Krebs, C. B. 2005. Negotiatio Germaniae: Tacitus’ Germania und Enea Silvio Piccolomini, Giannantonio Campano, Conrad Celtis und Heinrich Bebel. Hypomnemata 158, Göttingen. Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2005.12.17

Krebs, C. B. 2005. Negotiatio Germaniae: Tacitus’ Germania und Enea Silvio Piccolomini, Giannantonio Campano, Conrad Celtis und Heinrich Bebel. Hypomnemata 158, Göttingen. Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2005.12.17

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  26/05/2016, 17 󰀺 45Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2005.12.17Page 1 of 5 Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2005.12.17 Christopher B. Krebs,  Negotiatio Germaniae: Tacitus' Germania und  Enea Silvio Piccolomini, Giannantonio Campano, Conrad Celtis und  Heinrich Bebel. Hypomnemata 158 . Göttingen: Vandenhoeck &Ruprecht, 2005. Pp. 284. ISBN 3-525-25257-9. ! 76.00. Reviewed by Christopher Whitton, St John's College, Cambridge( Word count: 2236 words In the five and a half centuries since its rediscovery Tacitus' Germania has exercised aninfluence out of all proportion to its length. The appropriation of 'die kleine Schrift desgrossen Römers' by nationalist and national socialist ideologues in the twentieth century isnotorious; its central place in the politicization of ancient German history at the turn of thesixteenth century is also familiar to students of humanism.1 Krebs (henceforth K.)addresses himself to the earlier period in this reworking of his Kiel doctoral dissertation.Limiting himself to the four humanists in his title, he analyses the manipulation of theGermania by these litterati-cum-politicians. How, he asks, could this text be used tosupport diametrically opposed arguments in the wrangle between papacy and Holy RomanEmpire? His study encompasses detailed examination of the Germania itself and carefulconsideration of the generic frameworks within which his humanist authors were writing,with a particular emphasis on the 'rhetorical' quality of both ancient and renaissance texts.The introductory chapter sets out the stakes and the key terms of K.'s project, defined as'eine imagologische Studie der Varianz der imago Germaniae' (16). The theoreticalframework is borrowed from comparative imagology, an approach perhaps unfamiliar toAnglophone readers (as it was to this writer). 'Imagologie' in its constructivist form seeksto replace essentializing 'national characters' with the 'images' we create of ourselves andother societies; it arose in post-war France, and spread to comparative literaturedepartments in Germany in the 1960s and 1970s. Whereas the sociocultural context of modern Europe remains intrinsic to the approach of most practitioners, K. treatsimagology as a hermeneutic literary tool, defining its concern as 'das Bild des (fremdenoder auch eigenen) Landes innerhalb eines literarischen Werkes' (26).2 At the heart of thisstudy are the 'imago Germaniae', the image of Germania constructed by Tacitus, and the'negotiatio Germaniae', the competing manipulations it was subjected to by later readers intheir construction of 'functionalist myths' of the past. These myths may assert a continuityof past and present ('fundierend-legitimierend[e]'), or construct a differing past whicheither glorifies or vilifies the present in contrast (respectively 'kontrapräsentisch-defizitäre'and 'kontrapräsentisch-überlegene imagines'). K adopts an appropriate, if not especiallynovel, approach in this study of reception, though some may question the value of thispolysyllabic classification (not to mention the malformation 'imagology' itself).  26/05/2016, 17 󰀺 45Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2005.12.17Page 2 of 5 K. argues strongly in his introduction that an interpretation of Tacitus' text is intrinsic to astudy of its reception, and faults the failure of previous scholarship in this respect.Accordingly he devotes eighty pages to 'Tacitus' imago Germaniae aus der Perspektiveihrer Wirkungsgeschichte', as chapter two is entitled. K. takes a hardcore 'literary' (hisword) line, rejecting questions of historical fact as irrelevant both to Tacitus and to thepresent study; instead he emphasizes his view of the text as 'rhetorische Ethnographie'.The strong influence of generic considerations on the content as well as the form of theGermania is now widely accepted. By characterizing the text as 'rhetorical', K. signals amore contentious view of authorial intent: for him, the Germania