De Pallio, a commentary

by Vincent Hunink
J.C. Gieben, Amsterdam 2005

[cloth, 332 p.; ISBN 90 5063 439 7;  price EUR 65,-]

The epideictic speech De Pallio by the Christian author Tertullian (about 200 A.D.) is considered as one of the most obscure texts ever written in Latin. As a logical sequel of my research on Apuleius, I have prepared a new edition with translation and literary commentary (in English) of Tertullian's text. It  has been my main research project in the period 1998-2004. The book has been published March 2005.

De Pallio is one of the strangest and perhaps most difficult texts ever written in Latin. In this speech, presented before a live audience in Carthage around 200 A.D., Tertullian defends his radical choice to drop the Roman toga and take up the pallium of philosophers and christians. This theme may seem innocently simple, but it has been elaborated with impressive rhetorical pyrotechnics, couched in deliberately artificial language. And is this speech profoundly christian or shamefully pagan? A work of youth or of old age? Is it a serious apology or satire?

Tertullian’s De Pallio has puzzled scholars for generations, yet it  has often been neglected or left aside. In this new edition the text is presented with a new English translation and a full commentary, the first one in English. Much attention is paid to the interpretation of the speaker’s often obscure words. In addition, the book puts the speech into the context of Latin Second Sophistic. De Pallio emerges as a fascinating  text that stands midway between non-christian and christian literature.

For practical information about De Pallio see the relevant page on the excellent site on Tertullian by Dr. Roger Pearse.

PREFACE to  the commentary
(full text)

An elusive text

De Pallio is one of the strangest texts ever written in Latin. It is a speech about the need to change clothing from the standard Roman toga to the philosophers’ pallium, composed in an outrageously difficult style, confronting its readers with questions at every possible level. Not only its authorship and date are matters of debate, but a first reading also leaves unclear which aims the author may have had. To what genre does this text belong? Which audience does the speaker address? Do we have to regard this piece as a Christian text, or as a late specimen of the Latin Second Sophistic? In many places, the style seems deliberately obscure, and one often has to deal with that most essential of questions: what do these words mean?

One would expect that such an intriguing text, written by a well-known Christian author, is thoroughly discussed in modern secondary literature, and that it is to be found in reliable and accessible editions. As a matter of fact, Pall. may be qualified as a text that has been rather neglected. For sure, there is a critical edition in the Corpus Christianorum, but there are no useful tools for approaching the text, at least for an international, English readership. One still has to resort to an edition in two volumes by A. Gerlo published during World War II. This edition, useful as it is, is rather hard to obtain and is, moreover, written in Dutch, which for many readers will not substantially diminish the dif­ficulties inherent in Pall.. Gerlo’s commentary is traditionally philological, which means it is predominantly occupied with the establishment of the text, lexical, grammatical, and stylistical anomalies, and the explanation of historical references and allusions in the text. Many such points are illustrated by a wealth of parallel places.

Apart from Gerlo’s contributions, there is little indeed. One may mention some bilingual Italian editions with translations and notes, and a monograph on the text, published in Dutch. Since the days of Gerlo and Vis, only few scholars have discussed Pall. at length. Most discussions here restrict themselves to the questions of authorship and date, and the place of the text within Tertullian’s oeuvre. Lit­erary and rhetorical analyses are hardly ever attempted.

Traditionally, scholars of this text shared an interest in patristic studies. That is, the text was considered and analysed in the context of early Christian literature, and it was mostly felt to be an oddity and a problem. For in this text, the author deals with matters decidedly un-Christian (such as ancient myths) or morally unbefitting (such as sexual topics), while he hardly contrasts these with the positive sides of Christianity. More than once, the question has been raised whether this text is Christian at all, and if so, whether it is serious. Whatever their answers, patristic scholars in the end invariably felt uneasy about this exotic text, and still seem to do so nowadays. On the other hand, scholars of non-Christian Latin literature were never eager to occupy themselves with this baffling piece of prose, which was considered to be part of Christian literature and therefore quickly relegated from the standard domain of classical Latin philology. In brief, Pall. has more or less fallen between two stools.

