Libera Fama‘s ten chapters deal with fama in its two central meanings: fama as rumour, including gossip and lying as well as truth, and fama as renown, glory, or fame.
Basic insights into fama‘s role and function in ancient literature were presented by Thomas Hardie in 2012 (1) and, although Hardie’s important monograph covers all facets of fama, it does not, of course, deal with all authors and texts to the same extent. Stemming from a conference based on Hardie’s book and hosted at the University of Athens (2), Libera Fama adds to our understanding of the complex and often ambivalent phenomenon of fame and opens up new pathways in the study of ancient literature.
The book opens with a comprehensive introduction by Stratis Kyriakidis, who explains in detail the nine contributions that follow.
Myrto Garani’s excellent paper deals with the antithesis of Epicurean contempt for fame and Lucretius’ claim of glory for both Epicurus and his own didactic poem. Garani makes clear that, despite Plutarch’s criticism of Epicurean neglect of glory, the philosopher accepts fame as a goal in life, as long as it helps to obtain individual security and is in accordance with one’s nature. That is why Lucretius can disapprove of the craving for political glory but can at the same time attribute fame to earlier poets and philosophers and also strive for philosophical or poetic fame for himself and his teacher.
Elena Karamalengou finds the two concepts of fama united in Cicero’s autobiographical epics De consulatu suo and De temporibus suis: fama-rumour, i.e. the evil judgements of Roman citizens about Cicero’s political handling of the Catilinarian conspirators, will be overcome by fama-glory merited by the epics. Thus, as the poet and hero of his epics, Cicero gains the fame and dignity denied to him by his political opponents.
Séverine Clément-Tarantino’s important essay looks for Fama in Virgil’s Aeneid outside of the famous Fama- passage in Aeneid 4. Allusions to Fama (e.g. in phrases like fama refert, ut perhibent) constitute a kind of network throughout the epic and have a narratological function as transitions between different parts of the poem. At the same time, the reference to hearsay is a reference to the literary tradition and to the creative power of the narrator. Virgil’s concept of Fama is that of a tragic messenger: she always delivers bad news.
Eleni Peraki-Kyriakidou’s contribution gives a multifaceted interpretation of the Leuconoe episode from Ovid, Metamorphoses 4.1ff. that focusses on the metaphor of weaving and the issue of freedom in discourse and poetry, as well as the Hellenistic poetics of the text.
Andreas N. Michalopoulos provides an overview of Ovid’s treatment of fama in his poems from exile (Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto): The exiled poet continues to deal with the theme of glory, albeit in a negative way: far from the Roman audience, glory becomes impossible or unimportant, but rumour still allows him to have some contact with Rome.
As Stratis Kyriakidis shows in his important and instructive examination of the Astronomica, Manilius closely follows the traditions of Latin literature, especially Lucretius, Vergil and Ovid, by stressing the difficulty of composing his literary work and by claiming for himself a place among the great poets. Unlike Ovid and as a true follower of the Stoa, he attributes the gift of glory not primarily to his own talents: gloria, though given by fate, is acquired by tedious labour, not by the judgement of the people.
Sophia Papaioannou’s convincing paper focuses on the generic interactions between satire and epic in Juvenal’s Saturae. The seemingly omniscient gossiping woman of Sat. 6 is modelled after Vergil’s Fama. At the same time, she is a metaphor for the power of literature and a self-reference to the voice of the satirist. In a similar way, Laronia in Sat. 2.36-63 echoes Virgil’s sibyl in Aen. 6 and stands for the satirist Juvenal. This type of reference to the great authors of the early empire is meant to Romanize the cultural multivocality of the present time.
Philip Hardie’s dense study of Prudentius’ Peristephanon is mainly based on Per. 2 (Laurentius), 3 (Eulalia), 10 (Romanus) and 13 (Cyprianus). Hardie demonstrates how Prudentius tracks the topoi of fame established in Latin literature, but develops new opposites, metaphors, and interpretations: the material world is opposed to the immaterial, that is to the world where true fame can exclusively be found. The wounds on the bodies of the martyrs are like written words proclaiming their fame. The flow of blood is like the flow of speech. Invidia, which always strives to obscure true fame, is Satan.
