by Vincent Hunink
J.C. Gieben, Amsterdam
[cloth, 332 p.; ISBN 90 5063 439
7; price EUR 65,-]
The epideictic speech De
Pallio by the Christian author Tertullian (about 200 A.D.) is considered as one
of the most obscure texts ever written in Latin. As a logical sequel of my research
on Apuleius, I have prepared a new edition with translation and literary
commentary (in English) of Tertullian's text. It has been my main research
project in the period 1998-2004. The book has been published March 2005.
is one of the strangest and perhaps most difficult texts ever written in Latin.
In this speech, presented before a live audience in
200 A.D., Tertullian defends his radical choice to drop the Roman toga
and take up the pallium of
philosophers and christians. This theme may seem innocently simple, but it has
been elaborated with impressive rhetorical pyrotechnics, couched in
deliberately artificial language. And is this speech profoundly christian or
shamefully pagan? A work of youth or of old age? Is it a serious apology or
De Pallio has puzzled scholars for
generations, yet it has often been
neglected or left aside. In this new edition the text is presented with a new
English translation and a full commentary, the first one in English. Much
attention is paid to the interpretation of the speaker’s often obscure words.
In addition, the book puts the speech into the context of Latin Second
Sophistic. De Pallio emerges as a fascinating
text that stands midway between non-christian and christian literature.
practical information about De Pallio see the
relevant page on the excellent site on Tertullian by Dr. Roger Pearse.
to the commentary
An elusive text
is one of the strangest texts ever written in Latin. It is a speech about the
need to change clothing from the standard Roman toga to the
philosophers’ pallium, composed in an outrageously difficult style,
confronting its readers with questions at every possible level. Not only its
authorship and date are matters of debate, but a first reading also leaves
unclear which aims the author may have had. To what genre does this text belong?
Which audience does the speaker address? Do we have to regard this piece as a
Christian text, or as a late specimen of the Latin Second Sophistic? In many
places, the style seems deliberately obscure, and one often has to deal with
that most essential of questions: what do these words mean?
would expect that such an intriguing text, written by a well-known Christian
author, is thoroughly discussed in modern secondary literature, and that it is
to be found in reliable and accessible editions. As a matter of fact, Pall.
may be qualified as a text that has been rather neglected. For sure, there is a
critical edition in the Corpus Christianorum, but there are no useful
tools for approaching the text, at least for an international, English
readership. One still has to resort to an edition in two volumes by A. Gerlo
published during World War II. This edition, useful as it is, is rather hard to
obtain and is, moreover, written in Dutch, which for many readers will not
substantially diminish the difficulties inherent in Pall.. Gerlo’s
commentary is traditionally philological, which means it is predominantly
occupied with the establishment of the text, lexical, grammatical, and
stylistical anomalies, and the explanation of historical references and
allusions in the text. Many such points are illustrated by a wealth of parallel
from Gerlo’s contributions, there is little indeed. One may mention some
bilingual Italian editions with translations and notes, and a monograph on the
text, published in Dutch. Since the days of Gerlo
and Vis, only few scholars have
discussed Pall. at length. Most discussions here restrict themselves to
the questions of authorship and date, and the place of the text within
Tertullian’s oeuvre. Literary and rhetorical analyses are hardly ever
scholars of this text shared an interest in patristic studies. That is, the text
was considered and analysed in the context of early Christian literature, and it
was mostly felt to be an oddity and a problem. For in this text, the author
deals with matters decidedly un-Christian (such as ancient myths) or morally
unbefitting (such as sexual topics), while he hardly contrasts these with the
positive sides of Christianity. More than once, the question has been raised
whether this text is Christian at all, and if so, whether it is serious.
Whatever their answers, patristic scholars in the end invariably felt uneasy
about this exotic text, and still seem to do so nowadays. On the other hand,
scholars of non-Christian Latin literature were never eager to occupy themselves
with this baffling piece of prose, which was considered to be part of Christian
literature and therefore quickly relegated from the standard domain of classical
Latin philology. In brief, Pall. has more or less fallen between two
commentary on Pall., the first one in English, attempts to fill the gap.
