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Vergil, Philodemus, and the Augustans

Vergil, Philodemus, and the Augustans

The essays in this book offer a new baseline for understanding the effect of Philodemus and Epicureanism on both the thought and poetic practices of Vergil, Horace, and other Augustan writers.

January 2004
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375 pages | 6 x 9 |

The Epicurean teacher and poet Philodemus of Gadara (c. 110-c. 40/35 BC) exercised significant literary and philosophical influence on Roman writers of the Augustan Age, most notably the poets Vergil and Horace. Yet a modern appreciation for Philodemus' place in Roman intellectual history has had to wait on the decipherment of the charred remains of Philodemus' library, which was buried in Herculaneum by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. As improved texts and translations of Philodemus' writings have become available since the 1970s, scholars have taken a keen interest in his relations with leading Latin poets.

The essays in this book, derived from papers presented at the First International Symposium on Philodemus, Vergil, and the Augustans held in 2000, offer a new baseline for understanding the effect of Philodemus and Epicureanism on both the thought and poetic practices of Vergil, Horace, and other Augustan writers. Sixteen leading scholars trace his influence on Vergil's early writings, the Eclogues and the Georgics, and on the Aeneid, as well as on the writings of Horace and others. The volume editors also provide a substantial introduction to Philodemus' philosophical ideas for all classicists seeking a fuller understanding of this pivotal figure.

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abbreviations
  • Introduction (David Armstrong)
  • I. Early Vergil
    • 1. Vergil's Farewell to Education (Catalepton 5) and Epicurus' Letter to Pythocles (Diskin Clay)
    • 2. Philosophy's Harbor (Francesca Longo Auricchio)
    • 3. Vergil's Epicureanism in His Early Poems (Régine Chambert)
  • II. Eclogues and Georgics
    • 4. Consolation in the Bucolic Mode: The Epicurean Cadence of Vergil's First Eclogue (Gregson Davis)
    • 5. A Secret Garden: Georgics 4.116-148 (W. R. Johnson)
    • 6. Vergil in the Shadow of Vesuvius (Marcello Gigante)
  • III. The Aeneid: The Emotions
    • 7. The Vocabulary of Anger in Philodemus' De ira and Vergil's Aeneid (Giovanni Indelli)
    • 8. Anger, Philodemus' Good King, and the Helen Episode of Aeneid 2.567-589: A New Proof of Authenticity from Herculaneum (Jeffrey Fish)
    • 9. Philodemus: Avocatio and the Pathos of Distance in Lucretius and Vergil (Frederic M. Schroeder)
  • IV. The Aeneid: Piety and the Gods
    • 10. Piety in Vergil and Philodemus (Patricia A. Johnston)
    • 11. Vergil's De pietate: From Ehoiae to Allegory in Vergil, Philodemus, and Ovid (Dirk Obbink)
    • 12. Emotions and Immortality in Philodemus On the Gods 3 and the Aeneid (Michael Wigodsky)
  • V. The Aeneid: Aesthetics
    • 13. Carmen inane: Philodemus' Aesthetics and Vergil's Artistic Vision (Marilyn B. Skinner)
    • 14. Vergil and Music, in Diogenes of Babylon and Philodemus (Daniel Delattre)
  • VI. Other Augustan Poets
    • 15. Horace's Epistles 1 and Philodemus (David Armstrong)
    • 16. Varius and Vergil: Two Pupils of Philodemus in Propertius 2.34? (Francis Cairns)
  • Bibliography
  • Contributors
  • Index

David Armstrong is Professor of Classics at the University of Texas at Austin. Jeffrey Fish is Assistant Professor of Classics at Baylor University. Patricia A. Johnston is Professor of Classics at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. Marilyn B. Skinner is Professor of Classics at the University of Arizona, Tucson.


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In June 2000, the First International Symposium on Philodemus, Vergil, and the Augustans was held at the Villa Vergiliana in Cuma, Italy, a short distance from the site of the discovery at Herculaneum, from October 1752 to August 1754, of a large collection of papyrus rolls containing the lost works of Philodemus of Gadara. A number of major Philodemus and Vergil scholars participated in this meeting, which was co-sponsored by the Vergilian Society, Brandeis University, and the Department of Classics and the College of Humanities at the University of Arizona, Tucson. A remarkable degree of consensus on a new perspective concerning the Epicureanism of Vergil and Horace emerged from these presentations, opening doors to a rich new line of investigation and study of these two great literary figures. The essays presented here represent a sizeable portion of the presentations made at that meeting, which, like this volume, focused on Philodemus' decisive influence on Vergil.


From at least the 30s B.C. onward, there had been a consistent biographical tradition linking Vergil and Horace to the Epicurean school at Naples and to Philodemus and his associate Siro.1 Servius' notes on Vergil’s sixth eclogue allegorize Silenus as Siro, the nymph Aegle as Hedone or pleasure, the Epicurean ideal, and the shepherds as Vergil and his and Horace's friend, the great literary critic Quintilius Varus. Many of his commentary's notes on the Georgics and Aeneid attribute Vergil's philosophical training to the Epicureans, though the commentary (which has various layers) generally considers him in later life an eclectic. The Catalepton, a much-debated collection that claims to be Vergil's early shorter poems, contains two, 5 and 8, dedicated to Siro:


nos ad beatos vela mittimus portus,
magni petentes docta dicta Sironis,
vitamque ab omni vindicabimus cura.
Catalepton 5.8-10


We spread our sails for the ports of happiness,
seeking a cargo of Siro's learned sayings,
and shall free our life from every care.




villula, quae Sironis eras, et pauper agelle,
verum illi domino tu quoque divitiae,
me tibi et hos una mecum, quos semper amavi,
si quid de patria tristius audivero,
commendo, in primisque patrem. tu nunc eris illi
Mantua quod fuerat quodque Cremona prius.

Catalepton 8

Little villa, once Siro's, and you, o tiny field,
the true and perfect riches of such a master,
I commend myself, and with myself those I've long loved
(if some news of evil comes from my native city)
to you: my father specially: you shall be
what Mantua and Cremona were to him before.