This commentary on Pall., the first one in English, attempts to fill the gap. Meanwhile, its aims are modest indeed.

Given the extraordinary complexity of the diction, syntax, and style of the text, and the numerous questions regarding its content and intended effect, and given the lack of accessible, basic philological tools, the first aim of this book is to establish the sense of the Latin. For this, a rather literal English translation has been added to the Latin text and many notes in the commentary discuss the exact meaning of a word or a phrase. Often, matters will have to remain open but some degree of certainty does seem within reach. Throughout this book, the Latin text of Gerlo 1954 has been used as a starting point, and textual questions have been kept to an absolute minimum. That is, Gerlo’s standard text has generally been accepted without further discussion about readings, and the commentary attempts rather to clarify the sense of the words, strange as they may seem, instead of discussing variants or supplying new emendations and conjectures.

Secondly, the commentary aims at understanding the text to some degree as a piece of literature, rather than merely as a historical document. Thus it hopes to respond to the issue suggested by Löfstedt more than 70 years ago: ‘Das kleine, aber schwierige Werk würde eine ein­gehende sprachliche sowohl wie literarisch-stilistische Sonderuntersuchung verdienen’.

Wherever possible, special attention is given to problems of literary composition, authorial strategy and communication with the audience, whereas discussions on historical issues or encyclopaedic matters have been limited. For example, the speaker’s strategy both to flatter and provoke his audience, and to hide his Christian sympathies while also alluding to them for the connoisseurs, is given closer attention than factual matters concerning the ancient toga or pallium (cloth, folding, and colours). The central question is ‘What does this author do with words?’ rather than: ‘What can be deduced about Roman reality from these words?’

Moreover, the commentary strives to escape from the dilemma of approaching this text as either decidedly Christian (and from that perspective: defective) or essentially non-Christian (and accordingly bizarre). Pall. is seen as a text in which ancient Roman literary culture, in its late form of the Latin Second Sophistic (as it is known from Gellius, Fronto, and above all, Apuleius) is gradually changing into a Christian Latin, literary culture. This process of change, of intermingling of ‘pagan’ and ‘Christian’ elements, can almost be seen to take place in the text.

In a way, then, this commentary combines a deliberate modesty and restriction in its scope and methods with some objectives that might be considered dangerously ambitious. For to quote Barnes: ‘The de Pallio presents insuperable linguistic difficulties. The manuscript tradition is poor, the style deliberately baffling and enigmatic, its comprehension and elucidation the ultimate challenge to philological acumen.’ This com­men­tary is bound to disappoint readers’ high expectations about its philological acumen, and it will no doubt be found lacking in many aspects. But one may hope that it merits at least some attention for having tried to understand and open up this complex and interesting text.

The history of earlier scholarship on Pall. is long and varied, but past research has been largely concerned with philological and ideological matters that are not considered of primary importance to this edition. Accordingly, the following introduction does not claim to provide a detailed account of all such scholarship, nor to cover all possible aspects of the text supported by notes which are as extensive as possible. Given the special nature of Pall., and the aims of this commentary, these introductory remarks primarily intend to function as an essay inviting the reader to apply himself or herself to this text.



(2.1) 1 Sit nunc aliunde res, ne Poenicum inter Romanos aut erubescat aut doleat. Certe habitum uertere naturae totius sollemne munus est. Fungitur et ipse mundus interim iste quem incumbimus.

2 Viderit Anaximander, si plures putat, uiderit, si quis uspiam alius, ad Meropas, ut Silenus penes aures Midae blatit, aptas sane grandioribus fabulis. Sed et si quem Plato aestimat, cuius imago hic sit, etiam ille habeat necesse est proinde mutare. 3 Quippe si mundus, ex diuersis substantiis of­ficiisque constabit, ad formam eius quod mundus hic est; neque enim mundus, si non ut mundus proinde. Diuersa in unum ex demutatione diuersa sunt.