Meanwhile, its aims are modest indeed.
the extraordinary complexity of the diction, syntax, and style of the text, and
the numerous questions regarding its content and intended effect, and given the
lack of accessible, basic philological tools, the first aim of this book is to
establish the sense of the Latin. For this, a rather literal English translation
has been added to the Latin text and many notes in the commentary discuss the
exact meaning of a word or a phrase. Often, matters will have to remain open but
some degree of certainty does seem within reach. Throughout this book, the Latin
text of Gerlo 1954 has been used as
a starting point, and textual questions have been kept to an absolute minimum.
That is, Gerlo’s standard text has generally been accepted without further
discussion about readings, and the commentary attempts rather to clarify the
sense of the words, strange as they may seem, instead of discussing variants or
supplying new emendations and conjectures.
the commentary aims at understanding the text to some degree as a piece of
literature, rather than merely as a historical document. Thus it hopes to
respond to the issue suggested by Löfstedt more than 70 years ago: ‘Das
kleine, aber schwierige Werk würde eine eingehende sprachliche sowohl wie
literarisch-stilistische Sonderuntersuchung verdienen’.
possible, special attention is given to problems of literary composition,
authorial strategy and communication with the audience, whereas discussions on
historical issues or encyclopaedic matters have been limited. For example, the
speaker’s strategy both to flatter and provoke his audience, and to hide his
Christian sympathies while also alluding to them for the connoisseurs, is given
closer attention than factual matters concerning the ancient toga or pallium
(cloth, folding, and colours). The central question is ‘What does this author
do with words?’ rather than: ‘What can be deduced about Roman reality from
the commentary strives to escape from the dilemma of approaching this text as
either decidedly Christian (and from that perspective: defective) or essentially
non-Christian (and accordingly bizarre). Pall. is seen as a text in which
ancient Roman literary culture, in its late form of the Latin Second Sophistic
(as it is known from Gellius, Fronto, and above all, Apuleius) is gradually
changing into a Christian Latin, literary culture. This process of change, of
intermingling of ‘pagan’ and ‘Christian’ elements, can almost be seen to
take place in the text.
a way, then, this commentary combines a deliberate modesty and restriction in
its scope and methods with some objectives that might be considered dangerously
ambitious. For to quote Barnes: ‘The de Pallio presents insuperable
linguistic difficulties. The manuscript tradition is poor, the style
deliberately baffling and enigmatic, its comprehension and elucidation the
ultimate challenge to philological acumen.’ This commentary is bound to
disappoint readers’ high expectations about its philological acumen, and it
will no doubt be found lacking in many aspects. But one may hope that it merits
at least some attention for having tried to understand and open up this complex
and interesting text.
history of earlier scholarship on Pall. is long and varied, but past
research has been largely concerned with philological and ideological matters
that are not considered of primary importance to this edition. Accordingly, the
following introduction does not claim to provide a detailed account of all such
scholarship, nor to cover all possible aspects of the text supported by notes
which are as extensive as possible. Given the special nature of Pall.,
and the aims of this commentary, these introductory remarks primarily intend to
function as an essay inviting the reader to apply himself or herself to this
SAMPLE OF TEXT AND TRANSLATION
1 Sit nunc aliunde res, ne Poenicum inter Romanos aut erubescat aut
doleat. Certe habitum uertere naturae totius sollemne munus est. Fungitur
et ipse mundus interim iste quem incumbimus.
Anaximander, si plures putat, uiderit, si quis uspiam alius, ad Meropas,
ut Silenus penes aures Midae blatit, aptas sane grandioribus fabulis. Sed
et si quem Plato aestimat, cuius imago hic sit, etiam ille habeat necesse
est proinde mutare. 3 Quippe si mundus, ex diuersis substantiis officiisque
constabit, ad formam eius quod mundus hic est; neque enim mundus, si non
ut mundus proinde. Diuersa in unum ex demutatione diuersa sunt.
diuersitatis discordiam uices foederant. Ita mutando erit mundus omnis qui
et diuersitatibus corporatus et uicibus temperatus.