If these poems are genuine (and the weight of scholarly opinion is in their favor: but even if they are not, they represent a very early biographical tradition), Vergil was an enthusiastic student of Siro's at Naples and bought Siro's villa (after his death?) as a philosophical retreat. Moreover, one of the greatest influences on Vergil's poetry, Lucretius' De rerum natura, is a doctrinaire Epicurean poem; Lucretius' great contemporary Catullus had already been known to have been influenced by at least one of Philodemus' thirty-four surviving epigrams in the Greek Anthology, Horace by several of them, and Ovid, Propertius, and Tibullus by several also.


Most important, the Herculaneum papyri themselves turn out to confirm what had been conjectured on good grounds already since Körte 1873—that Philodemus dedicated a treatise On Flattery to four patrons at once: Vergil himself; Quintilius Varus; Varius Rufus, the author of the tragedy Thyestes produced by Augustus in 25 B.C.; and Plotius Tucca, who helped Varius edit the Aeneid when Vergil left it incomplete at his death (he is also the addressee of Catalepton 1). Another papyrus containing Book 4 of Philodemus' On Death (P.Herc. 1050) shows clearly that that philosophical treatise inspired Varius Rufus' poem De Morte, which, in turn, was greatly admired and imitated by Vergil. For a fuller explanation, see Marcello Gigante's essay in this book and the details of earlier attempts in Gigante 1973. Here it is enough to say that he and Mario Capasso (Gigante and Capasso 1989) discovered and published a passage of P.Herc. Paris. 2 that had been sent to Paris as a gift to Napoleon in 1802 and was returned to Naples to be opened in the mid-1980s. In this text at last, all four names appeared clearly and confirmed that three separate times, here and more fragmentarily in P.Herc. 1082 and 253, Philodemus in this treatise did indeed make his addressees the four friends, and in the same order of names: Plotius (Tucca), Varius (Rufus), Vergilius (Maro), Quintilius (Varus). All four of these are also mentioned as close friends and fellow workers in literature by Horace throughout his career, and in an early poem, Satire 1.2, in a book of poems distinctly Epicurean in tone, Horace pointedly praises one of Philodemus' epigrams as giving far better advice on love than one of Callimachus' (Sat. 1.2.105-122)—a significant declaration, in a book whose literary theory, like so much Augustan poetry, is aggressively "Callimachean" in tone and detail. Here at last was the complete proof that earlier speculations about Philodemus' friendship with and influence on the major Augustan poets were fully justified.


Who was Philodemus? The English reader can nowadays survey what is known about him better and more easily than ever in such recent accounts as Asmis' 1990 ANRW survey of his philosophical writings, Dirk Obbink's 1995 English translation of Marcello Gigante's excellent Philodemus in Italy, and especially David Sider's full account of his career, together with a collection of the biographical fragments in Latin and Greek with English translation, in the introduction and appendixes to his The Epigrams of Philodemus (1997). Thus, we can be brief here. Philodemus was born at Gadara (c. 110 B.C.), in Palestine, and probably died at Herculaneum (c. 40/35 B.C.). He studied as a young man at Athens with Zeno of Sidon, head of the Epicurean school there and an admired and controversial original thinker who supplemented and changed the school's thought, especially on mathematics and aesthetics, in places where earlier Epicureans had had little to say, and who was much criticized, according to Philodemus' accounts of his doctrines, by more conventional Epicureans who disliked innovation.


Philodemus himself was in his own words the "faithful admirer" (erastes) of Zeno while he lived and an "untiring singer of his praise," his akopiatos hymnetes, after his death (P.Herc. 1005, col. xiv.8-9 Angeli). Where we can date the philosophers of other schools whom Philodemus criticizes in his own treatises, they appear to end with Zeno's contemporaries, like the Stoic Diogenes of Babylon, which means that Philodemus contents himself mostly with repeating Zeno's arguments with his own rivals and with earlier philosophers rather than engaging in debate with the philosophers of his own generation. In other words, Philodemus carried on Zeno's thought and restated it, and (rather than being a great original thinker) probably contributed mostly a change of emphasis toward the subjects that interested him most: ethics, the emotions, aesthetics (including his own practice of poetry and elaborate examinations of Epicurean and other theories of how to read it), and interpersonal therapeutics, of which he gives a long and interesting account, explicitly derived from Zeno, in On Frank Speaking.


Philodemus also, like many philosophers before and after him who were more influential as teachers and expositors than as original thinkers, devoted much of his life's work to the doxography and history of philosophy. He came to Rome after the First Mithridatic War and enjoyed the patronage of L. Calpurnius Piso Caesoninius (cos. 58 B.C.), the father-in-law of Julius Caesar; in this wealthy nobleman's villa at Herculaneum were found the famous charred papyrus rolls. Along with the Epicurean philosopher Siro, Philodemus had profound influence on a group of brilliant young students of Greek literature and philosophy whose activities were centered at Herculaneum and Naples. These students included Vergil and, as David Armstrong argues briefly here in his essay, probably Horace. But Philodemus also was highly regarded by some of the outstanding intellectuals of the previous generation, for Cicero praises him and Siro as the greatest Epicurean authorities he knew among his contemporaries in Italy (Fin. 2.119) and drew on his writings (probably) for the Epicurean theories criticized in such philosophical writings as De natura deorum. Admiration for Philodemus' epigrams, which Cicero says was universal (Pis. 70-71), seems to have been shared by Catullus, who wrote the first Latin imitation known to us (13) of the famous "invitation to a simple dinner" epigram to Piso. As Sider (1997, following Tait 1941) shows, this poem created a "mini-genre" in Latin carried on by, among others, Horace (Carm. 1.20, 4.12; Ep. 1.5), Martial (5.78, 10.48), and Juvenal (11.56-76):


Tomorrow, dearest Piso, to his simple home
at three P.M. your poetic comrade will drag you,
for your annual dinner, the Twentieth; there will be no
rich Roman sow's udders or toasts in expensive Chian,
but completely faithful friends and things to hear
sweeter than anything in Phaeacia's land.
Indeed if you turn a favorable eye on us also,
our Twentieth will turn from simple to fine.
—Philodemus Epigram 27 Sider = G-P 23


