Friday, October 24, 2014

2014.10.46

Hendrik Obsieger, Plutarch: De E apud Delphos. Über das Epsilon am Apolltempel in Delphi. Einführung, Ausgabe und Kommentar. Palingenesia Band 101. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2013. Pp. 417. ISBN 9783515106061. €76,00.

Reviewed by Tobias Thum, Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften (Tobias.Thum@pk.badw.de)

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

Plutarchs Dialog De E apud Delphos ist ein zentraler Text für eine ganze Reihe von Forschungsproblemen zu Plutarchs Moralia: Plutarchs eigene philosophische Entwicklung, Persönlichkeit und Doktrin seines „Lehrers" Ammonios, Plutarchs Verhältnis zu Delphi, Besonderheiten seines Platonismus und seiner „Religiosität", um nur einige Beispiele zu nennen. So hat es die Forschung in der Vergangenheit nicht an zahlreichen, nicht selten abenteuerlichen Deutungen des Dialogs fehlen lassen, und ein Bezug auf De E fehlt in keiner Abhandlung, die sich mit Plutarchs philosophischen Grundüberzeugungen befasst. Die angedeutete Abenteuerlichkeit nicht weniger Forschungsbeiträge resultierte bislang nicht zuletzt aus einem Forschungsdesiderat, das De E mit den meisten anderen Moralia teilt, dem Fehlen eines gründlichen Kommentars, und so ist es äußerst begrüßenswert, dass sich Hendrik Obsieger (in der Folge O.) der Aufgabe gestellt hat, die Schrift neu zu edieren und zu kommentieren. O.s Buch bildet die um die Kommentierung der Kapitel 1–5 und 17–21 erweiterte und überarbeitete Fassung seiner Dissertation von 2006, die 2007 unter dem Titel „Der Mittelteil (Kapitel 6–16) von Plutarchs Schrift De E apud Delphos. Kritische Ausgabe mit Einführung und Kommentar" als Dissertationsdruck publiziert worden war. Der Umfang des Buches ist erfreulich üppig: Teil I („Einführung", 9–71) bietet zunächst einen Überblick über die modernen Deutungsversuche des delphischen E, sodann eine „Darstellung des Inhalts von De E und Interpretation" und schließlich eine umfangreiche Untersuchung der handschriftlichen Überlieferung. Teil II („De E apud Delphos: Text", 72–91) enthält eine Edition des Textes auf der Basis neuer Erkenntnisse der Überlieferung. Teil III („Kommentar", 93–382) bietet einen erschöpfenden Kommentar des Textes. Drei Appendizes („Plutarch und die ‚Akademie'"; „De E 9.388E ἀκούομεν γοῦν – F τῶν ὀνομάτων und SVF II 528"; „Bisher unveröffentlichte Konjekturen in der neuen Moralia-Ausgabe von P. Bernardakis und H.G. Ingenkamp („Recognovit Gr. Bernardakis")", 383–391) ergänzen die Teile II und III. Neben dem Literaturverzeichnis (das allerdings nur die abgekürzte Literatur enthält) erleichtern ein Stellenindex, ein Index von Namen und Sachen sowie ein griechischer Wortindex die Benutzung des Bandes.

Das Buch eröffnet ein konzises Kapitel („Das delphische Epsilon", 9–16), in dem O. die modernen philologischen und archäologisch-kunstgeschichtlichen Deutungen des delphischen E anschaulich referiert und überzeugend kritisiert. Er kommt (wie schon Ziegler in seinem RE-Artikel von 1952) zu dem Ergebnis, dass alle Bemühungen seit Plutarch, die ursprüngliche Bedeutung des delphischen E zu eruieren, als gescheitert anzusehen sind. Das sich anschließende Kapitel („Darstellung des Inhalts von De E und Interpretation") ist wegen seines engen Zusammenhangs mit den Ergebnissen von O.s Kommentar zusammen mit diesem weiter unten zu besprechen.

