review of:

Lee (B.T. ) Apuleius’ Florida. A Commentary. (Texte und

Kommentare 25.) Pp. xii + 215. Berlin and New York: Walter de

Gruyter, 2005. Cased, 88. ISBN: 3-11-017771-4.

text published in: Classical Review 56, 2006, 270-272


For many years, Apuleius’ works other than his novel Metamorphoses remained

rather neglected by scholars. Particularly his Florida, a collection of some 23

fragments from epideictic Latin speeches, were often considered too fragmentary or

simply too exotic for extensive study. However, with the renewed scholarly interest in

the Second Sophistic, even marginal Latin texts such as the Florida are now being

given serious attention.

To the already existing standard editions of the text (Helm, Vallette, Augello) have

now been added translations (notably the English one by John Hilton in S.J. Harrison

(ed.), Apuleius, Rhetorical work, translated by S.J. Harrison, J.L. Hilton and V.J.C.

Hunink [Oxford, 2001]) and commentaries. There is a full commentary published by

the author of this review (Apuleius of Madauros, Florida edited with a commentary

[Amsterdam, 2001]) and a commentary on Florida 16 by A. Toschi (Apuleio

Neosoμsta, Discorso per la sua statua a Carthagine [Parma, 2000]), and recently a new

historical commentary was published by L. La Rocca (il filosofo e la città, commento

storico ai Florida di Apuleio [Roma, 2005]). Of course, many articles and notices also

re·ect this new interest in Apuleius’ rhetorical works.


Now a third integral new commentary has been put on the market, composed by

Benjamin Todd Lee. It is the reworked version of a doctoral thesis at the University of

Pennsylvania which started in 1997 and was completed for publication in the course

of 2004. After a brief introduction (35 pp.) and the Latin text (24 pp.) follows a

modest commentary (131 pp.). The volume is concluded with a bibliography and two


In the Introduction L. discusses the title of the collection, Apuleius’ life and

times, his surviving and lost works, important aspects of the Florida such as the

date, the contents and the structure, and the relation with Apuleius’ other works.

Epideictic oratory, Second Sophistic and intertextuality receive attention in separate

paragraphs too, while the manuscript tradition and the manuscript organisation of

the fragments are also discussed. All this is useful enough, but it rarely opens up new


The Latin text is based on the edition of Vallette, except in μfteen places where a

di¶erent reading has been adopted. On a curious note, L. has printed all instances of

incipit and explicit of the MSS in the main text. Given the fact that the MSS divide

this limited material in no less than four books (an obvious argument to suggest

that the text we have is an extract from a lost original in four books of normal length),

this leads to an unusual number of extra titles in the text, which do not seem to be of

great use.

In the commentary, each fragment is introduced by a longer note that analyses the

text as a whole, usually in a few paragraphs (although the longer pieces such as 9, 16

and 18 receive fuller treatment), followed by short notes on individual words and

phrases. Here, L. focusses on elements of textual criticism, idiom and lexicography,

while also explaining di¸cult turns or grammatical points. Realien are given attention

wherever necessary and parallel places are provided with due moderation. Generally

speaking, the notes do not enter into signiμcant points of interpretation (literary or

historical), and secondary literature is largely left out of account. Thus, the notes

seem helpful for a reader who wishes to study the Latin text without losing his or her

way in a wealth of scholarly material. The modest dimensions of the book add to its

practical usefulness.

But is this enough for a new commentary on this text? I think not. As a writer of a

recent commentary on the Florida, I acknowledge that my view of this book may be

not entirely impartial and neutral. But I think it is fair to say that a commentator of

any given ancient text may be expected to be aware of his or her position, to take

account of work previously done and to make clear what he or she intends to add to

the present state of research. L.’s book does not bring any substantial novelties, either

in terms of method, or in terms of form or content. The book seems to have

undergone little revision since 2000, since it engages hardly at all with Toschi (2000),

which has not even reached the bibliography, or Hunink (2001). At many places,

engagement with the discussions in these two commentaries would seem necessary

and useful. Some examples are Flor. 2.10 pinnarum remigia (the eagle’s wings

compared with oars); 2.11 (a highly complex construction where the syntax may be

incomplete); 3.10 crines propenduli (a special description of hair, which also links this

text to a passage in Met. 5); 9.10 praeco … (a long-winded comparison, of which the

relevance is not immediately clear); 9.14 (the problem of a ‘book division’ in the MSS

in the middle of the text of Flor. 9); and 16.7–9 (the plot, standard themes and stock

characters in New Comedy).

If L. had chosen a markedly different approach, such as La Rocca, the publication

of his book would have been justiμed as a work in its own right. As it is, it must be



concluded that it cannot count as an innovative contribution to Apuleian scholarship.

It may well, none the less, be useful as a work of easy reference for students of the

Latin, offering help on many individual points.

latest changes here: 30-07-2012 16:01


(c) 2014 V. Hunink

copyright statement  / contact