4 Denique diuersitatis discordiam uices foederant. Ita mutando erit mundus omnis qui et diuersitatibus corporatus et uicibus temperatus.


(2.2) 1 Nostra certe metatio, quod clausis uel in totum Homericis oculis liquet, totum uersiforme est. 2 Dies et nox inuicem uertunt. Sol stationibus annuis, luna modulationibus menstruis uariat. Siderum distincta confusio interdum reicit quid, interdum resuscitat. Caeli ambitus nunc subdiuo splendidus, nunc nubilo sordidus; aut imbres ruunt, et si qua missilia cum imbribus; dehinc substillum et denuo sudum.

3 Sic et mari fides infamis, dum et flabris aeque mutan­tibus de tranquillo probum, de flustris temperatum et extemplo de decumanis inquietat. 4 Sic et terram si recenseas temporatim uestiri amantem, prope sis eandem negare, memor uiridem cum conspicis flauam, mox uisurus et canam. 5 Ceteri quoque eius ornatus quid non aliud ex alio mutant, et montium scapulae decurrendo, et fontium uenae cauillando et fluminum uiae obhumando?


(2.1) 1 Let us now draw upon another source, so that the Punic does not feel shame or grief amidst the Romans: certainly, changing clothing is a customary task of nature as a whole. It is, meanwhile, performed by this very world we press upon.

Let Anaximander see to it if he thinks there are more worlds, let anyone else see to it, if he assumes one some­where, near the Meropae, as Silenus babbles in Midas' ears (which are fit indeed for broader stories!). But even if Plato reckons there is a world of which this one is the image, even that world  must must likewise undergo change. 3 For if it is a ' world,' it will consist of different sub¬stances and functions, parallel to the form of what the world is here. (For it is not 'world', if it is not otherwise like the world). Different things coming together are different because of change.

4 In short, the discord of differences is unified by vicissi-tude. So it is by change that every world that is a corporate whole of different things and a mixture through vicissitudes exists.

(2.2) 1 By all means our plot of ground looks different all the time, as is manifest to closed or even completely 'Homeric' eyes. 2 Day and night change in turn. The sun varies through yearly positions, the moon through monthly modulations. The orderly confusion of the stars at times causes something to set, at times to rise. Sometimes the ambient of the sky is clear and brilliant, sometimes it is cloudy and grey; or rain is pouring, with missiles that may come down with rain; or it eases off again and the weather brightens.

3 Likewise the sea is notoriously unreliable: with the equally changing winds at times it seems trustworthy by its calmness, moderately moved by its undulation, and all of a sud-den it is full of unrest by huge waves. 4 Likewise, if you look at the earth, that likes to dress according to the season, you would almost deny she is the same: you remember her in green when you see her in yellow, soon to witness her in white. 5 And this goes for all her other ornaments, for does anything not change shape? Backs of mountains run down, veins of sources banter, paths of rivers silt up.



(2.1.1) Sit nunc aliunde res, ne Poenicum inter Romanos aut erubescat aut doleat. Certe habitum uertere naturae totius sol­lemne munus est. Fun­gitur et ipse mundus interim iste quem incum­bimus.
       ‘Let us now draw upon another source, so that the Punic does not feel shame or grief amidst the Romans: certainly, changing clothing is a customary task of nature as a whole. It is, meanwhile, per­formed by this very world we press upon.’

Three short sentences introduce the broadening of the scope from ‘starting to wear a pallium’ to ‘change in the world’.

       aliunde: that is, the following examples do not come from Car­thaginian history. Gerlo ad loc. notes the subtle irony of the Car­thaginians’ silence here (1.1.3 stupuere... Carthaginienses), now followed by ‘Enough of this, you must not feel ashamed!’.