Im Kapitel 3 des ersten Teils gibt O. einen detaillierten Bericht der Recensio, die er seinem neuen Text von De E zugrundelegt. Durch eine neuerliche Untersuchung der Abhängigkeiten der Handschriften gelangt O. über die Grundlagen der Ausgabe von Sieveking dahingehend hinaus, als er zeigen kann, dass die von Sieveking noch als zweite Klasse der Überlieferung neben Γ (FDX) für die Textkonstitution benutzte Handschriftengruppe Πx (αAEgBγ) von F2 und X3 abhängig und damit nicht als eigenständiger Überlieferungsträger anzusehen ist. Scheidet somit Πx für Textkonstitution (abgesehen von Anregungen für Konjekturen) aus, gelingt O. der Nachweis, dass F2 und X2X3 offenbar unabhängig voneinander einen zweiten, ansonsten verlorenen Traditionszweig bezeugen, der im Stemma mit der Sigle I bezeichnet wird. Im Apparat der Ausgabe gibt O. immer die Lesarten von F2X2X3 an, wenn er das Zeugnis dieses Hyparchetypus anführt. Nach der Darstellung des Stemmas erörtert O. den großen Wert der indirekten Überlieferung bei Euseb (und in dessen Folge bei Theodoret und Kyrill), im Anschluss daran die Frage, wie das E handschriftlich bezeichnet wird.

Teil II bietet O.s Text mit Apparat, der an zahlreichen Stellen andere Gewichtungen gegenüber Sieveking sowie eigene Konjekturen O.s enthält. Alle Textprobleme und Entscheidungen sowie Vorschläge O.s werden im Kommentarteil ausführlich und luzide begründet, so dass unabhängig davon, ob man O. in jedem Einzelfall folgen will, die Überlieferungslage und die Schwierigkeiten der Textkonstitution vorbildlich aufgearbeitet sind. Dabei ist zu bedauern, dass O. bei der Überarbeitung seines Dissertationsdruckes zu diesem Buch darauf verzichtet hat, den Text neu zu setzen. Zum einen sticht die Formatierung des Teils II unschön von der Einrichtung des sonstigen Buches ab (vor allem die Kopfzeilen bieten zahlreiche Unregelmäßigkeiten), zum anderen ist ein Druckfehler des Dissertationsdruckes stehengeblieben (11, 390B, S. 82, 11 οὗσα statt richtig οὖσα), und schließlich hat ein Sinneswandel O.s in 15, 391A (S. 83, 23–24) dazu geführt, dass im Text τὸν Πλάτωνα ἡμῶν steht, während im Kommentar (S. 281) das Lemma nunmehr τὸν Πλάτωνα ἡμῖν lautet (der Dissertationsdruck hat ἡμῶν).

Das Kernstück des Buches bildet Teil III, ein knapp 300seitiger Kommentar zu De E. Hier bietet O. zunächst in textphilologischer Hinsicht eine bisher nicht dagewesene und in absehbarer Zeit nicht überbietbare Fülle an Gelehrsamkeit und erschöpfenden Erörterungen nahezu aller Aspekte des Textes. Zu den bereits hervorgehobenen intensiven Diskussionen der textkritischen Probleme und der von O. und seinen Vorgängern unternommenen Lösungsversuche treten präzise Auseinandersetzungen mit Wortbedeutungen und Fragen der Übersetzung sowie stilistische Beobachtungen, die jeweils mit einer Fülle an Belegstellen bei Plutarch und in der gesamten griechischen Literatur illustriert werden. Der von O. mithin auf philologischer Ebene angestrebte und eingelöste Anspruch auf Vollständigkeit dokumentiert sich nicht zuletzt darin, dass er sogar metrischen Erklärungen zu den Dichterzitaten im Text Plutarchs nicht aus dem Weg geht. Philologisch hat O. zweifellos ein Standartwerk abgeliefert, auf das kein zukünftiger Interpret von De E apud Delphos verzichten kann.