is a work of persuasion,written to convince a Roman elite readership that the Germani are ripe for conquest.The argument is articulated in three stages. First, rhetorical ethnography. The 'Penetranzdes Eigenen' which suffuses the work is an intrusion not just of the Roman Self, butspecifically of Tacitus, into the text: in K.'s terms, not just an 'interpretatio Romana', butalso an 'interpretatio Tacitea'. By glossing 'glesum' as 'sucinum' at G.45.4 Tacitusintroduces a connotation of degenerate Roman luxury (here K. follows O'Gorman).3 Butwhat other word could Tacitus have used? His preference for 'plebs' over 'vulgus' in G.10-12 imports to the Germani his 'Hochschätzung der starken plebs' of the republic (54) -- asif Tacitus were a nostalgic republican tout court, despite the overridingly pejorativeconnotations of 'plebs' in, say, Histories 1. More convincingly, K. argues thatcontradictions within the text reveal not carelessness or lack of control overWandermotive but the opportunism of the rhetorician -- and rhetoric, not ethnology, iscentral to the Tacitean project.Second, Tacitus' 'imaginäre Geographie'. Whereas Caesar's construct of Germania as aboundless infinity in the Bellum Gallicum implicitly ruled out a possible conquest,Tacitus' strict geographical delimitation in G.1.1 (K. considers 'mutuo metu et montibus'adequately concrete) and portrayal of a single Germanic people (the infamous 'propriam etsinceram et tantum sui similem gentem' of G.4.1) rewrites the Caesarian account tosuggest a finite and clearly defined territory open to conquest. K.'s emphasis on theinterestedness of Caesar's (and thus Tacitus') narrative is well placed, but some edges haveto be blurred to achieve the contrast. In particular, it is hard to reconcile K.'s view with thedescent into obscurity and myth which ends the work: 'cetera iam fabulosa ... quod ego utincompertum in medium relinquam' (G.46.4) scarcely leaves the impression of 'einesscharf demarkierten Germaniens' (80).In the third and final section of chapter two, K. analyses the 'imago Germaniae' into itsconstituent 'imagems' (what others call 'topoi'). Rejecting Sittenspiegel interpretations, heargues in a twenty-five page reading of the Germania for the ambivalence of Tacitus' judgment on 'simplicitas', 'libertas' and 'virtus'. A full assessment of his interpretationwould be a review in itself; interested readers may judge the details for themselves. Since,however, many of the laudable qualities exhibited by Tacitus' Germani are ethnographicmotifs (characterised elsewhere as 'Konzession gegenüber der Tradition', 48), K. turns outto be arguing not so much for ambivalence as for a negative Tacitean assessment. Thisbecomes apparent in the chapter's conclusion, which strings together excerpts from theother opera minora to reveal a solution to the (supposed) 'German question': in short, 'dassdie Germanien-Frage nur einen Agricola braucht' (85). There is a curious tension betweenK.'s stated aim of demonstrating the ambivalence of the text and his argumentation for asingle reading (which will by no means convince all). His interpretation is welcome as acontribution to scholarly debate on the Germania itself, but sits uneasily within his projectas a whole.  26/05/2016, 17 󰀺 45Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2005.12.17Page 3 of 5 Chapter three constitutes the bulk of the book. K. begins with a brief overview of his fourchosen humanists, then gives each a sub-chapter of around thirty-five pages. His formulais to consider two different literary productions by each scholar. For Enea SilvioPiccolomini these are his 1454 'Türkenrede' (an attempt to muster German support againstthe Turks) and his 1458 letter-tract 'Germania' (a 140-page defence of papal rule overGermany). The speech constructs a 'legitimating myth' of ancient Germani as proud, fiercewarriors. By contrast, the letter-tract employs a 'counter-presentive myth' based on partialcitation of Tacitus (whom he had recently read): ancient Germani were uncouthbarbarians, so their modern descendants have the church to thank for their state of civilization. With sensitivity to the political context, K. argues that the principal intendedreaders of Piccolomini's 'Germania' were not so much the Electors as the Italian cardinalswho created him Pius II later that year; so Piccolomini moulds his 'imago' to suit both hisargument and his audience. This makes it all the more difficult, however, to assess Tacitus'place in all this. Would Piccolominihave