunc ad testes; in quibus docebo non modo nullam fidem et auctoritatem, sed ne speciem quidem esse aut imaginem testium.Etenim fidem primum ipsa tollit consensio, quæ late facta est compromisso Sardorum et conjuratione rogitata. Deinde illa cupiditas quæ suscepta est spe et promissione præmiorum. Postremo ipsa Natio, cujus tanta vanitas est, ut libertatem a servitute nulla re alia, nisi mentiendi licentia distinguendam putet. Neque ego Sardorum querellis moveri nos nunquam oportere aio. Non sum aut tam inhumanus, aut tam alienus a Sardis, præsertim cum frater meus nuper ab his decesserit, cum rei frumentarie Gn. Pompeii missu præfuisset. Qui et ipse illis pro sua fide et humanitate consuluit, et eis vicissim percarus et jucundus fuit. Pateat vero hoc perfugium dolori, pateat justis querellis: conjuratio vi intercludatur, obsidietur insidiis. Neque hoc in Sardis magis quam in Gallis, in Afris, in Hispanis. Damnatus est L. Albucius, et C. Megaboccus ex Sardinia, nonnullis etiam laudantibus Sardis. Ita fidem majorem varietas ipsa faciebat. Testibus enim æquis, tabulis incorruptis tenebantur. Nunc est una vox, una mens non expressa dolore sed simulata, neque hujus injuriis, sed promissis aliorum et premiis excitata. At creditum est aliquando Sardis; et fortasse credetur aliquando; si integri venerint, si incorrupti, si sua sponte, si non alicujus impulsu, si soluti, si liberi. Quæ si erunt, tamen sibi credi gaudeant et mirentur. Cum vero omnia absint, tamen se non respicient, non gentis suæ famam perhorrescent?'-p. 11.
Mr. Mai detected also, in another of the Bobian MSS. which contained the acts of the council of Chalcedon in Latin, some short unpublished fragments of three other orations of Cicero, viz. in P. Clodium et Curionem, de are alieno Milonis, et de rege Alexandrino, with ancient commentaries upon them, and upon the orations pro Archia, pro Sylla, pro Planco, in Vatinium. It not having been known before, that Cicero had ever composed an oration de ære alieno Milonis, the learned editor exclaims with pardonable, but perhaps ludicrous enthusiasm, that this one discovery affords a sufficient ground for extolling the singular felicity of our age.' The author of the commentary he supposes to be Asconius Pædianus. But there are some expressions scattered here and there, which seem to bespeak the Latinity of an age more recent than that of Asconius.
From the same palimpsestus are published parts of eight speeches of Q. Aurelius Symmachus, a Roman orator very celebrated in his day, but hitherto known to the moderns only by his Epistles. He is said by Macrobius to have been 'nullo veterum minor,' and is highly extolled for his eloquence by St. Ambrose, and by the Christian poet Prudentius. These fragments of his panegyrical orations, which seems to have been the only style of speaking much practised in the latter ages of the Roman empire, are considerable, and certainly curious. They manifest a luxuriant imagination and great command of words; but these are accompanied with the defects incidental to the state of literature and
liberty in which he lived, viz. a redundance of puerile conceits, and a tone of base and abject adulation. We think that it is easy to perceive in the orations of Symmachus the rudiments of the artificial and exaggerated eloquence of modern Italy.
Next in the list stand the works of M. Cornelius Fronto, tutor to the emperors M. Aurelius and L. Verus, extracted from the same copy of the acts of the council of Chalcedon. Of Fronto, who was a very celebrated author in his day, we had scarcely any thing before this discovery, which has brought to light ninety-six Latin Epistles to and from Fronto, two books' de Orationibus,' fragments of some orations, of his treatise ad M. Antonium de Bello Parthico,' of his Principia Historiæ,' of his Laudes Fumi et Pulveris,' and 'Laudes Negligentiæ,' and lastly, seven Epistles written in Greek. To these the editor has subjoined a collection of those fragments of Fronto which are extant in more recent writers. Amongst the epistles are several from the Emperors Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, and Lucius Verus, which will be read with great interest, and which are highly honourable both to Fronto and to his royal pupils. Several fragments of ancient Latin poets, now lost, are interspersed.
