The Jeweled Style: Poetry and Poetics in Late Antiquity 9781501729713

In The Jeweled Style, Michael Roberts offers a new approach to the Latin poetry of late antiquity, one centering on an a

194 51 10MB

English Pages 200 [199] Year 2018

Report DMCA / Copyright


Polecaj historie

The Jeweled Style: Poetry and Poetics in Late Antiquity

Table of contents :
General Index

Citation preview

The Jeweled Style




Copyright © 1989 by Cornell University All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in a review, this book or parts thereof, must not be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher. For information, address Cornell University Press, 124 Roberts Place, Ithaca, New York 14850. First published 1989 by Cornell University Press. Cornell Paperbacks, 2010 International Standard Book Number 978-0-8014-7633-4 Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 88-47941 Printed in the United States of America Librarians: Library of Congress cataloging information appears on the last page of the book.

The paper in this book is acid-free and meets the guidelines for permanence and durability of the Committee on Production Guidelines for Book Longevity of the Council on Library Resources.

For Linda and Christopher






Abbreviations Introduction




An Anthology of Texts


The Literary Tradition and Its Refinement


Poetry and the Visual Arts


Variations of Style: The Christian Contribution


Epilogue Glossary of Rhetorical Terms


Bibliography Text Editions Used Index of Passages Cited General Index



38 66

I 57 I60 I70 173 180


Floor mosaic, marine scene with bust of Tethys, Antioch (fourth century) 77 2 Great hunt, floor mosaic, Piazza Armerina, Sicily (dorninus scene; first quarter of the fourth century) So 3 Floor mosaic, hunt scene from Constantinian villa, Antioch (early fourth century) 81 82 4 Floor mosaic, Megalopsychia hunt, Antioch (fifth century) 83 5 Floor mosaic, hunting scenes, Antioch (fifth century) 6 Procession of saints, nave mosaic, S. Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna (c. A.D. 560) 86 7 . Crossing of the Red Sea, wall painting, Cubiculum 0 of the Via Latina Catacomb, Rome (third quarter of the fourth century) 87 8 Crossing of the Red Sea, nave mosaic, S. Maria Maggiore, Rome (A.D. 432-440) 88 9 The emperor Justinian and his retinue, mosaic in apse, S. Vitale, Ravenna (c. A.D. 547) 90 10 Arch of Constantine, Rome, largitio frieze (A.D. 3 15) 92 II Base of Theodosian obelisk with hippodrome scenes, Istanbul (c. A.D. 390) 93 12 Sarcophagus ofJunius Bassus (A.D. 359) 96 13 Probus sarcophagus (end of the fourth century) 99 14 Silver missorium of the emperor Theodosius (A.D. 388) 99 101 15 Ivory diptych of Probianus (c. A.D. 400) 16 Zachariah in the Temple (or acclamation of the founder), carved wood door panel, S. Sabina, Rome (c. A.D. 430) 102 17 . Ivory diptych of the Lampadii (early fifth century) 104 I


x 18 19 20 21 22 23 .



Ivory diptych, Holy Women at the Tomb (early fifth century) Ivory panel (right-hand wing), scenes from the life and miracles of Christ (early fifth century) Ivory diptych, stag hunt (early fifth century) Ivory diptych, animal combats (early fifth century) Ivory diptych, left-hand panel, Adam in Paradise (late fourth century) Caesar Gallus in consular toga, Calendar of A.D. 354

105 106 108 109 110 113



his book is the product of more than ten years' interest in late Latin poetry, going back to my Ph.D. dissertation on the biblical epic, directed by the late Luitpold Wallach, whose encouragement was instrumental in getting me started on late antique studies. In my subsequent reading oflate Latin poetry I was struck by the recurrence of certain stylistic patterns, involving, in quite general terms, a pronounced taste for effects of repetition and variation. From these observations grew the ideas that are central to this book and that I first formulated while participating in a National Endowment for the Humanities' summer seminar at Columbia University in 1982. I am grateful to the director of that seminar, Alan Cameron, for his valuable comments and suggestions, and to my fellow participants for their helpful responses to my attempts to develop my ideas. A second NEH summer seminar, this time at the American Academy in Rome in the summer of 1986 and directed by Eleanor Winsor Leach oflndiana University, allowed me to do research for my chapter on late antique art, and I am grateful to Professor Leach for sharing with me her expertise in the integration of literary and artistic evidence. I was able to put the finishing touches to this manuscript while holding an American Council of Learned Societies' fellowship in 1987. Finally, I am indebted to Wesleyan University for a grant to cover the cost of collecting photographs for the book. Portions of this book have been read before a variety of stimulating and responsive audiences: the Nineteenth International Congress of Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan (May 10-13, 1984), the annual meetings of the American Philological AssociaXl




tion in Washington, D.C. (December 27-30, 1985) and New York City (December 27-30, 1987), the Twentieth Annual Conference of the Center for Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies in Binghamton, New York (October 15-17, 1986), and at Liverpool and Harvard universities. The opportunity to present my ideas to such receptive audiences has made an important contribution to the genesis of this book. In addition, I have benefited from the advice and assistance of present and former colleagues at \_Vesleyan University, Stephen Dyson, David Konstan, and Andrew SzegedyMaszak, and from the perceptive comments of readers and editors for Cornell University. Press. The translations in the book are my own, unless otherwise noted, and are intended to follow the wording of the original closely, without doing violence to English usage. This book is dedicated to my wife, Linda, in appreciation of her patient support and encouragement, and to my son Christopher, who has grown with the book. MICHAEL RoBERTS

Middletown, Connecticut


Journal abbreviations follow the usage of L'annee philologique. In addition to the journal abbreviations, the following abbreviations for reference works and text series and collections are used. CCL CSEL

Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina. Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum.


Ch. Daremberg and Edm. Saglio, eds., Dictionnaire des antiquites grecques et romaines d'apres les textes et les monuments. 5

vols. in 9 (Paris, 1877-1919). Goetz Georg Goetz, ed., Corpus Glossariorum Latinorum, 7 vols. (Leipzig, 1888-1923). Halm Karl von Halm, Rhetores Latini Minores (Leipzig, 1863). Keil Heinrich Keil, Grammatici Latini, 7 vols. (Leipzig, 1855-80). MGH OLD

Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Oxford Latin Dictionary. Pack2 Roger A. Pack, The Greek and Latin Literary Texts from GrecoRoman Egypt, 2d ed. (Ann Arbor, Mich., 1965). PG Patrologia Graeca, ed. J. P. Migne. PL Patrologia Latina, ed. J. P. Migne. RAC Reallexikon for Antike und Christentum. RE Paulys Real-Encyclopiidie der classischen Altertumswissenscha.ft. Spengel Leonard Spengel, ed., Rhetores Graeci, 3 vols. (Leipzig, 1853-

56). ThLL

Thesaurus Linguae Latinae.


The Jeweled Style



he poetical fame of Ausonius condemns the taste of his age. " 1 Edward Gibbon's dismissive obiter dictum has been repeated approvingly in modern histories of Latin literature. For H. J. Rose, elaborating on Gibbon, "the senile degeneration of literature in Ausonius' circle is shown not merely by the feebleness of most of his writings but by the obvious fact that he was admired for them. " 2 Moses Hadas is similarly uncomplimentary to Ausonius and his age: "For writers like Ausonius, who is after all the poet of the fourth century, it is too generous to attribute their classicizing emptiness to anything but rampant rhetoric. " 3 I should like to opt for generosity, to try to understand late antique poetry in its own terms. For, after all, such poets as Ausonius, Prudentius, Claudian, and Sidonius were admired, not only in their own day but also by readers of Latin literature for many centuries. Our understanding oflate antique and medieval aesthetics has much to gain if we can find a more sympathetic way to read the poetry of late antiquity. This isnot to claim that all readings oflate antique poetry have been as unsympathetic as those noted above. In the last twenty years or so, scholars in continental Europe have published many valuable studies and monographs, especially of the Christian Latin poetry oflate antiquity, that helped form my own approach to the 1 Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall ofthe Roman Empire, ed. J. B. Bury, 7 vols. (London, I90G-I901), 3:134 n. 1. 2 H. J. Rose, A Handbook of Latin Literature from the Earliest Times to the Death of St. Augustine (London, 1936), 529. 3 Moses Hadas, A History of Latin Literature (New York, 1952), 381-82.




subject. In the English-speaking world, however, studies. have been fewer and, to my mind, less satisfactory. In any case, judgments of late antique poetry in literary histories, whatever their language, have generally not reflected this more recent literature. 4 Despite incidental expressions of enthusiasm, the overall judgment tends to be negative. The poet Claudian presents an interesting test case. Often praised, he is frequently described as "the last classical poet of Rome. " 5 This emphasis on Claudian as classical epigone inevitably involves a devaluation or dismissal of what in his poetry is nonclassical and hence, in all probability, characteristic of late antiquity. Such privileging of the classical aesthetic is presupposed in the valuable analysis of Claudian's poetic techniques in Alan Cameron's book on that poet. Cameron concedes that the descriptions which play such a role in the narrative poems "are very beautiful of their kind," but "their frequency and length cannot but hold up the flow of the narrative." Cameron knows well that such criticism would have seemed misdirected to Claudian: "there can be little doubt that, in practice if not in principle, he [Claudian] considered the episode more important than the whole"; 6 the modern critic's knowledge of and sympathy for late antique civilization lead him to defend Claudian's apparent excesses as "an authentic manifestation . . . of that era of tradition and innovation which is the fourth century. " 7 But the reservations about the literary quality of Claudian's opus remain. As Cameron acknowledges, it is with just those features of Claudian's poetry which most appealed to late antique taste that he is most uncomfortable. His criticism of the poet's descriptive purple passages depends on the classical aes4A new edition of Schanz-Hosius is being produced for late antique literature under the direction of Reinhart Herzog, a scholar of Christian Latin poetry whose studies have helped set the framework of debate in which I situate my own work. Other writers whose work has had a special influence on me include Klaus Thraede, Christian Gnilka, and especially Jacques Fontaine, whose views have been fundamental in shaping my own approach to late Latin poetry. 5 Hadas, 388; Robert Browning, "Poetry," in The Cambridge History of Classical Literature, II.5: The Latin Principate, ed. E. J. Kenney and W. V. Clausen (Cambridge, 1982), 24. 6 Alan Cameron, Claudian: Poetry and Propaganda at the Court of Honorius (Oxford, 1970), 264-65, cf. 287. 7 Ibid.' 304.



thetic of unity of the whole, the proportion of the parts, and the careful articulation of an apparently seamless composition. Late antique poetry is not like this. The seams not only show, they are positively advertised-nonclassical certainly, but not necessarily evidence of deficient technique. These are precisely the qualities the poets aim for. Taste has changed. To appreciate late antique poetry properly, it is necessary to view it on its own terms rather than from the perspective, conscious or not, of classical aesthetics. Among the preeminent scholars of the mentality of late antiquity in this century is Henri-Irenee Marrou. Marrou's experience is particularly instructive for the issue of the relationship between classical and late antique aesthetics, since in his doctoral thesis, published in 1938, he had leveled criticisms of Augustine's abilities as a writer that are reminiscent of those made of Claudian: Augustine's composition was faulty, loosely organized, without a clear structure consistently followed through, and with an overfondness for digressions, which distracted from the unity of the whole. 8 In 1949, however, Marrou used the reissue of his Augustine book as an opportunity to publish a palinode. Marrou now sees his previous strictures on Augustine's literary technique as the consequence of uncritical acceptance of the traditional description of the late empire as a period of decadence, a degenerate version of the classical world. He proposes instead appreciation of its distinct culture in its own terms. Here is his description of the civilization of the late empire: "The civilization of the late empire, as it is reflected in the culture of Augustine, is a living, evolving organism. Although it experienced many changes, both ups and downs, there was nothing a priori to make its death a certainty. The title on which after many hesitations I decided (Augustin et Ia fin de Ia culture antique) implies, in its brevity, a serious error of judgment. Saint Augustine does not make us witness the end of classical cultureor rather he does, but with him it is not in a state of decline; it has already become something quite different. " 9 Describing Claudian as "the last classical poet of Rome" only perpetuates the attitude Marrou here strives to combat. BHenri-Irenee Marrou, Saint Augustin et Ia fin de Ia culture antique, 4th ed. (Paris, 1958), 58-59. 9Jbid., 689. The translation of this and the following passage is my own.




