Carlo Giussani, Lucrezio. Primo Tomo


At the beginning of the short Praefatio ad editionem secundam of his Lucretius, published in the Scriptorum classicorum bibliotheca Oxoniensis (1922), with regard to Lucretius studies appeared during the twenty-three years since the first edition (1900) Cyril Bailey writes: “In primis absolutum est opus Caroli Giussani, qui cum doctrinam Epicureorum subtilissimo acumine exposuisset, a locis compluribus carminis nostri tenebras quasi clara luce discussit.” A patent recognition that should have and should make proud our Italian classicists. We said “should”, because, actually, Giussani's work was soon accused, and not only in Italy, of an excessive relocation of the handed down text, so that even at the end of the 1960s, our professor of Latin and Greek still remembered the Giussani's edition, stigmatising it for too many rearrangements.
Since Giussani's comment was published in the “Collezione di classici greci e latini con note italiane” (Loescher), that is, for secondary school, we will mention only three eminent classicists, authors also of commentaries for high school students. First of all, Carlo Pascal, who in the Introduction to his commented edition of the first book[1] states: “Giussani in the volumes of his 'Studi lucrezian' made useful clarifications of some parts of the doctrine and some ingenious attempts to explain other parts. He also published an annotated edition of Lucretius, an edition which is conducted with diligence, but, for the most part, he collects his news from the previous commentators”. In this judgment, which clearly clashes with that of Bailey, the recognition of diligence sounds like a paternalistic sugary offered to a willing disciple! So much so that Luigi Castiglioni, in a note, felt he had to restrain it: «Judgment to be tempered. Giussani's commentary is based on a deep study of the poet's thought.” On the other hand, Pascal, in his commentary, largely exploited the colleague's commentary.
But do not believe that Castiglioni's attitude was irreproachable; an example will be enough: to notemus, I 914, he annotates: “—notemus: not notamus, it is the codices reading, very sound (adversative conjunctive), so I have restored it. Ernout compares 1,319 cum sint dedita (explanatory subjunctive); more fitting 1,519 adduced by Merrill.” Now, pay attention to Giussani's note: “... Brieger, giving to cum a simply temporal sense, 'when we designate etc.,' believes the grammar calls for the correction notamus. So it seemed to me as well; but now I am inclined to preserve notemus of the mss., giving to cum an adversative sense: 'Although the words, with which we designate fire and wood, are two names quite distinct.'” So Giussani had defended and explained the mss. reading decidedly before Ernout and Castiglioni!
The third professor is Adelmo Barigazzi. In the Introduction to his learned commentary of the sixth book,[2] dealing with the sources of book 6 (p. xvii f. n. 4), he quotes Giussani as follows: “With reference to the book of Rusch, I think that also Giussani (Studi lucreziani, p. 11) admitted in Lucretius influences of other sources outside Epicurus in the 'explanation of some particular and localized phenomena (in the 6th book), which is out of any probability that Epicurus had spoken about.'” First of all, note the surprising “I think.”[3] Shortly before, however (p. xiii), Barigazzi had written: “... the very important results of the studies by Bignone [...] have confirmed the veracity of what the poet himself confesses in the proem of the 3rd book, i.e. he omnia depascitur Epicuri chartis. [...] Lucretius constantly follows Epicurus' περὶ φύσεως. This too can be affirmed with sufficient certainty after the studies of Bignone...” Now compare the what Giussani writes immediately after 'spoken about:' “... but it is definitely to exclude what some scholars maintained, that is to say that Lucretius took from other authors such points of doctrine, which could introduce any modification in the physical doctrine of the master. The idea of Lucretius as innovator or corrector of the system must completely be banished.” And a little before (p.10): “... which Epicurus' book had the poet in front of him as his guide and source? I believe, with Brieger and others, it was the μεγάλη ἐπιτομή, which, as we have seen, was supposed to be a more complete and more popular treatise than the letter to Herodotus; and so it seems the Lucretius poem too. But it is also to be admitted that the poet took advantage from both the major work περὶ φύσεως, and the minor epitome.” So, what Barigazzi attributes exclusively to the 'very important' studies by Bignone had already been decidedly affirmed by Giussani. Nor can we believe that Barigazzi stopped reading the quoted paragraph at 'spoken about!'
Such irreverence toward Giussani is not rare in the writings of the Italian classicists we have had the opportunity to read.[4]
Giussani's commentary is perhaps the most beautiful one that has ever been devoted to school: it is as exhaustive as possible; everything tends to make clear what Lucretius means; it involves and stimulates the reader's attention. Exegesis is unitary, coherent. When you read the introductory studies (Studi lucreziani) you almost have the impression, sometimes, of being seated in the classroom and listening to the professor himself who speaks to you with shared passion.
Because of the undeniable disorder of the text, as the poet left it, the only recovery of the archetype is absolutely not enough; and the constant calls of the most recent editors to prudence and respect for the manuscript tradition, are nothing but a declaration of renunciation of understanding. The transfers of Giussani, which are not so twisting, as some would have you believe, are always dictated not by personal preconceptions, but by a subtle and rigorous analysis of the Epicurean doctrine, just as Lucretius understood it. It goes without saying that here and there the reader may disagree, but it is always a question of minor smudges, if we really want to admit them, in comparison with the coherent framework that the commentary outlines to the last verse. Lucretius is not a suitable author for weak minds. It is not enough to know Latin, he requires a great deal of ingenii mentisque vis, a dowry that—it is known—few people have.
Before listing the features of our new edition, please, allow us a note in the margin.