By the Twentieth, Philodemus means Epicurus' birthday; we know from a funeral inscription that one of the freedwomen of Caesar's wife Calpurnia, Piso's daughter, named her son (or her owners named him) Eikadion, "Mr. Twentieth," and also (since she rejoices that he had such excellent friends, and shows no sorrow at his death) that the freedwoman was herself an Epicurean. Calpurnia was also an Epicurean, to judge from the fact that Plutarch says in his famous account of her dream the night before Caesar was killed, which made her try to stop him from going to the Senate, that Caesar was the more disposed to pay attention to her because "he had never before had to accuse her of any tendency to womanly superstition" (Caes. 43). Finally, it appears, at least from what is known so far, that Philodemus' library may have contained copies of Latin poets, for in the Herculaneum library have been deciphered fragments of Ennius and Lucretius, in what look from the few small bits that survive to have been expensive and elaborately produced copies. Thus we have at least tenuous links between Lucretius, the great "fundamentalist" Epicurean poet of Rome, as Sedley calls him, whose doctrines, at least in Sedley's vision, are severely derived from the master himself without reference to later Epicureans and their controversies, and the revisionist circle of Philodemus, who has been called a "Panaetius of the Garden" for his and Zeno's expansions and revisions of Epicurean studies, and the poets influenced by his poetry and philosophy, like Vergil and Horace.


Many of these links have been known and studied since at least the late nineteenth century. As we saw, even the incomplete texts from P.Herc. 1082 and 253, first discussed by Körte (1890), suggested that Vergil, Horace, and their circle had been influenced by the Naples and Herculaneum schools. Texts like these had already created an earlier wave of enthusiasm for the theory of an Epicurean connection between Philodemus and Siro and the great Roman poets. This wave of enthusiasm lasted (we may say) from Körte's days to the 1940s, spurred by the series of Teubner texts of Philodemus' prose published by scholars like Wilke, Sudhaus, Olivieri, and Jensen between the 1890s and the 1920s—besides the epigrams, for which scholars of that day had Kaibel's edition of 1885, and whose text had always been comparatively unproblematic.


This wave of enthusiasm, represented among others by Augusto Rostagni in Italy and by G. L. Hendrickson, Tenney Frank, Norman De Witt, Agnes Michels, and Jane I. M. Tait in the United States, seems to have come to a temporary halt in the world of Anglo-American scholarship with such works as Tait's 1941 dissertation, "Philodemus' Influence on the Latin Poets," and Michels' short but brilliant article of 1944, "Parrhesia and the Satire of Horace." Rostagni was among the first to appreciate the revolutionary nature of Philodemus' poetic and aesthetic theories and speculate on their influence on Cicero, Vergil, and Horace in his articles "Filodemo contra l'estetica classica" (Rostagni 1923-1924) and his commentary on the Ars poetica (Rostagni 1930). Hendrickson, a prescient literary critic for his day, whose criticisms of Latin poetry remarkably anticipate modern concerns with genre theory and intertextuality, pointed out in a fine article of 1918 significant intertextualities between Horace's lyric poetry and Philodemus' epigrams. Tenney Frank in his 1922 biography of Vergil argued that behind the Aeneid's facade of gods and journeys to the underworld, a poet who had never abandoned his youthful devotion to Epicureanism was easy to discern, prefiguring the work by Gordon Williams and Viviane Mellinghoff-Bourgery discussed in Marcello Gigante's contribution to this volume. De Witt asserted Horace's lifelong Epicureanism throughout his works, from the earliest Satires to the latest Epistles. Michels (1944) and De Witt (1935) both saw the importance of the treatise on Epicurean interpersonal therapy, On Frank Speaking, to the now mild, now astonishingly harsh tone Horace takes to his addressees in both his lyric and his hexameter poems: even the apparent harshness is flattering, for it implies that the addressee is a fellow student and progress-maker in philosophy. Above all, Tait (1941) provided the first comprehensive survey of the influence of Philodemus' epigrams and (more timidly, because of the formidably difficult state of the texts in her day) his prose theories on the Roman poets from Catullus to Ovid and beyond.


In the context of the present volume, these scholars can be seen to have made great progress for their time, and many of their conclusions are still important. Our sympathies are especially with Tait, whose work on Philodemus' influence on the Latin poets had to wait over fifty years for full and generous recognition at last in Sider's commentary on the epigrams, and, we hope, finds it in the present volume also. But what frustrated the hopes of these scholars was the slowing of work on further editions of Philodemus' prose. Not unjustifiably. From the 1920s onward, fewer and fewer scholars outside Italy worked on the Herculaneum papyri. The Teubner editions, many of them in fact reasonably reliable and making good sense of their difficult texts, were also full of what looked like (and too often were) audacious emendations. But as time went on after their publication, the hopes of the scholarly world for more accurate information that could be checked and reliably estimated by the international scholarly community faded. The story of this frustrating period has been well told by Mario Capasso in his succinct and appealing 1991 history of Philodemus' texts and Philodemus studies, Manuale di Papirologia Ercolanese, and little of it needs to be repeated here. Certainly, the few scholars who went against the current and made Philodemus central to their investigation of Augustan poetry and poetics achieved remarkable results. Two familiar examples among the works of Anglo-American scholars are Charles Brink's researches in volume 1 of his Horace on Poetry (1963) into the influence of Neoptolemus of Parium's poetic theories, as reported by Philodemus, on Horace's Ars poetica and other theoretical satires and epistles, and Nathan Greenberg's pioneering investigation of Philodemus' own poetic theories in his Harvard dissertation of 1955, "The Poetic Theory of Philodemus," and the brief but influential articles (Greenberg 1958, 1961) with which he followed it. These at least had the result that Philodemus' poetic and rhetorical theories were well summarized in outline for English readers in Grube's The Greek and Latin Critics of 1965. But the discouraging climate for such researches is shown by the fact that Greenberg's dissertation—which will remain fundamental to the study of Philodemus' poetics, as we now know, even when all the complicated texts involved have been redone, rearranged, and edited as perfectly as they can be—was only made available to the general public in 1990. That, not coincidentally, was the year in which several of the authors in this volume—David Armstrong, Michael Wigodsky, and Dirk Obbink—began, after the Christmas 1989 American Philological Association meeting in Boston, with their colleagues Richard Janko, David Blank, and James Porter, to plan what became the Philodemus Translation Project, which was funded by the Texts and Translation Division of the National Endowment for the Humanities, an independent federal agency. Eventually its results will encompass all the aesthetic works in new texts, the best that can be made with our new techniques, especially of reordering of fragments and multiple-imaging photography; and wonderful examples of what can and will be achieved are available today in volume 1 of Dirk Obbink's Philodemus on Piety (1996) and Richard Janko's new edition of Book 1 of Philodemus on Poems (2000).