Marrou's Retractatio continues with an explanation of how his error arose. This passage should be required reading for all classicists who venture into the unfamiliar world of late antiquity: It is easy for me to see today the source of this error: as a humanist of classical training, coming to the late empire from antiquity, I could not fail to register this change. The world to which Saint Augustine introduced me was so very different from that defined by Thucydides, for example, and Plato, Cicero, or Tacitus. Victim despite myself of the prejudice that I attack on my first page [i.e., considering the late empire only as a period of decadence], I interpreted as symptoms of decline all the novelties and internal transformations that in reality are manifestations of the vigor and vitality of this civilization. to

This is not, of course, to deny the influence of the great classical authors on Augustine, an influence Marrou goes on to recognize, but the spirit in which they are used and their context are quite new and distinctively late antique. In art history and social and cultural history the lesson Marrou drew from his own experience has long been heeded: the critic should learn to appreciate the novelties and transformations of late antiquity in the terms of the culture and aesthetic of that period rather than by the standard of some hypostatized classical norm. Art history has led the way in this recognition, with the groundbreaking book of Alois Riegl, Die spiitromische Kunstindustrie (Vienna, 1901), and the important studies of Gerhart Rodenwaldt, 11 which did much to promote appreciation of the late antique aesthetic. In social and cultural history the recent work of Peter Brown-like Marrou a scholar who devoted an early book to the life of Saint Augustine-has had a profound influence in changing the image of the post-Diocletian era. Especially in his studies of the cult of the saints, Brown has promoted an admiration for the complexity and interrelationship of the social and spiritual spheres of late antiquity that makes the traditional classical, rationalist dis101bid.,

690. HE. g., Gerhart Rodenwaldt, "Romische Reliefs: Vorstufen zur Spatantike," ]DAI 55 (1940), ID-43. and "Zur Begrenzung und Gliederung der Spatantike," ]DAI 59-62 (1944-47), 82-87, containing references to the author's earlier studies.



missal of such manifestations of popular piety as a recrudescence of superstition seem irrelevant and misguided. 12 Only in literary studies does an unexamined classicism still often provide the criteria of evaluation for the products oflate antique culture. My project is to propose a new focus of attention, a different manner of reading, for the classically oriented student oflate antiquity; to pull together and make explicit observations of scholars of late Latin poetry, and to scrutinize the texts themselves for their immanent poetics; and to formulate this poetics in such a way that the poetry stands a chance of receiving the same kind of sympathetic appreciation that has long been accorded late antique art. In so doing, I do not aspire to write a comprehensive poetics of late antiquity. My aim is more modest. I have concentrated on questions of style, and in particular on certain features of verbal patterning that I take to be symptomatic of the aesthetics of late antiquity and that provide an approach to the characteristically late antique way oflooking at things that goes beyond the microtextual level at which my analysis initially operates. One way to describe what I am trying to do might be in terms of the Rezeptionsiisthetik ofHans RobertJauss. In "Literary History as a Challenge to Literary Theory," Jauss describes his theory of the "horizon of expectations," that is, the predispositions determined by prior aesthetic experience with which a reader approaches a work ofliterature and on which the response of that reader depends. 13 Even in the absence of precise information on the historical context in which an author is writing Jauss believes that the "specific disposition toward a particular work that the author anticipates from the audience" can be derived from three "generally presupposed factors," the first of which is "through familiar norms or the immanent poetics of the genre." Among these familiar norms-and, forJauss, genre has a less restricted sense than is traditional in classical poet12Peter Brown, The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity, Haskell Lectures on History of Religions, n.s. 2 (Chicago, 1981), 13-22. Brown has elsewhere ("Art and Society in Late Antiquity," in Kurt Weitzmann, ed., The Age of Spirituality: A Symposium [New York, 1980], 17-18) expressed his appreciation of the work of Marrou, especially the Retractatio, and of late antique art historians. 13 Hans Robert Jauss, Towards an Aesthetic of Reception, trans. Timothy Bahti, Theory and History ofLiterature 2 (Minneapolis, Minn., 1982), 3-45, esp. 22-24, from which the quotations below are taken.



ics 14-are those of form and style. In the absence of an explicit contemporary account of the poetics oflate antiquity, these norms must be derived from a study of the texts themselves and of the implied expectations they have of the reader. Such a study will not only reveal shared presuppositions 15 but will also help to highlight significant variations within the poetics of late antiquity from which can be derived a literary history that depends on the implicit aesthetics of the period rather than on extraliterary factors of chronology or geography. My chapter on the Christian poetic tradition in late antiquity is an attempt to make a contribution to this project. At this point it is appropriate to make explicit certain methodological presuppositions and limitations of my book. I begin with the assumption that aesthetic, and particularly stylistic, preferences do not follow religious affiliation. It would be a mistake to speak without qualification of, for instance, a Christian style, as distinct from a pagan style. Stylistic affinities cut across differences of devotional status. For the assumption of such common ground between Christian and pagan authors I have the authority of Marrou and the support of Fontaine, who draws formal and stylistic parallels between Ausonius, Ambrose and Ammianus Marcellinus.16 The assumption is qualified during the course of my study, but by no means abandoned. More questionable is the supposition that there is a single aesthetic that is characteristic of late antiquity. I am well aware of the diversity of artistic production in the period, but at least in poetry, it seems to me, it makes sense to talk of stylistic features· that are typical of the period, to the extent that if those features are entirely absent from a work the absence itself is significant. As far as the particular stylistic features upon which I have chosen to concentrate are concerned, I put my strongest emphasis on their heuristic t4For Jauss' theories of genre, see ibid., 76-109, esp. 78-82. ISJauss (ibid., 28) sees as a benefit of his approach the ability to "correct the mostly unrecognized norms of a classicist or modernizing understanding of art." t6Marrou, Saint Augustin, 692-93: "II y avait done bien au Bas-Empire un ideal culture! commun aux paiens et aux chretiens"; Jacques Fontaine, "Unite et diversite du melange des genres et des tons chez quelques ecrivains latins de Ia fin du IVe siecle: Ausone, Ambroise, Ammien," in Christianisme et formes litteraires de l'antiquite tardive en occident, Fondation Hardt, Entretiens 23 (Vandoeuvres, 1977), 425-82 (= Etudes sur Ia poesie latine tardive d'Ausone a Prudence [Paris, 1980], 25-82).



value. They are not features limited exclusively to late antiquity, and I cannot expect to prove their ubiquity in late antique poetry with the restricted number of texts I can quote. But I hope my reader will agree that they do provide a helpful way of thinking about late antique literature and a useful way of ordering the large body of poetry that has come down to us from the period. Although the analogy is not exact, it is worth quoting the observations of Arnold Hauser concerning the relativity and utility of any designation of a period style: 17 There is always a centrifugal tendency in the nature of any style, which includes a variety of not strictly adjustable phenomena. Every style manifests itself in varying degrees of clarity in different works, few, if any, of which completely fulftl the stylistic ideal. But the very circumstance that the pattern can be detected only in varying degrees of approximation in individual works makes stylistic concepts essential, because without them there would be no associating of different works with each other nor should we have any criterion by which to assess their significance in the history of development, which is by no means the same thing as their artistic quality. The historical importance of a work of art lies in its relationship to the stylistic ideal it seems to be striving to achieve, and that provides the standard by which its original or derivative, progressive or retrograde, nature can be judged. Style has no existence other than in the various degrees of approximation towards its realisation. All that exists in fact are individual works of art, artistic phenomena differing in purpose. Style is always a figmentr an image, an ideal type. Much of what Hauser writes here of mannerist art is equally applicable to literature, with the caveat that a work is often best assessed against such a stylistic norm rather than as aspiration to an ideal. By positing a stylistic norm for the poetry oflate antiquity, I hope to reap some of the benefits Hauser describes. The test of my approach lies in the value of its results. Some limitations on the scope of my study can be described more briefly. I have for the most part limited myself to the longer narrative and descriptive poems of late antiquity. There, in the Hauser, Mannerism: The Crisis ofthe Renaissance and the Origin ofModern vols. (London, r965), r:r8-r9.

17 Arnold





handling of extensive bodies of material, late antique poetics is at its most distinctive. My restriction to poetry also means that I have made no systematic attempt to check my results against contemporary prose style. Here I suspect a similar aesthetics is at work: the parallels between Sidonius' prose and verse certainly suggest that this is the case. But because of the lack of metrical restraint on prose, other factors are at work-for instance, the influence of the formal style of the court and official correspondence-which would undoubtedly complicate the picture. 18 Norden's treatment of the so-called Asianic and sophistic styles in his Die antike Kunstprosa 19 has much to contribute here; Apuleius is an important forerunner to the Sidonian prose style. Consideration of contemporary prose is relevant but not essential to a study of late antique poetry. I do not believe my conclusions are falsified by its exclusion. Similarly, in looking at the larger Latin poetic tradition I have been content to trace the antecedents of late Latin poetry to the reaction against Virgilian classicism that is one facet of the literature of the first century A.D. Undoubtedly it would be possible to detect further affinities oflate antique aesthetics, especially with Latin Alexandrianism of the type represented by Catullus 64. This is certainly_ a possible project. But once again I do not believe my results would be materially affected by such a study. The evidence of poetic imitation points to Virgil and the first century A.D. poets as being most influential in late antiquity. Earlier poetry-with the exception of Lucretius-is sparsely represented. But enough of preliminaries. Now on to the texts. !Sfor the relationship between prose and verse in this period, see Cameron, Claudian, 317-21. Despite the breakdown of any sharp division between the two

compositional media in late antiquity, poetry still retained a tradition distinct from prose. t9See, e.g., Eduard Norden, Die antike Kunstprosa vom VI.]ahrhundert v. Chr. his in die Zeit der Renaissance (Leipzig, 1909), 263-300, 6oo-6os, 634-35, and Andre Loyen, Sidoine Apollinaire et !'esprit precieux en Gaule aux derniers }ours de !'empire, Collection d'etudes latines, serie scientifique 20 (Paris, 1943), vi-x.





riters on late antique literature, and its poetry in particular, face a special problem because many of the texts with which they must deal are unfamiliar. Although the works of Claudian and Prudentius, perhaps the bestknown poets of the period, have a fairly wide currency, for the majority of the texts studied one cannot assume that the reader has any prior knowledge. I therefore begin my discussion with a small sampling of the poetry of late antiquity, chosen to illustrate the characteristic stylistic features that will interest me in this book. I begin with an example from biblical epic, the Heptateuchos, a versification of the first seven books of the Bible attributed to one "Cyprianus Gallus," though neither the name nor the country of origin is secure. The poem was probably written in the first quarter of the fifth century. 1 Although Cyprianus, like his New Testament predecessor Juvencus, aspires to retain the sense of the biblical original, an essential aspect of his undertaking is to bring the scriptural text into conformity with the standards of poetic excellence, in particular of Virgilian epic, as understood by late antiquity. In respect, biblical poetry presents late antique poetics in high relief, set off against the 1 The evidence has been collected most recently by Reinhart Herzog, Die Bibelepik der lateinischen Spiitantike: Formgeschichte einer erbaulichen Gattung, vol. 1, Theorie und Geschichte der Literatur und der schonen Kiinste 37 (Munich, 1975), xxv-xxxii, 52-60; Jacques Fontaine, Naissance de Ia poesie dans /'occident chretien: Esquisse d'une histoire de Ia poesie latine chretienne du !lie au VIe siecle (Paris, 1981), 246-48; and Michael Roberts, Biblical Epic and Rhetorical Paraphrase in Late Antiquity, ARCA, Classical and Medieval Texts, Papers and Monographs 16 (Liverpool, 1985), 92-96.