       One may go one step further and argue that Tertullian has now almost literally put ‘the Car­thaginians’ (i.e. his actual audience) to silence and ruled them out of play. For the next few pages, it will be the erudite speaker who addresses his provincial audience with many particulars from the wide field of learning.

       Significantly, the name of Carthage, which was mentioned no fewer than four times in the introduc­tory first chapter, does not reappear. The adjective Poenicum (see following) is actually the last explicit reference to the town by name. ‘Carthage’ has been subtly linked to petty criticism rather than to the greatness of world culture.

       ne Poenicum... erubescat: for Poenicum ‘the Punic (element)’, here the subject of erubescat aut doleat, cf. 1.2.2 Romanum. The name of Carthage will not reappear in the rest of the speech (see previous note); the next reference to North Africa will follow in 2.6.4.

       As McKechnie 1992, 54-5 rightly remarks, Poenicum inter Romanos is exactly what the composition of a live audience at Carthage would have amounted to at this time. There would certainly have been an ethnic mix in the crowd.

       habitum uertere: ‘changing clothing’, in the metaphorical sense of ‘changing its appearance’. Costanza ad loc. takes habitus as both ‘dress’ and ‘habit, custom’, but the latter seems less relevant here.

       sollemne munus: for sollemnis ‘customary’ see OLD s.v 2. The combination with munus also occurs in Curt. 5,4,3 Sed rex deserere milites insepultos erubescebat ita tradito more, ut uix ullum militiae tam sollemne esset munus quam humandi suos (cf. also Curt. 10,10,98). In the quoted lines the sense of sollemnis is not quite the same, but the occurence of erubescat here suggests Tertullian may have known the Curtius passage.

       A later example is Ambrose, Epist. 4,15,3 where the expression sollemne munus is used for the cockcrow. Interestingly, Ambrose’s letter likewise deals with ‘change of clothing’ (male and female), but there it is morally condemned. It seems more than likely that Pall. influenced the 4th century letter.

       fungitur: sc. eo munere; for the ablative cf. OLD s.v. fungor 1b. The verb is not used absolutely, as TLL s.v. 1587,18ff suggests.

       incumbimus: here the verb has a direct object, as in Pl. Cas. 308 eumque incumbam (with eum refer­ring to gladium). The sense roughly equals habitare; see Hoppe 1903, 14 and TLL s.v. 1076,70 (with only a few other examples from Avienus). Cf. further Tert. Spect. 23,1.

(2.1.2) Viderit Anaximander, si plures putat, uiderit, si quis uspiam alius, ad Meropas, ut Silenus penes aures Midae blatit, aptas sane grandioribus fabulis. Sed et si quem Plato aestimat, cuius imago hic sit, etiam ille habeat necesse est proinde mutare.
       ‘Let Anaximander see to it if he thinks there are more worlds, let anyone else see to it, if he as­sumes one somewhere, near the Meropae, as Silenus babbles in Midas’ ears (which are fit indeed for broader stories!). But even if Plato reckons there is a world of which this one is the image, even that world must likewise undergo change.’ 

An ostentatious piece of ancient philosophy serves to make the point about the ubiquity of change straight away, with a reference to ancient mythology adding further depth. The Platonic element clearly es­tablishes the speaker’s ‘sophistic credentials’ here; cf. McKechnie 1992, 55-6.

       uiderit Anaximander: Anaximander of Miletus, one of the famous Ionic philosophers, lived in the first half of the 6th century B.C. Ter­tullian probably deliberately opens his discussion with an example from the earliest phase of Greek philosophy, as it illustrates the width of his learning and the sheer length of time he overviews. For the future perfect of uidere, used to indicate the deferment of a matter for the present, see OLD s.v. 18 b (with examples).

       plures: sc. mundos. Anaximander was generally considered to have assumed the existence of several worlds; cf. D-K 12 A 9-10.

       uiderit si quis uspiam alius: the syntax is con­densed to the point of unintelligibility. Two pos­sibilities present themselves. With Gerlo one might simply add mundus in thought and interpret ‘let him (i.e. Anaximander) see to it, if there <is> another world somewhere’. But the ellipse may well be even more complex: ‘let anyone else see to it <if he assumes a world> somewhere’. With the latter interpretation, adopted by Thelwall and followed here, Tertullian would adhere to the common rhetorical principle of composing in ‘three elements’ and assume some anonymous thinker between Anaximander and Plato: Anaximander, quis alius, Plato.

