I thought I would try to summarise some of my recent reading on the history and transmission of Juvenal manuscripts upon which all of our modern texts and in turn translations are inevitably based. How did Juvenal's work survive through the end of the antique period and into the dark ages and in what condition? Is it possible to arrive at a definitive or most accurate text of the Satires? How can we be sure of the accuracy of one scribal amendment over another? How do we choose and which texts do we ignore? Are they all equally relevant and part of a continually developing scholarly endeavour to continually improve our understanding of the Satires? I am not sure if we are able to answer any of these questions due to the chaos we have had to deal with when it comes to the MSS but here goes.
Juvenal has not fared as well as other classical authors - his work soon fell into obscurity a couple of generations after his death. The reasons for this relatively rapid descent into desuetude and oblivion may have been the dire state of Latin poetry in the later second century CE followed by the crisis in the Roman Empire of the 3rd. There was a gradual cultural shift from a pagan to a Christian one in which the familiar tropes were utilised for different ends and others discarded or actively suppressed. Added to this there was a decline in the use of classical Greek and Latin and the rise of other literary cultures such as Syriac, Armenian, Coptic and vulgar Latin. In some ways it is miraculous that Juvenal survived at all. Luckily for him the early Christians were also pretty enthusiastic when it came to denouncing the vices and folly of mankind - and so they found most of his work useful for their moralising purposes. There is a whiff of stoic philosophy about his work which certainly didn’t do him any harm in their estimation.
The result of his sojourn in oblivion for centuries until being rediscovered by the christian apologists is that he survived the late antique period in only one damaged manuscript. this MS was copied and generated many commentaries and scholia and due to these various copies being made at different points in time and space across the late antique/early dark ages world, contamination and cross contamination was inevitable. The upshot of this is that of the 50 or so extant MSS not one is free from corruption and contamination. Consequently there are some serious problems to deal with when using any or a combination of manuscripts in order to create a complete text of the Satires. For example, in any given MS, the main text and any marginalia may have completely different origins. The marginalia and scholia may have been inserted into the text to become a part of it. The MS could be a hotchpotch or frankenstein text made from a scribe having various copies at hand when making their own version, or it will normally be a corrupt text with the usual scribal errors copied and occasionally magnified repeatedly.
Juvenal is known to some of the late antique and early Christian era writers, for example he is quoted by Lactantius (240-320 CE) but his mentions seem pretty sporadic and he is not quoted at length or apparently read by anyone. Then in the 4th Century (around 360-70 CE) he seems to be rediscovered and becomes more popular, possibly experiencing a revival as a useful moral epigrammatist. By 390 CE (roughly the period of the Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus 320-390 CE) he is back in the limelight as a popular and well known author. Macrobius, Prudentius and other prominent 4th Century figures were aware of him. He was much imitated at +the period, the Carmina contra Paganos an invective poem ‘Poem against the Pagans’) demonstrates much of Juvenal’s style and approach (epic hyperbole, bathetic contrasts, rhetorical questions etc). It is from around this time that our single master MS must have emerged, i.e. at the height of Juvenal’s rediscovery.
The MSS tradition is dogged by two key inconsistencies. Every surviving MS is descended from a very damaged archetype, the scars of which have been inherited by all the descendants. Furthermore, some of the manuscripts have correct readings and lines which are not evident in any other MSS. there must therefore have been two separate branches of transmission. In the past it has been assumed that the ancestor of the MSS was a unique item.However the above anomalies indicate that this cannot be the case and that the situation is more complex and hence more chaotic. Courtney ((1967) 40) mentions in his study of the MSS that ‘when a demand was once again created for texts of Juvenal γ (the conventional marker for the ancestor text) was the only manuscript which could be found at Rome. But according to Cameron (2011, 453-4) there is
‘ no justification for assuming that the text used several decades earlier by Ausonius and his pupils in Gaul derived from this same supposedly defective Roman exemplar...Texts of Juvenal were being copied all over the empire between ca. 350 and 550. The very fact that the Satires were so popular makes it all the more likely that they circulated among the smart set in the form of uncorrected, ever more corrupt luxury copies.
It even possible that the Gaul copies may have helped to provide alternate and more accurate readings, since it is clear that Ausonius possessed a copy in which the Oxford lines (discovered as late as 1899 by E.O. Winstedt an Oxford undergraduate consisting of 34 four lines of missing text immediately after 6.365).In his work Parentalia (10) the poet reuses the phrase seria vitae (life’s anxieties or troubles) from 6.O.18 a phrase which exist nowhere else in Latin literature.
The MSS can be loosely categorised into three types, good , bad and wildcard texts. The ‘good’ category indicate the MSS more directly derived from the Roman archetype and although they are more corrupt texts, the scribes decided to leave the corruptions uncorrected, happier to pass on errors than to try to repair them. The ‘bad’ are the descendants that incorporate readings from other uncorrected corrupt copies in a well-meaning but disastrous attempt to improve the text. the result being even more corruption. The last category the wildcards are from the surviving scraps of Late Antique codices (Ambr., Ant., Bob.), quotes from other authors works, lemmata (short excerpts of text used as entry headings in commentaries) and other indirect sources.