At the end of the second volume, the editor has added the Exempla Elocutionum, which have been hitherto usually attributed to Arusianus Messus; but which, in a MS. of the Ambrosian Library, are ascribed to Cornelius Fronto. The MS. however is very modern, and not one of the Codices Bobiani. Our opinion is, that it is not the work of Fronto. It is scarcely credible that a philosopher in the time of Antoninus Pius should have employed himself in noting down the common idioms of his native tongue, e. g. Plenus hac re. Virg. Georg. ii.. 4. tuis hic omnia plena muneribus.' Post. interposita fit casus alterius. Id. vi. 409. Longo post tempore venit?'
We come next to some fragments of Plautus, and some commentaries on Terence. The former are taken from a palimpsestus which Mr. Mai considers to be as ancient as the time of the Antonines. It contains all the published comedies of Plautus, except the Amphitryo, Asinaria, Aulularia, and Curculio, but in a mutilated state; and, besides these, some fragments of the Vidularia, one of those plays which Varro considered to be the undoubted work of Plautus. The MS. from which the scholia on Terence and some pictorial illustrations are taken, is of the ninth century.
In the same volume, we have the complete oration of Isæus, de hæreditate Cleonymi, of which before we possessed about onethird. This, however, is not taken from a palimpsestus, but from a MS. of the fourteenth century. And here we cannot refrain from expostulating with Mr. Mai, for indulging in that
prolixity of disquisition upon trite and obvious points, for which the Italian prose-writers are generally remarkable. We have in these volumes long dissertations upon the merits of Cicero, Plautus, Terence, and Isæus, which we conceive to have been pretty well elucidated some hundred years ago. This savours a little of book-making. After Isæus, follows an oration of Themistius, prefaced of course with a Themistii Commendatio.
The last publication of Mr. Mai is an Epitome of part of the Antiquitates Romana of Dionysius Halicarnessensis, extending from the year of the city 315 to the year 685, which is valuable, inasmuch as this portion of the original work is not known to exist. The MS. from which this Epitome is published is very recent; and the editor has omitted so much of it as relates to the eleven first books of the history, in doing which he has, in our opinion, acted injudiciously. He supposes that this Epitome is the same as that which is said by Photius to have been made by Dionysius himself; but it seems pretty clear that this is not the work to which Photius and Stephanus Byzantinus allude; for, as an Italian scholar, Professor Ciampi, has judiciously observed, it is not, properly speaking, an Epitome, but should rather be entitled Excerpta. It is obviously made upon the same plan with the Excerpta Legationum, &c. which were first published by Fulvius Ursinus. These fragments are given to the world in a most unscholar-like manner, in capital letters, without any accents or spirits, which are frequently of the greatest consequence in determining the true reading, and for omitting which there was no reason, as the MS. is not old enough to be without them. We are presented, as a matter of course, with a long discussion of the merits of Dionysius, which the learn ed editor, with an excusable partiality, estimates more highly than perhaps they deserve. After describing him as endowed with every imaginable requisite for a good historian, he concludes, Atque ut rem uno verbo expediam, historiam nusquam absolutiorem reperies, quum a Dionysio discesseris.' And again, And again, Ecce tibi Aumen orationis aureum fundit Dionysius, magnificoque verborum apparatu, alta sensuum ubertate, exquisita disserendi elegantia, plurimis artis lenociniis adhibitis miram propinat lectoribus voluptatem." To these animated eulogies of the Italian scholar, we will oppose the judgment of a more sagacious, though less humane critic, from the colder temperature of Germany. Dionysius historiam scribit, non ut homo civilis, non ut auctor pragmaticus, sed plane ut professor, h.e. ludimagister. Grammaticum dissimulare, non novit. Sophistarum ad modum sæpe locorum declamat. De rebus, e. c. de causis legum, interdum perquam inepte disputat atque pueriliter. Nimis perspicue Romanis palpatur.-Præterea dictione utitur ita prorsus peregrina et abnormi, ut cum Xenophontea aut Thucydidea