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THE YOUNGER PLINY AND AMMIANUS MARCELLINUS.

The investigations of Fletcher and Owens have documented the breadth of Ammianus' familiarity with Latin literature; however, neither scholar was able to demonstrate a debt to Pliny the Younger.(1) At the same time Alan Cameron has shown that in the later fourth century the Letters of Pliny enjoyed a certain vogue.(2) The issue of Ammianus' knowledge of Pliny is discussed by Cameron on two occasions.(3) The evidence he cites inclines him to the duly circumspect view that Ammianus may perhaps have been familiar with Pliny's Letters after all. The aim of the present note is to argue that the grounds which have so far been adduced for entertaining such a possibility would in fact appear to be inadmissible.

In his first article Cameron left the issue open. There the case rested chiefly on the use of the term cataracta to signify `sluice'.(4) Rutilius Namatianus' employment of cataracta in this sense (De Reditu 1.481) is cited by Schuster as an echo of Pliny, Ep. 10.61.4.(5) Since this usage is also found in Ammianus (24.1.11, 24.3.10, and 24.6.2), the question arises whether he too might be indebted to the same Plinian passage. TLL (3.596.14-22) in fact supplies only one other instance of such an application of cataracta.(6) At the same time Cameron surmises that the `extreme rarity' of this use of the word may be due simply to the circumstance that a technical term is involved.

Here fresh evidence can be adduced. The use of cataracta with the meaning `sluice' is also found in Cassiodorus. At Hist. trip. 5.45.4 the author states with convenient fullness of detail: `Persae impetum Mygdonii fluminis ... a longe retinentes et utrasque ripas eius facientes celsiores, ut aqua in se collecta concresceret, quo vi maiori posset inruere, cum vidissent iam etiam illas, quas fecerant, sublimes ripas impleri, subito auferentes, quas fecerant, catharactas dimiserunt impetum fluminis contra murum'.(7) Cassiodorus also employs the word with the same application at Ex. Ps. 41.8: `sicut aquarum multitudo per cataractas evomitur'. This usage would accordingly appear to be more widespread than hitherto supposed.(8) Cameron's surmise is thus confirmed that here we have to do with technical language that was in general circulation: Ammianus' use of cataracta to denote a `sluice' is no indication of acquaintance with Pliny.

The evidence which Cameron adduced in his second article struck him as being more worthy of credit.(9) Here he suggested that two passages of Ammianus (14.10.14 ut cunctator et cautus; 31.12.6 sed cunctator et cautus) might be indebted to two Plinian texts (Ep. 2.16.4 cunctantior fortasse et cautior; 9.13.6 cunctantior cautiorque).(10) These passages of Pliny and Ammianus had already been linked at the beginning of the century in TLL (3 [1906-12] col. 641.57f.).(11) Can they in fact be used to demonstrate that Ammianus had read Pliny?

In the first place the point may be made that in each author a case of complex self-imitation is involved. Commentators have failed to note that in both passages of Ammianus the verb of the sentence in question is censere, which in each case is immediately preceded by an accusative and infinitive. This construction in turn follows the phrase cunctator et cautus, which in both texts stands in apposition to the subject: its wording is repeated literatim. In Pliny, on the other hand, the adjectives cunctantior and cautior serve on both occasions as complements of the verb esse; moreover, the term vereri occurs in each of the immediately antecedent clauses. At the same time the formulation employed in Pliny's first text (cunctantior fortasse et cautior esse deberem) has undergone stylistic improvement in the second (erat enim cunctantior cautiorque). The two adjectives now occupy the emphatic final position.(12) This time they are also directly juxtaposed: the contiguity enhances both the paronomasia and the homoeoteleuton.

If Ammianus had indeed been familiar with Pliny, it might be thought that he would have appropriated the very striking formulation cunctantior cautiorque.(13) In contrast, however, to Pliny's pair of arresting comparatives, Ammianus employs a simple noun and an adjective in the positive degree: cunctator et cautus. In this connection it should be pointed out that Ammianus is in fact highly partial to the combination of the noun cunctator with such an adjective in the positive. At 16.2.11 he uses the phrase providus et cunctator, while in 27.10.10 the words cunctator et tutus occur.(14) The TLL's article on cunctator provides no further instance of such a collocation of this noun with an adjective. Ammianus' distinctive predilection for precisely such juxtapositions would seem to undermine the case for thinking that only Pliny's quite different comparative participle could have inspired him to link the noun cunctator with cautus.

That such an assumption is in fact unnecessary can be shown by documenting the occurrence of exactly the same combination in other classical texts. In an impressive instance of anaphoric isocolon, Livy had written (22.12.12): `pro cunctatore segnem, pro cauto timidum ... conpellabat'. He again links the two terms at 30.26.9 (`cautior tamen quam promptior hic habitus; et sicut dubites utrum ingenio cunctator fuerit...'). In Silius Italicus the words strikingly enclose a sentence (16.672-4): `sat gloria cauto / non vinci pulchra est Fabio, peperitque sedendo / omnia cunctator'. Tacitus repeats them in a highly alliterative passage (Hist. 2.25.2): `cunctator natura et cui cauta potius consilia ... placerent'.(15) Finally Ammianus' contemporary Augustine twice combines the adjective with the abstract noun in a single expression (De Anima 1.8.9 cauta nostra cunctatio; ibid. 2.10.14 cautior ... nostra cunctatio).(16)

In the above-mentioned instances Livy, Silius Italicus, and Tacitus all agree with Ammianus in pairing cautus with the simple noun cunctator; none of them concurs with Pliny in employing a comparative participle from the verb cunctor. Ammianus makes extensive borrowings of phraseology from both Livy and Tacitus; he would also appear to have utilized Silius Italicus for the same purpose.(17) It cannot therefore be assumed that Ammianus is indebted to Pliny's Letters for the collocation cunctator et cautus. There is accordingly no evidence for Ammianus' acquaintance with the Younger Pliny after all.