In the first stage the archetype MS lost its tail (the text breaking off at 16.60...ut laeti phaleris omnes et torquibus, omnes). It is an error which is found in every MSS and since there is no evidence of any later commentary or scholia this seems to happened very early on in Rome and probably before the revival of interest in Juvenal alluded to before.
There is a second stage where a copy or copies (?) are made with the Oxford fragment still intact. Ausonius’ text is probably from this point in time and outside of Rome (the Gaul family). Stage three surprising enough is where the Oxford fragment disappears. It is possible here to deduct some more details about what the MSS might have looked like. The appearance would have taken a roll with twenty-nine lines per column with 6.O.1-29 occupying one column. The loss of the first 29 lines of the Oxford fragment was thus the loss of a page or a whole column. Other MSS such as Aurel. has two columns of 29 lines per page and so lend credence to this idea.
At the fourth stage the remaining lines of O 30-34 were redacted to three, but not before a copy with the five lines still intact was made since commentaries exist for the five lines where the corresponding text is absent from the work. Finally the last stage would have been the reshaping of the five verses of O 30-34 to the three verses of 6.346-48. the fragment makes little sense in its position and may have deliberately shortened due to the scribes doubts about its relevance or meaning.
At the end of this series of manglings, the text of Juvenal emerges in the 5th Century. the family of manuscripts divides into two main streams at this point: The P stream (with its relatives) and the Phi stream. The P stream seems to flow down through time with no further offshoots remaining relatively unchanged in its overall shape and contents but the Phi stream became quite compromised over time as a result of the polluting effect of interpolation where scribes 'correct' what they saw as errors as well as cross contamonation where scribes may have been referring to several different copies in an aerly attempt to 'improve' on what they had befoe them. There are also various wildcard texts of the 5th and 6th Centuries which add to the chaos quite admirably. The result is that Phi stream is much less reliable that the P stream but that should not cause us to assume that the P stream MSS are corruption free as Houseman (1931) has observed.
So the upshot of all this is that the would be editor of Juvenal has to make a choice between a limited group of texts whih require some emendation and tidying (the P stream) and a larger repository of texts (the Phi stream) that have already been heavily edited and modified. In essence, it's a bit of a crap shoot with perhaps some safer ground in the P stream.
The revival of Juvenal surely helped his work survive into the Carolingian Renaissance. there are fragments of three late antique codices which give some albeit limited evidence for this :-
1. Ant.=Mertens-Pack 2925. Leuven Database of Ancient Books.
An early codex fragment found at Antinoe in Egypt which gves a tantalising idea of how far across the late antique world Juvenals appeal reached. Its a single leaf of a parchment document and from forensic orthograhical evidence apparently hailing from the same scriptorium in Byzantium that produced the Justinian Digests. The writing is in uncial which is commonly found in legal texts of the period (possibly a legal scribe fulfilling a clients special commission?) and dating to the early 500s CE. There are several generations of marginal notes in both Greek and Latin which perhaps indicates that the codex itself may have travelled about a bit in both literary directions.
2. Bob.=Vat.lat.5750,pp. 63-64, 77-78. LDAB 7374.
Dated to te early 500s CE, written in rustic capitals and therefore of probable Italian provenance. It is a rebinding of a single outer folio stripped from one quire of another book and compromises the end of the satires with the beginning lines of Persius which is a strong indication that already in the late antique period, the two satirists were being circulated together. the text came from the monastery at Bobbio and has survived by being lucky enough to have been used as a palimpsest for the letters of Galla Placidia and the Acts of the Synod of Chalcedon.
3. Ambr.=once at Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Cimelio MS 2 (now lost). LDAB 7653.
A single folio from a codex used to contain papyrus fragments (an ancient scapbook of sorts) written in half uncial. Its a rare hand and so could be interpreted as the work of a super nerd of the era...mainstram interest in the works having once again started to wane.
We know that Juvenal was part of Charlemagne's court library. The Irish founded monastery of Bobbio (as we noted above) had two books containing Juvenal (around the end of the 800s CE). the ancestry of these MSS can be more or less relaibly follwed as they survived the dark ages. from the common anceestor mentioned earlier (gamma) a generally quite accurate copy was made which led to a later version V and the family line eventually results in P manuscript, which Highet ((1954) 207) as the 'only complete manuscript which contains something close to what Juvenal actually wrote'.
The P family of mauscripts then are accepted as a very close version to the orignal state of the work soon after it left Juvenals' pen.
On the Phi side the important MSS are F,G,H,K,L,O,T,U and Z. From this mass group of interdependent texts there has been an attempt (Knoche 1940) to identify four families but it was not very successful considering the heavy intercontamination we have noted before. These Vulgate MSS are very confused and it is very difficult to create a a coherent or meaningful stemma. Its only real uuse is to act as a warning not to rely too much on the MSS of the P family and to bear it in mind when loking for clarification of other corrupt sections.
The MSS, redisovered in that later Middle Ages and the Renaissance formed the basis of the earliest printed texts and subsequent apparatus we have today.