concentrated on German barbarity anyway? Healready had Caesar and Strabo as 'authorities'. Here, as elsewhere, explanation of whyTacitus' Germania in particular 'marks the climax of barbarity' (155f.) would be welcome.A sharper contrast is supplied by Giannantonio Campano, a member of the papaldelegation at the Ratisbon Diet of 1471. He was due to muster support against the Turks(again) with a stirring encomium of ancient German values, but internal German conflictspushed him off the agenda and the speech remained undelivered. He published the orationafter the event; in the meantime he penned a series of letters to friends in Italy lamentinghis nine-month stay in a hateful 'barbara tellus'. It is misplaced, K. maintains, to contrastoratorical rhetoric with epistolary sincerity and charge Campano with hypocrisy in thespeech (as furious Germans did on reading the letters). Taking a hint from a contemporarymention of Campano as 'Ovidius alter', K. introduces Ovid's exile literature as his'reference text' to show how the content of Campano's letters reflects ancient epistolaryand exilic tropes. He tends to an extreme anti-historicist reading and accordingly assertsthat Campano's construct of Germany need not be taken as a reflection of any extra-literary reality. K. is surely right to stress the classicizing nature of humanistepistolography, but the comparison solely with Ovidian 'poetic truth' skirts morecomplicated questions of autobiography and self-representation in, say, the prose letters of Cicero and Pliny. Not surprisingly K. is at a loss to explain Campano's motive in creatingthis purely literary world ('die Motivation ... im Dunkeln bleibt', 180): it is hard to rejectaltogether the biographical interpretation of the letters as expressions of frustration anddisenchantment.4 As for the Germania, the Ratisbon oration functions as a pendant toPiccolomini's 'Germania', this time with Tacitus providing material for the 'myth' of aGermanic warrior past.K. now turns to Conrad Celtis, German 'arch-humanist'. His two texts -- the hexameterpoem 'Germania generalis' ('G.G.'), which he appended to his 1500 edition of Tacitus'Germania, and Amores 2.9, an elegiac rebuke to 'Elsula' -- both present a 'partiellrehabilitiert[e]' imago Germaniae (226), using Tacitus to create a positive but notwhitewashed picture of ancient Germany. The contrast this time lies in their depiction of the present ('imago Germaniae novae'). K. reads the G.G.'s idealized present as anti-Italianpolemic, an assertion of German moral superiority; meanwhile the degenerate presentdepicted in Amores 2.9 is a combination of Roman elegiac topoi (rebuke of the puella'sexcessive cultus and nostalgia for a lost past) and further anti-Italian polemic, aninsinuation that southern influence has effeminized the Germans. K. amply proves hiscase for generic influence and indeed intertextuality with first-century poetry, though it isnot clear why he considers 'laus temporis acti' a 'Genrespezifikum' (211) of elegy: if any  26/05/2016, 17 󰀺 45Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2005.12.17Page 4 of 5 poetic genre is to be privileged with this ubiquitous motif, it is surely satire. In any casethe allusion to Horace is misleading: 'laudator temporis acti/ se puero' (Ars Poetica 173f.)is a stock senex reminiscing on his own youth, not times past. K. drops his guard incontrasting Amores 2.9's description of Germany 'anhand von Liebeserfahrungen' with the'genuine Beschreibung' of the G.G. (211n.401): his emphasis on generic motivationshould extend to the G.G., and the imagological approach -- the only apparent reason forthis temporary abandonment of Tacitus -- is fundamentally opposed to such essentialisingof the 'genuine'. K. returns from the 'imago Germaniae novae' to his theme of the Taciteanimago with Heinrich Bebel, whose 'humanistic patriotism' (227) creates the first whollyidealized account of the ancient Germani by a German. K. follows his formula of takingtwo sample texts, the dedicatory preface to his 'Proverbia Germanica' (DeutscheSprichwörter) and the speech he delivered to Maximilian at his coronation as poet laureatein 1501. In this case there is no disparity to be resolved: Bebel is consistent in his'panegyrical history', asserting that Germany had an advanced, thriving ancientcivilization (here he anticipates the 'research' of Himmler's SS-Ahnenerbe). Tacitus'assumed Roman bias makes his praise of the Germani all the more valuable. Bebel isconcerned, though, to downplay