The jeweled Style

scriptural originals that underlay the poetic texts. Cyprianus is especially revealing. Confronted with the unpromising legal and cultic material of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, he abbreviates drastically, retaining only what is sufficient to convey the sense of the text, as understood by paraphrastic theory. 2 His choice of what material to omit, and still more to retain, is often dictated by notions of the poetic. For instance, the second half of the book of Exodus, containing cultic prescriptions, is extensively abbreviated in the Heptateuchos. Chapters 25-31 occupy just sixty-five verses. But within this section the biblical description of Aaron's breastplate, the pectoral of judgment (Exod. 28: 17-20), is retained in all its detail. Sardia prima loco, topazo adiuncta smaragdus; sapphirus hanc sequitur, cum qua carbunculus ardet, iaspisque viret fulvoque intermicat auro: tertia liguria sedes: hie iunctus achati atque amethysto, fulgens quem purpura tingit. Chrysolithus quartus, berillo adnexus onychnus. 3 (Hept. E I098-II03) First in position is the carnelian, and emerald along with the topaz; then comes the sapphire, with which the carbuncle blazes, and the jasper is green and shines with tawny gold. Third place is taken by amber, and along with it the agate and amethyst, with its bright purple hue. Fourth the chrysolite, and onyx next to the beryl.

For the sake of comparison, I give the Old Latin version of this passage, as found in Codex Lugdunesis 403, a text similar to that used by the poet:4

2for the flexibility of the notion of sensus in paraphrastic theory, see Roberts, Biblical Epic, passim. 3The text is Peiper's (CSEL 23), adopting the reading viret for viget in 1100. 4Willy Hass, Studien zum Heptateuchdichter Cyprian mit Beitriigen zu den vorhieronymianischen Heptateuchubersetzungen (Berlin, 1921), 27-40. The manuscript is given the siglum 100 in the new Beuron edition of the Vetus Latina. I quote the text ofUlysse Robert, Pentateuchi Versio Latina Antiquissima e Codice Lugdunensi (Paris, 1881), 180. The manuscript omits et beryl/us in verse 20. It was evidently present in _Cyprianus' text, as its equivalent is in the Septuagint.

An Anthology of Texts


Sardius, topazynus, zmaragdinus, versus unus. Et versus sequens: carbunculus, et sapphyrus, et iasphys. Et versus tertius: lygyrius, achates, ametthustus. Et versus quartus: chrysolitus, et onycynus . Carnelian, topaz and emerald row one. The next row carbuncle, sapphire and jasper. The third row amber, agate and amethyst. The fourth row chrysolite, onyx .

The passage is not immediately attractive to a modern reader. Why then is it retained, and in such detail, by the Heptateuch poet? One possible reason is that the poet was attracted by the allegorical significance of the breastplate-and indeed it is true that Jerome, Ep. 64, gives a detailed allegorical interpretation of this text. 5 But there is nothing in Cyprianus' version that suggests the poet has such an interpretation in mind. 6 And, in any case, why should the poet retain this passage and not others that are equally capable of moral or spiritual interpretation? No, its appeal is not primarily theological. The description of Aaron's breastplate appealed to Cyprianus because it offered an opportunity to enhance the literary value of his poem. His description is, by the standards of late antiquity, a minor poetic tour de force. It illustrates a number of the principles of late antique poetics. First, the more difficult and prosaic a subject, the better it was suited to display a writer's talents. The quality of a poet's work was in direct proportion to the intractability of his material. The propounded by Sidonius Apollinaris in a passage I have quoted elsewhere7 but that bears repeating: moris est eloquentibus viris ingeniorum facultatem negotiorum probare difficultatibus et illic stilum peritum quasi quendam fecundi pectoris vomerem figere, ubi materiae sterilis argumentum velut arida caespitis macri glaeba ieiunat (Ep. 8. 10.2). SJerome interprets the breastplate in two senses: physical, as a model of the universe (Ep. 64. I 8), and moral, the stones representing human virtues (Ep. 64.20). Both kinds of interpretation are alien to Cyprianus, who rarely refers to the nonliteral sense of a passage. 6Herzog, Bibelepik, I I7 n. 24I, takes plebs in verse I096 to refer to the Christian community, but there is nothing else in the context to suggest this interpretation. 7Roberts, Biblical Epic, 201.


The Jeweled Style

i~ the practice of good writers to demonstrate their talent by the choice of difficult material and to exercise their skilled pen, the plowshare of their fertile imagination, as it were, where barren subject matter lacks substance, like the thin soil of parched earth.


Although Sidonius is speaking of a prose epistle, the principle applies with all the more force to verse. Subject matter that is dry, repetitive, or otherwise unpromising, as well as non-Roman or metrically awkward words, provided a challenge that the late antique poet and his educated reader relished. Ausonius similarly praised Paulinus of Nola, in a prosimetric letter written before their rift, for his handling of non-Roman proper names (Ep. I9; 266.26-3I Prete). In the present case the exotic names of the jewels, with their oriental glamour, must have seemed especially attractive. Latin poets had long appreciated the contribution that rare and foreign vocabulary could make to their verse, especially in creating unusual patterns of sound, and !socrates had already recognized lexical variety as a characteristic of poetic idiom. 8 This is all well and good, but there is something more, something that makes this particular passage symptomatic of the taste of the period. The object it describes, the pectoral, is imagined as a regular grid made up of four rows, three stones to each row. The gems are visualized as of contrasting colors and of an eye-catching brilliance. All the substantial additions to the biblical text emphasize one of these two qualities-color or brightness: ardet (I099), viret (I 100), folvoque intermicat auro (I 100), folgens quem purpura tingit (1102). My contention is that Aaron's breastplate, as here described, offers a paradigm for poetic excellence, or one important aspect of excellence, as understood in late antiquity. It is just this combination of regularity of outline, and brilliance and variation in detail, that the period most prized. A poet won admiration for skill in handling such restricted virtuoso passages and consequently sought to incorporate such passages into his work. The challenge to Cyprianus in describing Aaron's breastplate Bisocrates, Evagoras 9. The notion becomes a commonplace and is found in Aristotle, Rhet. 3-7-II, 1408b, Poetics 21-22, 1457a-s9a, Cicero, Or. 60.202, Dionysius of Halicamassus, Comp. 25, Theon, Progymnasmata 4 (81.8-10 Spengel), and Quintilian 4· 1. 58. Such libertas verborum is, of course, much broader than the phenomenon here examined, which it subsumes.

An Anthology of Texts


was to create a verbal equivalent of a work of art. His care in placing individual words, and the effects of parallelism and contrast he achieves, are analogous to the art of the jeweler. In both the principle of variatio reigns. The regularity of four rows of three jewels each, faithfully reflected in the biblical text, is progressively qualified. The criterion of number of verses devoted to each row produces a chiastic structure I : 2 : 2 : I, reinforced by syntactical equivalence between verses 1098 and 1103. In the central two rows there is another syntactical equivalence, the relative clauses cum qua ... ardet and folgens quem ... tingit, but chiastically arranged and running counter to parallelism in content, which would tend to associate folgens quem purpura tingit with folvoque intermicat auro. It would be possible to continue the analysis at the level of connectives, morphology, and vocabulary, but I do not want to labor the point. It is worth underlining, however, that variation presupposes an initial regularity. Only when set in a regular framework-our grid analogy-can variatio achieve its effects. The poet's success depends on upsetting a previously established expectation. When all is said and done, Cyprianus' achievement may seem quite modest. I do not dispute that. The illustrative value of this passage is a function of its relative unsophistication. In this case initial regularity is imposed on the text by its subject. That will not always be true. Often regularity will be the poet's creation. The process of composition will involve perceiving such a pattern in a subject and establishing it in the text by a system of verbal parallelisms. It is, in fact, the content of this passage of the Heptateuchos that lends it its special interest and makes it an appropriate introduction to this chapter. Passages enumerating precious stones are not, after all, hard to fmd in late antique poetry. 9 But the breastplate of Aaron, as described in the Latin Bible and envisaged by our poet, in its combination of regularity and variation and its emphasis on color, brilliance, and setting, provides a remarkably close analogy in the visual arts to a habitual compositional technique of the narrative and descriptive poetry of late antiquity. The texts that follow will illustrate this technique from a range 9E.g., Claudian, Nupt. 87-91, Prudentius, Psych. 854-65, Sidonius, C. 11.17-28, the anonymous Carm. de Res. 213-15, and Venantius Fortunatus, V. Mart. 3.512-16; cf. Lucan 10. II4-19. In Greek, see Nonnus, Dionysiaca 18.67-86.


The jeweled Style

of authors spanning roughly a century and a quarter, a highly productive period in the history of Latin poetry: from Ausonius' Mosella, written in the early 370s, 10 to the works of A vitus and Dracontius, both dating to the last decades of the fifth century. 11 The poems in question are Christian and secular; the authors represent various points on the pagan-Christian continuum, from Rutilius Namatianus and Claudian to Ausonius, Paulinus, and Prudentius. Subjects range from natural landscapes to the mythological, from the death throes of a fish to episodes from the Old Testament. My selection is purposely broad, in order to show that the compositional techniques exemplified by Aaron's breastplate are common to a wide variety of poets oflate antiquity, whatever their religious affiliation or subject matter. I shall claim, in fact, that they represent an aesthetic and stylistic norm, a component of the poetics of the period, against which the characteristics of individual authors can be judged. But for the time being my aims are more modest. The collection of texts in this chapter will illustrate the kind of stylistic features I have in mind when I talk of the ''jeweled style." For the moment I ask skeptically inclined readers to suspend judgment on how typical of late antiquity these qualities are. Subsequent chapters will give reasons for my contention and trace the evolution of late antique poetics. The present texts supply the groundwork for those discussions. Claudius Marius Victorius' Alethia, probably written in the third decade of the fifth century, 12 is an Old Testament biblical epic that puts particular emphasis on the evolution of human society as a Christian counterpart to Lucretius' account of evolution in the De rerum natura (5. 722ff. ). 13 The lines I have chosen describe the world outside Paradise, as it appears to Adam and Eve when they are first expelled from the Garden of Eden: 14 IOBetween 370/371 and 375; see Charles-Marie Ternes, ed., D. Magnus Ausonius, Mosella, Collection Erasme (Paris, 1972), 10-1 r. IIRoberts, Biblical Epic, roo, 105-6. t2The date was established by P. F. Hovingh, Claudius Marius Victorius, Alethia: La priere et les vers 1-170 du livre I (Groningen, 1955), 22-23, 45· 13For this aspect of the Alethia, see Klaus Thraede, "Epos," RAC 5 (1962), 1028-29. 1 4The passage is discussed more fully in Michael Roberts, "The First Sighting Theme in the Old Testament Poetry of Late Antiquity," ICS ro (1985), 149-50.

