Francis Cairns Publications

ARCA Classical and Medieval Texts, Papers and Monographs ISSN 0309-5541

Masters of Roman Prose from Cato to Apuleius. Interpretative Studies

M. von Albrecht, trans. Neil Adkin

ARCA 23. xii+192 pp. 1989
Cloth, 978-0-905205-72-4. (Out of print)
Paperback, 2016, 978-0-9954612-0-8

Contents   Reviews

In this commented anthology of Latin prose, Michael von Albrecht selects texts from a span of Roman literature covering four centuries. A summary of the contents will indicate its range and variety: M. Porcius Cato (the preface to De agricultura, a passage from the speech for the Rhodians of 167 B.C., and a section from the Origines); republican oratory (C. Gracchus, from De legibus promulgatis of 122 B.C. and Cicero from In Verrem II); Caesar as orator and historian; two passages of Sallust; a comparison of Claudius Quadrigarius and Livy as historiographers; philosophical texts from Cicero and the Younger Seneca; and chapters on Petronius, Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, and Apuleius.

The method of the book is practical, based on actual interpretation of specific texts rather than on literary theory (ancient or modern). Each text (printed first in Latin and then in English) is followed by a detailed and flexible discussion, somewhere between essay and commentary. No set pattern is imposed - rather the nature of the text governs the shape of its analysis - but Professor von Albrecht's vivid scholarly exposition covers most dimensions of the art of Latin prose-writing.

The book's variety of texts and close treatment of specific Latin passages make it an ideal coursebook for the study of Latin prose. But behind its accessibility lies scholarship of the highest order: Professor von Albrecht's exemplary erudition reveals itself in the extensive annotation underpinning his main text; and researchers in any of the fields covered by Latin prose-writers - philosophy, politics, history, letters, practical handbooks, entertainment - will find this book a valuable resource.

This book was originally published in German (Meister römischer Prosa von Cato bis Apuleius, 1971). It has been accurately and sympathetically translated by Neil Adkin.


1. The Beginnings of Literary Prose: M. Porcius Cato (234-149 B.C.)

I. On farming. Preface

1 Introduction. 2 Sentence structure.3 Verbal repetition. 4 Accumulation of synonyms. 5 Overall structure. 6 Summary.

II. Speech in the Senate for the Rhodians (167 B.C.)

1 The problem. 2 Cato's special qualities and his method of argumentation in the speech. 3 Accumulation or synonyms and alliteration. 4 Verbal repetition. 5 Word order. 6. Conclusion.

III. A Roman Leonidas

1 Introduction. 2 Form and content.

2. Two Great Orators: C. Gracchus (154-121 B.C.) and Cicero (106-43 B.C.)

C. Gracchus: From the speech De legibus promulgatis (122 B.C.)

Cicero against Verres

1 The problem. 2 Attitude to language: Latinitas - mundities. 3 Narrative technique: Brevitas. 4 Rationality: Acutum. 5 Style and emotion. 6 Conclusion.

3. Caesar(100-44 B.C.)

I. Funeral oration for Julia (69 B.C.)

II. Reflection and rapid action (Gall. 7,27)

1 Objective style. 2 Functional approach. 3 Overall structure: economy of means. 4 Facultas dicendi imperatoria. 5 Candour or pose?

4. Sallust (b. 86 B.C.)

I. Ambition

1 Phonetics, vocabulary, syntax. 2 General survey: sentence structure and sequence of thought. 3 Symmetry and asymmetry. 4 Catonian and Sallustian elements.

II. Triumph through treachery

1 Form and content. 2 Centripetal style. 3 Dramatic qualities. 4 Structural intent. 5 Psychology and authorial interpretation.

5. Sullan and Augustan Historiography: Claudius Quadrigarius and Livy.

Q. Claudius Quadrigarius (Sullan period)

Livy (59 B.C.-17 A.D.)

A. Comparison of content

B. Comparison of language and style

1 Claudius Quadrigarius. 2 Livy

C. Narrative structure

1 Claudius Quadrigarius. 2 Livy

6. Two Philosophical Texts

I. Cicero (106-43 B.C.): Earthly glory and true Immortality

1 Sequence of thought. 2 Sentence connection. 3 Multiplicity in sentence structure. 4 Emphatic positions in the sentence. 5 Vocabulary. 6 Form and content. 7 Conclusion.

II. Seneca (d. 65 A.D.): On the value of time

1 Form and the sequence of ideas. 2 Vocabulary. 3 Metaphorical language. 4 Sentence connection. 5 Brilliance; wit; 'aggressive' style. 6 Rhetorical modes of thought. 7 Seneca - an anti-Cicero?

7. Petronius (d. 66 A.D.)

Table talk from the 'Satyricon'

A. Language and style

1 Specific points: vulgarism and hypercorrection. 2 Vocabulary. 3 Metaphorical language; 'elevated' and 'humble' elements of style. 4 Elliptical expression and implicit meaning. 5 Formulaic elements

B. Structure and sentence connection

8. Tacitus (cos. 97 A.D.): A Speech of the Emperor Claudius. Original and Literary Recasting

Senatus consultum Claudianum (oratio Claudii) de iure honorum Gallis dando, 48 A.D.

Tac. ann. 11,24

A. Overall structure and sequence of ideas

1. Claudius. 2 Tacitus. 3 Comparison

B. Language and style

1 Claudius. 2 Tacitus. 3 Stylistic comparison

9. The Younger Pliny (cos. 100 A.D.)

A writer's success in the hunt

10. Apuleius (b. c. 125 A.D.)

An abortive bid for salvation

1 Narrative structure. 2 A donkey's standpoint. 3 Clarity of expression. 4 Highlights. 5 Detachment and a higher level of communication.

List of abbreviations. Index of selected passages. Word and subject index, by Wilfried Stroh



Antiquité Classique 60 (1991) 393 (Michael Dubuisson): "À recommander aux étudiants francophones, sans doute moins rebutés par l'anglais que par l'allemand."

Latomus 50 (1991) 434-6 (J. Dangel)

Revue des Etudes Latines 67 (????) 306-7 (J. Hellegouarc'h)

Classical Review 41 (1991) p.246 (J.G.F. Powell)

Classical World 84 (1990-91) 511 (Galen O. Rowe): "this book demands careful attention from students of Roman literature."

Greece and Rome (1990) 241 (Don Fowler): "the whole will be of great value to those teaching or studying the evolution of Latin prose style. Cairns deserves thanks for the concept of the translation and Adkin for its execution."