The Elegies of Maximianus

9780812249798: Hardback
Release Date: 23rd February 2018

Dimensions: 152 x 229

Number of Pages: 240

University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.

The Elegies of Maximianus

Written by
Edited and translated by
A. M. Juster
Introduced by
Michael Roberts

A. M. Juster presents a faithful, poetic translation of the elegies of Maximianus, "last of the Roman poets." This comprehensive volume includes an introduction by renowned classicist Michael Roberts, the first English translation of an additional six poems attributed to Maximianus, and the first commentary in English on the elegies since 1900.

Hardback / £56.00

Not much can be known about the life of Maximianus, who has been called "the last of the Roman poets," beyond what can be inferred from his poetry. He was most likely a native of Tuscany, probably lived until the middle of the sixth century, and, at an advanced age, went as a diplomat to the emperor's court at Constantinople.

A. M. Juster has translated the complete elegies of Maximianus faithfully but not literally, resulting in texts that work beautifully as poetry in English. Replicating the feel of the original Latin verse, he alternates iambic hexameter and pentameter in couplets and imitates Maximianus's pronounced internal rhyme, alliteration, and assonance. The first elegy is the longest and establishes the voice of the speaker: a querulous old man, full of the indignities of aging, which he contrasts with the vigor and prestige he enjoyed in his youth. The second elegy similarly focuses on the contrast between past happiness and present misery but, this time, for the specific experience of a long-term relationship. The third through fifth elegies depict episodes from the poet's amatory career at different stages of his life, from inexperienced youth to impotent old man. The last poem concludes with a desire for the release of death and, together with the first, form a coherent frame for the collection.

This comprehensive volume includes an introduction by renowned classicist Michael Roberts, a translation of the elegies with the Latin text on facing pages, the first English translation of an additional six poems attributed to Maximianus, an appendix of Latin and Middle English imitative verse that illustrates Maximianus's long reception in the Middle Ages, several related texts, and the first commentary in English on the poems since 1900. The imminence of death and the sadness of growing old that form the principal themes of the elegies signal not only the end of pagan culture and its joy in living but also the turn from a classical to a medieval sensibility in Late Antiquity.

Introduction, by Michael Roberts


A. Cassiodorus, Variae 1.21
B. The Appendix Maximiani
C. De Boetio Spata Cincto
D. Imitatio Maximiani
E. Le Regret de Maximian



My goal with this book is to provide a faithful—but not "literal"—translation that also works as poetry. I try to replicate the feel of the Latin elegiac distich with couplets in alternating iambic hexameter and iambic pentameter while allowing myself the customary substitutions of formal poetry in English. When possible, I imitate Maximianus's pronounced internal rhyme, alliteration, and assonance, all of which are much more common in Late Antiquity than in the classical era. I also try to mimic his love of the spondee.

The commentary is the only one in English other than the Webster edition of 1900. I try to explain facets of the text that might be unclear to a reader while also conceding confusion on many points in the hope of spurring future scholarship. Those concessions are important because I believe too much of the scholarship has stifled debate by interpreting the text rigidly rather than acknowledging its intentional and unintentional ambiguities.

No scholar has comprehensively traced the reception of the elegies in later literature, and I do not try to do so myself, but I note some instances of Maximianus's influence, again in the hope of spurring future scholarship. I include the Imitatio Maximiani and Le regret de Maximian for that same reason but leave translation of those texts to interested scholars. I want to bring Maximianus to as wide an audience as possible, so I also include some notes that are unnecessary for classics scholars but possibly helpful to academics and students still refining their Latin.

Most textual analysis of the elegies ended over a century ago with the very different editions of Baehrens and Webster. Although Webster's commentary is frustratingly erratic, his editorial choices are far more cautious and thoughtful than those of Baehrens. Baehrens's editing reflects to a greater extent the late nineteenth-century bias toward aggressive emendations motivated by a misguided desire to "classicize" the Latin of Late Antiquity. Too much of the Maximianus scholarship of the past century relies on the flawed Baehrens text.

Future research and translations would benefit from a text of Maximianus derived from a new analysis of the many surviving manuscripts, but I am not the right person for that task. Accordingly, I rely on the Webster text as my starting point. When I emend the text, I flag the change with an asterisk and state my reasons for doing so in the notes. For those interested in the manuscript tradition, see Schetter (1970) at 3−9; Agozzino (1970) at 23−27; Spinazzè (2011) at 43−49, 52−61; D'Angelo (2005) at 467−471. For those who want to consider the many variations in the manuscripts in more detail than I provide in my commentary, I recommend the work of Öberg (1999) at 88−91 and 153−183; see also Prada (1918). For comments on the manuscript tradition, I also recommend Perroni's review of Schetter (1979 at 144−150).