Gianni Guastella gives an important overview of the iconographic traditions reaching from the Vergilian monstrum horrendum to later illustrations of Fama-renown. She makes clear that, although there are some illustrations of the Vergilian Fama in manuscripts of the Middle Ages, an iconographic tradition does not exist until the first illustrations of Petrarch’s Triumphi, where traits of the Vergilian Fama (many tongues, eyes and feathers) are contaminated with the trumpets that announce glory. This mixed picture even misled Cesare Ripa to add trumpets to the Vergilian Fama in his Iconologia.
At the end of the book, Hardie gives a short summary of the contributions, followed by a bibliography and two indices (index locorum and general index).
This is a carefully edited book, which not only widens our understanding of the power of Fama in ancient literature, but also deals with many aspects of ancient philosophy, anthropology, religion, and literary technique. All the papers are worth reading and help to elucidate the ambiguous nature of fama and the link between rumour and glory, both of which share in the complex nature of Roman memorial culture.
There are, of course, some questions and objections. I doubt that Karamalengou’s distinction between the Jupiter of the introductory verses of De consulatu suo (being the logos-Zeus of Aratus and the Aratea) and the Capitoline Jupiter, who takes a stand for the imperium Romanum, is helpful. As Vergil will teach us about three decades later, the Romans have no problem connecting those functions. Peraki-Kyriakidou’s reading of the Leuconoe episode is attractive and innovative, but it has little relation to the actual theme of the book. When Michalopoulos concludes from Ovid, Tristia 4.1-4, and 5.12.37-42, that Ovid has abandoned any desire for glory, he misunderstands the duplicity of the exiled author’s words: His poems deny fame – but he sends them to Rome!
Even if the individual essays could be more closely related to one another, the continuity of the attempts at coping with true and false fame in Roman literature becomes quite clear. The restriction to poetic texts is compensated for by the broad time frame reaching from Lucretius to Prudentius, thus well justifying the subtitle “An endless Journey.”
Table of Contents
- Stratis Kyriakidis, Introduction: Speech, Fame and Glory: Connecting Past and Future, 1-27
- Myrto Garani, The Negation of Fame: Epicurus’ Meta-Fama and Lucretius’ response, 28-44
- Elena Karamalengou, Poeta, Heros and Fama: Perplexities and Upsets in Cicero’s Epic Fragments, 45-54
- Séverine Clément-Tarantino, Wanderings of Fama and “fame’s Narratives” in the Aeneid, 55-70
- Eleni Peraki-Kyriakidou‚ The Ovidian Leuconoe: Vision, Speech and Narration, 71-93
- Andreas N. Michalopoulos, Famaque cum domino fugit ab urbe suo: Aspects of Fama in Ovid’s Exile Poetry, 71-94-110
- Stratis Kyriakidis, The Universe as Audience: Manilius’ Poetic Ambitions, 111-143
- Sophia Papaioannou, Rumour and Satire: The two-faceted Mirror of Juvenal’s World, 144-165
- Philip Hardie, Martyrs’ Memorials: Glory, Memory, and Envy in Prudentius’ Peristhephanon, 166-192
- Gianni Guastella, Pictures of Virgilian Fama, 193-202
- Philip Hardie, Rumour and Renown: Representations of Fama in Western Literature, Cambridge 2012.
- Recent German studies which would have been beneficial are not considered (Hans-Joachim Neubauer, Fama. Eine Geschichte des Gerüchts, Berlin 1998; Jürgen Brokoff, Jürgen Fohrmann, Hedwig Pompe, Brigitte Weingart (Edd.), Die Kommunikation der Gerüchte, Göttingen 2008).
Reviewed by Dorothee Gall, University of Bonn (firstname.lastname@example.org)
To find out more about Libera Fama: An Endless Journey and to purchase a copy, click here.