A Review: Cicero, Against Verres, 2.1.53–86

I hope this is useful to those of you teaching or soon to teach this text. I was asked by the publisher if I’d review the book for The Classics Library.

I. Gildenhard, Cicero, Against Verres, 2.1.53–86: Latin Text with Introduction, Study Questions, Commentary and English Translation, OpenBook Publishers (www.openbookpublishers.com), Cambridge, 2011.

ISBN: 978-1-906924-53-9 (PB), 978-1-906924-54-6 (HB), 978-1-906924-55-3 (PDF)

A Review for The Classics Library (www.theclassicslibrary.com), aimed at teachers of AS Latin.

At the first I applaud OpenBook Publishers, whose open access vision and multi-format provision are a very good thing indeed, to my mind. This is their first classical publication, and very timely, and very much needed it has been too. Its origins stem from an invitation to its author, Professor Ingo Gildenhard (of Durham University), to speak on the teaching of this newly prescribed A Level text, whose advice was also sought on available resources of which teachers might make use in the absence of an appropriate commentary. Though the book could not possibly find its way to schools for the beginning of the academic year, its production was nonetheless very swift, and none the worse for that.

The book is aimed at undergraduate and postgraduate students of Latin as well as those following the A Level course, to bring the text to a broader and broadly similar audience and to make the commentary naturally more appealing. This has sensibly meant that its scope is allowed to go beyond the A Level specification to include the rest of the Lampsacus episode of 70BC. Teachers may well find this additional material very useful, as extension reading, or simply by using the full translation to bring their excerpt into context. Though some teachers may prefer not to hand their students a translation (especially one which is as close to the original Latin as possible – G even retains use of the historic Present Tense in the English) of a text which they are preparing, many others will be glad of the point of reference and discussion as well as, mentioned above, the opportunity to study the entire episode. Every student will certainly find this particular translation very useful indeed for a good understanding of the text.

Despite the intended audience nothing here will be intimidating or unnecessary for the sixth former. In fact G’s clarity, detail without distraction, and reassuringly confident and comfortable style are ideal. All aspects of the work are very approachable, and will work well for an independent student or as a class textbook. This is helped considerably by the fact that this is much more than a commentary; its subtitle seeks to make this clear and to promote its worth. Its structure is beautifully clear, with each chapter presented and handled separately on a new page, followed by questions on ‘Grammar and Syntax’ and ‘Style and Theme’ (helpful preparation perhaps in the AS year for the A2 Unprepared Translation and Comprehension). In the Commentary, analysis of each chapter begins with a summary of its aims and important aspects, and its relation to the preceding chapter, which are very helpful. The commentary itself is extremely helpful in its guidance for translation, use of important linguistic and rhetorical terminology (for the latter there is a handy six-page list with definitions and examples), aid in historical explanation and suggested further reading. An appendix, ‘Issues for Further Discussion’, is an excellent closing point for the book and starting point for development, with sections on ‘Facts and Fiction in Law-court Rhetoric’, ‘Ancient and Modern’, ‘Humour – Sophistication – Self-promotion’, ‘Ethics and Empire’ and ‘Cultural Property and the History of Plunder’.

Everything about this book makes it immediately and brilliantly valuable and exciting for the student of Latin and Cicero, and teachers of A Level Latin have much reason to thank Professor Gildenhard. More than this, the philosophy and practice of OpenBook Publishers mean that it has been immediately available in PDF and paperback format in addition to hardback, and all at competitive prices, which can be an issue for those looking to purchase a number of class copies. The PDF format allows the book to be digitally stored and projected to a classroom, for example, but on top of all of this the book is freely available in GoogleBooks (a link is available on the OpenBook website (http://tinyurl.com/7y975xr), which allows the book to be accessed from any internet-ready device. Much more of all of this, I say.

Stephen Jenkin
5th January 2012

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