I rejected well-intentioned advice and did not punctuate the text but left it as I believe it stood in the sixth century. Punctuation of texts of Maximianus's elegies has tended to push readers toward the editor's often debatable interpretations, and I think it is better to acknowledge uncertainties created by the difficulty of the Latin, the suspect parts of the text, and the poet's deliberate ambiguities. In other words, I want to stimulate debate, not stifle it. With the same rationale, I try to highlight disagreements between scholars about the meaning of lines instead of pronouncing a definitive answer where there is uncertainty.

Methods of citation vary greatly. Mine reflects my legal training and should be easy for anyone to follow. Where citations to texts vary, as is the case with Boethius Consolatio philosophiae, I have relied on the choice made by the database. For ease of use I have avoided abbreviations except "OLD" for the 2006 combined edition of the Oxford Latin Dictionary.

Many wonderful people have generously and graciously assisted me with this project. The two anonymous reviewers were painstaking and thoughtful. Aaron Poochigian was the reader of my first draft, and he patiently answered many questions over many years. Roger Green, Julia Hejduk, Joel Relihan, Aaron Pelttari, Anna Maria Wasyl, Cillian O'Hogan, and Ian Fielding carefully read all or large parts of subsequent drafts. Genevieve Liveley, James Uden, and Patrick McBrine regularly responded to pleas for help as I was wrestling with the text. Robert Kaster provided invaluable assistance tracking down and analyzing "epigrams" of Maximianus referenced in the literature as well as answering occasional questions about rhetoric. I tapped the expertise in elegy of my former collaborator, Robert Maltby, on several occasions. Mark Tizzoni helped me with questions relating to Eugene of Toledo. Sharon James answered some questions relating to interpretation of certain terms in light of the elegiac tradition. James Adams helped me with several questions related to sexual vocabulary. James O'Donnell and Shane Bjorlie rescued me from the unfamiliar prose of Cassiodorus, and Eric Hutchinson was helpful with the Appendix Maximiani. Danuta Shanzer provided helpful input on several points, and Jay Wickersham helped me obtain microfilmed dissertations. Finally, Michael Roberts did a superb job helping me with the final edits, but all mistakes are mine.

I am grateful for the hospitality of the Library of Congress, the Georgetown University Library, Harvard University's Widener Library, and the Dumbarton Oaks Library. I am grateful to Eva Oledzka of the Bodleian Library, who helped me on questions relating to the key manuscript for the Appendix Maximiani. I am also grateful for the patient and skilled assistance of Deborah Brown of Dumbarton Oaks, who taught me new tools of research and patiently answered many questions, and to the Widener Library's Stephen Kuehler for his diligence and creativity in tracking down sources. I also thank Herbert Golder for running excerpts from this translation in Arion, and Eric Halpern of the University of Pennsylvania Press for publishing my work for a second time.

Finally, I want to thank Laura Mali-Astrue for her unfailing linguistic and emotional support during all the hours that I traded the frustrations of twenty-first-century Washington for the satisfactions of sixth-century Italy.

A. M. Juster is an award-winning poet and translator. His Satires of Horace is also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press. Michael Roberts is the Robert Rich Professor of Latin at Wesleyan University.

"[I]t's the work of A.M. Juster, whose quality as a translator (he has translated four other classical, medieval, and modern Latin poets) is closely connected to his skill as a witty, formally astute writer of his own original English verse. By rendering Maximianus into a clear, straightforward, up-to-date idiom, he has made the last poet of the Roman world available for the first time to 21st-century readers of English."The Weekly Standard

"An accomplished translator (among other very diverse things), [A.M. Juster] combines scrupulous scholarship with colloquial flair. Juster's trademark talent is bringing little-known poetry into seamlessly modern English. The word "timeless" . . . is the mot juste for Juster's translation of the aging Maximianus's miseries. His very readable translation introduces us, for virtually the first time, to this sixth-century Tuscan poet."—Claremont Review of Books

"Thanks to this volume Maximianus will surely gain readers. . . . We owe a debt of gratitude to A.M. Juster for giving us a superb English translation supported by the first English commentary to appear in over a century."—The Medieval Review