1 Nostra certe metatio, quod clausis uel in totum Homericis oculis
liquet, totum uersiforme est. 2 Dies et nox inuicem uertunt. Sol
stationibus annuis, luna modulationibus menstruis uariat. Siderum
distincta confusio interdum reicit quid, interdum resuscitat. Caeli
ambitus nunc subdiuo splendidus, nunc nubilo sordidus; aut imbres ruunt,
et si qua missilia cum imbribus; dehinc substillum et denuo sudum.
et mari fides infamis, dum et flabris aeque mutantibus de tranquillo
probum, de flustris temperatum et extemplo de decumanis inquietat. 4 Sic
et terram si recenseas temporatim uestiri amantem, prope sis eandem
negare, memor uiridem cum conspicis flauam, mox uisurus et canam. 5 Ceteri
quoque eius ornatus quid non aliud ex alio mutant, et montium scapulae
decurrendo, et fontium uenae cauillando et fluminum uiae obhumando?
1 Let us now draw upon another source, so that the Punic does not
feel shame or grief amidst the Romans: certainly, changing clothing is a
customary task of nature as a whole. It is, meanwhile, performed by this
very world we press upon.
Anaximander see to it if he thinks there are more worlds, let anyone else
see to it, if he assumes one somewhere, near the Meropae, as Silenus
babbles in Midas'
ears (which are fit indeed for broader stories!). But even if Plato
reckons there is a world of which this one is the image, even that world
must must likewise undergo change. 3 For if it is a ' world,' it
will consist of different sub¬stances and functions, parallel to the form
of what the world is here. (For it is not 'world', if it is not otherwise
like the world). Different things coming together are different because of
4 In short, the discord of differences is unified by vicissi-tude. So it
is by change that every world that is a corporate whole of different
things and a mixture through vicissitudes exists.
(2.2) 1 By all means our plot of ground looks different all the
time, as is manifest to closed or even completely 'Homeric' eyes. 2 Day
and night change in turn. The sun varies through yearly positions, the
moon through monthly modulations. The orderly confusion of the stars at
times causes something to set, at times to rise. Sometimes the ambient of
the sky is clear and brilliant, sometimes it is cloudy and grey; or rain
is pouring, with missiles that may come down with rain; or it eases off
again and the weather brightens.
3 Likewise the sea is notoriously unreliable: with the equally changing
winds at times it seems trustworthy by its calmness, moderately moved by
its undulation, and all of a sud-den it is full of unrest by huge waves. 4
Likewise, if you look at the earth, that likes to dress according to the
season, you would almost deny she is the same: you remember her in green
when you see her in yellow, soon to witness her in white. 5 And this goes
for all her other ornaments, for does anything not change shape? Backs of
mountains run down, veins of sources banter, paths of rivers silt up.
SAMPLE OF THE COMMENTARY
Sit nunc aliunde res, ne Poenicum inter Romanos aut erubescat aut doleat. Certe
habitum uertere naturae totius sollemne munus est. Fungitur et ipse mundus
interim iste quem incumbimus.
‘Let us now draw upon another source, so that the Punic does not feel shame or
grief amidst the Romans: certainly, changing clothing is a customary task of
nature as a whole. It is, meanwhile, performed by this very world we press
short sentences introduce the broadening of the scope from ‘starting to wear a
pallium’ to ‘change in the world’.
that is, the following examples do not come from Carthaginian history. Gerlo
ad loc. notes the subtle irony of the Carthaginians’ silence here (1.1.3 stupuere...