       Meropas: strictly speaking, Meropes is a term for the inhabitants of the island of Cos; OLD s.v. refers to Quint. 8,6,71; in Greek poetry cf. e.g. Pind. Nem. 4,26; Isthm. 6,31. Tertullian, however, is alluding to a mythological tale that has nothing to do with Cos.

       The Greek historian Theopompus wrote about Silenus speaking to king Midas about the existence of another world; see notably the summary of the whole episode by Aelian. V.H. 3,18 (the testimonium is Theopompus FGH nr.115 fr.75 C). Tertullian himself refers to this tale rather more explicitly at ad Hermog. 25 in a somewhat similar discussion about two earths: ... nisi si et Sileno illi apud Midam regem adseueranti de alio orbe credendum est, auctore Theopompo.

       This land, apparently named Meropis gè or Meropia (cf. RE s.v. Meropia), was an ideal world, and had the shape of a great mainland, unattainable for people of our world. The myth may well have been Theopompus’ own invention, and can best be understood in the context of utopian literature, which was popular during the Hellenistic period; cf. notably Flower 1997, 214-7.

       Silenus... aures Midae: Silenus and Midas are associated with each other already by Hdt. 8,138, but here Tertullian is alluding to a specific myth in Theopompus; see previous note. Mythological namedropping seems invariably welcome in Second Sophistic performances, in which the display of erudition certainly included allusions to historical and mythological tales from the entire Greco-Roman tradition, with a certain preference for the earliest and most curious elements.

       Midas’ large ears were, of course, com­monly known by all (in Tertullian’s works, cf. e.g. Anim. 2,3), and Tertullian allows himself a small joke: they might have absorbed even ‘greater’ (grandioribus), i.e. more fictional stories.

       blatit: an old, rare verb for ‘to babble’, the equivalent of the more common blatero. There are only some instances in Plautus (e.g. Amph. 626) and an uncertain one in Gellius (4,1,4); see TLL s.v. 2049,82f.

       si quem Plato aestimat: sc. alium mundum. The fact that Platonic theory firmly assumed a different world, namely that of the ‘ideas’ or ‘forms’, may be considered to have been widely known to any audience in the Roman world, even a moderately educated one, let alone in a centre of culture such as Carthage. Therefore Tertullian’s con­ditional clause here seems interesting. It may have been used to give any member of the audience the pleasant feeling of recognizing philosophical theory, or it may be merely a teasing and critical manner to refer to the main pagan philosopher. Tertullian was extremely critical of most pagan philosophers, even Socrates; see e.g. Osborn 1997, 34 with examples.

       cuius imago hic sit: the words clearly show that Tertullian is actually thinking of the Platonic world of ideas, of which our world is merely an ‘image’.

       etiam ille -- mutare: it seems an audacious or even provocative statement to suggest that Plato’s world of Forms, the very ideal and embodiment of constancy and unalterable identity, must actually undergo or incur change; cf. McKechnie 1992, 56, who calls it non­sense in terms of Platonist philosophy and an amusing paradox. Tertul­lian may have wished to shock his general audience, or at least enliven the discussion by shaking its beliefs.