This project would never have been possible if not for the work of the one remarkable man who is the fons et origo of modern international studies of the Philodemus library: Marcello Gigante. It was he who, on succeeding in 1964 to the directorship of what became the Centro Internazionale per lo Studio dei Papiri Ercolanesi (CISPE) in Naples, broke down all the barriers to international study of these texts and introduced modern methods—including the first microscopes allowed in their study since their discovery in the eighteenth century—to the Officina dei Papiri in the National Library, and it was he who inspired and began the journal Cronache Ercolanesi (1971-), now in its thirtieth year of providing the world with new and reliable texts and studies of the Herculaneum papyri by scholars both Italian and foreign. He also designed and fostered the great series La Scuola di Epicuro, which has now provided seventeen authoritative Herculaneum texts with translation and notes. Since the Philodemus Translation Project began work in Naples in 1993, even more exciting results have come about, always with Gigante's help and encouragement. Richard Janko, Dirk Obbink, and Daniel Delattre have recreated immense masses of text previously scattered across various confusing papyrus numbers and published out of their proper order, by what has come to be called the "Delattre-Obbink" method owing to its near-simultaneous discovery by these two scholars. In the mid-1990s the Project presented the Officina with new and more powerful microscopes that increased the accuracy of reading significantly; and just recently—for these workers had only begun photographing in summer 2000 when the Cuma conference presented here was held—researchers from the Institute for the Study and Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts proved the usefulness of the new technique of multi-spectral imaging (MSI) photography in recovering readings even (sometimes) from parts of the papyri where nothing was readable either by the naked eye or by microscope.


The digital images provided by this technique will soon make it possible to accomplish a good part of the tedious work of reading and editing outside the Officina on computer screens, and will provide international scholars in the future with a means of at least partially reviewing and checking our work electronically, without having to visit Naples. Marcello Gigante's death in November 2001 was a blow to every one of us in the Philodemus Translation Project and to all the authors in this volume, all the more cruel because we had hoped to reward his constant encouragement of research into the papyri and his enthusiastic participation in the Cumae conference with ever more fruitful results. We are happy to dedicate this volume to his memory, as one of a long series of volumes and articles that his enthusiasm and genius have inspired during his more than thirty years as head of the Centro Internazionale per lo Studio dei Papiri Ercolanesi.


As it is, recent years have seen unparalleled international progress in reading Philodemus; and yet the substance of Philodemus' thought was already so visible to scholars like Rostagni, De Witt, Michels, or Greenberg that there is surprisingly little about their fundamental insights that needs to be radically altered, rather than refined, supplemented, and confirmed by the new texts. If we review briefly the seven texts most fundamental to the present volume, every one of which is now far better and more reliably known and easier to access than it was when Marcello Gigante began a new era in Philodemus studies in 1970, the reason will be obvious. These seven texts are the "aesthetics" complex, On Poetry, On Music, On Rhetoric; the remarkable treatise on Epicurean spiritual direction and psychotherapy, On Frank Speaking; the ethical treatises On Death and On Anger; and the essay in ethical re-interpretation of the Iliad and Odyssey, On the Good King According to Homer.


We have far better texts of the works on poetry, music, and rhetoric now than ever before, and more are coming. For Philodemus' influence on the Augustans, though, the new texts mostly confirm, supplement, and correct what already was known in general by the 1960s, or even the 1920s. The Epicureans held that the five senses are irrational (aloga) and mechanical but (as far as they go) correct reporters of sense data, and that all correct and incorrect interpretations of these sense data are successes or failures of the rational mind, the logos. Thus Philodemus in On Music is the most hostile of all ancient theorists to the idea that pure music has either intellectual content or emotional and moral influence over the human mind. Pure music is not a rational experience, and if there are rational and mathematical theories of its production, these are merely theories of the production of pure sound and can guarantee no specific content, moral or intellectual, and can interest the rational mind only to the extent that they concern the purely artisan question of production and performance. Anything else is an illusion created by the presence of poetic text, which does have rational meaning and can be appreciated by the mind, but which as message can never convey instruction as well as philosophical prose can. As for music, it might excite and move the body, but never the mind. Though Neubecker and Delattre have given us far more reliable texts to work with than we had before, this much was always known, and has been analyzed by such earlier writers as Warren Anderson (1966) in ways that were already profitable and reliable, if not completely in detail, certainly in general; and L. P. Wilkinson (1932-1933) had already seen in the 1930s that Horace's Ars poetica echoes this emphasis on text, not music, as central to poetry's influence and impact.


On Rhetoric, which reveals Philodemus and Zeno as innovators in the context of their school (for Philodemus says some Epicureans denied that Epicurus had allowed rhetoric to be an art capable of theoretical treatment), again holds that the true function of rhetoric is neither political persuasion nor the rousing of emotion in an audience, as Aristotle and the theorists after him had held, for these can be done by means that have nothing to do with rhetoric.17 The real essence of rhetoric is epideictic, the art of artistic and brilliant prose applied to any subject trivial or important. In other words, the pure intellectual appreciation of beauty in the practice of rhetoric ought to take precedence over its practical political and forensic applications, which are not of its essence.


On Poems carries still further this theory of aesthetic and intellectual appreciation as being at the heart of artistic experience. Music is the least intellectual of artistic experiences; rhetoric is more worthy as an art of intellectual pleasure; but the heightened sense of form in its interrelationship with thought and content that makes every poem unique, and not a mere repetition of the same subject or topic as some other poet has already used, and the pleasure of realizing how that interrelationship is achieved, are the essence of what poetry can give, its idion, compared to which any moral, factual, or ethical content it may have is simply irrelevant to judging it good poetry or bad. The true philosopher is not in danger of being "taught" anything wrong by it, for he knows that its excellence, qua poetry, is purely formal and there to be appreciated by study and intellect, and that true teaching is only conveyed by accurate philosophical and scientific prose. But poetry is a legitimate and harmless intellectual pleasure if understood in this way, and each exercise in it by a good poet has the glory of being unique in its impact to such an extent that that impact on the mind, not merely the senses, is altered not only by large but by small changes, such as variant readings, none of which are indifferent to the experience as a whole. Thus, even sonic beauty in poetry adds not only to irrational music in the poem but to intellectual meaning.