(1) G. B. A. Fletcher, `Stylistic borrowings and parallels in Ammianus Marcellinus', RPh 3rd ser. 11 (1937), 377-95; E. E. L. Owens, Phraseological Parallels and Borrowings in Ammianus Marcellinus from Earlier Latin Authors (unpubl. diss., London, 1958), who observes (p. 10): `Lucretius, Pliny the Younger and Juvenal seem not to have been employed at all by Amm.' The issue of Ammianus' acquaintance with classical literature has recently been re-examined by C. W. Fornara, `Studies in Ammianus Marcellinus II: Ammianus' knowledge and use of Greek and Latin literature', Historia 41 (1992), 420-38; however, he does not address the question whether Ammianus knew Pliny.

(2) A. Cameron, `The fate of Pliny's Letters in the Late Empire', CQ N.S. 15 (1965), 289-98.

(3) Cameron (n. 2), 298 n. 2; id., `Pliny's Letters in the Later Empire: an addendum', CQ N.S. 17 (1967), 421f., at 422.

(4) Cameron is quite right to discount the resemblance between Amm. 26.1.1 and Plin. Ep. 5.8.12, to which attention is drawn by W. Ensslin, Zur Geschichtsschreibung und Weltanschauung des Ammianus Marcellinus (Klio, Beiheft 16.3; Leipzig, 1923), p. 18. Cameron observes that the idea is a commonplace. It might also be pointed out that the concerns of the two authors are different: whereas for Pliny the issue is the apportionment of praise and blame, Ammianus is dealing with criticism for omitting trivia.

(5) M. Schuster, C. Plini Caecili Secundi [Opera.sup.2] (Leipzig, 1952), p. 339.

(6) Namely, Ps.-Rufin. In Psalm. 41.8. This work actually belongs to the early twelfth century; cf. A. Wilmart, `Le commentaire sur les Psaumes imprime sous le nom de Rufin', RBen 31 (1914-19), 258-76.

(7) In the last section of this passage Theodoret, Hist. Eccl. 2.30.5, which serves as source, does not correspond exactly to the Latin text.

(8) Reference may also be made to the Medieval Latin dictionaries, which provide further exemplification; cf. Mittellateinisches Worterbuch 2.3 coll. 363.71-364.5; J. W. Fuchs, O. Weijers, and M. Gumbert (edd.), Lexicon Latinitatis Nederlandicae Medii Aevi (Leiden, 1981), 2 col. C224.37-44.

(9) Cautious endorsement is given by F. Trisoglio, `Sant'Ambrogio conobbe Plinio il Giovane?', RSC 20 (1972), 363-410, at 366 n. 18.

(10) In both Plinian passages the variant reading cunctatior is also found.

(11) Here `14.10.4' is an error for `14.10.14'.

(12) The result is an elegant cretic dichoree clausula; for its incidence in Pliny cf. T. Zielinski, Das Clauselgesetz in Ciceros Reden (Philologus, Supplementband 9; Leipzig, 1904), p. 808.

(13) For Ammianus' habit of verbatim citation cf. Owens (n. 1), 33-6. The Plinian phrase would have provided an instance of the cursus velox; on Ammianus' fondness for this cadence cf. S. M. Oberhelman, `The provenance of the style of Ammianus Marcellinus', QUCC N.S. 27 (1987), 79-89, at 83.

(14) The latter passage has recently been discussed by R. Seager, `Ut dux cunctator et tutus: the caution of Valentinian (Ammianus 27.10)', PLLS 9 (1996), 191-6; despite its title the article does not deal with Ammianus' phraseology.

(15) Here H. Heubner, P. Cornelius Tacitus: Die Historien (Heidelberg, 1968), ii.107 and G. E. F. Chilver, A Historical Commentary on Tacitus' Histories I and H (Oxford, 1979), p. 191 merely register the echo of Liv. 30.26.9 in cunctator natura; neither notes the collocation with cautus.

(16) No evidence for Augustine's acquaintance with either the Younger Pliny or with Ammianus is supplied by H. Hagendahl, Augustine and the Latin Classics, 2 vols. (Goteborg, 1967).

(17) Cf. Fletcher (n. 1), 383-6 (Livy); 388f. (Silius); 389-92 (Tacitus); Owens (n. 1), 194-6 (Livy); 203-7 (Tacitus).

NEIL ADKIN

nadkin@unlinfo.unl.edu University of Nebraska at Lincoln
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Author:ADKIN, NEIL
Publication:The Classical Quarterly
Date:Jul 1, 1998
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