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Jeroen De Keyser

The Classical Quarterly / Volume 63 / Issue 01 / May 2013, pp 292 - 328

DOI: 10.1017/S0009838812000596, Published online: 24 April 2013

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The Classical Quarterly, 63, pp 292-328 doi:10.1017/S0009838812000596

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Editors of Cicero’s Pro Archia have assumed that Petrarch’s lost transcription of the equally lost Liège manuscript that he discovered in 1333 survives in an almost unaltered version in a single Florentine manuscript, while the remaining 265 Itali reflect another stage of the text, when conjectural corrections by its learned discoverer were introduced into the text. This article proposes a reassessment of that dichotomy, based on a first comprehensive study of the whole transmission.


All but four of the almost 270 extant manuscripts of Cicero’s Pro Archia derive from the transcription that Petrarch made in 1333 in Liège, where he discovered an exemplar of the speech along with another, still unidentified Ciceronian oration.1 That summer, the twenty-nine-year-old Petrarch sent two letters to Cardinal Giovanni Colonna (Fam. 1.4–5), describing his visits to Paris, Ghent, Liège and Aachen chiefly from a touristic angle.

Only four decades later did he describe in detail his find, relating in another letter how he had heard about a rich library in Liège, and then together with a friend had copied two Ciceronian speeches after first having experienced some difficulty in finding decent ink.2 Unfortunately, both the Liège exemplar and Petrarch’s copy have been lost. Notwithstanding the enormous importance of these lost testimonia – both for reconstructing the archetype and for outlining the rapid proliferation of the speech from that * I am very grateful to Michael D. Reeve, who most generously shared his unfailing Ciceronian knowledge with me, to Monica Berté, trusted source of various consulenze petrarchesche, and to

Tom Deneire, fellow-traveller along Archian roads, for their helpful comments on drafts of this article.

I am also much obliged to Jan Papy for his enthusiastic support of this project, and to Stephen Oakley for his thorough review and valuable suggestions. 1 For an assessment of the importance of this discovery, ‘one of the earliest in a succession of discoveries that by the 1570s had transformed the canon of classical Latin literature’, see M.D. Reeve, ‘Classical scholarship’, in J. Kraye (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Humanism (Cambridge, 1996), 20–46, at 20–6. 2 Circa quintum et vigesimum vitae annum inter Belgas Helvetiosque festinans, cum Leodium pervenissem, audito quod esset ibi bona copia librorum, substiti comitesque detinui, donec unam

Ciceronis orationem manu amici, alteram mea manu scripsi, quam postea per Italiam effudi; et ut rideas, in tam bona civitate barbarica atramenti aliquid, et id croco simillimum, reperire magnus labor fuit (Sen. 16.1). Petrarch’s links with the Low Countries are discussed by M. Dykmans, ‘Les premiers rapports de Petrarque avec les Pays-Bas’, BIBR 20 (1939), 51–122, at 51–63. An overview of the more recent publications about Petrarch and the Low Countries is given by G. Tournoy, ‘La fortuna del Petrarca nei Paesi Bassi’, in P. Blanc (ed.), Dynamique d’une expansion culturelle:

Pétrarque en Europe XIVe–XXe siècle: actes du XXVIe congrès international du CEFI, Turin et

Chambéry, 11–15 décembre 1995 (Paris, 2001), 583–94, at 584 n. 6.

Classical Quarterly 63.1 292–328 (2013) Printed in Great Britain 292 doi:10.1017/S0009838812000596 moment, all over Italy and then throughout the rest of Europe – no real attempt has ever been made to classify in any detail the prolific progeny of Petrarch’s find.

Proud as he may have been of his discovery, Petrarch – who was notoriously parsimonious when it came to sharing his finds – seems to have sat on it for quite some time.

The first indications of the reception of the Pro Archia in Italy are indeed Petrarch’s own writings. When, in 1341 on Rome’s Capitoline Hill, he received the crown of ‘poeta laureatus’, he pronounced his Collatio laureationis, an oration that argues at its core for the sacred character of poetry. Both the concept and its phrasing can be traced back to the speech that he had discovered a few years before in Liège.3 He even refers explicitly to the source of his inspiration, claiming Cicero’s literary authority: ‘Do not believe me, but Cicero, who in his oration for Aulus Licinius Archias speaks about poets in the following terms …’4

When it comes to the propagation of the actual text, our only certain knowledge is that almost two decades after his discovery, Petrarch sent a copy to his Florentine friend

Lapo da Castiglionchio.5 We have the covering letter Petrarch sent with his gift to Lapo, written in Parma, probably in January 1351, in which Petrarch asks to be rewarded in exchange with three Ciceronian speeches he had seen the year before at Lapo’s house in Florence, when he was on his way to Rome on the occasion of the Jubilee,6 as

Lapo’s library contained a codex with speeches absent from his own collection. The codex actually contained not three but four speeches: Pro lege Manilia, Pro Milone,

Pro Plancio and Pro Sulla, as can be deduced from Petrarch’s letter of thanks to

Lapo, sent a few months later, and from a later letter to him.7 Petrarch kept Lapo’s 3 See for an analysis of the Collatio laureationis among others S. Verhulst, ‘Le Pro Archia comme paradigme d’amplification: réflexions sur le discours épidictique de Pétrarque à la Raccolta aragonese’, in P. Galand-Hallyn and F. Hallyn (eds.), Poétiques de la Renaissance. Le modèle italien, le monde franco-bourguignon et leur héritage en France au XVIe siècle (Geneva, 2001), 346–60; and more recently G. Mazzotta, ‘Petrarca e il discorso di Roma’, in V. Finucci (ed.), Petrarca: canoni, esemplarità (Rome, 2006), 259–72. 4 Collatio laureationis, 1.6–7: Quanta, inquam, sit naturaliter difficultas propositi mei ex hoc apparet quod, cum in ceteribus artibus studio et labore possit ad terminum perveniri, in arte poetica secus est, in qua nil agitur sine interna quadam et divinitus in animum vatis infusa vi. Non michi, sed