An Anthology of Texts


ardua caute rigent, silvis depressa laborant, plana latent herbis, horrescunt edita dumis.

(Alethia 2.13-14) Highlands are rugged with crags, lowlands are burdened by forests, plains lie hidden by vegetation, plateaus are overgrown with thorn bushes.

Regularity is established by isocolon (the clauses range from six to eight syllables), the sequence ardua ... depressa ... plana ... edita ... , a chiastic pattern of synonmy (i.e., ardua and edita, depressa and plana, are synonyms or near synonyms), 15 and grammatical parallelism (each clause is made up of a neuter plural adjective serving as a noun, a verb, and a noun in the ablative). However, careful variation in word order ensures -that the three parts of speech never occur in the same sequence. In two lines of verse, Victorius rings the changes on four of the six mathematically possible variants. The pleasure here is purely formal. It depends on the manipulation and placement of individual words viewed as discrete compositional units. The passage draws attention to, and expects admiration for, its own virtuosity. A more complicated example of similar verbal patterning is found in the De reditu suo of the pagan poet Rutilius Namatianus, which describes his journey in late 417 from Rome to his native Gaul. 16 Early in the poem, Rutilius gives his reasons for deciding to travel by sea: Electum pelagus, quoniam terrena viarum plana madent fluviis, cautibus alta rigent. Postquam Tuscus ager postquamque Aurelius agger perpessus Geticas ense vel igne manus non silvas domibus, non flumina ponte coercet, incerto satius credere vela mari.

tSA reader's first inclination may be to take depressa as predicative adjective, agreeing with ardua. The regularity of the four clauses excludes this interpretation, but the rejected sense of depressa contributes a further element of variatio to the passage. 16for the date of the journey, see Alan Cameron, "Rutilius Namatianus, St. Augustine, and the Date of the De Reditu," ]RS 57 (1967), 31-39.


The Jeweled Style

A sea voyage was chosen because roads on land were flooded by rivers in low-lying areas, in highlands were obstructed by boulders. After the Etruscan territory and the via Aurelia suffered the fire and sword of Gothic war-bands, and no longer kept forests in check with houses and rivers with bridges, it was better to trust our sails to the unpredictable sea. References to the recent Visigothic incursion into Italy run as a leitmotif through the poem and provide an ominous backdrop to Rutilius' journey. The present passage is marked off as a selfcontained unit by the repetition in sense at beginning and end: electum pelagus (37), credere vela mari (42). Its subject, however, is not the sea but land, terrena viarum (terrena to establish the antithesis withpelagus, which links the passage with the larger context). The subject is explored by a series of antitheses, most evidently in verses 38 and 41. 17 The former in its variation of word order is a forerunner of our first passage, from the Alethia. 18 Both lines 38 and 41 contrast flooded areas with regions that are dry but still impassable. As an element of variation, the order of clauses is reversed in 41: "flooded" follows "dry land" (i.e., the two lines are chiastically arranged as to sense). In structure the hexameter (39) is parallel to 41-both contain two cola, each a hemistich, linked by anaphora-and hence establishes a competing pattern of equivalences to the parallels already established between verses 41 and 38. In sense, too, there is a connection. The Etruscan territory ( Tuscus . . . ager) is most naturally taken as corresponding to the forests of the first half of 41, while the bridges (ponte) mentioned in the second clause look back to Aurelius agger (39). This interwoven texture of balance (anaphora, chiasmus, paronomasia: ager ... agger, 39) and opposition (antithesis) lends the t7Emst Doblhofer, Rutilius Claudius Namatianus, De Reditu Suo sive Iter Gallicum, 2 vols. (Heidelberg, 1972-77), 2:35 (ad 1.39), writes of "das unverkennbare Streben nach inhaltlicher und formal-antithetischer Dichotomie, das sich in 1, 3741 manifestiert." t8Despite the similarity between the two passages, I hesitate to suggest imitation ofRutilius by Claudius Marius Victorius. The combination ardua cautes is found in Seneca (Ag. 539) and in Valerius Flaccus (4.671), and the formal similarity may be due to common literary taste rather than to a desire to imitate and outdo his predecessor on the part of the Christian poet (see Roberts, "First Sighting Theme," 149-50).

An Anthology of Texts


passage a special density. Only verse 40 remains to some degree outside this pattern of correspondences (though the adjective Geticas is antithetical to Tuscus and Aurelius). This is surely intentional. The true subject of this passage is the effect of Gothic devastation on Italy, not Rutilius' choice of a sea passage rather than a land route. The sequence of antitheses, between sea and land, low land and high, rivers and forests, rivers and roads, the wild and the cultivated, Italians (Tuscus, Aurelius) and Goth, contributes to Rutilius' evocative picture of Visigothic devastation and communicates something of his sense of the threat to Roman civilization that destruction represents. The passage from the Alethia shows the maximum degree of regularity and formal manipulation of individual words. Rutilius employs a similar technique in verse 38, but in a larger development he loosens the structure somewhat to accommodate mutually qualifying patterns of opposition and parallelism and emphasizes the phrase as a structural unit rather than the single word. Finally, in Rutilius formal virtuosity, although it is intended to arouse admiration, is not an end in itself. Formal qualities, especially the patterns of antithesis, create associations that qualify and transcend syntax and contribute to the intensity of effect that such compositional techniques are capable of producing. The passages from Claudius Marius Victorius and Rutilius illustrate the formal qualities of our pattern of composition at its most regular, and its expressive potential when opened out to accommodate a broader development. Subsequent examples will be arranged not with regard to regularity or complexity of structure but in roughly chronological order, beginning with one of the most assured exponents of this style, Ausonius of Bordeaux. In his most ambitious work, the Masella, Ausonius gives the following description of the vintage on the banks of that river: Laeta operum plebes festinantesque coloni vertice nunc summo properant, nunc deiuge dorso, certantes stolidis clamoribus. Inde viator riparum subiecta terens, hinc navita labens, probra canunt seris cultoribus: adstrepit ollis et rupes et silva tremens et concavus amnis. (Mosella 163-68)


The Jeweled Style

People happy in their work and bustling laborers busy themselves now on hilltops, now on sloping ridge, competing with each other in inarticulate cries. From one direction the traveler, following lowlying riverbanks, from another the sailor as he glides by chant abuse at the lingering peasants. Crags, quaking forest, and river below join in the sound.

The framework of the passage is established by two sets of parallelisms, the personal nouns plebes, coloni, viator, navita, and cultoribus, and the expressions of altitude, vertice ... summo, deiuge dorso, riparum subiecta, and concavus, 19 and by the antithesis between land and river. Plebes, 20 coloni, and cultoribus, near synonyms, belong to the land, viator and navita to the river. The participants in the scene are distributed along a vertical axis by the expressions of altitude, with the lowlying riverbank as the line of demarcation between land and water: verses 163-65 clamoribus describe actions on land, 165-67 cultoribus on or by the river. Both of these sections contain a bicolon, with figures of parallelism and opposition: nunc summo ... , nunc deiuge; inde viator . .. terens, hinc navita labens. In the first section the main verb is one of motion; the cries of the harvesters are described in a participle. The situation is exactly reversed in the second section. The final clause is a tricolon that encapsulates and concludes the series of impressions described in the previous verses: adstrepit picks up the references to sound in the previous verses (certantes ... clamoribus and probra canunt), ollis summarizes the sequence of personal nouns that articulate the passage-it is best taken as referring to harvester as well as viator and navitawhile concavus is an expression of elevation. The phrase et rupes et silva suggests the earlier division vertice ... summo: deiuge dorso, but is not its equivalent in sense. This final sentence unites man and nature, land and water, farmer and sailor, peaks and valleys, in a joyful (laeta, 163, is a key word) hubbub of inarticulate sound (adstrepit; cf. stolidis, 21 165). The delight in blurred divisions is a key t9Concavus is properly used to describe what lies at a low level as well as what is bowed in shape (see ThLL 4.6. 17-18, giving as a synonym depressus). 20Qperum depends on laeta, but its meaning extends to plebes-i.e., (operum) plebes is virtually "workmen." 211 quote Carl Hosius' note on stolidis clamoribus, from Die Moselgedichte des Decimus Magnus Ausonius und des Venantius Fortunatus, 2d ed. (Marburg i. H., 1909), 48: "stolidus clamor ein an sich nichtssagendes Geschrei, bei dem es nicht auf

An Anthology of Texts


theme of Ausonius' poem, and one that finds expression in the images of reflection (e.g., 230-39) and echo (295-97). 22 Formally, the passage is carefully plotted to sustain a series ofvivid impressions. The sequence of antitheses and parallelisms, bicola and tricolon, creates an interplay of tensions that qualifies the static, two-dimensional effect of a self-contained tableau. The passage's success depends on Ausonius' marshalling and manipulation of discrete compositional elements. Greater fluidity is achieved by the abandonment of isocolon, a characteristic of our first two passages, for alliteration, assonance, and homoeoteleuton. 23 In d~scribing the vintage on the banks of the Moselle, Ausonius perceives in, or imposes on, his subject a pattern of repetitions and antitheses-the grid-like structure we have spoken of in the case of Aaron's breastplate-that lends a dynamic tension to the passage, as well as serving a larger thematic purpose in the poem as a whole. A second passage of very different subject matter, describing the death throes of a fish, shows a similar stylistic control: Exultant udae super arida saxa rapinae luciferique pavent letalia tela diei. Cuique sub amne suo mansit vigor, aere nostro segnis anhelatis vitam consumit in auris. lam piger invalido vibratur corpore plausus, torpida supremos patitur iam cauda tremores: nee coeunt rictus, haustas sed hiatibus auras reddit mortiferos expirans branchia flatus. (Mosella 259-66) The moist catch dances on the dry rocks and dreads the fatal shafts of daylight. In its own river it had retained its strength, in our air it grows torpid and wastes its life panting on the breeze. Now almost spent, its weak body quivers and flaps, now its tail feebly suffers its last palpitations, and its mouth does not close, but with gasps the gills give up the air they have taken in, breathing their last.

den Inhalt, sondem nur auf die Starke der Stimme ankommt." Adstrepit similarly implies indistinct noise. 22for an interpretation of the poem along these lines, see Michael Roberts, "The Mosella of Ausonius: An Interpretation," TAPA II4 (1984), 343-53. 23"festinantes, properant, certantes; clamoribus, cultoribus; terens, labens, tremens."