Mit ähnlicher Gründlichkeit verfährt O. bei der Erklärung von Realien, Quellen und Anspielungen des Textes, insbesondere bei der Erhellung von Herkunft und Verwendung des philosophischen Materials, das die einzelnen Dialogteilnehmer zur Erklärung der Bedeutung des delphischen E aufbieten. Vor allem in den drei letzten Reden von De E, der stoisierenden Rede des Theon, der pythagoreisierend-mathematischen Rede des jungen Plutarch sowie in der ontologisch-platonischen Rede des Ammonios wird der Leser ausführlich über die dort verwendeten Philosopheme, den Gebrauch der philosophischen Terminologie sowie deren Funktionalisierung im Interesse der Beweisziele der Redner unterrichtet. Besonders hervorzuheben ist die Akribie, mit der O. die Rede des jungen Plutarch durchmustert, die gerade in ihrem pythagoreisierenden Stratum (zu dem auch der musikologische Gehalt zu zählen ist) den Nichtfachmann ohne O.s erhellende Ausführungen vor kaum zu überwindende Verständnisschwierigkeiten stellt. Und auch in der in der Forschung zentralen Ammoniosrede bietet O.s Kommentar eine Fülle von neuen Einsichten in die geistigen Quellen von Ammonios' Radikalontonologie, die der künftigen Forschung eine weitaus solidere Grundlage bietet und zahlreichen Spekulationen (etwa der Abhängigkeit der Ammoniosrede von der Lehre des recht schattenhaften Eudoros) endgültig den Boden entzieht. Angesichts der genannten Tugenden des Kommentars ist es allerdings bedauerlich, dass O. im Finale der Ammoniosrede (Kap. 21) zur Identität des dem seienden Apollon gegenübergestellten, mit der werdenden und vergehenden Materie verbundenen Daimon kaum etwas zu sagen hat. Tatsächlich begnügt er sich auf nicht einmal einer Seite mit allgemeinen Angaben, die hinter dem Stand der Forschung zu Plutarchs Theorie einer chaotisch-vordemiurgischen Urseele weit zurückbleiben. Ein zweites Defizit findet sich bei der Kommentierung der ersten Rede des Lamprias, der das E als die Zahl 5 erklärt und behauptet, die fünf „echten" der traditionell sieben Weisen hätten es in Delphi als Hinweis darauf geweiht, dass zu ihrer Siebenzahl auch zwei „falsche" Weise, die Tyrannen Periander und Kleobulos gerechnet würden. O., der die Lampriasrede für „hanebüchen" hält, übersieht hier, dass Plutarch gerade Kleobulos' und Perianders Anwesenheit in seinem einschlägigen Septem Sapientium Convivium für besonders heikel und erklärungsbedürftig hält.

