non ante saec. IV
The name ‘Lactantius Placidus’ (hereafter ‘LP’) is attached to commentaries on the Thebaid and the first book of the Achilleid, both by Statius; for the most part, scholars accept that Lactantius Placidus is their author. The 10th c. manuscript Monacensis 19482 (M), which comes from the abbey of Tegernsee, contains the commentary on Statius and has an incipit that reads: Celii firmiani placidi Lactancii expositio in Thebaidem Stacii. According to a “ipotesi metodicamente accreditabile” (Brugnoli 1988: 13), this assignment, which is present in few manuscripts other than M, probably derives from a gloss at Theb. 6.364 (Sweeney) that reads: MVNDO SVCCINCTA LATENTI … sed de his rebus, prout ingenio meo commitere potui, ex libris ineffabilis doctrinae Persei praeceptoris seorsum libellum composui [caelius Firmianus] Lactantius Placidus.
A few years before Sweeney’s 1997 edition, Giorgio Brugnoli, almost adopting the mode of a film noir, hypothesized the very real possibility that the archetype ω lacked any epigraph, and that the resulting doubt about its author had weighed heavily on the humanistic codices, which regarded the creation of epigraphs virtually as a religious duty. This view was set forth in his Identikit di Lattanzio Placido: Studi sulla scoliastica staziana (Pisa, 1988), which was later used for the lemma about LP in the Enciclopedia Virgiliana (1991). Brugnoli suggests that the name ‘Caecilius Firmianus Lactantius’ was a “intrusione congetturale” (id. 1988: 18) of the name of the Christian apologist from Africa. The name was included in a passage that dealt with the quaestio de antipodis, a locus of great importance to the concerns of Christian doctrine (id. 1988: 40; but cf. Setaioli 1995: 184-5). Despite its audacity, Brugnoli’s short tome was philologically very coherent and served as stimulus for R. D. Sweeney’s 1997 edition of LP, developed on the ground of an earlier paper entitled Prolegomena to an Edition of the Scholia to Statius; for Ètienne Wolff’s 2010 article, which confronts anew the problems of LP’s origin and dating; and for the research conducted by a group of philologists at Perugia’s Department of Classics (Carlo Santini; Luca Cardinali; Antonella Arena).
After Bonino Mombricio’s 1478(?) editio princeps and Friedrich Lindenbrog’s 1600 editio Tiliobrogiana, which was accompanied by a collection of philological studies and surveys that included the editio Barthiana of 1664 (Valéry Berlincourt returned to this latter text with an important monograph in 2013), the two Teubner editions of LP’s text were published about a century apart (Richard Jahnke’s in 1898; Sweeney’s in 1997). For various reasons, these have not met critics’ expectations, and it is therefore inevitable that a new edition properly delineating the late-antique text from the medieval and humanistic additions cannot be postponed sine die. Harald Anderson has already begun work of this sort, identifying within the text attributed to LP the presence of three different commentaries on Statius’ Thebaid: that of LP proper, which dates to the first half of the 5th c.; the so-called commentary in principio of the 11th/12th c; and the Arundel-Burney commentary of the 12th/13th c. (Anderson 2009: xxiv-xxvi). R. Jakobi, meanwhile, has argued that LP’s commentary on the Achilleid seems to have been composed only in the 9th c. (Jakobi 1997: 305-15).
A new edition will need to respect, as much as possible, the original glossator’s sequence of thought, following the verses of Statius’ text: indeed, LP’s commentary was born as a stand-alone resource that probably existed independent of the Thebaid (it only records lemmata) and was later broken apart “innumerabilibus modis” to correspond to the text of the poem; in the Carolingian-Ottonian age, however, it was successively reconstructed, as in the case of the manuscript Monacensis (M), or transcribed as a gloss in the margins of Statius’ text. A new edition would also need to take account of the passages of writing that indicate the use of an insular minuscule that will have replaced the original, and subsequently, in the operation of restoration, the use of Carolingian (Sweeney 1997: ix). All of this would require a sense for the Latin language and a philological esprit de finesse far superior to what Sweeney attempted in his edition (Santini 2013: 219-20; id. 2014; Cardinali 2014, who conveys the need to undertake - at the very least - a critical revision of Sweeney’s edition).
In light of all this, it seems appropriate first to consider the extent to which the scholia of the Thebaid are related to LP. There must have been earlier works that interpreted the text of Statius’ poem and helped its reading, but we have only scarce traces of them in the history of Latin letters through the age of Jerome, who - in punctiliously describing the educational cursus of Classical authors for his antagonist Rufinus - fails to mention Statius’ name (perhaps due to some moral qualms?). Starting with Servius in the early 5th c., however, the Thebaid begins its unstoppable and triumphant career in the schools. Apart from the highly credible hypothesis that the authority of Servius’ commentary was itself a significant contributor to the Thebaid being placed into the paradise of texts whose authors were defined as auctores idonei and then regulati in late-antiquity and the middle ages, the problem of the real, physical existence of LP as author of a commentary on Statius’ poem remains open. I believe, like Cardinali, that such a person must have lived because of “la progressiva riduzione dell’ampiezza degli scolii, il che fa pensare all’opera di un unico estensore” (Cardinali), but I do not believe that we should exclude on these grounds the possibility of a layering of annotations that derive from explanationes pre-dating LP. Indeed, the existence of such a stratification seems guaranteed by the recurrence of a few themes, such as the neo-Platonic conception of astronomy, Mithraism, and interests in Persian society.