The Jeweled Style

The passage begins with a sequence of antitheses. The basic opposition between wet and dry is established in the first line (259), udae . .. arida, and repeated in verse 261, of the water of the river and the air (amne suo: aere nostro). Verse 260, by the figure of interpretatio, repeats the sense of the preceding verse and in the process reinterprets the antithesis in terms of mortality: what brings life and light to man (lucifen) brings death (letalia) to fish. That theme is repeated in 262 (anhelatis vitam consumit in auris) and culminates in the final verse-and-a-half of the passage. There a process of respiration that is the preeminent vital function for humans is described; for fish it means death. The key words are mortiferos, which sums up the references to death that occur throughout the passage (letalia, vitam consumit, supremos), and branchia, which is situated in the sequence corpore . . . cauda . . . rictus, a sequence confined to the second half of the passage. While the first four verses are structured by repetition, antithesis, and paradox, the second half depends on enumeration and parallelism for its progression. The words corpore, cauda, rictus, and branchia enumerate parts of the fish's body, as involved in the struggle between life and death, vigor and exhaustion (cf. 261-62, mansit vigor : vitam consumit). Both halves are united by the theme of debilitation: a cluster of synonyms (segnis, piger, torpida) and a sequence of verbs and verbal expressions describing a descending curve of vitality (exultant; vibratur . . . plausus; patitur . . . tremores; nee coeunt rictus; auras reddit ... expirans). Patitur . . . tremores is no mere periphrasis for tremit. It is the fish's increasing passivity (hence patitur) and inability to act (nee coeunt) that signal the approach of death. Again Ausonius has constructed a pattern of mutually reinforcing and qualifying correspondences within a tightly controlled conceptual framework. 24 The brilliance of an expression is derived from its setting, .from the relationships of equivalence or opposition it bears to its fellows, from the play of variation and concinnity that invests it with a multifaceted, jewel-like quality. And again the subject of the passage is related to the poem as a whole. The underwater realm of 241n this passage, auditory effects are not as marked as in the first passage from the Mosella. But note the onomatopoeia, assonance, and alliteration (particularly of the aspirate) in haustas sed hiatibus auras.

An Anthology of Texts


fish is presented as a realm that is opposite but equal to that of humans. Our human sympathies are enlisted for the dying fish, which is depicted as the victim of an act of aggression by the fisherman (rapinae, tela; cf. praedam, 255). In the joyful picture of the vintage, potential aggression (certantes, probra canunt) gives way to a benign confusion that dissolves all boundaries, resolves all antitheses. By contrast, in the second passage from the Masella the antitheses are maintained to the end. The aggression of the fisherman in violently transgressing the boundary between water and land brings suffering and death. 25 It is scarcely surprising that the influence of Ausonian canons of poetic excellence is evident in the poetry of his star pupil, Paulinus of Nola. We will have more to say about the poetics ofPaulinus' Natalicia, Paulinus' poems for the festival day of Felix of Nola, in a subsequent chapter. For the moment, a passage from Poem 11, the second of two surviving verse letters Paulinus wrote to Ausonius after the former's conversion to ascetic Christianity, 26 will illustrate the younger man's facility in the preferred style of his tutor: discussisse iugum quereris me, quo tibi doctis iunctus eram studiis. Hoc nee gestasse quidem me adsero; namque pares subeunt iuga, nemo valentes copulat infirmis, neque sunt concordia frena, si sit conpulsis mensura iugalibus inpar. Si vitulum tauro vel equum committis onagro, si confers fulicas cygnis et aedona picae, castaneis corylos, aequas viburna cupressis, me conpone tibi; vix Tullius et Maro tecum sustineant aequale iugum. (C. I I. 30-39)

25This interpretation is elaborated in Roberts, "Mosella," 343-53. In Ausonius' description (Mos. 276-82) Glaucus suffers a fate that is in many respects the reverse of the fish's here. 26The poem ofPaulinus is a response to Ausonius, Ep. 23 (Prete), which begins: "Discutimus, Pauline, iugum, quod nota fovebat I temperies, leve quod positu et venerabile iunctis I tractabat paribus concordia mitis habenis." Paulinus' poem is dated to 394 by Pierre Fabre, Essai sur Ia chronologie de /'oeuvre de saint Paulin de Nole, Publications de la faculte de l'universite de Strasbourg 109 (Paris, 1948), 10D-107.


The Jeweled Style

You complain that I have thrown off the yoke, by which I had been joined to you in the pursuit of learning. But I declare I have never borne this yoke, for a yoke-pair must be equal, no one joins the strong with the weak, and a team is not in harmony if those brought together under the yoke are of unequal stature. If you join a heifer with a bull or a horse with a wild ass, if you bring together coots and swans, a nightingale and a magpie, match filbert with chestnut, and shrubs with cypress, then compare me with you; Cicero and Virgil could scarcely bear with you an equal yoke. The first of the letters Paulinus wrote to Ausonius after his conversion contains an outspoken denunciation of secular learning. I have argued elsewhere27 that in Poem I I the younger man adopts a more conciliatory tone. One aspect of this is his elaborate deployment in this passage of the resources of his literary education. Verse 37, aequas viburna cupressis, depends on a reminiscence of Virgil, Eel. 1.25 lenta ... inter viburna cupressi, and indeed the whole passage is an elaboration of the topos parvis componere magna (Eel. I.23), "comparison of small an:d large," which can be traced to this Virgilian model. 28 For the moment, though, it is the stylistic features of the passage that call for attention. And here Paulinus remains the gifted pupil of Ausonius. Like Ausonius' description of the dying fish, this passage moves from interpretatio and antithesis to enumeration and parallelism. The structure of the poem, or at least of its hexameter portion (I-48), depends on a sequence of argument: Paulinus introduces a new section by rehearsing one of his opponent's arguments, before going on to refute it: discussisse ... quereris me (a device of forensic rhetoric). The refutation, in fact, corresponds closely to the quinquepartite division of the absolutissima et perfectissima argumentatio, as defined in the Rhetorica ad Herennium (2.I8.28):29 27 Michael Roberts, "Paulinus Poem I I, Virgil's First Eclogue, and the Limits of Amicitia," TAPA II5 (I985), 27I-82. 28 Paulinus' comparison of castaneis and corylos may also be derived from the Eclogues, where Paulinus could read that chestnuts were human fare, and filberts animal fodder. For the topos parva componere magnis, see Statius, Silv. 1. 5.6I-62; Proba, Cento 4I6; Paulinus, C. 6.2o-2I; Sulpicius Severns, V. Mart. 20. I; and Orientius, Comm. 1.607. Servius (ad Eel. 1.22) distinguishes viburnum and cupressus by size: "viburnum brevissimum est, cupressus vero arbor est maxima." 291 here recapitulate some of the arguments made in Roberts, "Paulinus," 274-


An Anthology of Texts


propositio: hoc nee gestasse quidem me I adsero ratio: namque pares subeunt iuga rationis confirmatio: nemo . . . impar exornatio: Si vitulum . . . me conpone tibi conplexio: vix . . . iugum

Two qualifications are necessary: first, the division between ratio and rationis confirmatio is here somewhat artificial because both elements form part of a tricolon in which all three members are linked by interpretatio (i.e., are approximately synonymous). Second, the conplexio is a poetical rather than logical summation of what has preceded. It does not, as a full rhetorical conplexio would do, repeat the proposition that has now been established, but rather ties together the sequences of antithesis and synonymy that run through the passage. The reference to Cicero and Virgil recalls doctis studiis (30-31) and reminds us that it is precisely in learning that Paulinus denies his equality to Ausonius (hoc in 31 is emphatic); aequale iugum repeats the key words of verses 3o-34: iugum, iunctus eram, iuga, copulat, iugalibus, and pares, concordia, inpar. Paulinus' argument is bound tgether by the kind of stylistic virtuosity that must have appealed to his former teacher. The play of concinnity and variation in the passage reinforces the sense of a literary tour de force. Consider the sophisticated compositional structure of verses 32 (namque) to 38 (tibi; I= tricolon, II= single clause; a = main clause; b = subordinate clause): a I b II b I

namque . . . frena si ... inpar si . . . cupressis

a II

me conpone tibi

tricolon of main clauses one subordinate (conditional) clause tricolon of subordinate (conditional) clauses30 one main clause

It is in the exornatio and conplexio, however, that the verbal patterning is most elaborate. Verses 35-39 are organized in a series of enumerative antitheses, with a succession of near-synonymous verb forms (committis, confers, aequas, conpone) providing the stable 30'fhe situation is a little more complicated here-there are actually six clauses, though only three verbs. I argue that the effect is that of a tricolon, reinforced by the anaphora of si in the first two verses.


The Jeweled Style

syntactic matrix for the coruscating play of antithetical noun sequences that catch the eye in the passage. Paulinus is careful to ring the changes in word order: the superior noun (magna) may precede the inferior (parva), as in equum ... onagro, or follow, as in vitulum tauro. Case usage, equally, is inconsistent; in verses 35-36, dative and accusative are used indifferently for superior and inferior nouns. The effect is to diminish somewhat the clarity of the argumentative point, but greatly to enhance the passage's verbal virtuosity. The competing patterns of variety and concinnity established in the antithetical series are complex and suggest the most punctilious manipulation of the smallest units of composition, a procedure that Paulinus' use of isocolon (especially when the cola correspond to the most important metrical divisions of the hexameter) throws into still greater prominence-all in all, a puzzling way to demonstrate to Ausonius the poet's inferiority in docta studia. There is here a large element of compliment to Ausonius, not only in the overt praise he receives in the passage, but also, and more important, in the highly sophisticated composition. Ausonius is expected to recognize the Virgilian imitation and the play of rhetorical structure and poetic topos. 31 The very fact that logical argument is qualified by poetic hyperbole gives the lie to the argument's seriousness. The flattery is more subtle than it may seem at first. Paulinus is confident that Ausonius can read between the lines. The apparent denial of a common bond ofletters turns out to imply just such a bond. The passage from Paulinus is unusual in that it employs the elaborate verbal patterning in which I am interested in a context that is primarily argumentative. The play of enumerative and synonymic sequences is more at home in narrative and descriptive poetry, such as the unfinished epic of Claudian, court poet of the Emperor Honorius and his minister Stilicho, and contemporary of Paulinus, the De raptu Proserpinae. 31Jt is often hazardous to insist on a sharp distinction between the rhetorical and the poetic, especially in this period. See Macrobius, Sat. 4-5· 1-4.6.5, who illustrates the various rhetorical arguments of comparison (a subject especially appropriate to the Paulinus passage) from Virgil, and Servius, ad Eel. 1.22, "hoc autem genus argumentationis et apud Aristotelem lectum est, et apud Ciceronem." My description here is justified by the double source of inspiration, rhetorical tradition (represented by the Rhet. ad Her.), and Virgil's Eclogues.

An Anthology of Texts


In book 1 of that poem, Venus descends to earth at Jupiter's bidding to further that god's plan to secure a wife for Pluto: Divino semita gressu claruit, augurium qualis laturus iniquum praepes sanguineo delabitur igne cometes prodigiale rubens; non ilium navita tuto, non impune vident populi, sed crine minaci nuntiat aut ratibus ventos aut urbibus hostes. (1.23 I-36) Beneath the goddess' footsteps the trail shone brilliantly, just as a comet, destined to bring an ill omen, tumbles headlong with bloodred glow, a fiery warning; the sight means danger to the sailor and trouble to men on land; with its threatening tail it tells of gales for ships and enemy attacks for cities.