A vexata quaestio is represented by the mention that Cicero makes of Lucretius' poem in a letter to his brother Quintus. Rivers of ink without ever reaching a proposal at least acceptable, that is to say sensible. Let us see it: Lucreti poemata, ut scribis, ita sunt: multis luminibus ingeni, multae tamen artis; sed cum veneris. Virum te putabo si Sallusti Empedoclea legeris, hominem non putabo (cf. 2,10,17 [Salvatore]). Pasoli made a detailed analysis of it,[5] but did not touch the handed down text. But the text, as it is-whatever the punctuation-is wrong. First of all, the elliptic period sed cum veneris ..., now accepted by all editors, has nothing to do with Cicero.[6] Moreover, you cannot ascribe to the orator the vir-homo opposition. Both nouns occur in the same sentence almost exclusively in Cicero, who, however, employs them as complementary synonyms: e.g., hominem honestissimum, virum fortissumum (Font. 41); virum optimum et hominem pudentissimum (Cluent. 77); virum bonum atque integrum hominem (Mur. 14); gratum hominem et virum bonum (fam. 13,25,1), and so on. The only place where their meaning is different, but not opposed, is fam. 5,17,3: Quam ob rem omnibus officiis amicitiae diligenter a me sancteque servatis ne hoc quidem praetermittendum esse duxi, te ut hortarer rogaremque ut et hominem et virum esse meminisses, id est, ut et communem incertumque casum, quem neque vitare quisquam nostrum nec praestare ullo pacto potest, sapienter ferres et dolori fortiter ac fortunae resisteres cogitaresque et in nostra civitate et in ceteris quae rerum potitae sunt multis fortissimis atque optimis viris iniustis iudiciis talis casus incidisse. Cicero, therefore, exhorts the recipient, such Publius Sittio, who is requested to remember that he is et hominem et virum, which we could translate, “a man, and a strong one.” It is also to be excluded that the orator would tell his brother, whose qualities he often praised, that he was a vir and not a homo, or vice versa. It follows that virum is probably corrupt.
One of the two putabo, so placed, looks like a word-signal.[7] The text of the second sentence should therefore be mended as follows: virum te putabo, si Sallusti Empedoclea legeris [hominem non putabo]. At this point, the correction of virum in verum becomes necessary: “But if you can read the Empedoclea of Sallust, I will not consider you a (simple) man (implying: but a divine being).” Paraphrasing: “You have managed to read all of Lucretius, who has many very poetic moments, but also contains many rather dry, heavy theoretical parts: well done! But if you can also read that really indigestible bore that are the Empedoclea of Sallust, I cannot certainly esteem you as a simple man!” - As for cum veneris, we are convinced that the copyist, clearly not in the mood, skipped something for homeoteleuton (de même à même), which then ended in ...> um: one could think of a tecum, like loquar ipse tecum, following the example of 3,5,2. Our proposal is therefore the following: Lucreti poemata, ut scribis, ita sunt: multis luminibus ingeni, multae tamen artis; sed cum veneris, . Verum te putabo, si Sallusti Empedoclea legeris [hominem non putabo]. And we mean: “Lucretius' poem is just as you write: many brilliant parts, but a lot (dry) theory;[8] when you are here, I shall talk you about. If, however, you are able to read (also [?]) the Empedoclea of Sallust, I will not consider you a (simple) man (but a divine one).” Cicero had already defined his brother as a divinum hominem (see 1,1,7), endowed with divina virtus (ibid. 1,13,33). However, the text does not allow us to understand whether Marcus was the editor and, to get an opinion, sent a copy of the poem to his brother Quintus; or, instead, it was Quintus the one who read the poem first, and transmitted it to his brother, asking him to confirm or not his impressions. Nevertheless, the hint to the Empedoclea of Sallust could suggest that Quintus read Lucretius on his own initiative. If not, how do the Empedoclea come into it? Cicero's thought may have been the following: if you could read Lucretius to the end, I dare you to read also the Empedoclea of Sallust. At last, our note wants to emphasize that, just to adhere to the traditional text, scholars have so far agreed to ascribe to Cicero a text, which the orator could never have written. Now, can the Reader imagine how much light such attitude could ever give to Lucretius' text?
And we come to our new edition. First of all: why a new edition? In part we have already answered above: it is a wonderful work; moreover, the original edition has disappeared for almost a century, and the re-edition of the second volume edited by E. Stampini can no longer be found. We still find the reissue of the Note lucreziane, which, alone, are of little use. A reprint, which we could not see, in two volumes-we ignore if including preliminary Studi or not-was published in 1980 (New York-London). But our aim is to make the Giussani's Lucretius easily available to those young people-even though few-and less young, who really want to understand Lucretius and Epicureanism.
The partial re-edition edited by Stampini is actually a re-composed reprint. Incomprehensible expenditure! From the preface, where Stampini quibbles on some “readings graphically different from those of Giussani's text” (one of which is a simple typo), the revision would seem scrupulous. But this is not the case: apart from the different quotes («» instead of “”) and some comma, the text remains unchanged: for example, si sumantur of II 547, which in his Note lucreziane Giussani points out as “oversight” for sumantur uti, as in the commentary, is not corrected, that is the contradiction remains! And Stampini does not take into account the Corrections and additions to vol. II listed on p. 318 f. of vol. IV either. Apart from the editorial errors, comparable to typos, the real corrections are two: —on p. ix of the Osservazioni preliminari he changes the year of the review cited there (but see below, page 187, the correct reference); —to I 398 a passage of the Aeneid is quoted, which is instead taken from the Eclogues. All errors in internal references and writers' citations remain unchanged; nor do the quotes of the periodicals, sometimes really too elliptic, receive some kind of care.
We tried to check everything by placing our additions in square brackets. Even Giussani, in his paraphrases, uses the same brackets, but we trust that an attentive reader is able to distinguish: for example, as the Bernays' numbering is used, where useful not to confuse the student, we have added in square brackets, with “B.”, the Bailey's numbering. As for the periodicals, we have integrated the references as often as possible: for example, in note 1 of the chapter II of the Atomia Study Giussani quotes an article by Munro that would be taken from the 'Journal of philology, I;' untraceable, since the review is 'The Journal for Classical and Sacred Philology' of 1854 (see below, page 39, note 7).
Giussani's style, a prose of the end of the nineteenth century, has not been touched, even if some constructs are affected by his great familiarity with the German language, so much so that they are similar to Schachtelsätze. We have, however, changed some accents (perché instead of perchè etc.). The original pagination is scrupulously marked inside the text and printed at the foot of any page too.
Trusting of not having worked in vain, even if for a few, we will be grateful to all those who will be so kind as to report errors or inaccuracies.