The theory is relevant to the formal criticism of Augustan poetry, with its elaborate and highly intentional sonic beauty and its immense command of complicated formal effects small and large, and perhaps we can see its influence especially in poets like Propertius, Ovid, and Tibullus, with their recusationes of epic and politics and their assumption that good Callimachean poetry takes precedence of the political and moral dimensions of discourse. But though it helps with the formal analysis of Vergil and Horace, both poets have moral concerns, not to mention their proclamations of their roles as vates, which the theory does not completely address. This is part of the reason why many of our essayists (like Marilyn Skinner) are more ready to see Vergil and Horace as intelligent and combative readers and critics, even of Philodemus' more liberal and less doctrinaire and technical presentation of Epicureanism and its aesthetic implications, than as simple followers. Here, Philodemus' concessions to the moral teaching of poetry, especially of what it can make of the ideal statesman and good king, in On the Good King, seem more relevant. Asmis (1991) correctly explained that there is no contradiction: Homer said many things rightly about the "goodness" of his better princes, though it was not essential to his poems' "goodness" that he should have done so, and though it takes a philosopher to explain them correctly, not a poet. It also takes a philosopher to indicate the panoply of rival theories, by Stoics and others, presented and criticized in On Poems, which Richard Janko has brilliantly untangled from the confusion of misarranged fragments and clarified in his new edition of Book 1. According to most of these, though moral goodness would be preferable to a philosophical reader, the essence of poetry is the formal perfection of its music and sound, which in itself is sufficient to create poetry that is in that one sense "good," even if its implied ethical teaching is imperfect or bad. The theories of the Aristotelian critic Neoptolemus of Parium, whom Philodemus criticizes in On Poems 5, break the art of poetry down into three main divisions: poiema (poetry at the level of line-by-line stylistic finish), poiesis (the larger considerations of subject and form), and poietes (the education and training of the poet). Philodemus insists that these are not perfectly separable components, but factors, each of which continually influences the others. Both Neoptolemus' formulation and Philodemus' objections to it may well have influenced Horace's Ars poetica.


The treatise On Frank Speaking is at last available to English readers in the joint translation published by the Society for Biblical Literature (Konstan et al. 1998), and the introductory essay to this translation by Clarence E. Glad can be especially recommended, along with his summary of it in his Paul and Philodemus, which argues that Philodemus' techniques for confessional therapy and group therapy by "frank speaking" influenced Paul in setting up his early Christian communities. Philodemus describes in detail how the Epicurean teacher quasi-medically treats his students, not only with the gentle medicines of such techniques as confessing that he himself has committed the same faults, but with genuinely harsh (skleron) reproaches that he describes as like strong cathartics, relentlessly applied. These reproaches create the same "natural" and healthy pain that Philodemus ascribes to "natural" anger in On Anger and the more natural and sympathetic fear caused by the threat of death in On Death. And they can be helped by the same vivid (pro ommaton, "before the eyes") and aversive presentation of the bad consequences of the students' vices. Indeed, the application of these is an implied compliment to the students' strength of character, for they are not appropriate to beginners or to the weak. Along with Plutarch's treatise How to Tell a Flatterer from a Friend, which shows to what a surprising extent not just philosophical friendship but friendship in general in the ancient world depended on the exchange not only of compliments but also of determined frank criticism, this treatise is a crucial help in understanding the surprising frankness, verging on rudeness, with which writers like Horace and Seneca speak to their addressees. And it is a crucial supplement, for Plutarch's examples cover the field of ordinary conversation and the expectations that ancient "friends" in everyday life had of each other, but it is only Philodemus among surviving writers who describes fully how the ancient philosophical therapist used frankness, parrhesia, to achieve spiritual and philosophical progress in his students.


Philodemus' theory of anger in On Anger has been much discussed in recent years because of Giovanni Indelli's authoritative 1988 edition in the Scuola di Epicuro series, but its basic outline was already clear enough from Karl Wilke's 1914 Teubner text. Philodemus supports the use of Stoic diatribe (there is debate nowadays—see the third edition of the Oxford Classical Dictionary s.v. "Diatribe"—on whether this was an actual ancient form, but the debate has not yet taken this text into account) for its "vividness," its quasi-medical and therapeutic use in putting the ugliness of unrestrained anger and particularly the vicious pleasure of revenge pro ommaton, "before the eyes," and gives a long diatribe of his own in the Stoic manner, in the course of which he rounds on his own pupils and shows the damaging effects of anger on the philosophical student with vivid examples apparently taken from his own school and justified by his own treatise On Frank Speaking, which he explicitly cites in col. xxxvi. He goes on to argue against the Aristotelians that their justification of anger as an emotion appropriate to a wise man, if based on real slight and injustice, does not distinguish between its pain, which is natural and helpful, and its pleasure, which leads to irrational and prolonged obsessions with, and self-damaging projects of, revenge, rather than to the righting of wrongs, the only goal that can justify anger. Natural and good anger is characterized by pain, is short in duration, and is accompanied by little or no pleasure, and the wise man accepts it as he accepts a foul-tasting medicine or the surgeon's knife, not with pleasure. It is only false and self-indulgent anger and pleasure in revenge, which Philodemus calls thymos, "rage," and not orge, "anger," that is to be condemned as damaging to the wise man's soul. The underlying implication, in terms of Epicureanism, is that the pleasure of anger is a perfect instance of untrustworthy "kinetic" pleasure, not the "katastematic" or static and contemplative pleasures appropriate to the sage, and self-prolonging; the pain of anger can be accepted as natural and helpful, and moreover is self-limiting, for by Epicurean theory no one can be naturally eager to prolong pain.


