Conditions of Use
The text provides everything you would want: introductory essays, text, vocabulary, and commentary. There is no comprehensive glossary (for more details see below). read more
The text provides everything you would want: introductory essays, text, vocabulary, and commentary. There is no comprehensive glossary (for more details see below).
The text is accurate and error-free. They have also consulted a wide array of scholarship, which informs the commentary. This is especially clear in the introductory essays, where they accurately summarize various critical approaches to the Metamorphoses (for more details see below).
As noted above, the text engages with recent secondary bibliography. It is written in a way that will make it useful to decades to come. The materials for students are absolutely appropriate to an intermediate Latin student's needs (for more details see below).
The essays and supporting materials are written with clarity, and in a lively style. There are occasional places in the commentary where knowledge is assumed that might elude even the advanced student (e.g., discussions of focalization in terms of narratology). Likewise, the essays are lively and erudite, but might some language might be a bit too elevated for readers with less cultural capital. Yet, for the most part, these do not intrude, and offer points of entry for those readers with more experience (for more details see below).
The commentary has been carefully edited to provide a consistent voice throughout.
The division of the commentary is one of its real strengths, and it is easy to see how this could be incorporated into a reading course for even early intermediate students (for more details see below).
Again, the organization of the essays, text and commentary is a great strength of this resource (for more details see below).
The interface works well, both online and as a PDF.
Grammar is clear and error-free throughout.
The authors have provided rich cultural detail about the text (for more details see below).
Gildenhard and Zissos’s text offers the intermediate Latin student the kinds of support that they need, which other commentators too often forget to include. This starts with a list of abbreviations (including things as simple as macrons and BC vs BCE, which could be really confusing for students), and a series of essays to orient a reader unfamiliar with who Ovid is, when he is writing, and what sort of work the Metamorphoses is. Essays on Ovid’s Theban tales and the specifics characters of the set text (Met. 3.511-733) offer important context. The second essay, “Ovid’s Literary Progression,” is especially useful for anyone teaching the Metamorphoses, as it explores clearly and succinctly the kinds of expectations a reader would have had about Ovid’s poetry, and how those expectations are upset even in the poem’s first lines. G. and Z. have also taken pains to include charts to organize material (e.g., key features of major ancient epics), which communicate key background information.
The set text (the tale of Pentheus), one that does not often appear in textbooks, is divided into sections of eight to twelve lines. Each section is followed by vocabulary (in order of appearance in the text), Study Questions (parsing, scansion, grammar, etc.), Stylistic Appreciation (word choice, imagery, literary devices), and Discussion Points (larger contextual, literary, or interpretive matters). These questions really set this commentary apart, by encouraging students to identify those places where the Latin might trip them up, and then allowing them to think about Ovid’s method and its larger meaning. The commentary considers the text as four separate episodes. Commentary entries are quite robust for a text of this sort (more akin to a Green and Yellow, than Bryn Mawr). Yet, the authors take care to explain information that might be unfamiliar (e.g., offering a grammatical explanation, and translating it). Thus, there is plenty of support for the intermediate student, and more still for the advanced. If teaching to intermediate students, it would benefit them greatly to first work through the Study Questions and then approach the commentary: the length of the entries and the details offered there don’t always offer a quick answer and will make more sense to the student who has already done some preparation. As with the essays, the commentary offers illustrations and helpful charts, to help students visualize textual information and unfamiliar items (e.g., thyrsus, parts of a ship). At points, they inset additional information, for readers who want to know more, but which is not necessary for making sense of the passage.
There are two appendices: one on rhetorical and syntactic figures, which is short enough not to overwhelm, but long enough to be very useful. Examples of such figures are starred (*) in the commentary, and this would be a useful text to use to introduce students to basic figures, with sufficient reinforcement to make them stick. The other appendix, on versification, is clear and detailed, yet there are no long and short marks produced above the text to visually distinguish long and short syllables. Indeed, there are no macrons in the text or the vocabulary. This is perhaps the single thing missing that an intermediate student new to Latin poetry might really desire. Yet, overall, this is an excellent teaching tool, and a very welcome addition.
Table of Contents
- 1. Ovid and His Times
- 2. Ovid's Literary Progression: Elegy to Epic
- 3. The Metamorphoses: A Literary Monstrum
- 3a. Genre Matters
- 3b. A Collection of Metamorphic Tales
- 3c. A Universal History
- 3d. Anthropological Epic
- 3e. A Reader's Digest of Greek and Latin Literature
- 4. Ovid's Theban Narrative
- 5. The Set Text: Pentheus and Bacchus
- 5a. Sources and Intertexts
- 5b. The Personnel of the Set Text
- 6. The Bacchanalia and Roman Culture
- 511–26: Tiresias' Warning to Pentheus
- 527–71: Pentheus' Rejection of Bacchus
- 531–63: Pentheus' Speech
- 572–691: The Captive Acoetes and his Tale
- 692–733: Pentheus' Gruesome Demise
- 1. Versification
- 2. Glossary of Rhetorical and Syntactic Figures
About the Book
This extract from Ovid's 'Theban History' recounts the confrontation of Pentheus, king of Thebes, with his divine cousin, Bacchus, the god of wine. Notwithstanding the warnings of the seer Tiresias and the cautionary tale of a character Acoetes (perhaps Bacchus in disguise), who tells of how the god once transformed a group of blasphemous sailors into dolphins, Pentheus refuses to acknowledge the divinity of Bacchus or allow his worship at Thebes. Enraged, yet curious to witness the orgiastic rites of the nascent cult, Pentheus conceals himself in a grove on Mt. Cithaeron near the locus of the ceremonies. But in the course of the rites he is spotted by the female participants who rush upon him in a delusional frenzy, his mother and sisters in the vanguard, and tear him limb from limb.
The episode abounds in themes of abiding interest, not least the clash between the authoritarian personality of Pentheus, who embodies 'law and order', masculine prowess, and the martial ethos of his city, and Bacchus, a somewhat effeminate god of orgiastic excess, who revels in the delusional and the deceptive, the transgression of boundaries, and the blurring of gender distinctions.
This course book offers a wide-ranging introduction, the original Latin text, study aids with vocabulary, and an extensive commentary. Designed to stretch and stimulate readers, Gildenhard and Zissos's incisive commentary will be of particular interest to students of Latin at AS and undergraduate level. It extends beyond detailed linguistic analysis to encourage critical engagement with Ovid's poetry and discussion of the most recent scholarly thought.
About the Contributors
Ingo Gildenhard is Reader in Classics and the Classical Tradition at Cambridge University, and a Fellow of King’s College Cambridge. His previous publications include the monographs Paideia Romana: Cicero's Tusculan Disputations (Cambridge, 2007) and Creative Eloquence: The Construction of Reality in Cicero's Speeches (Oxford, 2011). He has also published four further textbooks with Open Book Publishers: Cicero, Against Verres, 2.1.53-86; Virgil, Aeneid, 4.1-299; (with Mathew Owen) Tacitus, Annals, 15.20-23, 33-45 and (with Louise Hodgson) Cicero, On Pompey’s Command (De Imperio), 27-49.
Andrew Zissos is Associate Professor of Classics at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of numerous articles on imperial Roman literature and its reception, along with a commentary on Book 1 of Valerius Flaccus’ Argonautica (Oxford 2008); he is co-editor, with Ingo Gildenhard, of Transformative Change in Western Thought: a History of Metamorphosis from Homer to Hollywood (Oxford 2013), and solo editor of a forthcoming Blackwell Companion to the Flavian Age of Imperial Rome.