       As a matter of fact, Plato himself did allow for the existence of change in his world of Forms; cf. e.g. Plato Soph. 249b2-3, c10-d4; 254b7- 255e7. So in the end, philosophically speaking, Tertullian is saying nothing really new. He was thoroughly trained in Platonism, and he may have expected the same from at least a small elite in his audience too. So his remark could properly raise the interest of everybody present during the speech: the elite could relish the philosophical depth, while the rest must have felt some interest for the seemingly paradoxical remark.

       habeat... mutare: the use of habere with infinitive already occurs in classical authors, but mainly in the sense ‘to be in a position to’ (OLD s.v.12 c). In the later period, it gradually shifted to ‘must’ and so started to fulfil the function of debere; see TLL s.v. habeo 2454,53ff. In classical authors this use is also not completely absent: see Suet. Aug. 58,2 quid habeo... precari (in words attributed to Augustus himself) and Sen. Con. 1,1,19 quid habui facere? But as LHSz II, 314-5 notes, it only becomes frequent after Tertullian.

       Tertullian’s phrase here is complicated by the inserted necesse est, which governs the sub­junctive habeat: ‘it must necessarily change.’



R. Mayer in BMCR

H. Savon in L'Antiquité classique

M. Turcan in Revue des études augustiniennes et patristiques

P. Kitzler in Listy Filologické

C. Moreschini in Gnomon

R. Mayer in BMCR

There is a detailed review by Roland Mayer, in BMCR 2006.01.39, available online at BMCR. Having provided long lists of specific points of textual criticism, historical detail and linguistical aspects, the reviewer sums up his judgement as follows: "It will be gathered from what has been written above that this commentary often leaves the reader in the lurch, by inadequate or misleading discussion. Hunink has a solid track record as a commentator on out-of-the-way literary works, which nonetheless deserve attention, and I approached this book with high expectations. On balance, however, I now deem it to be a missed opportunity."

My reaction to the review (January, 23th, 2006):
It is always disappointing to receive less favourable reviews of one's work. In this case, I feel my work has been rather hard done by. Most importantly, the reviewer has taken the book for what it explicitly does not wish to be: a contribution to the textual constitution of De Pallio. Mayer's long discussion on textual notes ignores my basic position of not discussing these matters, complex as they are (extensive discussion of textual issues would have made it impossible to write a readible book about this speech). I deliberately started from the modern edition of the text in the well known Corpus Christianorum. That is surely a text with which one seems to be entitled to work and which stands in need of further explanation in the form of a commentary. If all that philology can achieve is to rediscuss every textual decision over and over again (and in the case of De Pallio this process would definitely be endless), no progress will ever be made.
    Mayer also deals at some length with numerous historical and linguistical issues. Although I do consider it to be my task as a commentator to include information about these areas, my main focus has been on matters of composition, rhetorical strategy and literary technique. On these subjects, Mayer has very little to say. That is a pity, for I feel that in this sense my book may even be called innovative, given the fact that philological attention for De Pallio has invariably been restricted to textual criticism and Realien. Of course, I fully accept all relevant corrections and suggestions as to various such matters, but I feel sorry that the main purpose of my book has been passed over nearly undiscussed.
     Much the same goes for other aspects of the book which I tried to place in the foreground, such as the added translation (the first one in English since many decades) and the observations on the relation of the text with contemporary non-christian Second Sophistic. And not a single word is said in the review about such matters as the presentation and punctuation of the text and the material side of the book (typeface, layout, cloth), practical aspects that often remain rather undervalued.
      I am sorry that my book is not the book as Mayer would have written it, but my main choices still stand and can be defended, so I think, and the book has something to offer to anyone who wishes to approach this difficult text. I can only hope that the BMCR review has attracted the attention of scholars and readers to the very existence of the new commentary, and that future readers will judge for themselves.

H. Savon in L'Antiquité classique

In L'Antiquité Classique 75, 2006, 379-381, there is a detailed review (in French) by Hervé Savon.

S. carefully analyses the deliberate choices made in this book, and discusses some of their positive effects as well as some omissions that result from them. Notably, the book does not elaborately enter the debate with Frédouille, as S. would have wished, nor does it provide lists with all the tropes and figures used in the text.