Schließlich liefert O. über den Kommentar hinweg eine fortlaufende Deutung von De E, die sich pointiert zusammengefasst im Kapitel 2 des ersten Teils „Darstellung des Inhalts von De E und Interpretation" (16–46) nachlesen lässt. O. vertritt im Gegensatz zum Mainstream der Forschung, die tendenziell in De E in Gestalt der abschließenden Rede des Ammonios einen von Plutarch als richtig und gültig intendierten Lösungsvorschlag für die Bedeutung des delphischen E aus platonischer Perspektive sieht, demgegenüber die anderen Lösungsvorschläge bald als sachlich falsch, bald als philosophisch unrichtig gesehen werden, die These, dass alle Lösungsversuche in De E, einschließlich dessen des Ammonios, nach Plutarchs Willen keine Gültigkeit beanspruchen dürften. O. beruft sich für seine Deutung zurecht auf das Proömium, das Plutarch der Erzählung des Gesprächs vorausgeschickt hat: Die Betonung Plutarchs, der Schwierigkeit des Rätsels, das das delphische E stellt, stets ausgewichen und erst jüngst – und noch dazu unter gesellschaftlichem Zwang – auf das Thema eingegangen zu sein, aber dann nur ein lang zurückliegendes Gespräch über das E erzählt zu haben, ist gewiss ein Indiz dafür, dass Plutarch nicht eine Lösung autoritativ vertreten, sondern mehrere Lösungsversuche präsentieren will. Denn immerhin lässt Plutarch Ammonios in dessen Einleitungsworten des referierten Gesprächs das E als einen Gegenstand bezeichnen, der einen „Anlass zum Philosophieren" geben soll, und O. betont wieder zurecht, dass auch Ammonios keinen Anspruch auf ein Wahrheitsmonopol erhebt, wenn er seine Gesprächspartner zu Lösungsvorschlägen animiert. Bis zu diesem Punkt ist O. voll zuzustimmen, doch die interpretatorischen Konsequenzen, die O. aus dieser Gesprächsvoraussetzung in Kombination mit seiner Kommentierung der einzelnen Redebeiträge in De E zieht, sind schwerlich überzeugend. Für O. weisen alle Redebeiträge in De E (ausgenommen derjenige des Priesters Nikandros) Aspekte auf, die Rückschlüsse auf mangelnden philosophischen Ernst der Sprecher erlauben, dessen sich diese sogar bewusst sein sollen, und auch Ammonios bleibt von solchen Verdikten nicht verschont: Da nach O.s Ansicht schon die heiter getönten Reden des Lamprias („narrenhaftes Treiben"), des Theon („Schelmerei") und des ‚Plutarch' (eine „heitere Stegreifrede"; „unseriös"; „burlesk") eine Situation geschaffen hätten, in der „die Zuhörer des Ammonios und die Leser des Dialogs damit rechnen [müssen], daß der Sprecher sich die Freiheit nimmt, nicht eine nüchterne und möglichst unangreifbare Argumentation, sondern eine farbige und amüsante Rede vorzutragen", glaubt O. nachweisen zu können, dass Ammonios selbst „an einzelnen Stellen … von dem, was er sagt, tatsächlich nicht restlos überzeugt ist". Ein Kriterium für diese vermeintliche Selbstdistanz des Ammonios ist O. einmal der „gesunde Menschenverstand", dem eine extreme Argumentation des Ammonios widerspreche, was Ammonios „auch wissen" müsse (es folgt zu Stützung dieser These ein bunter Strauß aus antiken Zitatstellen und modernen Philosophiehistorikern); ein „Trugschluß", auf dem Ammonios' Argumentation aufbaue, würde von dessen Zuhörern und den Lesern des Dialogs „wohl auch" erkannt und „als geschickt angebrachtes, wenn auch im Ernst nicht haltbares Argument" goutiert. Es ist O. dabei sicher zugute zu halten, dass er das in allen Reden spürbare Virtuositätsstreben der Redner erkannt hat, doch reduziert er die Wirkabsicht der Redebeiträge beinahe ausschließlich auf die vermeintlichen „Fehler" der Sprecher, in deren Aufspürung das Behagen der Leser bestehen soll. Hier scheint O.s lobenswerte Akribie in der Aufspürung des philosophischen Substrats der Redebeiträge in eine anachronistische Pedanterie umgeschlagen zu sein, denn zum Maßstab für die „Ernsthaftigkeit" der Redner nimmt O. beinahe ausschließlich sein durchaus stupendes philosophiehistorisches Wissen und verzichtet weitgehend darauf, die Kuriositäten in den Redebeiträgen mit Plutarchs sonstigem Werk abzugleichen und daraus Rückschlüsse auf die Autorintention und die Lesererwartung zu ziehen. Angesichts der ansonsten großen Verdienste des Kommentars sind O.s Interpretationserträge mithin recht kümmerlich und dürften in der Forschung allenfalls als heuristische Leitlinie für die Untersuchung der Argumentationsstrategie der Redner Anklang finden.