Carthaginienses), now followed by ‘Enough of this, you must not feel
One may go one step further and argue that Tertullian has now almost literally
put ‘the Carthaginians’ (i.e. his actual audience) to silence and ruled
them out of play. For the next few pages, it will be the erudite speaker who
addresses his provincial audience with many particulars from the wide field of
Significantly, the name of Carthage, which was mentioned no fewer than four
times in the introductory first chapter, does not reappear. The adjective Poenicum
(see following) is actually the last explicit reference to the town by name.
‘Carthage’ has been subtly linked to petty criticism rather than to the
greatness of world culture.
ne Poenicum... erubescat:
for Poenicum ‘the Punic (element)’, here the subject of erubescat
aut doleat, cf. 1.2.2 Romanum. The name of Carthage will not reappear
in the rest of the speech (see previous note); the next reference to North
Africa will follow in 2.6.4.
As McKechnie 1992, 54-5 rightly
remarks, Poenicum inter Romanos is exactly what the composition of a live
audience at Carthage would have amounted to at this time. There would certainly
have been an ethnic mix in the crowd.
‘changing clothing’, in the metaphorical sense of ‘changing its
appearance’. Costanza ad loc.
takes habitus as both ‘dress’ and ‘habit, custom’, but the latter
seems less relevant here.
for sollemnis ‘customary’ see OLD s.v 2. The combination with munus
also occurs in Curt. 5,4,3 Sed rex deserere milites insepultos erubescebat
ita tradito more, ut uix ullum militiae tam sollemne esset munus quam humandi
suos (cf. also Curt. 10,10,98). In the quoted lines the sense of sollemnis
is not quite the same, but the occurence of erubescat here suggests
Tertullian may have known the Curtius passage.
A later example is Ambrose, Epist. 4,15,3 where the expression sollemne
munus is used for the cockcrow. Interestingly, Ambrose’s letter likewise
deals with ‘change of clothing’ (male and female), but there it is morally
condemned. It seems more than likely that Pall. influenced the 4th
sc. eo munere; for the ablative cf. OLD s.v. fungor 1b. The verb
is not used absolutely, as TLL s.v. 1587,18ff suggests.
here the verb has a direct object, as in Pl. Cas. 308 eumque incumbam
(with eum referring to gladium). The sense roughly equals habitare;
see Hoppe 1903, 14 and TLL s.v.
1076,70 (with only a few other examples from Avienus). Cf. further Tert. Spect.
Viderit Anaximander, si plures putat, uiderit, si quis uspiam alius, ad Meropas,
ut Silenus penes aures Midae blatit, aptas sane grandioribus fabulis. Sed et si
quem Plato aestimat, cuius imago hic sit, etiam ille habeat necesse est proinde
‘Let Anaximander see to it if he thinks
there are more worlds, let anyone else see to it, if he assumes one somewhere,
near the Meropae, as Silenus babbles in Midas’ ears (which are fit indeed for
broader stories!). But even if Plato reckons there is a world of which this one
is the image, even that world must likewise undergo change.’
ostentatious piece of ancient philosophy serves to make the point about the
ubiquity of change straight away, with a reference to ancient mythology adding
further depth. The Platonic element clearly establishes the speaker’s
‘sophistic credentials’ here; cf. McKechnie
Anaximander of Miletus, one of the famous Ionic philosophers, lived in the first
half of the 6th century B.C. Tertullian probably deliberately opens his
discussion with an example from the earliest phase of Greek philosophy, as it
illustrates the width of his learning and the sheer length of time he overviews.
For the future perfect of uidere, used to indicate the deferment of a
matter for the present, see OLD s.v. 18 b (with examples).
sc. mundos. Anaximander was generally considered to have assumed the
existence of several worlds; cf. D-K 12 A 9-10.
uiderit si quis uspiam alius:
the syntax is condensed to the point of unintelligibility. Two possibilities
present themselves. With Gerlo one
might simply add mundus in thought and interpret ‘let him (i.e.
Anaximander) see to it, if there <is> another world somewhere’.