We see in the present volume, especially in Fish's, Indelli's, and Armstrong's essays, the relevance of this text to Vergil and Horace: Horace explicitly recommends, not abstinence from anger, but brief and moderate anger as an ethical ideal, and indeed ascribes it to himself as a virtue at Ep. 1.20.25 (see Armstrong's piece in this volume). In Vergil's case, On Anger has become central to the debate since Galinsky's (1988) and Erler's (1992b) crucial essays: these authors, like Indelli and Fish in this volume, see that treatise as crucial to the morality of the Aeneid and the understanding of its often-repeated key words furor and ira, and Philodemus' theory as a basis for the understanding of the difference between Turnus' rash pleasure in anger and Aeneas' reluctant acceptance of it as a motivation for war and punishment.


In On Death, a text not yet available in full to the international scholarly community (for the 1925 edition with notes and translation in Dutch by Taco Kuiper has never gained the general circulation it merited, and Gigante [1983b] has given only a reliable text and translation into Italian of its fragmentary opening columns and its splendid peroration), Philodemus achieves rhetorical heights most unusual for him. Most of his philosophical treatises are composed in a far looser style than his surviving poems, and some of them, as John Procopé (1993) has recently complained about On Anger, strike readers used to the elaborate formalities, the antithesis and parallelism, of most classical Greek prose, as unrestrained improvisations. The importance of On Death is that—unlike Lucretius' stern diatribe at the end of Book 3 of De rerum natura—Philodemus treats many of the objections and fears raised by the prospect of death as unavoidable and deserving sympathy, even tears: the fear and frustration of dying young, of dying far from friends or one's native land, as he implies he must himself do, and especially of leaving one's friends and family unprotected and exposed to dangers from which one can no longer defend them, which in a memorable phrase he says "rouses flowing tears most of all in the most intelligent." Not only does he treat these fears as natural, like the pain of anger, he evidently feels that the beneficence of nature gives them to us to keep us living, and that it is unavoidable that they frustrate us and hurt us when this end can no longer be achieved. They can only be overcome by sympathetic therapy, or better, as the great peroration of the treatise instructs, by a perpetual, intense, almost religious contemplation of the facts of our mortality, which he thinks can make death in the end neither a surprise nor a terror when it finally arrives, whenever and however it does arrive.


Philodemus thus, without ever yielding any more than Epicurus himself does to the weakness of hope for survival after death, gives an encouragement and an example to the more philosophical Augustans, like Varius in his De morte and Vergil and Horace, to treat death with genuine poetic pathos and sympathy rather than with the cold philosophical detachment Lucretius tried to inculcate. This will not have been the least of his good influences as a "liberal" instead of a "fundamentalist" Epicurean on his poetic students. Far from recommending the stiff, unemotional tranquility of Stoic sages like the Cato of Lucan's Pharsalia, Philodemus' teaching gave them space for emotion in poetry by treating the "bite," as he calls it (degma, nyxis), of anger, of rebuke and shame from "frank speaking," and even of the fear of death, as natural, inevitable, and even, within limits, healthy human feelings.


On the Good King According to Homer, which gives according to its conclusion the aphormai for the epanorthosis of reading Homer (col. xliii), the "starting points" for a "morally improving reading," which in Philodemus' poetic theory would be like the allegorical readings by which the Stoics moralized mythology, is addressed to Piso, perhaps as a young man, looking for such hints for moral improvement from literature as are given in Plutarch's "How a Young Man Should Read Poetry." The essay, without in any way going back on Philodemus' general theory that it is indifferent to our appreciation of Homer as a great poet whether the paraphrasable content of his teaching is morally beneficial or not, finds that in many, though not all, points it is. And the perpetual references to the less "improving" biographies of actual Hellenistic princes in comparison to the behavior of Homer's heroes seem intended to show that indeed, to a certain extent, the Iliad and Odyssey, philosophically understood, can provide better models of princely behavior than actual history. The results of Tiziano Dorandi's pioneering edition (1982) of this text (which, as readers of this volume will see, is being redone by Jeffrey Fish with the help of improved techniques in repositioning detached fragments, and images from the Institute for the Study and Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts) have been very helpful, but already in 1965 Oswyn Murray was able to see its relevance to the reges, the princely class of the late Roman Republic, to which Piso belonged. Not only that, Elizabeth Asmis and Marcello Gigante, as explained by David Armstrong in this volume, have seen that Horace explicitly and extensively refers to this treatise in Epistle 1.2 and elsewhere in the first book of Epistles (perhaps as a covert way of presenting himself to his public as an appreciative "old boy" of the Herculaneum school along with his friends Vergil, Quintilius, Varius, and Plotius). Furthermore, the treatise contrasts negative examples of anger and extravagance, like Achilles and Paris, to positive examples of calmness, firmness, and nonvengeful anger, like Odysseus. Thus it supplements and reinforces the very texts from On Anger that have led Galinsky (1988) and Erler (1992b) to their analysis of Aeneas' ira as more praiseworthy, in Epicurean terms, than Turnus'.


On the basis of these and other treatises from the Herculaneum library, our contributors have been able to approach Vergil's three great works, and also, if less globally, Horace, Propertius, and Ovid, from a remarkable number of viewpoints in discussing the influence of Philodemus and Epicureanism on their poetry. In our first section, "Early Vergil," Diskin Clay argues for the authenticity of Catalepton 5, because of the use in it of a pattern of imagery drawn at once from Odyssey 12, the episode of the Sirens, and from Epicurus' adjunction to flee paideia as Odysseus fled from the Sirens. He shows that this imagery was common to Diogenes of Oenoanda and Philodemus and generally recognized in discussions of the Epicurean attitude to literature, and that the poem therefore reflects an intimate acquaintance with Epicurean literary conversation not likely to have been accessible to a mere imitator. In a similar vein, Francesca Longo Auricchio points out that the imagery of fleeing from the study of rhetoric to the calm harbor of philosophy—though in other contexts ancient authors use the "calm harbor" in many different ways—is common and distinctive both to Philodemus' Rhetoric and to Catalepton 5. More ambitiously, Régine Chambert draws out similarly distinctive Epicurean touches in the Culex, analyzing it for hints of its author's philosophical school in the wake of Mellinghoff-Bourgery's (1990) survey of Epicureanism in Vergil's three great works.