Bedauerlich ist weiterhin, dass O. bei der Erweiterung und Überarbeitung seines sehr sorgfältig erstellten Dissertationsdruckes zu diesem Buch zahlreiche formale Nachlässigkeiten unterlaufen sind. So häufen sich in den neu hinzugekommenen Teilen spürbar Druckfehler, Querverweise gehen ins Leere, Lemmata sind unvollständig. In den überarbeiteten Teilen weisen die Zusätze ebenfalls überdurchschnittlich viele Druckfehler auf, und es kommt vor, dass O.s Nachträge gar unter dem falschen Lemma stehen. All dies ist bei den sonstigen Ambitionen des Werkes außerordentlich schade.

Die genannten Kritikpunkte betreffen freilich nicht die oben eingehend gewürdigte Hauptleistung dieser Ausgabe mit Kommentar, die O. mit bewundernswertem Arbeitsethos und großer Intelligenz erbracht hat, und so ist als Fazit festzuhalten: Jeder künftige Kommentar zu Plutarchs Moralia wird sich an Obsiegers Buch messen lassen müssen.

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2014.10.45

Cropp on Queyrel on Connelly. Response to 2014.09.14

Response by Martin Cropp, University of Calgary (mcropp@ucalgary.ca)

Version at BMCR home site

François Queyrel's review of Joan Breton Connelly's The Parthenon Enigma expresses some serious and well-justified reservations concerning Connelly's interpretation of the Parthenon Frieze's so-called 'peplos scene', but like most of those who have discussed Connelly's theory over the last twenty years he says little about the form of the Erechtheid myth which Connelly thinks the scene represents, namely a story in which Erechtheus sacrificed his youngest daughter and her two older sisters then sacrificed themselves (probably by leaping to their deaths from the Acropolis). Connelly assumes that Euripides' Erechtheus, whose fragments provide the basis for her interpretation of the peplos scene, also featured the sacrifice of the youngest daughter. There is however a difficulty: the only source which states that the youngest daughter was sacrificed is the Library of Apollodorus, a mythological handbook composed at least four hundred years after the Frieze and Euripides' play. Connelly cites this as if it recorded a simple truth ("Apollodorus tells us . . .": pp. 172, 178), but most of the sources that relate the sacrifice of a single daughter say just "his daughter", and one of them, which Connelly cites as if it agreed with ps.-Apollodorus (p. 404, n. 108), actually specifies the eldest daughter. This is 'Demaratus in Book 3 of his Tragoidoumena' as cited by Stobaeus, which at least has the merit of referring to a tragic plot (presumably Euripides' plot as no other Erechtheus tragedy is known).

Our sources for the sacrifice story are collected and analysed by Maurizio Sonnino in his Euripidis Erechthei quae exstant (Florence, 2010: see pp. 90–110, 119–24, 152–61, 439), which I reviewed in BMCR 2011.07.16. Connelly cites Sonnino's book but does not confront the difficulties which his analysis poses for her theory. The sources reflect two differing accounts: (1) the Erechtheids offered themselves for sacrifice (or sacrificed themselves) collectively, as in other myths in which one or more unmarried sisters give their lives to save their community from famine or plague and are commemorated with a cult; (2) a single daughter was sacrificed and her sisters then sacrificed themselves, fulfilling an oath that all should die together. Both accounts are reflected in plays of Euripides, the first in Ion 277ff. (where Creusa tells Ion that her father Erechtheus sacrificed all his daughters except herself as she was an infant at the time), the second in the plot of Erechtheus. As Sonnino shows, the first account must have been the earlier and was probably formulated in the fifth century to re-brand the daughters of the Spartan Hyacinthus as daughters of Erechtheus (hence the identification of the latter with the Hyacinthides). The second, hybrid account will then have been a specially motivated innovation and may well have been invented by Euripides for the sake of his play. To explain this adaptation Sonnino suggests that Euripides made the sacrificed daughter a deceived and reluctant victim, and her sisters sympathetic to her reluctance, but this is very unlikely (see my BMCR review); more probably Euripides chose to add a heroic role for the girls' parents while preserving the element of self-sacrifice in the deaths of her sisters. Praxithea's famous speech justifying the sacrifice of her daughter reflects the kind of patriotic reasoning that we find in Pericles' funeral speech as recorded by Thucydides. On the other hand, a play in which the girls' mother enthusiastically persuaded their father to sacrifice all three of their daughters would have been rather macabre and not very dramatic.

