Obituary of Cesare Questa by Salvador Bartera

CESARE QUESTA (1934-2016)


Obituary by Salvador Bartera

It is with great sadness that I would like to inform the international community of the passing of Cesare Questa, Emeritus Professor of Latin at the University of Urbino, Italy. Cesare Questa was born in Milan in 1934. He died in Urbino.

Professor Questa’s contribution to the field of Latin studies is outstanding, and will continue to live for many years after his death. Questa began his career in Rome, where he was a student of E. Paratore. His first book, on the sources of Tacitus’ Annals, which he wrote in his twenties, is still referred to more than fifty years after its publication date. Although later he returned to his first love (L’Aquila a Due Teste (1998)), Questa was devoted to, and became known for, his studies on Plautus’ text, and in particular the intricacies of Plautine metrics. Among his many books, Numeri Innumeri (1984), Parerga Plautina (1985), Titi Macci Plauti Cantica (1995), and La Metrica di Plauto e Terenzio (2007) are still the main reference books for anyone who wishes to learn about Plautus’ language and style. Questa had also an immense passion for opera, and for the influence of the classical tradition on modern theater. His books Semiramide Redenta (1989) and Il Ratto dal Serraglio (1997) are a testimony to his passion and knowledge.

In Urbino, where Questa arrived in 1963, he founded a school that soon became known as one of the most important research centers for the study of Plautus’ text. During his “reign” (or perhaps he would prefer “principate”), and thanks to the collaboration of brilliant young scholars, “Questa’s School” has produced an impressive number of publications on Plautus, Terence, and Roman theater in general. Questa also founded the Centro Internazionale di Studi Plautini which, since 2001, has been publishing new critical editions of Plautus’ plays (Questa himself edited Casina (2001) and Bacchides (2008)), and since 1997 has organized an annual conference on individual plays of Plautus (eighteen volumes of Lecturae Plautinae Sarsinates have been published between 1998 and 2015).

Questa was still working with all his energy on editing Plautus when his health began to decline in the last few months. He died peacefully at home, surrounded by his dear friends and colleagues.

As one of the last (if not the last) student of Questa in Urbino, where he directed my thesis on Jesuit drama (one of his many side projects), I remember not only his impressive knowledge of all Latin literature, but in particular his continuous support for a young student who was trying to learn “il mestiere”. I will never forget the long hours spent at his home tirelessly working on the text, his constant watch always ready to correct my mistakes (quod di avertant!). Simply put, he knew everything. What he did for Urbino, where he built an impressive library of tens of thousands of volumes (probably the most comprehensive Plautine library in the world), and especially for the students who were lucky enough to be welcomed under his protection and guidance, cannot be properly expressed. He could be a difficult person, but those who knew him well could always recognize the irony under the terrifying façade of the Socio Nazionale of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei.