Free remarks about a review by Aristide Colonna.



Aristide Colonna (1909-1999) was, actually, the last Italian scholar of classical languages who not infrequently was used to write in Latin his philological contributions, which the classicists—as they are in the habit of doing—publish in the periodicals devoted to classical philology.
Apart from the small flock still trusting that the use of the Latin language, spoken! (pronouncing it we do not tell you with what), can spring up again throughout the world, today there is no longer any professor, Latinist, Hellenist, or learned in utroque, who writes his articles in Latin.
Students of classical studies—considerably diminished, not only in number, after the havoc performed by the rulers to the detriment of the Italian school—wanting to read what the scholars across the Alps write, are forced to learn at least English, French and German (and also Spanish, with the publication of the Diccionario griego-español [Madrid 1980-, under the guidance of Francisco R. Adrados] and much more, indeed, claims its room). In short, rather than learning, properly, only one common language, that is Latin, today they need to know, badly, at least three.[1]
The responsibility of such a situation must be ascribed above all to the holders of the European chairs who never bothered to draw up a shared directive containing the guidelines for a correct use of the Latin language in the philological field.
And dictionaries are neither stimulus nor help.[2] Ferdinando Bernini meant “for Latin, not that of a writer or of an age... but the language that, being based on lexicon, morphology and syntax of the literature created during the three centuries fundamental for Latin history and thought, accepts, albeit cautiously, the aid that allows it to express every concept, with not inelegant effectiveness and clarity”.[3] Three centuries! So, in a Latin composition, Bernini did not longe for the use of the Latin language at its acme (Caesar's age), but of a three-century milkshake of it. It would ensue such a mixture of syntactic constructions and lexicon, that any reader would be in trouble, and would end up thinking that, perhaps, it would be better to resort to Esperanto! ... or rather, better, to his mother tongue. Not to mention the deleterious consequences that the addiction to such a shake would have on Latinists' sensitivity: they would no longer be able to distinguish between Terence's Latin and Tacitus's!
Hence, it is natural to think that to dissuade a Latinist from writing Latin articles probably also concurs the fear of exposing himself. Once upon a time the university asked the student, as proof, a Latin composition; now no longer. Critical editions with prefaces in editor's mother tongue—that is, no longer in Latin (prava consuetudo defines it Prof. Colonna in a review)—are more and more frequent.
On the one hand, all of this can be positive, sicne manuals and dictionaries are all to be redone-but with different criteria. On the other hand, it casts a shadow on the competence—if ever it was necessary...—of the brains teaching in the universities. And this is not just about the classical studies...
Aristide Colonna, on the contrary, writing in Latin, did not have any fear of exposing himself. In 1982, to celebrate the accomplishment of his seventieth birthday, the publishing house Paideia even published a volume of Scripta Minora with articles and reviews, all written by Colonna in Latin. In dedicatory inscription Giuseppe Scarpat traces his colleague as the one, qui industria ac perseverantia nec non mirabili doctrina omnes Graecarum et Romanarum litterarum regiones inquisivit et inlustravit praesertim vero summo mentis acumine antiquos scriptores edendos curavit.
This is certainly not the place to review Colonna's publications. Our reader, we suppose, wants us to come to the core.
Well, in 1968 a young guy, Guglielmo Ballaira, edited a diligent and learned small edition (TIBERII de figuris Demosthenicis, edidit Guilelmus Ballaira, Romae [in aedibus Athenaei] 1968) of 111 pages, all written, coincidentally!, in Latin, containing a comprehensive Appendix de codicibus figurarum and X plates (tabulae phototypae). The editor premised the text with a Latin introduction of 47 pages, where there is even a paragraph on the Leopardi notulae (page XXXVI f.). In short, a truly commendable work.
A few years later, an (Italian!) review of two and a half pages by Aristide Colonna appeared in “Rivista di filologia e di istruzione classica” XCIX (1971), pp. 201÷203.
Prof. Colonna immediately begins by giving a gibe, not pertinent, to the current editions of Demosthenes; then he passes to a note-reprimand to Ballaira and remarks that the index locorum, “which you meet in some [= of poor value] collection of critical texts, does not help the fluency of reading” (page 201). You almost have the impression that our reviewer wants to split hairs. In fact, he acknowledges to the editor “a meticulous description” of the codices, but, alas! “too meticulous”! That is not all, “some very accurate lists of iotacismi vitia et menda” are “hardly useful to a scholar”. At this point, however, Prof. Colonna makes a small mistake: “The volume ends ... with eight phototypical plates...” No, ten!
In the fourth paragraph of his review, Prof. Colonna would like to enter into the merit of the recensio, but, finding nothing substantial, warns the reader that Scevola Mariotti is the one “who led Ballaira in the difficult task of rectifying the most corrupt places;” that is to say that Ballaira, alone, would not have been able to do it... Then, with regard to § 46.3-4 (p. 42), where Thucydides is quoted: “That Thucydidean quotation—writes Prof. Colonna—can be identified with much goodwill;” it is the case, however, that, given the citation of Thucydides' name (παρὰ τῷ Θουκιδίδῃ), there is no other place with the two verbs involved, and not only Thucydidean!
But it is not over. The “references in the notes” are of such “scrupulous exactness” that “the slightest flaw leaps more easily into the eye of the expert [of course!]; e.g., on p. 30, note 29.17, as for the Homeric variant κῆρ of Σ 535, the Editor should have written more accurately: vide Hom. ed. Allen 1931 (III, 101), instead of: Hom. editiones: Th. W. Allen et A. Ludwich.” The reviewer, however, commits a slight flaw too, because the Homeric variant is not κῆρ, but Κήρ, as Ballaira wrote. And then there is still “a strange inequality in the method of shortening the names of the scholars and publishers of Tiberius”...
Amiably (?) beaten, Ballaira also deserves a sugary: “Finally a sincere [only here?] praise goes to the enthusiasm, with which the Editor wanted to revive the tradition of writing the Prolegomena in Latin ... And it is an agile and clear Latin”...
No, no! Just a moment: the Reader does not misunderstand. Precisely because “you feel the patient work of polishing” (who knows how much Ballaira slogged away at...), Prof. Colonna takes the liberty of “detecting some imperfection”. And let us see them!
—Ballaira is blamed for the use of in elencho instead of in indice; in a philological context, however, it seems more like an almost provocative remark.
—“Often in the notes we read editores antecedentes for superiores editores.”
This is the only correct observation, since antecedens is said of things, not of people; nevertheless, it remains a fussiness that our Professor could spare.
But the best is coming.
—«On p. XXII, instead of lacunis vacuum, more appropriate lacunis destitutum“.
Well, this observation from a logical standpoint is a real shaky argument: lacunis destitutum would mean, “deprived of lacunas”, i.e. in that context it would mean just the opposite. Now, as lacuna in a philological sense is a neologism, lacunis vacuum is fine; Ballaira could perhaps say sine lacunis (Gellius uses sine mendis), but certainly not lacunis destitutum!
But here is the icing on the cake, an embarrassing note.
—“On p. XVI, instead of cautionis vero omne adhibens genus, better to write cautissime vero ipse agens.”
Here Prof. Colonna shows the attitude typical of professors. Compare, in fact, Cic. ep. Quint. 2.2: omne genus cautionis ... adhibebitur; and ad Att. 1,19,8: adhibeam quandam cautionem et diligentiam. Thus, the phrase used by Ballaira is perfectly Ciceronian and absolutely unassailable! On the contrary, qui cautissime agunt is a Plinian expression (15,12).

From above derive our reflections.
What force or authority can induce an esteemed scholar to quibble on insignificantly inappropriate expressions or to suggest a pejorative phrase?
An exhaustive answer would require too much space. So let us try to synthesize. We answer: the academic titles, and the academic bigotry that those titles inject without the victim being aware of it; a bigotry that constitutes the vehicle, through which the αὐθάδεια-virus is transmitted, followed by an invasion of infecting agents.
Who teaches at the university thinks, beyond the real competence (see the “principle of Peter”), to have reached the top, to sit on the throne of culture; he does not study anymore; he does not feel the need to sieve what he has learned. If general practitioners learn the news from medical-scientific informers that is from sellers, the humanists are pressed by the publishing houses for the adoption or the compilation of texts, with intuitive advantages. If we add the cumbersome bureaucracy, which a professor must take on, the picture is completed. The intelligence of the individual can no longer act, like a rat ended up in the glue.
The legal value of academic qualifications and the fronts given by legally recognized professional orders, at any level, are miasmatic institutions by now, typical of modern pseudo-culture, and, being that, they provide a protective barrier to incompetent and troublemaking people.
Who knows how many perplexities Colonna's review will have raised around the competence of Ballaira! How many looks of tacit disapproval among colleagues; how many subtle allusions: “Yes, he was diligent, but as for the Latin ... he wanted to brag... and then it was Mariotti who did all thing after all... very nice! ...” And so on.
We do not believe that Aristide Colonna had a negative nature, indeed; on the contrary, we can guarantee that he was a person exquisite in his ways and even modest and unusually available (at least as an old man, that is to say outside the games). But the point is right here: with a brain narcotised by continuous doses of the subtle and violent bigotry which the university background is filled with, he was not able to evaluate the effects of a review only apparently laudatory nor to check the rightness of his observations. An example of the damages the system produces.
Finally, after we have quoted the case of a small review put in writing, the reader should try to imagine what happens when ratio non est reddenda...