Such an adaptation of the collective sacrifice story is more likely to have been made towards the end of the Archidamian War, when Euripides was composing his play, than in the 440s or 430s when the Parthenon was being designed and built. But even if it was not invented by Euripides, and even if the designers of the Frieze preferred this hybrid version of the myth to the collective one, neither Euripides' play nor any precursor of it is likely to have featured the sacrifice of the youngest daughter, especially if she was about ten years old and two older unmarried daughters were available. Connelly's only attempt to explain the choice of the youngest ("the younger and more unsullied, the better": p. 394, n. 74) is no more than special pleading. Virgin-sacrifice stories (and their iconography) typically feature either a group of girls of marriageable age or an eldest daughter, also of marriageable age, such as Iphigenia or the daughter of Heracles in Euripides' Heraclidae. Persephone, who demanded the sacrifices of both the daughter of Heracles and (according to Demaratus) Erechtheus's daughter, was herself of marriageable age when Hades carried her off. The 'marriage with death' motif that typically accompanies virgin deaths in Athenian drama presupposes that the girls who die are ready to marry. So does the association of the Erechtheids/Hyacinthids with young warriors which is found in Praxithea's speech (F 360.15ff.), in the warriors' pre-battle offerings to them ordained by Athena (F 370.81ff.), and perhaps in the characterization of the sisters' oath as a precedent for the Athenians' ephebic oath.

Connelly further assumes that the sacrificed girl was named Parthenos (e.g. pp. 136, 204), and argues that Athena's title Parthenos "comes to the goddess by attraction, referring not to Athena herself but to the youngest daughter of Erechtheus, who is called 'Parthenos' throughout Euripides' play. So intimately was this maiden associated with Athena that in time their identities merged" (p. 236, cf. p. 275). This explanation of Athena's title is implausible in itself, and all the more so because there is no evidence at all that the sacrificed girl was ever called Parthenos. The fragments of Euripides' play refer to the three girls as parthenoi (F 357 ζεῦγος τριπάρθενον, F 370 παρθένων: cf. Ion 278 παρθένους), and that is all. Phanodemus apparently called them 'The Parthenoi', but this was in a collective-sacrifice account featuring two sisters with their own names (if the details are due to him), Protogeneia ('First-born'!) and Pandora. (This incidentally makes it very unlikely that the individual 'Pandora' portrayed on the base of the Athena Parthenos statue was the sacrificed Erechtheid as Connelly proposes, pp. 278–82: cf. Sonnino, p. 107.) The mishmash of alternative names found in other mythographic sources — some borrowed from the Cecropids, some from other daughters of Erechtheus — only serves to show that the daughters in the sacrifice myth were basically an anonymous group, and very probably remained so in Euripides' play. Mythographers were always keen to supply such details. And compilers of mythological handbooks were always keen, as they still are, to combine what were originally separate but loosely related myths into a comprehensive narrative. (This might go some way towards explaining why ps.-Apollodorus makes the sacrificed girl the youngest daughter. His composite narrative in 3.15.1–4 deals first with Erechtheus's married daughters Procris, Creusa, Chthonia and Oreithyia, and then relates how Oreithyia's grandson Eumolpus joined the Eleusinians in attacking Athens, how Erechtheus sacrificed "his youngest daughter" and "the rest" sacrificed themselves, and how Erechtheus killed Eumolpus — now defined as his great-grandson! — in the battle and then perished himself. In this scenario the sacrificed daughter has to be at least younger than her four married sisters.)