But the ellipse may well be even more complex: ‘let anyone else see to
it <if he assumes a world> somewhere’. With the latter interpretation,
adopted by Thelwall and followed
here, Tertullian would adhere to the common rhetorical principle of composing in
‘three elements’ and assume some anonymous thinker between Anaximander and
Plato: Anaximander, quis alius, Plato.
strictly speaking, Meropes is a term for the inhabitants of the island of
Cos; OLD s.v. refers to Quint. 8,6,71; in Greek poetry cf. e.g. Pind. Nem.
4,26; Isthm. 6,31. Tertullian, however, is alluding to a mythological
tale that has nothing to do with Cos.
The Greek historian Theopompus wrote about Silenus speaking to king Midas about
the existence of another world; see notably the summary of the whole episode by
Aelian. V.H. 3,18 (the testimonium is Theopompus FGH nr.115 fr.75 C).
Tertullian himself refers to this tale rather more explicitly at ad Hermog.
25 in a somewhat similar discussion about two earths: ... nisi si et Sileno
illi apud Midam regem adseueranti de alio orbe credendum est, auctore Theopompo.
This land, apparently named Meropis gè or Meropia (cf. RE s.v.
Meropia), was an ideal world, and had the shape of a great mainland,
unattainable for people of our world. The myth may well have been Theopompus’
own invention, and can best be understood in the context of utopian literature,
which was popular during the Hellenistic period; cf. notably Flower
Silenus... aures Midae:
Silenus and Midas are associated with each other already by Hdt. 8,138, but here
Tertullian is alluding to a specific myth in Theopompus; see previous note.
Mythological namedropping seems invariably welcome in Second Sophistic
performances, in which the display of erudition certainly included allusions to
historical and mythological tales from the entire Greco-Roman tradition, with a
certain preference for the earliest and most curious elements.
Midas’ large ears were, of course, commonly known by all (in Tertullian’s
works, cf. e.g. Anim. 2,3), and Tertullian allows himself a small joke:
they might have absorbed even ‘greater’ (grandioribus), i.e. more
an old, rare verb for ‘to babble’, the equivalent of the more common blatero.
There are only some instances in Plautus (e.g. Amph. 626) and an
uncertain one in Gellius (4,1,4); see TLL s.v. 2049,82f.
si quem Plato aestimat:
sc. alium mundum. The fact that Platonic theory firmly assumed a
different world, namely that of the ‘ideas’ or ‘forms’, may be
considered to have been widely known to any audience in the Roman world, even a
moderately educated one, let alone in a centre of culture such as Carthage.
Therefore Tertullian’s conditional clause here seems interesting. It may
have been used to give any member of the audience the pleasant feeling of
recognizing philosophical theory, or it may be merely a teasing and critical
manner to refer to the main pagan philosopher. Tertullian was extremely critical
of most pagan philosophers, even Socrates; see e.g. Osborn
1997, 34 with examples.
cuius imago hic sit:
the words clearly show that Tertullian is actually thinking of the Platonic
world of ideas, of which our world is merely an ‘image’.
etiam ille -- mutare:
it seems an audacious or even provocative statement to suggest that Plato’s
world of Forms, the very ideal and embodiment of constancy and unalterable
identity, must actually undergo or incur change; cf. McKechnie
1992, 56, who calls it nonsense in terms of Platonist philosophy and an
amusing paradox. Tertullian may have wished to shock his general audience, or
at least enliven the discussion by shaking its beliefs.
As a matter of fact, Plato himself did allow for the existence of change in his
world of Forms; cf. e.g. Plato Soph. 249b2-3, c10-d4; 254b7- 255e7. So in
the end, philosophically speaking, Tertullian is saying nothing really new. He
was thoroughly trained in Platonism, and he may have expected the same from at
least a small elite in his audience too. So his remark could properly raise the
interest of everybody present during the speech: the elite could relish the
philosophical depth, while the rest must have felt some interest for the
seemingly paradoxical remark.
the use of habere with infinitive already occurs in classical authors,
but mainly in the sense ‘to be in a position to’ (OLD s.v.12 c). In the
later period, it gradually shifted to ‘must’ and so started to fulfil the
function of debere; see TLL s.v. habeo 2454,53ff. In classical
authors this use is also not completely absent: see Suet. Aug. 58,2 quid
habeo... precari (in words attributed to Augustus himself) and Sen. Con.