A touch of intertexual influence similar to those argued for by Clay and Longo is found by Gregson Davis in his study of the first eclogue, which leads off the second section of this volume. We know that one of Philodemus' great contributions to Latin poetry was the "invitation to a simple feast," implying both Epicurean restraint and plain-living friendship. Pointing out supporting evidence for Epicurean points of view in other eclogues, Davis analyzes not only the epigram Sider 27, quoted above in this introduction, but also Sider 29, where the invitation to a simple feast is connected with consolation for loss. He draws the conclusion that Tityrus' invitation to Meliboeus at 1.79-83 to console himself with a simple dinner before going into exile belongs firmly in the "minigenre" of such invitation poems founded by Philodemus, as Sider (1997: 153) calls it, along with Catullus 13, Horace Carm. 2.20, and others.


W. R. Johnson reflects on the meaning of the famous and enigmatic passage in the fourth georgic in which Vergil wishes he had had time to write more about gardens—an Epicurean watchword—and praises the simple life of the senex Corycius in his garden at Tarentum as a reflection on the tension between Vergil's Epicurean education and his role as an Augustan poet. Marcello Gigante, who is inclined to date Vergil's serious study of Epicureanism after the Eclogues and before the Georgics and Horace's first book of Satires, discusses various possibilities of Epicurean and specifically Philodemean references in the Georgics and gives a comprehensive review of previous attempts to deal with the role the poet's Epicureanism may or may not have played in the Aeneid.


Our next group of studies concerns the Aeneid. It may seem that this is a more problematic field in which to discuss Vergil's Epicureanism: Cicero had objected that the school's disdain for political involvement and its bare acknowledgment of the virtues as subordinate and facultative to philosophical pleasure rendered it unable to explain such phenomena as the sacrifices of pleasure to duty, without which Roman history was unthinkable. Vergil's hero is the incarnation of self-sacrifice to the purposes of history. The Epicureans believed neither in the afterlife nor in gods acting in the world and in history, yet Vergil's epic has both a whole book depicting the underworld and gods that act throughout to impel the development of Roman history and the Roman empire. And still, there have never been lacking critics who did not hesitate to take these elements in the Aeneid as somehow noncontradictive to the feelings of an essentially Epicurean poet. For them, Vergil shared the general skepticism of the Roman world of his day about the gods and the afterlife and used these elements as poetic allegories validated by epic convention, and the story of Aeneas is well enough justified as a subject for an Epicurean poet by the concessions the school made to the necessity of there being "good kings" and good Roman aristocrats, like those in Philodemus' treatise.


An important contribution to the analysis of ira in the Aeneid has been made in recent years by the articles of Galinsky (1988, 1994) and Erler (1992b) in our bibliography, which demonstrate that in terms of the definitions laid down by Philodemus in On Anger, Aeneas' brief and pain-filled outbursts of anger, which motivate him to remove causes of offense without seeking joy in revenge, belong to the category of justified "natural anger," while Turnus' immature anger and rejoicing in revenge are a textbook case of Philodemus' contention that the empty joy of anger and revenge recoils on and destroys the person who unwarily welcomes them into his soul. Giovanni Indelli argues that Aeneas' anger is indeed the physike orge that Philodemus praises and Turnus' furor the kene orge Philodemus condemns. Jeffrey Fish takes the discussion a significant stage further. Starting from new readings in On the Good King that suggest that Philodemus understood Odysseus to have undergone a moral correction in payment for the pleasure of his anger in gloating over Polyphemus, he argues that, during much of Book 2, Aeneas is filled with what Philodemus would call "empty" emotion, culminating in the Helen Episode, where he displays a self-destructive and pointless desire for the pleasure of vengeance. His mother's therapeutic rebuke, which conforms to Philodemus' instructions on curing anger given in On Frank Speaking, returns him to a sense of his destiny and his self-interest. With these Philodemean ideas, which Vergil is much likelier to have understood than any possible imitator, underlying the Helen Episode, we can argue strongly for its authenticity—an argument very much like Clay's, Longo's, and Davis', but on a larger scale. Frederic Schroeder analyzes the use of "distancing" as a consolatory or calming topic in Philodemus and Lucretius, the avocatio by which we soften the immediacy of suffering by placing it in a larger context of time and space, as the source of some famous passages in the Aeneid that "distance" Aeneas from the sufferings of Troy or the reader from those of Dido.


Three essays that consider Epicurean "piety" and Vergil's gods radically attack the problem of Vergilian theology. Patricia Johnston brings into relief the selflessness of Aeneas' piety, which is like that which Philodemus and the Epicureans recommended and without Lucretius' polemical hostility to ordinary religious observance, conjuring up a hero who might indeed, as an enigmatic text in the Aeneid that Dirk Obbink treats more explicitly puts it, be said "to excel both men and gods in piety" (Aen. 12.839). More radically still, Obbink's essay argues that Vergil's gods explain themselves away as paradoxes when Jupiter utters this challenging line—just as the gods of Camoens' Lusiads reveal themselves at the end of that epic as allegories and not gods. From the first questioning at Aeneid 1.11 whether "such angers can be found in the gods' souls," Vergil's divinities have been problematized for the reader, because Epicurus had said firmly that they are free of such passions; the passage at 12.831-839 asserting both that they do experience anger and that men can excel them in piety makes them deconstruct themselves. Obbink then goes on to a discussion of Philodemus', Apollodorus', Vergil's, and Ovid's interest in catalogues of the gods' destructive passions, especially in the case of their love affairs, as proof that mythology is not so much truth as allegory or poetic ornament. With different arguments, the same point of view is reinforced in Michael Wigodsky's contribution. Unlike Obbink, Wigodsky maintains that the tranquil and noninterfering Epicurean gods, so utterly unlike Vergil's, were believed by Epicurus and Philodemus to have actual objective existence as finite beings in real space and real time.


Marilyn Skinner, by contrast—but by no means total contrast, for what we are seeing is a series of reflections on Vergil's independence of mind in taking up (especially in the Aeneid) subjects whose relevance to an Epicurean poet his brilliant teacher Philodemus might have regarded with alarm—shows that Philodemus' theory of poetry, namely his contention that its essence is interpenetrating perfection of thought and form and that its moral teaching and emotional impact, for good or ill, is a separate question indifferent to its essence and best argued by philosophers, cannot well have satisfied Vergil, if we understand correctly the various passages in the Aeneid in which the ability of art to portray and console is brought out. Daniel Delattre, in a survey of Vergil's musical imagery underpinned by his own arduous and pioneering work in restoring the fragments of On Music to a coherence and order they have never had before, evolves from all these details an argument that Vergil seems, even more than Horace, to have agreed with Philodemus that music has only the influence on the mind and understanding that the power of the poetic text can give it.