Dorno, September 2018.


[1] T. Lucretii Cari De rerum natura liber primus, a cura di Carlo Pascal e Luigi Castiglioni, Torino (Paravia) 1953, p. xvii.

[2] T. Lucretii Cari De rerum natura liber sextus, a cura di Adelmo Barigazzi, Torino (Paravia) 1946.

[3] The excerpt, indeed, misinterprets the sense a little: “A different question is whether Lucretius has also drawn on other sources outside Epicurus (e.g. on Empedocles, Posidonius, etc.), and we will have occasion to talk about that elsewhere. Here, suffice it to say that such imitations can not be ruled out, or rather can be considered certain for the explanation of some particular and localized phenomena (in the 6th book), which is out of any probability that Epicurus had spoken about.”

[4] But you can also read rubbish, showing how dolt is the linguistic sensitivity of some scholars. For example, Alessandra Magnoni in her scrupulous Traduttori italiani di Lucrezio, in "Eikasmos" xvi (2005), p. 451, writes: “It is up to Ernout—it is known—the merit of having recognized in the controversial phrase ferae pecudes (v. 14) an asyndetic polar couple which designates 'wild animals and domestic animals' sensitive to the charm of Venus-voluptas. The interpretation advanced by the scholar in 1924, and later accepted by the majority of Lucretian editors and commentators, including Bailey, marked a decisive turning point compared to the previous exegesis.” And she also annotates: “The exegesis of Ernout has been granted by ThLL X/6 956.” It is incredible: just one says a crap, people follow him, like pecudes! First, turning ferae into noun means flattening the verse, emptying it; secondly, Lucretius would suggest to the reader the image of ferocious beasts that, together with sheep and goats, are skipping through pabula laeta! More than 'sexually aroused', Venere efferatae, as the authoress glosses, ferae stresses the restlessness, indomitableness, because of which pecudes persultant. Cf. Columella 6,10, where the utility of the three-yoke is explained; in fact, a lazy young ox placed between two elders is forced to obey and, even if he tosses and kicks out, is held back by the other two: here efferatus prosilit reminds the Lucretian ferae persultant. In short, the ingenious “asyndetic polarity” of Ernout, welcomed by the “asindetically polarized” editors of the Thesaurus, cancels the poet's vivid description and replaces tigers and panthers dancing the quadrille with goats and sheep. Only a picnic is missing! But pabula laeta...

[5] Elio Pasoli, Saggi di grammatica latina, Bologna (Zanichelli) 21966, pp. 11÷33.

[6] The alleged similar ellipses (see Pasoli, p. 116, note 1) are not comparable: here there is no coram.

[7] See the revolutionary works of Giuseppina Magnaldi.

[8] If with ars we do not mean tout-court ????? = doctrina, but rather the ability to compose verses, the adversative tamen forces the two solutions to mean essentially the same thing, that is, however skilful one is in composing verses, if the topic is arid, it remains arid: multae tamen artis, “but a lot of craft.” Which is then the same.

© Franco Luigi Viero