CJ Online Review: Garcea, Caesar’s de Analogia

posted with permission:

Caesar’s De Analogia: Edition, Translation, and Commentary. By Alessandro Garcea. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. Pp. xiv + 304. Hardcover, £70.00/$150.00. ISBN 978-0-19-960397-8.

Reviewed by James E. G. Zetzel, Columbia University

When one thinks of Julius Caesar, what comes to mind immediately is the politician/dictator/god, or perhaps the author of the Commentaries. We do not so rapidly think of Caesar the intellectual, Caesar the scholar and poet, or Caesar the expert on Latin grammar. And yet, although the actual fragments of Caesar’s De Analogia are fairly sparse, they can, and in Alessandro Garcea’s important book do, provide valuable insights into the intellectual politics and polemics of the middle of the first century bce.

Although I would hesitate to push as far as Garcea does in finding political and imperial resonances in Caesar’s concern with proper Latinity—his encounters with less-than-fluent Latinists in Gaul is not very likely to have affected his views of the proper form of the genitive of various declensions—Garcea’s acumen in teasing out the implications and context of Caesar’s book is admirable. Written rapidly, probably in the spring of 54 bce while Caesar was returning to Gallia Comata from his winter rounds of the conventus of Cisalpina, the two books of De Analogia dealt with the perennial problem, not unique to Latin, of the relationship between regularity and usage in speech and writing. The tortured and tortuous arguments in Books 8–10 of Varro’s De Lingua Latina on analogy and anomaly reveal the complexity of the issues: not only was the organization of Latin still taking shape in Caesar’s day (the declensions, conjugations, and even the parts of speech were not fixed in standard grammar for at least another century), but there was much more variation in the forms of words than we sometimes realize. Normalization was clearly a desideratum, and Caesar’s work, the fragments of which show his interest in regularity, order, and clarity, was important enough to be cited in the grammatical tradition for centuries.

Where Caesar’s work on analogy fits into the broader debate on language that was clearly active in the 50s and 40s bce is not always clear, but Garcea does a very good job in sorting out the issues. The first half of his book deals with the larger context of De Analogia: it was dedicated to Cicero and at least in part it is a response to the discussion of rhetorical ornament and linguistic purity in Book 3 of De Oratore. What is more, the fragments of the preface of De Analogia quoted by Cicero in Brutus show Cicero trying to put a good face on what was, in fact, a fairly critical attitude on Caesar’s part: by praising Cicero for his literary and linguistic contributions to the Roman people (F1 Garcea; Brutus 253), Caesar was obliquely suggesting that his other contributions (political) were not quite so valuable. Garcea untangles the various threads of this encounter carefully: the political differences between the two men; the choice of styles; and the more technical but no less important question whether Latinitas as a linguistic virtue is more properly a part of rhetoric or of grammar. I am not convinced by all his arguments (particularly on the relationship between De Analogia and the Anticato), but Garcea is scrupulous in presenting all the evidence clearly enough to allow the reader to judge for herself.

The second half of the book consists of a very detailed commentary on the exiguous fragments of De Analogia, which goes far beyond the necessary exegesis of the words themselves to offer learned and wide-ranging discussion of a range of issues raised by Caesar’s words: the history of the alphabet in Roman grammatical theory; the problems of declining i-stem and consonant-stem nouns of the third declension; orthographical difficulties of various kinds; grammatical and natural gender and number; and more. If at times one has the sensation the Garcea is pulling in each and every thing that might conceivably be relevant to the elucidation of these meager fragments, that does not detract from the skill with which he does so, or the impressive range of topics, both linguistic and cultural, that can be coaxed out of Caesar’s little book. My own sense is that there is slightly less to De Analogia than meets Garcea’s eye; with Hendrickson, I think of it as a rapidly composed pamphlet, not the result of long and careful research or reflection. That does not diminish my admiration for Garcea’s book: it is a work of great intelligence, and its value goes far beyond the elucidation of the fragments of De Analogia. Anyone interested in the intellectual history of the late Republic or in the history of Roman thought about the Latin language will profit from it.

Classical Words of the Day

impudent (Wordsmith)
paraselene (Wordnik)


This Day in Ancient History: ante diem vi idus februarias

ante diem vi idus februarias