For almost the first time in the body of the poem, Claudian introduces humanity into the picture he has been painting of cosmic dissension. 32 By the logic of the simile, Venus' brilliant career across the heavens is as ominous for man as the blood-red glow of the comet. The last two-and-a-half verses elaborate the threat of the comet, employing our familiar compositional pattern: a basic regularity (here the antithesis between land and sea), reinforced by figures of repetition of sound (anaphora: non ... non, aut ... aut ... ), and sense (tuto ... impune) and qualified by alternation between negative and positive statements and lexical and morphological variation (navita as synecdoche, singular for plural; pop-· uli, synecdoche, whole for part-the pattern of antithesis implies that only people on land are meant; urbibus narrows the scope of the antithesis by excluding country-dwellers). The words that are extraneous to the land : sea antithesis link the passage with its immediate context: non ... tuto, non impune and minaci elaborate on iniquum, and vident and nuntiat elaborate on augurium and prodigiale, while crine, the technical word for the tail of a comet, corresponds to semita in the tenor of the simile, and in combination with minaci puts an ominous coloring on Venus' bright passage 321 exclude verses 30-3 I, which are part of the introduction, not of the narrative proper. The only other candidate is the reference to ditior incola (200).


The Jeweled Style

across the sky (compare the verbal expressions divino semita gressu I claruit and crine minaci I nuntiat). Often in the De raptu, however, it is the enumerative that predominates over the antithetical. A passage from book 3 describing a grove on Mount Etna that contains the spoils of the Giants defeated in the Gigantomachy is typical: Nullaque non magni iactat se nominis arbor: haec centumgemini strictos Aegaeonis enses curvata vix fronde levat; liventibus ilia exultat Coei spoliis; haec arma Mimantis sustinet; hos onerat ramos exutus Ophion. Altior at cunctis abies umbrosaque late ipsius Enceladi fumantia gestat opima, summi terrigenum regis, caderetque gravata pondere, ni !assam fulciret proxima quercus. (3-344-52) There is no tree that does not boast a glorious name: one, its branches bent by the weight, barely supports the unsheathed swords of hundred-armed Aegaeon; another takes pride in the dark array stripped from Coeus; a third bears the weapons of Mimas; another's branches the spoils of Ophion weigh down. But higher than them all a fir, with broad-spreading shade, carries the still-reeking trophies of Enceladus, supreme king of the earth-born, and would collapse, overcome by the weight, if a nearby oak did not support its weary frame.

The first verse of the passage sets the theme. What follows is divided into two four-line units, the first of which illustrates the familiar pattern of regularity and inconcinnity. The anaphora/ polyptoton (haec . . . haec . . . hos) establishes a regular framework, qualified only by the antithetical illa, the second word in its clause. In addition, the names of the Giants, all but Ophion in the genitive, provide an enumerative core for the section, elaborating on and explaining magni nominis of verse 344· 33 Variation is achieved in word order (for instance, position of verbs) and in the grammatical and semantic value of the constituents of each clause. 33Lucan's description of Pompey, stat magni nominis umbra (r. 135), is relevant here, especially as the poet goes on to compare the Roman general with an oak, laden with military trophies but on the point of collapse.

An Anthology of Texts


The first and longest clause establishes the range of possibilities: an adjective agreeing with the name of a Giant (centumgemini Aegaeonis, exutus Ophion, though here by hypallage for exuta arma Ophionis34); a noun for weapons or armor, with or without an adjective agreeing with it (strictos enses, liventibus spoliis, arma); a reference to part of the tree or its appearance (curvata fronde, ramos); and a verb of "holding up" or "supporting" (vix ... levat, sustinet, onerat; only exultat breaks this sequence-it repeats the sense of iactat se, 344). 35

The last sentence of the passage, four verses long and syntactically complex, completes and culminates these sequences. It too contains the name of a Giant (ipsius Enceladi) and a reference to weapons or spoils (fomantia opima) and to a tree and its appearance (altior at cunctis abies umbrosaque late), as well as a verb of "supporting" (folciret). Such verbal patterning creates a density of texture throughout the whole passage. Though apparently a static tableau, there is a tension in the description between the still-threatening might of the Giants, represented by the weight of their armor, and the barely sufficient forces that hold them in check: the trees almost breaking under their weight. These are the elements that are emphasized by the semantic sequences of the passage, and in the clause beginning caderetque (3 51) the positive statement contained in the previous clause is reinterpreted by the figure of interpretatio in a manner that emphasizes the uncertainty of the grove's stability. 36 The adjectives describing the armor remind us what is at stake here, and how fresh is the memory of cosmic violence: swords still drawn (strictos), weapons still dank with blood (liventibus), trophies still reeking (fomantia)Y Weapons and Giants are identified by the hypallage exutus Ophion. The grove represents in microcosm the. fragile balance between order and chaos in the natural world; its method of composition involves an awareness not just of the rela34Exuo can take a direct object of the thing, "strip off," or the person, "strip." This adds a further constructive ambiguity to the phrase, which tends to associate the giant with his armor. 3SC£ Ovid, Am. 1. 10.29, spoliis exultat ademptis. 36 It is unusual for verbs in interpretatio to be in different moods; the parallel clauses are approximately equivalent to "it carries . . . and does not fall ... [because] .... " Interchange of positive and negative is common in interpretatio. 37The verb fomo is used of blood in Virgil, Aen. 8.106 (tepidusque cruor fomabat ad aras). It refers to the steam of warm, freshly spilled blood.


The Jeweled Style

tionship of a word to its immediate syntactic unit, but also of its placement in a context defined by a broader framework of regularity. The regularity is a precondition both of the aesthetic value of the text and of the ability of syntactically unrelated constituents to combine to communicate meaning. Whether the subject is pagan and mythological, or Christian and allegorical, stylistic norms are unchanged. Claudian's Christian contemporary Prudentius is capable of a range of stylistic levels and tones. But the description of the death of Heresy in his allegorical epic Psychomachia conforms closely to the pattern we have been observing: Carpitur innumeris feralis bestia dextris. Frustatim sibi quisque rapit, quod spargat in auras, quod canibus donet, corvis quod edacibus ultra offerat, inmundis caeno exhalante cloacis quod trudat, monstris quod mandet habere marinis. Discissum foedis animalibus omne cadaver dividitur, ruptis Heresis perit horrida membris. (Psych. 719-25) The murderous creature was tom by countless hands. Each snatched a piece for himself, to cast into the air, to give to dogs, to feed to carrion-eating ravens, to stuff into filthy, noxious-smelling sewers, to throw out to sea-monsters. The whole corpse was broken up and tom apart by unclean beasts; savage Heresy perished, her limbs broken.

Epic tradition going back to Homer (Iliad 22.369-75, the multiple wounding of Hector's corpse) sanctions descriptions of a warrior's mutilation after death. At the same time, the breaking of limbs (ruptis membris) recalls judicial torture of the kind meted out to Mettius Fufetius (Livy 1.28.9-11 and Virgil, Aen. 8.642-45) in early Roman history or, closer to Prudentius' own day, to the Christian martyrs-for instance, Prudentius' own description of the death ofHippolytus, reformed heresiarch, in Peristephanon I I. It would be a misreading of the passage to regret the apparent savagery ofHeresy's fate. While it is natural to be touched by the mutilation of a human being-Hector, for instance, in the Iliad-it is inappropriate to feel the same sympathy for an allegorical personification such as Heresy. Heresy's fate is fit and proper punish-

An Anthology of Texts


ment, not cruel and unusual savagery. Just as Heresy, otherwise named Discordia (709-10), tears apart the Christian church, so her body is torn apart in appropriate retribution. The punishment corresponds to the lex talionis, that the punishment should fit the cnme. In the passage before us, physical dismemberment finds its linguistic counterpart in the "dismembering" of the sentence (i.e., its breaking up into cola and commata). Rather than employing anatomical itemization, Prudentius relies on a sequence of relative clauses (720 quod-723)-relatives or demonstratives frequently perform this function-to create a sequence of coordinate clauses. Within this essential regularity, antithesis and parallelism, variation and concinnity, show up all the more clearly. The five relative clauses divide 2 : 3 on the criterion of length; the first two clauses (quod spargat in auras and quod canibus donet) have exactly the same number of syllables, the last three are approximately equal. In sense the first two clauses are antithetical: air and land. This antithesis is then developed in the next three clauses: the ravens belong to the air, but land is replaced by the subterranean and the sea. Canibus inaugurates a sequence of carrion-eating animals (corvis, monstris marinis), and this pattern of relationships suggests parallelism between the two excluded clauses, one and four, which describe distribution in space without mention of specific animals (spargat in auras: cloacis! ... trudat). Underlying these patterns are traditional schemes for dividing creation: the three parts of the universe-earth, sea, and sky-and the three divisions of the animal kingdom-birds, beasts, and fish (man makes a fourth). Both schemes find ample precedent in classical literature, though they are quite consistent with the biblical account of Creation. 38 38For the division earth, sea, and sky, see Kurt Smolak, "Der dreifache Zusammenklang (Prud. Apoth. I47-54): Vorstudien zu einem Kommentar zur Apotheosis II," WS 84 (I97I), I8o-94. For a philosophical discussion of the threefold (or fourfold) division of the animal kingdom, see Cicero, Tim. 35· For its use in pagan poetry, see Virgil, G. 3.242-44, Aen. 6.728~29; and Ovid, Met. 1.74-75; in Christian poetry, Dracontius, L.D. 2. 75-76; Ps.-Hilary, In Gen. I I-12; and De mart. Mace. 303-4; Carm. de Res. 30-32, 52-53, 67-69; and Corippus, ]oh. 8.284-85. The biblical creation story includes reptiles as a fourth division of the animal kingdom (Gen. I :26), and this is reflected in a number of poetic texts: Hept. G I9-20, 24548; Dracontius, L.D. 2.238-39. But the simpler division has biblical precedent too: Ps. 8:8-9, versified (in Greek) in the psalm paraphrase falsely attributed to Apollinarius of Laodicea, 8. I 5- I 8 (Ludwich).