It is precisely this shifty, meandering character of the glosses of Statius that makes it difficult to identify reliable temporal anchors for LP. This is especially clear when one considers the differences between Jahnke’s text, which treats excessively late codices as authorities equal to M, and that of Sweeney. Attempts to date LP have thus ranged from the end of the 4th to the middle of the 6th c. On the one hand, Paul Van de Woestijne (1950) notes the citation in Jahnke’s apparatus of a verse of Boethius’ De consolatione Philosophiae that has been securely identified as the interpolation of a late manuscript, as well as the absence of contextual references to Statius (and likewise to LP) in Jerome’s Ad Rufinum, as evidence that LP should be placed between Aelius Donatus and Servius. The similarities to Servius would seem to be independent, and in at least one case are the reverse (Van de Woestijne, 163) - which is tantamount to admitting that Servius depended on LP. Although this opinion received the implicit endorsement of Sweeney (1997: vii), it contradicted what Gino Funaioli had proposed in 1915 (=1930: 476-7); Brugnoli subsequently criticized it (1991: 138), and it was most recently challenged by Santini, to whom it appeared unfounded (2010: 428).
In recent years, Wolff has hypothesized that LP was active during “une fourchette comprise entre 410 (ou un peu plus tard si l’on descend Servius dans le temps) et 468” (2010: 428). His arguments do not appear sufficiently convincing, however, since some depend on the serial - and therefore timeless - value that is undermined by the gloss itself (the formalism of scholia is able to absorb material from any source: we may recall the thesis of Jakobi (2004: 14), which argued that an anonymous grammaticus’ corpus of scholia on the Thebaid was “fälschlich” attributed to LP, who was probably a neo-Platonic adherent of Mithras-cult before it was banned at Rome in AD 392); other arguments, meanwhile - because of assumptions about the specific meaning of the chronological evidence, such as the Hun word straba - ought to tip the scales to after the death of Attila the Hun (AD 453) or even - as in the case of Rhiphaeus mons Thraciae - to establish “un terminus ante quem, anche se piuttosto alto, costituito dalla riforma giustinianea del 535/536” (Cardinali). This is tantamount to placing LP’s floruit in the 6th c., a view that was already proposed by Alfred Klotz (1908: 524), but that can now be based on a greater understanding of the situation of the stemma codicum than was possible for the German editor at the start of the 20th c.
Even accepting that one might maintain a firm appreciation for the way in which Cardinali has resolved the question of LP’s chronology, and my own coincident judgment of the linguistic problem of the adverb (Santini), which would bring us close to Priscian’s Institutiones Grammaticae, this nevertheless cannot, to my mind, serve as definitive sanction in the solitary context of the direct manuscript tradition, since the discourse of recalling the scholiasts’ predecessors always remained strong; indeed, LP himself attests to the existence and frequency of this practice, two things which could have influenced the glosses of Statius, especially in the cases where LP presents an independent reading that we do not find in any other manuscript of the Thebaid or, even more commonly, where it accords with one branch of the tradition against another.
The ghost of the presence of exclusively medieval material in the commentary to Statius’ poem that was summoned by von Wilamowitz (1899: 601) and exorcized by Klotz has not yet been delivered to oblivion, at least if we accept either what Jakobi thinks of LP (maintaining that it is the name of a neo-Platonic philosopher and not of a grammaticus, and that it was later inserted into the commentary until it became dominant during the evolution of the manuscript tradition), or the entirely medieval origin for the commentary on the Achilleid, or the views of Alan Cameron, who remained so stricken by the opinion of Brugnoli that he claimed the Italian could find the key to the enigma, without, however, being able to turn it in the right direction (Cameron 2004: 315-6).
Still more uncertain is the question of where the commentary was composed; Funaioli hypothesized Italy (a view that Sweeney revived), but this has been called into doubt by Cardinali because “hic con valenza avverbiale in tutte le altre occorrenze in cui compare nel commento faccia riferimento al contenuto del testo commentato” (Cardinali) and because the original typology of the scholia presuppose that these uses - inasmuch as they relate to the explanatio - should refer to a stand-alone manuscript and should thus be concerned with the research and the reading of the single passage in the Thebaid.
A problem ignored by virtually all editors has been research into LP’s language and style; one clearly finds in LP a few refined choices, such as metrical clausulae (Klotz 1908: 505-8), but their presence is so rare that they present opportunities for both radically different judgments and similar conclusions. [C. Santini; tr. C. L. Caterine].