the illiteracy of his constructed forebears (illiteracy is oneof the 'imagems' of the Germania), both with his collection of supposed ancientSprichwörter and by downplaying the value of literature as a cultural achievement(paradoxically devaluing his own literary sources, as K. observes). With Bebel theTacitean imago is transformed, in K.'s refrain, 'from Italian invective to Germanencomium'.K.'s study takes a narrow remit but a broad frame of reference, encompassing informeddiscussion of Ciceronian oratory, epistolography, love elegy and historiography; at thesame time the historical and political background to this 'negotiatio Germaniae', while notthe primary focus, is always in mind. His argument, and the book's presentation, exhibitsthe model clarity typical of a Doktorarbeit, though several errors have slipped throughproof-reading.5 The formula of two texts per author works well for the Italians, less so forthe Germans: the shift in focus to Celtis' 'imago Germaniae novae' leaves Tacitus on thesidelines, and Bebel -- whose two texts show no great contrast -- assumes a misleadingfunction in the study as a sort of anti- Piccolomini neatly bringing the 'imago' full circle.K.'s modest goal is 'to obtain an insight into the negotiatio Germaniae' (22), and this hecertainly achieves. Quite how the book's two parts fit together is harder to see. Theemphasis on the rhetorical opportunism (and generic affiliations) of Tacitus' humanistreaders makes K.'s extended demonstration of the ambivalence of the text itself seemotiose. At the same time the second chapter's reading of the Germania as a thoroughlyunambivalent call to arms, while valuable in its own right, plays no part in the remainderof the study. K. himself, it seems, has been drawn deep into the negotiatio Germaniae.And the imagology? In the analysis of Tacitus it seems to add little more than a new set of  jargon. In the rest of the book its role is more substantial in setting the four studies withina single framework -- though, again, its novelty seems limited. Whether K.'s concludinghope for further imagological studies will be realised remains to be seen. Notes: 1. For Tacitus' Nazi history, see primarily L. Canfora, La Germania di Tacito da Engelsal nazismo, Naples 1979 and A. A. Lund, Germanenideologie im Nationalsozialismus.Zur Rezeption der ,Germania' des Tacitus im ,,Dritten Reich'', Heidelberg 1995. The  26/05/2016, 17 󰀺 45Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2005.12.17Page 5 of 5 humanist period is a crowded field of German scholarship, though Ridé's 1776-pagecontribution remains fundamental (J. Ridé, L'Image du Germain dans la pensée et lalittérature allemandes de la redécouverte de Tacite à la fin du XVIe siècle, 3 volumes,Lille-Paris 1977). For a brief English-language overview of both periods, see H. W.Benario, 'Tacitus' Germania and Modern Germany', ICS 15 (1990): 163-175. Thequotation above is from G. Röttger, 'Die taciteische Germania im heutigenLateinunterricht', Neue Jahrb. f. Antike u. deutsche Bildung 2.6 (1939): 267-282, p.267. 2. For a brief history of imagology, see M I Logvinov, 'Studia imagologica: zweimethodologische Ansätze zur komparatistischen Imagologie', Germanistisches JahrbuchGUS 'Das Wort' 2003: 203-220. The principal exponent of the culturally bound approachis Hugo Dyserinck, the founding father of German imagology. The hermeneutic approachis exemplified in M. Swiderska, Studien zur literaturwissenschaftlichen Imagologie. Dasliterarische Werk F. M. Dostoevskijs aus imagologischer Sicht mit besondererBerücksichtung der Darstellung Polens, Munich 2001. 3. E. O'Gorman, 'No place like Rome: Identity and Difference in the Germania of Tacitus', Ramus 22 (1993): 135-154, p.141. 4. E.g. F. R. Hausmann in the Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani 17 (1974) 426f. 5. 'Hinsichlich' 24; 'tauta' paroxytone 31; 'unterschliedlichen' 33; 'material' for 'Material'39, 'geograpischen' 40; 'historiques' for 'historique' 59 and 273; 'entspingend' 74; 'antiquite'unaccented 113; 'Ausdehung' 138; 'e.i.' for 'i.e.' 155; 'Exiltypolgie' 172; 'Einzelausage'189; 'lu' omitted in 121n.24; incomplete reference in 142n.97; 'auch auch' 207;'Quandoqidem' 216; 'Reevalutation' 232; Benario 1990 is ascribed to 1976; Donald Kelleyhas lost an 'e'; various typesetting errors.ReadLatestIndex for2005Change GreekDisplayArchivesBooks Available forReviewBMCRHome HTML generated at 13:30:38, Friday, 03 April 2009
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