The Jeweled Style

Despite the pattern of relationships that connect it with its context, the fourth relative clause (inmundis ... trudat) remains distinct in meaning from its fellows. The rest of the clauses make perfectly good sense as a description of the maltreatment of an enemy's corpse. But to insist on the literal sense of the fourth colon would argue an almost obsessive concern with the demands of hygiene on the part of Heresy's detractors. This clause, more than any in the passage, forces the reader to adjust his or her horizon of vision, from the literal to the allegorical. Heresy is a creature of Hell, appropriately consigned to subterranean mire. Set roughly at the center of the passage, and involved in its complex scheme of interrelationships, is a clause that insists on the primary allegorical dimension of the narrative. If the sequence of relative clauses constitutes the grid we have talked about in the discussion of Aaron's breastplate, the verseand-a-half that precedes these clauses and the two verses that follow provide the framework that circumscribes the whole. As so often, the framing effect is achieved by language that anticipates or recapitulates the verbal sequences that articulate the passage as a whole. The verb carpitur is the first of a series of words and phrases for dismemberment and violent treatment that run through the text (rapit, spargat, trudat, discissum) and that are summarized in the last line in the phrase ruptis membris. Innumeris, and in the next line frustatim, emphasize that fragmentation which finds its syntactic equivalent in the sequence of relative clauses, with their repeated quod, and its final formulation in the verb dividitur (725). The last clause in particular (ruptis Heresis perit horrida membris) encapsulates the significance of the passage. Unlike inmundis ... trudat, it presents no obstacle to a literal interpretation. But the concentration of detail also implies a concentration on what is most directly susceptible of allegory. The play of allegorical and literal is a further dimension of the lexical and semantic tensions in the passage under study. But it also looks outward to the poem as a whole, situating the description of the death of Heresy in the multiple interpretive strata of the Psychomachia. Paulinus of Nola, Claudian, and Prudentius were all writing in the last decade of the fourth century and the first decade of the fifth. My next example is taken from a Gallic poet of the last decade of the fifth century, Alcimus Ecdicius A vitus. A vitus' bibli-

An Anthology of Texts


cal epic, the De spiritalis historiae gestis, shows evidence of the influence of the Gallic poet, letter-writer, and eventual bishop of Auvergne, Sidonius Apollinaris, who is perhaps the most unremitting exponent of the synonymic, enumerative, and antithetical sequences characteristic of the jeweled style. 39 A vitus' own practice is more moderate, but nonetheless bears the stamp of the same aesthetic preferences. The first four books of the De spiritalis historiae gestis are devoted to subjects from Genesis: the Creation, the Fall and the expulsion from Paradise, and the Flood. But the fifth and last book tells the story of the Israelites' exodus from Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea. The passage that follows describes the desolation in Egypt after the Israelites have left: 40 Rura vacant, coeptis desistunt oppida muris: non solitum consurgit opus, non cultor in agris exercet validos adtrito dente ligones. Torpidus exactor siluit nulloque tumultu fervida consuetos repetunt suspendia census. (SHG 5-477-81) The countryside is empty, towns come to a stop, their walls halfbuilt. The usual building activity makes no progress, no tiller in the fields wields his hoe with its worn-down blade. The slavemaster has fallen silent and inactive; there are no cries as cruel whipping exacts the established quota.

This description is contained in a speech of the Egyptians (based on Exod. 14:5) regretting their mistake in permitting the Israelites to leave: "Isn't it shameful that a race of slaves is snatched from our power so easily and without a battle? What god is so powerful a 3 9 for the influence ofSidonius on Avitus, see Henri Goelzer and Alfred Mey, Le Latin de saint Avit, eveque de Vienne (450?-526?) (Paris, 1909), 698-701. Sidonius' style will be treated in later chapters; see esp. Andre Loyen, Sidoine Apollinaire et /'esprit precieux en Gaule aux derniers )ours de /'empire, Collection d'etudes latines, serie scientifique 20 (Paris, 1943), and Isabella Gualandri, Furtiva Lectio: Studi su Sidonio Apollinare, Testi e documenti per lo studio dell' antichita 62 (Milan, 1979). 40For this passage, see Michael Roberts, "Rhetoric and Poetic Imitation in A vitus' Account of the Crossing of the Red Sea (De spiritalis historiae gestis 5· 371-702)," Traditio 39 (1983), 43-44.


The Jeweled Style

leader that his people, who used to populate our land, has now gone away and left the land deserted?" (474-76). Avitus amplifies the phrase vacuas terras (476). Regularity is established in verses 477-79 by the chiastic sequence of subject matter-country, city, city, country-and broken in the last two verses, where both cola refer to building activities in the town. Antithesis further links clauses one and two (rura : oppida) and five and six (torpidus : fervida), while three and four are articulated by anaphora (non ... , non . .. ). A further scheme of alternation of positive and negative clauses contributes to the structure of the passage (positive, positive, negative, negative, positive, negative). 41 Finally, the last four verses are linked by variation of personal and abstract subjects (opus, cultor, exactor, suspendia), with the concluding golden line marking the end of the development. 42 The picture of desolation in Egypt is pieced together from matching and contrasting compositional elements. Detail is impressionistic, designed to present not a fully 'imagined scene but a sense of all-pervading lethargy. The reader's reaction to the passage is directed by the systems of opposition and parallelism that give it its structure. It is worth comparing the A vitus passage with its ultimate inspiration, Virgil's description of the cessation of building activity in Carthage caused by Dido's love for Aeneas: 43 non coeptae adsurgunt turres, non arma iuventus exercet portusve aut propugnacula bello tuta parant: pendent opera interrupta minaeque murorum ingentes aequataque machina caelo (Aen. 4· 86-89) The towers, already begun, no longer rise, the youth no longer practices at arms or builds harbors and battlements as protection in war; the work is broken off, the threatening bulk of the walls and the construction reaching to the sky are left unfmished. 4tRecognized as a figure of amplification (oppositio) by medieval poetics (e.g., Geoffrey ofVinsauf, Poetria Nova 668-86). See Leonid Arbusow, Co/ores rhetorici: Eine Auswahl rhetorischer Figuren und Gemeinpliitze als Hilfsmittel for akademische Ubungen an mittelalterlichen Texten, 2d ed. (Gottingen, 1963), 87. 42The details of the last two verses are biblical, derived from Exod. 5:6-14. 43Noted by A. Hudson-Williams, "Virgil and the Christian Latin Poets," PVS 6 (1966-67), 15.

An Anthology of Texts


Both passages employ anaphora of non, and variation between negative and positive statement. But the Virgil passage lacks the complex system of mutually qualifying patterns of opposition and parallelism that articulate the A vitus text. As a result, syntactical breaks (e.g., after parant) are more clearly defined, and the Aeneid passage as a whole creates a more linear impression than the description of the desolation of Egypt. A vitus' treatment turns in on itself, constituting a self-contained and self-sufficient unit. Virgil's description of Carthage, on the other hand, while not without repetitive elements, 44 does not insist on any defining regularity and is less clearly marked as discrete from its context. The accusation often leveled at late antique poetry, that it is episodic and lacking in unity, certainly receives some support from this comparison between A vitus and Virgil. But such criticism is one-sided, ignoring, as it does, the positive qualities of a poetry put together from compositional elements constituted in this way. 45 As a Gallic poet, A vitus takes his place in a long line of accomplished writers from late antique Gaul. Gregory of Tours is perhaps the last of that succession, in the next century, though the quality ofhis Latin suggests that the Roman school system was by then in the process of disintegration. 46 A second center of literary activities had always been North Africa. This continued even under the Vandal occupation-witness the Codex Salmasianus. 441n addition to the anaphora and variation already noted, the enumerative series

turres, arma, portus, propugnacula and the synonymic amplification opera interrupta minaeque/murorum ingentes aequataque machina caelo. I suspect it was these features of the passage that caught the eye of a reader of late antiquity. 45 It also depends on too narrow a definition of unity, which insists on an organic, logical, and chronological interrelation between individual episodes. Unity in late antique poetry is often at the symbolic level; i.e., episodes are unified conceptually, at a higher level of generality than the historical sequence of the text (c£ Michael Roberts, "The Treatment of Narrative in Late Antique Literature: Ammianus Marcellinus (16.10), Rutilius Namatianus, and Paulinus ofPella," Philologus 132 (1988], 181-95). The conceptual bias oflate antique poetry is evident in the passages of Avitus and Virgil we have compared. Virgil communicates a much greater sense of physical immediacy (especially in the fmal tricolon). On the other hand, Avitus' attention is on abstract impression, not on concrete detail. It is typical that the only apparently closely observed visual detail, the worn-down blade of the hoe, is a Virgilian reminiscence (G. 1.46 attritus ... vomer). 46See Pierre Riche, Education and Culture in the Barbarian West from the Sixth through the Eighth Century, trans. John). Contreni (Columbia, S.C., 1976), 2oo20I.


The Jeweled Style

Among the North African poets of that period, one of the most distinct personalities is Blossius Aemilius Dracontius, a contemporary of A vitus and author of poems on both mythological and Christian themes. The passage below is from the Romulea, a collection of Dracontius' secular poems. It is taken from an epithalamium written for the marriage of Joannes and Vitula, while Dracontius was in prison-he had apparently offended the Vandal king Gunthamund. 47 Gratia vernantes adnectat pulchra dolores, casta Pudicitia stricto placitura marito floribus ex variis texat per prata coronas lilia mixta rosis socians violasque hyacinthis: purpuret et niteat gemmae pallente rubore Sardoasque iuget poclis Sitifensibus herbis. (Rom. 7.42-47) Let beautiful Grace bind together painful blossoms and virtuous Modesty to please a rigid husband plait in the meadows garlands of multicolored flowers, joining and mingling lilies with roses and violets with hyacinths. Let her shine scarlet with the red-tinged pallor of a jewel and unite in her cups Sardinian and Sitifian drugs.

The passage anticipates in delicately figurative language the new bride's loss ofher virginity. Vitula must combine sexual attractiveness and compliance (Gratia) with a virtuous modesty (Pudicitia) appropriate to the future matron. It is this antithesis that gives structure to the passage and that is reinterpreted in a series of images (floribus ... coronas, gemmae, herbis). The oppositions can be tabulated as follows: Gratia pulchra placitura rosis

Pudicitia casta stricto lilia

47for the circumstances of Dracontius' imprisonment, see J. M. Diaz de Bustamante, Draconcio y sus carmina profana: Estudio biogrdjico, introducci6n y edici6n cr{tica, Monografias de Ia Universidad de Santiago de Compostela 44 (Santiago de Compostela, 1978), 58-88, and Claude Moussy and Colette Camus, Dracontius, Oeuvres, vol. 1 (Paris, 1985), 18-31.

An Anthology of Texts hyacinthis purpuret rubore Sitifensibus herbis


violas 48 niteat pallente Sardoas (herbas)

Again we have a combination of enumeration and opposition. A synonymic pattern of verbs of joining and binding (adnectat, texat, iuget) further unites the passage, varied only by the purpuret et niteat of verse 46. While the flower and jewel images envision the combination of modesty and sexual compliance in terms of color, the final image returns to the antithesis of the first two verses, between pain and pleasure. Sardinian herbs are described in Eclogues 7.41 as bitter (Sardoniis ... amarior herbis); by contrast, Sitifensibus herbis are to be understood as sweet. 49 The first verse also anticipates the visual imagery of garlands and jewels in the word vernantes, which here means "with the bright color of spring flowers. " 50 Vernantes dolores, a striking iunctura, should not be emended, as some editors have done, 51 to vernantes col ores. It is explained by what follows, which it encapsulates. In the case of stricto placitura marito, the ambiguity of stricto suggests the paradoxical nature of the Pudicitia that Dracontius is describing (called later casta Voluptas, 59). Stricto may mean "morally severe," that is, "Modesty able to please a morally severe husband," or "rigid" in the sense of sexually aroused, 52 in which case the participial phrase is limiting: "Modesty capable of gratifying a sexually aroused husband." The single word stricto has inherent in it that opposition between virtuous modesty and sexual compliance which controls the whole 48Cf. Virgil, Eel. 2.47 pallentis violas and Horace, C. J. 10.14 linctus viola pallor amantium, quoted by Servius ad Joe. 49The next verse, "sic puer Idalius permiscet mella venenis," establishes the sense of Sitifensibus herbis. The adjectives Sardoas and Sitifensibus also refer to the nationality of bride and groom (Friedrich Vollmer, Fl. Merobaudis reliquiae, Blossii Aemilii Dracontii Carmina ... , MGH, Auctores Antiquissimi 14 [Berlin, 1905], 309; Dirk Kuijper, Varia Dracontiana [The Hague, 1958], 64-65). socf. Rom. 6. 8-9, "candor pallorque ruborque I crinibus insidat qui vernal in ore puellis," and Sidonius, Ep. 9. 13.2 (vs. 12-13), "vemans per varii carminis eglogas I verborum violis multicoloribus," of the poetry of Horace. The word vemans is discussed more fully in the next chapter. stso Schenk! and Bahrens. Dracontius is thinking of the breaking of the hymen in the marriage bed (Kuijper, 63). S2So Vollmer, 413.


