This week we had two fascinating presentations by Tamara Saggini and Gabriele Rota, respectively talking about Eretrian archaeological remains from the archaic and classical periods and the role of Italian renaissance humanists in the rediscovery and preservation of classical texts.
In the first part of the seminar, Tamara presented a paper with the title “Eretria Between History and Archaeology: From Pisistratus To the Persian Sack”. Eretria is a small city on the south-western shore of the island of Euboea in Greece. Whereas its archaeological remains suggest that the ancient city greatly developed in the 6th century BCE, only a few controversial literary sources tell us about its history, its political system, and its economical networks at that time. It thus remains difficult to offer a global picture of Eretria and its development between the beginning of the sixth and the beginning of the fifth century BCE, when it was allegedly sacked by the Persians. Past excavations have on the other hand delivered a big quantity of pottery, which has never been studied. As a matter of fact pottery is the material most frequently recovered in any excavation and it is mainly thanks to the pottery that we are able to understand the every-day life and the changes within a society or a community. In her presentation, Tamara has addressed the following questions: what can be drawn by combining the historical sources and the archaeological evidence? How can we replace Eretria in the history of the archaic Greek world?
In the second half of the seminar, Gabriele gave a paper entitled: “Rediscovery, Recomposition, Dissemination: Poggio’s Florentine stemmata of Latin classics”. The Florentine humanist and manuscript-hunter Poggio Bracciolini (1380–1459) is mostly famous for his vitriolic controversies with Lorenzo Valla (1407–57) at the Roman Curia, and for having rediscovered many classical texts while travelling around central European libraries as a papal legate in the years of the Council of Constance (1414–17): humanists would then gather together and search for better exemplar of known texts, complete versions of known but defective works, and manuscripts of authors that were altogether new. Poggio’s contribution to this Golden Age of humanism was indeed astonishing: he alone rediscovered several Ciceronian speeches, Lucretius’ De rerum natura, Manilius’ Astronomica, Silius Italicus’ Punica, Asconius Pedianus, Valerius Flaccus’ Argonautica, a complete Quintilian; Ammianus Marcellinus, Columella’s De re rustica; and Petronius’ Cena Trimalchionis.
In this paper, Gabriele has considered the stemmatic significance of these discoveries, by identifying and describing three types of stemmata and providing an example for each: (1) Poggio’s rediscovery of a text: his manuscript is at the top of the stemma (Asconius); (2) Poggio’s recomposition of a mutilated text: the stemma became hybrid after Poggio’s addition (Quintilian); (3) Poggio’s dissemination of a known text: his manuscript is at the bottom of the stemma and there produced a great number of humanistic, mostly Florentine, descendants (Cicero’s Ad Atticum). Stemmata of types (1) and (2) have been studied extensively (collation of Poggio’s manuscripts is in this case what makes editions possible), but, Gabriele has shown, there is much left to be done; stemmata of type (3), on the other hand, have suffered the undeserved prejudice of having no direct editorial relevance, and of being therefore useless. However, Gabriele has argued, besides being often sources of good conjectures commonly accepted by editors, these stemmata are not useless historically, not to mention their key-role in the reconstruction of Poggio’s classical library.