1,1,19 quid habui facere? But as LHSz II, 314-5 notes, it only becomes
frequent after Tertullian.
Tertullian’s phrase here is complicated by the inserted necesse est,
which governs the subjunctive habeat: ‘it must necessarily change.’
Mayer in BMCR
Savon in L'Antiquité classique
Turcan in Revue des études augustiniennes et patristiques
P. Kitzler in Listy Filologické
Moreschini in Gnomon
Mayer in BMCR
There is a detailed review by Roland
Mayer, in BMCR 2006.01.39, available
online at BMCR. Having provided long lists of specific points of
textual criticism, historical detail and linguistical aspects, the reviewer sums
up his judgement as follows: "It will be gathered from what has been
written above that this commentary often leaves the reader in the lurch, by
inadequate or misleading discussion. Hunink has a solid track record as a
commentator on out-of-the-way literary works, which nonetheless deserve
attention, and I approached this book with high expectations. On balance,
however, I now deem it to be a missed opportunity."
reaction to the review (January, 23th, 2006):
It is always disappointing to receive less favourable reviews of one's work. In
this case, I feel my work has been rather hard done by. Most importantly, the reviewer
has taken the book for what it explicitly does not wish to be: a
contribution to the textual constitution of De Pallio. Mayer's long
discussion on textual notes ignores my basic position of not discussing these
matters, complex as they are (extensive discussion of textual issues would have
made it impossible to write a readible book about this speech). I deliberately
started from the modern edition of the text in the well known Corpus
Christianorum. That is surely a text with which one seems to be entitled to
work and which stands in need of further explanation in the form of a
commentary. If all that philology can achieve is to rediscuss every textual
decision over and over again (and in the case of De Pallio this process
would definitely be endless), no progress will ever be made.
Mayer also deals at some length with numerous
historical and linguistical issues. Although I do consider it to be my task as a
commentator to include information about these areas, my main focus has been on
matters of composition, rhetorical strategy and literary technique. On these
subjects, Mayer has very little to say. That is a pity, for I feel that in this
sense my book may even be called innovative, given the fact that philological attention
for De Pallio has invariably been restricted to textual criticism and Realien.
Of course, I fully accept all relevant corrections and suggestions as to various
such matters, but I feel sorry that the main purpose of my book has been passed
over nearly undiscussed.
Much the same goes for other aspects of the book which
I tried to place in the foreground, such as the added translation (the first one
in English since many decades) and the observations on the relation of the text
with contemporary non-christian Second Sophistic. And not a single word is said
in the review about such matters as the presentation and punctuation of the text
and the material side of the book (typeface, layout, cloth), practical aspects
that often remain rather undervalued.
I am sorry that my book is not the book as Mayer
would have written it, but my main choices still stand and can be
defended, so I think, and the book has something to offer to anyone who wishes to approach
this difficult text. I can only hope that the BMCR review has attracted the
attention of scholars and readers to the very existence of the new commentary, and
that future readers will judge for themselves.
Savon in L'Antiquité classique
Classique 75, 2006, 379-381, there is a detailed review (in French) by
carefully analyses the deliberate choices made in this book, and discusses some
of their positive effects as well as some omissions that result from them.
Notably, the book does not elaborately enter the debate with Frédouille, as S.
would have wished, nor does it provide lists with all the tropes and figures
used in the text.
ends on a balanced note:
un peu injuste de demander à ce commentaire plus que ce qu'il veut nous donner.