The jeweled Style

passage. Dracontius' conception of wifely virtue is a unity of opposites, a concordia discors, 53 both a moral and an aesthetic ideal, which is represented visually by a multicolored garland of flowers or the combination of color and brilliance of a jewel. And the aesthetic ideal fmds its verbal equivalent in the play of parallelism and antithesis that runs throughout the passage. Aaron's breastplate, it will be remembered, is a grid of mathematical regularity in which each constituent, brilliant and colorful in itself, enters into a relationship of contrast or opposition with those that surround it. The absolute regularity of Aaron's breastplate is rarely achieved-and indeed is scarcely desirable (the lines from the Alethia are the nearest approximation)-in poetry. But the value of the analogy is that it presents us with a model of ideal uniformity against which to assess the more complex and imperfect schemata of our poetic texts. Fundamental to the examples we have cited is a combination of synonymy, enumeration, and antithesis, which endows the texts with their characteristic regularity and density, the sense that every word counts. Only Claudian's description of a grove on Mount Etna makes little use of antithesis, relying instead on multiple sequences of synonymy. Enumeration regularly coexists with synonymy; typically the items enumerated are related as species belonging to a common genus. Antithesis, as well as often establishing a basic regularity within a passage, also by contrast with schemes of parallelism (synonymy or enumeration) introduces an element of variation and itself can be varied by shifts in the ground of comparison or semantic categories. 54 Synonymic parallelism may also operate at the level of clause rather than vocabulary, the figure of interpretatio. Patterns of semantic relationship are the most indispensable ingredient of our passages. But repetition and variation are present at various technical levels: clause length (isocolon : unequal cola), 53for this phrase, and its appropriateness to late Latin poetry, see the concluding pages of Chapter 4· 54So in Paulinus' letter to Ausonius the poet varies the semantic categories, comparing animals, birds, trees, and men. There is an underlying enumerative scheme here. Similarly the ground of comparison, size (mensura), shifts from the literal in the first three antitheses to the metaphorical when comparing Paulinus and Ausonius, Virgil, Cicero, and Ausonius.

An Anthology of Texts


word order (four-word chiasmus is the zero grade of variation of word order), and sound (in particular the various figures of parallelism based on sound, anaphora, homoeoteleuton, and alliteration/ assonance), 55 as well as the grammatical rather than rhetorical categories of grammar (parts of speech, Alethia 2. 13-14), syntax (type of clause, Paulinus), case usage (Paulinus), and lexicon (use of tropes, Claudian). The figures of paronomasia and ambiguity contribute both parallelism and variation, the former by combining equivalence (or near equivalence) of sound with difference of sense; the latter by combining lexical identity with multiplicity of meaning (as in Rutilius and Dracontius). These several possibilities for regularity and variation may then be combined to produce innumerable permutations and counterrelations, a play of tension and continuity that contradicts the static effect such passages often communicate at first. Finally, many of our examples employ some form of framing device to set the passage off as an independent compositional unit. This is not essential. The very patterns of self-reference within such passages tend to isolate them from their context, just as Aaron's breastplate needs no border or frame but is a self-defined artistic unit. But such devices are one further way to concentrate attention on the details of composition by setting the limits within which the reader is to operate. The poet may introduce a clause that anticipates the content of a passage and sets the theme to be developed, he may conclude with a clause that recapitulates the semantic sequences of a passage, or he may combine both approaches. A passage often ends with a sententia or golden line, both of which bring a note of finality to the conclusion of a development (Avitus). 56 551 would include polyptoton here too, at least at the beginning of clauses. Although it involves an element of variation (in inflectional forms), it is t,·pically used as a substitute for anaphora. 5 6 For the use of the sententia, see Theon, Frog. 4 (91. n-14 Spengel), and Quintilian (8.5.2). The sententia, with its epigrammatic concentration, creates the impression that the last word has been said on a subject. Because of their selfsufficient metrical and syntactic structure, golden lines too, though they may occur elsewhere in a passage, are especially suited to bringing a development to an end.




ate antiquity is a period of continuity and change, of transition and transmission. Its literature is the product of a tension between the prestigious pagan masters, the social conditions and aesthetic presuppositions peculiar to late antique culture, and, at least in the case of Christian authors, the new conceptual and ethical world of Christianity. 1 In the next two chapters, I shall examine the first two of these elements, the literary tradition and the distinctively late antique. Because the compositional pattern I have identified is common to both pagan and Christian authors, the final and specifically Christian element in the synthesis does not need separate treatment, at least at this stage. How did a taste for the densely textured play of repetition and variation develop? The answer must be sought in the scholastic traditions of grammar (especially the enarratio of the poets) and rhetoric, which played a crucial role in shaping the literary taste of late antiquity. The exercise of ecphrasis (descriptio, a word-picture of a person, event, period, place, or condition2 ) provides a conventThis division is derived from Jacques Fontaine, "Le melange des genres dans Ia poesie de Prudence," in Forma Futuri: Studi in onore del Cardinale Michele Pellegrino (Turin, 1975). 758-60 (=Etudes sur Ia poesie latine tardive d'Ausone aPrudence [Paris, 1980], 4-6), and "Unite et diversite du melange des genres et des tons chez quelques ecrivains latins de Ia fm du IV siecle: Ausone, Ambroise, Ammien," in Christianisme et formes litteraires de l'antiquite tardive en occident, Fondation Hardt, Entretiens 23 (Vandoeuvres, 1977), 431 (=Etudes, 31). 2So, e.g., Priscian (sixth century, translation of the Progymnasmata attributed to Hermogenes): "Fiunt autem descriptiones tam personarum quam rerum et ternporum et status et locorum et multorum aliorum" (Praeexercitamina 10; 558.25-26 Halm). Descriptions of works of art were a form of ecphrasis particularly popular

The Literary Tradition and Its Refinement


ient point of departure. It was a standard component of the curriculum of preliminary exercises (progymnasmata/ praeexercitamina) in which every educated Roman was trained. 3 The grammaticus would introduce his pupils to descriptiones in the classical poets, 4 the rhetor would set exercises in ecphrastic composition for his students and instruct them in the characteristic compositional techniques. The prime quality of the ecphrasis was "vividness" (enargeia, evidentia), defmed in the Rhetorica ad Herennium as "when an event is so described in words that the business seems to be enacted and the subject to pass before our eyes, " 5 a definition that became canonical. In an ecphrasis the writer tried to tum his hearers I readers into spectators. 6 How was this effect of visual immediacy to be achieved? Quinin the East (see Paul Friedlander, Johannes von Gaza, Paulus Silentarius, und Prokopios von Gaza: Kunstbeschreibungenjustinianischer Zeit [Leipzig, 1912; reprint Hildesheim, 1969], 85), but the term covers any visually realized description. From this point of view, G. Downey's article, "Ekphrasis," RAC 4 (1959), 921-44, is incomplete. 3In the first century A.D., praeexercitamina might be taught by thegrammaticus or the rhetor. Quintilian (1.9.6 and 2. 1. 1-13) complains about the appropriation of what was properly the business of the rhetorical schools by grammatici. The ecphrasis, as one of the more difficult exercises, was more suited to the rhetorical school. For the progymnasmatic tradition, see Georg Reichel, Quaestiones Progymnasmaticae (Leipzig, 1909), and Michael Roberts, Biblical Epic and Rhetorical Paraphrase in Late Antiquity, ARCA, Classical and Medieval Texts, Papers and Monographs 16 (Liverpool, 1985), 5-28, 64-67. 4E.g., Servius identifies Virgil, Aen. 10.653-55, as a descriptio and compares 8.416ff.

SRhet. ad Her. 4.55.68, in Caplan's translation (slightly adapted). The Latin is "demonstratio est cum ita verbis res exprimitur ut geri negotium et res ante oculos esse videatur." The term evidentia is found in Cicero and in Quintilian. The former also uses sub oculos subiectio. Enargeia seems to be the preferred technical term in later authors. For a collection of references, see Heinrich Lausberg, Handbuch der literarischen Rhetorik: Eine Grundlegung der Literaturwissenschafi, 2 vols. (Munich, 1960), I:4Q0-401.

6So Nicolaus of Myra (fifth century), Progymnasmata (68. 11-12 Felten): tj [)£ (sc. bu:pgams) :n:EtQci'tm -ftw'tas 'toils axouovms tgya~w-ftm. There is good reason to believe that the Greek progymnasmatic treatises of late antiquity are reliable evidence for Western practice. Jacques Fontaine, Isidore de Seville et Ia culture classique dans l'Espagne Wisigothique, 2 vols. (Paris, 1959), 1:326-28, discussing the section on progymnasmata in Isidore's Etymologiae, fmds evidence for a common GrecoLarin tradition that is best represented in Latin by the scattered allusions in the Institutio Oratoria. Cf. Quintilian 6.2.32, "tvagyEta, ... quae non tam dicere videtur quam ostendere, et adfectus non aliter quam si rebus ipsis intersimus sequentur."


The Jeweled Style

tilian, who discusses the quality of evidentia among figures of speech (8.3.61-71 and 9.2.40-44), makes the essential point that the subject is described "not as a whole, but in parts" (nee universa, sed per partis, 9.2.40). In the Progymnasmata of the fifth-century rhetorician Nicolaus of Myra, this procedure has become a defining characteristic of the ecphrasis: the ecphrasis recounts in parts ("ta xata J.LEQO~), the diegesis!narratio (a simpler preliminary exercise akin to the plot summary) as a whole (ta xa{}6A.ou).7 In his fullest discussion of enargeia, Quintilian identifies two basic methods by which the effect is achieved. The first, "in which the whole picture of the event is somehow represented in words" (8.3.63), 8 depends on the telling visual detail. The example he cites is Virgil's description of a pair of boxers: constitit in digitos extemplo arrectus uterque (Aen. 5.426, "each suddenly stood poised on tiptoe"). But it is the second method, in which "the image we are trying to convey is produced from a larger number of details" (8.3.66), 9 that shows greatest affmities to the compositional techniques oflate antiquity. Quintilian quotes a fragment from a lost speech of Cicero, the Pro Gallio, a description of an extravagant banquet (convivium luxuriosum), to illustrate this method. With the first sentence supplied by Aquila Romanus, 10 it reads: Fit clamor, fit convicium mulierum, fit symphoniae cantus. Videbar videre alios intrantis, alios autem exeuntis, quosdam ex vino vacillantis, quosdam hesterna ex potatione oscitantis. Humus erat inmunda, lutulenta vino, coronis languidulis et spinis cooperta piscium. There was shouting, the brawling of women, the music of players. I seemed to see some men going in and others leaving, some unsteady


7 lha