You are here

The So-called Calliopian Recension of Terence

Benjamin Victor

The present contribution reassesses the textual history underlying the medieval manuscript tradition of Terence.  This tradition, it has long been recognized, derives from two lost ancient sources: Γ, ancestor to one group of Carolingian manuscripts, and Δ, ancestor to another.  In what follows, the class of manuscripts descending recta via from Γ will be called ‘γ’, those so descending from Δ ‘δ’.  There also arose, in Carolingian times, a class of manuscripts showing a mixture of γ and δ readings, some degree of interpolation, and conventions of presentation adapted from those of γ.  This mixed class proved very influential, soon displacing other text-types.  In addition to the medieval material there are ancient sources for the text, chief among them the ‘codex Bembinus’ and the Donatian scholia.

Both classes of medieval manuscripts are commonly held to derive from a single late-antique edition by a certain Calliopius, whose name occurs in paratexts of manuscripts belonging to the γ, δ and mixed groups.  Calliopius is thus thought to have done for Terence what Nicomachus did for Livy or Sabinus for Persius.  This paper will argue that Calliopius need not ever have corrected the text of Terence, and that whatever contact he had with the Terence-tradition was limited to its γ branch. 

The first step is to distinguish the contexts in which the name Calliopius occurs.  These are : 1) a sort of blessing (feliciter Calliopio) found on the title page and at the end of the volume in the γ class of manuscripts ; 2) a subscription properly so called (Calliopius recensui).  It will be shown that where the subscription proper is found in the best representatives of γ or δ, it results from late addition to the manuscript itself or its underlying tradition.  Moreover the earliest manuscript in which the subscription occurs everywhere in the first hand has all characteristics of the mixed and interpolated group.  It follows that only the blessing is ancient, having been inherited from Γ, ancestor of one class of manuscripts, whereas the words Calliopius recensui were created by a Carolingian scholar (probably the same as created the mixed class of manuscripts) as an interpretation of the blessing, which he imagined Calliopius to have earned by editing the text.  This Carolingian then added the subscription Calliopius recensui at the end of each play; these words were subsequently carried in all mixed manuscripts; they were also added by second hands to existing γ and δ manuscripts through the same process of collation as were numerous readings in their texts. 

My view of the subscription is confirmed by considerations of language.  The many other known subscriptions to ancient texts never use the word recensere to describe the editor’s task.  Neither for that matter does any ancient source.  Recensere in the sense of ‘emend’ or ‘edit’ is not attested for antiquity, though two passages of ancient literature, Gellius 17.10.6 and Jerome Epist. 32.1, could have misled a Carolingian into understanding such a meaning.  In the Gellius passage the word would appear in fact to be a technical military term (‘strike soldiers from the roll’) used metaphorically.  In Jerome it refers to his work in comparing Aquila’s Greek translation of the Old Testament against a Hebrew text in view of an anti-Aquilan polemic.  It is best taken there to mean ‘examine carefully’.

In addition to changing details in the history of late-antique and Carolingian scholarship, this study carries implications for the textual criticism of Terence.  The chief reason for supposing a genetic relation between the two fountainheads of medieval tradition in this author is now removed, clearing the way for a completely eclectic evaluation of their readings.

Session/Panel Title

Reception, Transmission, and Translation in Later Antiquity

Session/Paper Number


© 2020, Society for Classical Studies Privacy Policy