The review ends on a balanced note:

'Il serait un peu injuste de demander à ce commentaire plus que ce qu'il veut nous donner. Dans les limites que l'auteur a tracées lui-même, et même si certained de ces interprétations peuvent être contestées, il représente une contribution bienvenue à l'élucidation du De Pallio.' (p. 381)

M. Turcan in Revue des études augustiniennes et patristiques

Mrs Turcan, who prepares a volume on De Pallio in Sources Chrétiennes, discussed the book in a full review. Although she has many comments to make, her overall assessment is positive. Full text here (large Word-file) 

Czech review by Petr Kitzler in Listy filologicke

Peter Kitzler wrote a detailed review of both Turcan's SC edition and my commentary. The review, in Czech, was published in Listy Filologicke 131, 3-4, 2008 (see ).

The author has been so kind as to translate two passges directly discussing my book. These fragments follow here (witrh kind permission of the author).

(p. 545f.) "Chronologically the first book was prepared by Vincent Hunink, the latinist and teacher at Radboud University in Nijmegen, who is well known as a creative and respected translator from Latin (he published many authors in English, e.g. his commented editions of Apuleius’ Florida and Pro se de magia, Oxford 20072; from the translations into Dutch let’s mention e.g. Augustine, Petronius, Cicero, Seneca and many more). His book consists of a short introduction (pp. 9-27), a Latin text of De pallio taken without critical apparatus from the Turnhout’s Corpus, facing English translation, English commnentary (pp. 67-293), bibliography (pp. 297-305), index (pp. 306-317) and index locorum (pp. 318-332).

In spite of a modest tone which sounds from the Hunink’s preface, his book is a ground-breaking in many respects. First, the English translation of De pallio is only the second translation of this work in English (the first one was prepared by S. Thelwall for the collection of Ante-Nicene Christian Library in 1877). With his „rather literal“ translation (p. 11) Hunink tries to make De pallio accessible to the modern readers as much as he can. He conceives his introduction as an „essay inviting the reader to apply himself or herself to this text“ (p. 12). As Hunink repeats, his main aim is to pay attention to what Tertullian does with words, what he means with them and what he wants to achieve. In the question of dating De pallio – as far as it can be ascertained at all – Hunink, although reserved as to express some explicit statements, tends to the opinion that this treatise could have been written in the early phase of Tertullian’s literary activity, perhaps in 198 or 199. In the matter of genre of De pallio, Hunink on the contrary does not hesitate to identify it as an epideictic speech which was really delivered before audience (which is rather arguable opinion) and compares it with Apuleius’ Florida; both works are, in his opinion, refined rhetorical pieces of the second Sophistics (p. 17, 22f.). In this light he also judges the aims of Tertullian’s work: „His aim was not to convert or to preach, nor to reject and depreciate existing culture, but rather to show himself as a man fully able to cope with the demands of his time, while suggesting his personal advancement in the sphere of Wisdom“ (p. 24). The main contribution of Hunink’s book is, of course, the extensive commentary which is also rather unique in English, together with the commentary of Salmasius being probably the most comprehensive commentary published so far. Although Hunink does not avoid to elucidate Tertullian’s language and style as well as many allusions in the text, his commentary is a literary commentary in the first place which takes Tertullian’s rhetorical mannerism „at his word“ and tries to compare it with existing parallels and to unravel its function as well as Tertullian’s overall strategy when composing his text."

(p. 548): "Both books show evidence of extraordinary erudition of their authors and of profound knowledge of early Christian and antique literature and culture alike. This is especially true of Turcan’s edition whereas Hunink’s commentary is much more „non-specialist-user friendly“. It does not need to be emphasized that both books provide an indispensible starting point for further research and that both, one being complementary to the other, contribute a great deal to a better understanding of Tertullian’s perhaps most remarkable work without despoiling it of its provocativeness."

review by Claudio Moreschini in: Gnomon 2008, 221-225


(A detailed discussion of the book, which is appreciated and praised as a full literary commentary on the text. Some of the basic notions in the introduction, however, are critically discussed. The reviewer disagrees on some of these issues.)



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