Dans les limites que l'auteur a tracées lui-même, et même si certained de ces
interprétations peuvent être contestées, il représente une contribution
bienvenue à l'élucidation du De Pallio.' (p. 381)
Turcan in Revue des études augustiniennes et patristiques
who prepares a volume on De Pallio in Sources Chrétiennes, discussed the
book in a full review. Although she has many comments to make, her overall
assessment is positive. Full text here
Czech review by Petr Kitzler in Listy
Kitzler wrote a detailed review of both Turcan's SC edition and my commentary.
The review, in Czech, was published in Listy Filologicke 131, 3-4,
2008 (see http://lf.clavmon.cz ).
author has been so kind as to translate two passges directly discussing my book.
These fragments follow here (witrh kind permission of the author).
"Chronologically the first book was prepared by Vincent Hunink, the latinist and
teacher at Radboud University in Nijmegen, who is well known as a creative and
respected translator from Latin (he published many authors in English, e.g. his
commented editions of Apuleius’ Florida and Pro se de magia, Oxford 20072;
from the translations into Dutch let’s mention e.g. Augustine, Petronius,
Cicero, Seneca and many more). His book consists of a short introduction (pp.
9-27), a Latin text of De pallio taken without critical apparatus from
the Turnhout’s Corpus, facing English translation, English commnentary (pp.
67-293), bibliography (pp. 297-305), index (pp. 306-317) and index locorum (pp.
spite of a modest tone which sounds from the Hunink’s preface, his book is a
ground-breaking in many respects. First, the English translation of De pallio is
only the second translation of this work in English (the first one was prepared
by S. Thelwall for the collection of Ante-Nicene Christian Library in 1877).
With his „rather literal“ translation (p. 11) Hunink tries to make De pallio
accessible to the modern readers as much as he can. He conceives his
introduction as an „essay inviting the reader to apply himself or herself to
this text“ (p. 12). As Hunink repeats, his main aim is to pay attention to what
Tertullian does with words, what he means with them and what he wants to
achieve. In the question of dating De pallio – as far as it can be ascertained
at all – Hunink, although reserved as to express some explicit statements, tends
to the opinion that this treatise could have been written in the early phase of
Tertullian’s literary activity, perhaps in 198 or 199. In the matter of genre of
De pallio, Hunink on the contrary does not hesitate to identify it as an
epideictic speech which was really delivered before audience (which is rather
arguable opinion) and compares it with Apuleius’ Florida; both works are, in his
opinion, refined rhetorical pieces of the second Sophistics (p. 17,
In this light he also judges the aims of Tertullian’s work: „His aim was not to
convert or to preach, nor to reject and depreciate existing culture, but rather
to show himself as a man fully able to cope with the demands of his time, while
suggesting his personal advancement in the sphere of Wisdom“ (p. 24). The main
contribution of Hunink’s book is, of course, the extensive commentary which is
also rather unique in English, together with the commentary of Salmasius being
probably the most comprehensive commentary published so far. Although Hunink
does not avoid to elucidate Tertullian’s language and style as well as many
allusions in the text, his commentary is a literary commentary in the first
place which takes Tertullian’s rhetorical mannerism „at his word“ and tries to
compare it with existing parallels and to unravel its function as well as
Tertullian’s overall strategy when composing his text."
(p. 548): "Both books show evidence of extraordinary erudition of their authors
and of profound knowledge of early Christian and antique literature and culture
alike. This is especially true of Turcan’s edition whereas Hunink’s commentary
is much more „non-specialist-user friendly“. It does not need to be emphasized
that both books provide an indispensible starting point for further research and
that both, one being complementary to the other, contribute a great deal to a
better understanding of Tertullian’s perhaps most remarkable work without
despoiling it of its provocativeness."
review by Claudio Moreschini in: Gnomon 2008, 221-225
discussion of the book, which is appreciated and praised as a full literary
commentary on the text. Some of the basic notions in the introduction, however,
are critically discussed. The reviewer disagrees on some of these issues.)