Our final pair of essays treats Philodemus' influence on Horace and Propertius. David Armstrong finds the influence of both Epicurus and Philodemus, especially in On Anger, On the Good King, On Frank Speaking, and On Death, to be highlighted at key and significant points in Horace's first book of Epistles in a way that undercuts his proclaimed "eclecticism" in philosophy and makes him really more inclined to favor the opinions of the "eclectic" Epicurean Philodemus, who in a surprising number of instances agrees with the other schools in every way that seems to him not to threaten his basic loyalty to Epicurean dogma. Francis Cairns detects Varius under the name "Lynceus" in Propertius 2.34, as well as Epicurean thought in the poem itself, and argues that Propertius was eager to insinuate himself into the friendship of Vergil's circle by praising two members of the famous foursome, Vergil, Varius, Plotius, and Varus, now certainly known to us as Philodemus' addressees from the Herculaneum papyri mentioned above.


We find, then, that accounting for Philodemus' influence on Vergil and the Augustans can lead us very far in discovering in the Augustan poets references and intertextualities with the Campanian school of Epicureans and their liberality toward theories of poetic and musical aesthetics and toward the validity of at least some kinds of human emotion. The gods of the Aeneid, in particular, and its version of the afterlife in Hades and Elysium, may be a more subtle and challenging version of philosophical allegory than even a Lucretius permits himself in dealing with the gods and afterworld of traditional belief and earlier poetry. If Vergil allows himself an apparatus of gods to account for the inevitability of Rome and its empire in history, does not even Lucretius open his poem with two quintessentially Roman gods and pray for the peace of Rome so his poem may have leisure to work itself out? And, most of all, is not Philodemus' account, in both On Anger and On the Good King, of the pain and brief duration of virtuous anger as opposed to the obsessiveness and self-destructiveness of the desire for revenge the most apposite way to explain Vergil's portrayal of Aeneas' ira and Turnus' furor? Has not Vergil reread his Homer in the light of Philodemus' moral lecture on him and appropriated Philodemus' way of dealing with regal anger almost to the letter?


But (to end on a more questioning note) Horace's references to On the Good King may be relatively unproblematic: he recommends the technique of epanorthosis, or morally improving reading, without irony: Achilles' anger is, according to both Horace (Epist. 1.2) and Philodemus, intended as an aversive example, Odysseus' as positive. But if Vergil was influenced by Philodemus' On Anger and On the Good King in his portraits of Aeneas and Turnus, does this solve the problem? Or does it, challengingly and creatively, raise further problems still? Have we found a "figure in the carpet," to use Henry James' phrase, that allows us to resolve all the challenging questions that the Aeneid raises about Romanism, duty, war, and conquest? Our essayists give different answers, mostly negative, and we agree. One question, for example, that has gone so far undiscussed in the literature is why, if Aeneas is an "ideal" hero in Epicurean terms, that profound inner happiness, toward whose creation, Epicureanism firmly held, the only real use of the virtues tends, seems so resoundingly absent from his character. In an Epicurean writer, if Vergil was one, or even a writer reacting to Epicurean doctrine as an important influence, as he most certainly was, that cannot be trivial. Politics, as Philodemus says flatly in On Rhetoric, is the great enemy of friendship, and for an Epicurean that means it is an enemy of happiness, the highest good, since happiness is unattainable in life without friendship. One of the finest essays on the Aeneid of recent times, Dennis Feeney's "The Taciturnity of Aeneas" (1983), studies the relative isolation of the characters in Vergil's epic, their curious failure to form those lasting and consoling friendships which are so crucial a theme to convinced Epicureans like Philodemus and Horace—all the more striking since these are to be found in abundance even among the primitive, unphilosophical warriors and their families in Vergil's Homeric models. "In the private realm," Feeney notes, "[Aeneas] is the poem's most consistent and prominent paradigm of the weak and insubstantial nature of human interchange; in the public realm, he is increasingly successful through the course of the poem as the leader of the Trojan enterprise, whether as diplomat or general . . . free from the manipulation and distortion which controls the words of the other outstanding orators of the poem." And he quotes D. J. Stewart's "Mortality, Morality and the Public Life: Aeneas the Politician":


All those flat, dull speeches of encouragement . . . are the politician's special burden. He must pretend to enthusiasms he does not feel, repress emotions he does feel, and generally behave not as a free individual but as the incorporation of a society's needs, a trust-officer for other people's future.


Where indeed are all those faithful and intimate friends (except perhaps for the famously faceless fidus Achates) that Aeneas should have in abundance, if his character were anything like Philodemus' ideal? As for happiness, Aeneas himself summarizes his experience by telling his son Ascanius at the end of the poem (12.435-436) that he can learn virtue and the spirit of hard work from his father but good fortune—and, he implies, happiness—from others:


disce, puer, virtutem ex me verumque laborem,
fortunam ex aliis.


In On the Good King, Philodemus himself is working somewhat against the grain: Epicurus had pointed out (and so had he) that political life is not the life of happiness, but they both admitted that responsibilities undertaken have to be fulfilled as well as they can, even if they go against the great central project of personal happiness. Thus, with no desire whatever to be a king, a grandee, or the center of a patronage network himself, Philodemus nonetheless shows Piso that Homer offers positive and negative examples for making the most of such a life better than does the study of real history. However "virtuous" Aeneas' anger may be in terms of Philodemus' theory, Vergil's Aeneas seems to express still deeper problems that the poet has with the public and political and military dimension of life and its impact on a hero's character, friendships, and happiness; and this is only one of many reasons, as this volume shows, why to acknowledge the deep impact Philodemus' and Epicurus' and Lucretius' thought had on Vergil throughout his creative life is not to arrive at any simple interpretation or closure-achieving solution, but only at further challenge.




“This is an outstanding collection. It is beautifully produced and provides a fascinating insight into one of the most promising and productive areas of current Vergilian scholarship.”


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