I was writing yesterday about scholia, mainly with reference to Greek scholia. But then it occurred to me to wonder what there was by way of Latin scholia.
A search online quickly revealed that, as with ancient Greek literature, the scholia is mainly attached to poetry and drama. Two exceptions I came across were Lucan’s Bellum civile and the Bobbio orations of Cicero. But otherwise it was poets and dramatists all the way.
I found myself reading an interesting article on the scholia of Juvenal. The author argued that the scholia cannot belong to the period immediately after Juvenal, since they make crashing mistakes, such as not recognising Corbulo as the famous general of Nero, but instead supposing it is a noun referring to fat people! The logic is good, and the inference, therefore, is that they belong to the period in the 4th century when interest revived in the literature of the early empire.
This has important consequences. We know very little about Juvenal himself. Old biographies are attached to the scholia. But it must be questioned whether these have any real historical value, and whether they are older than the scholia, or merely compilations of hearsay from the Constantinian period or later.
It is interesting that few of the scholia have been translated. Many scholia are text-critical, and to understand them it is necessary to know Latin, or Greek, as the case may be. Naturally there seems little need to translate, what only those equipped with the language can follow. But others are historical, and have no such need. We could usefully have more translations, I think.
All the same, the expansion of Google books makes it possible, for anyone with a little Latin, to explore a field that few could access. One of my favourite books is the old Loeb edition of Juvenal. This discusses the scholia in the introduction, but I never dreamed that people like me might have access to these. As of today, I know better.