NOTES.

[1] Another great scholar, in contrast, wished—and for a time he worked for—the spread of Esperanto! Cf. Ugo Enrico Paoli, La questione della Lingua Universale, Vigevano (Tipografia Nazionale A. Borrani Ved. Morone) 1915. Who would have thought!

[2] Not wanting to consider foreign dictionaries, among which the Nouveau Dictionnaire français-latin by Henri Goelzer (Paris, Garnier, 161935) is still the best, from the Italian-Latin dictionaries, as they were conceived, the student cannot learn anything: the Dizionario italiano-latino compiled by Oreste Badellino (Torino, Rosenberg, 1962), defined by someone “excellent”—but generously and, at one time, ambiguously qualified “hypertrophic” by A. Traina—has a large circulation, nevertheless it is a disaster actually; the only positive side is given by the readability (merit of the printer) and by a good division of the Italian lemmata; as for the Latin, let us forget ... Not to mention the monstrous special edition of it (1961): 4262 columns! In spite of that, if—just for giving an instance—you were looking for 'ambulatorio medico' (surgery), you would be disappointed. “But it is a modern expression!” someone would say. So it seems. But, in the new edition of Luigi Luciano's Vocabolario italiano-latino, edited by Alfonso Traina (Bologna, Pàtron, 1962), that entry is present: “... to indicate a place where patients gather for a simple medical examination, not for staying in hospital, I would translate it valetudinarium adventicium ... Plautus in this sense uses medicina (sc. taberna), Amph. 1013” (there is, however, who, implying officina, translates 'clinica', nursing home). Perugini in his Dizionario italiano-latino (Roma, Editrice Vaticana, 1976), by far the most serious one, but, alas, not easy to use, proposes again the suggestion of Bacci (Lexicon etc., Romae, Societas Libraria "Studium”, 41963, p.49): ambulatorium medicabulum. But—some surprise! —Cicero helps us: in pro Cluentio 178 to mean 'to equip and furnish a medical surgery' he says instruere et ornare medicinae exercendae causa tabernam. So the classical Latin expression for 'surgery' is medicinae exercendae causa taberna, of which there is no trace in any dictionary. Which expression constitutes, among other things, a suggestion on how to translate similar expressions, for which the direct support of a writer of the age of Caesar is lacking.

[3] Cf. Latino vivente - Avviamento allo scrivere latino, Torino (S.E.I.) 1937, p. 3.

© Franco Luigi Viero