No less tenuous is Connelly's suggestion (pp. 229–35) that the Parthenon itself, or rather its western chamber which originally had the name parthenôn, was named after the Erechtheid Parthenoi because their tomb lay beneath it. If that is so, it is surprising that no ancient writer appears to have been aware of it. Connelly's argument hinges on the meaning of the word παρθενών, which she translates, a little tendentiously, as 'Place of the Maidens' (pp. 140, 143, 232). More precisely a παρθενών is a maidens' apartment (not a tomb or a temenos containing a tomb). Connelly rightly notes that this was an ordinary word, so that the name Parthenon cannot have been derived from Athena's title Parthenos (but neither is it similar to a word like Erechtheion as she suggests: pp. 140, 232), and that words of this type (γυναικών 'women's apartment', ἐλαιών 'olive-grove', and so on) typically imply a plurality of occupants. They do, but that does not mean that they must. A νυμφών 'bride-chamber' was normally occupied by one bride, and a maidens' apartment does not cease to be a maidens' apartment if it is used by a single maiden. The room in question may well have been designated (as is often supposed) as the goddess's personal chamber, housing her possessions and later lending its name to the whole building.

Connelly's interpretation of the peplos scene stems from her dissatisfaction with the identification of the peplos in this scene as as the one woven annually for Athena and presented to her at the Panathenaea. She nevertheless sees a connection between Athena's peplos and the Erechtheid's funeral garment which she identifies in the peplos scene: "the peplos of Athena could represent the funerary cloth of the daughter of King Erechtheus" (p. 275); "For historical Athenians the peplos was very much a mantle of victory . . . The mythological basis for the peplos, however, is the funeral shroud of the parthenos who gave her life to ensure Athenian victory over Eumolpos" (p. 277). This bizarre proposition hardly needs to be debated at length, but it should be noted that the parallels she cites for attributing this kind of dual function to the peplos are illusory. There is no evidence that the chiton presented annually to Apollo at Amyklai "was woven as the funeral shroud of Hyakinthos" (p. 275), and it is not true that in Heliodorus's Aethiopica 5.31 Chariklea's sacred garment "is described as her 'mantle of victory' . . . or her 'funeral shroud'" (pp. 276f.): what is said there is that Chariklea's sacred garment will be either a victory garment (if she and Kalasiris succeed in escaping from the pirates) or a funeral garment (if they fail and she kills herself to avoid a forced marriage with one of them). This melodramatic rhetoric has nothing to do with any ritual reality.

Lastly, the design of the peplos scene itself. In Connelly's reading the youngest daughter, half-undressed, receives her funeral garment from her father. Connelly reasonably argues that the designers of the Frieze would have avoided showing the sacrifice itself, but this does not explain why they chose this rather undignified moment when they could very well have shown the girl already clothed in her funeral garb. Nor does it explain why the girl's father is assisting her when that would normally have been her mother's role. (Aristides, possibly reflecting Euripides' play, and translated a little inaccurately by Connelly p. 179, says that her mother dressed her as if she was sending her to a festival: not, we note, a funeral or a wedding). Meanwhile the sisters approach their mother carrying their funeral garments on their heads, even though they are supposed to have concealed their intended suicides from their parents. Connelly explains this as follows (p. 179): "That the other two are shown carrying their own funeral dresses with unannounced plans of leaping from the Acropolis ironically foreshadows an even greater sacrifice than the parents expected to make." But is ironic foreshadowing what we expect to see in the central, emblematic scene of a great monumental work?

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

2014.10.44

Peter J. Ahrensdorf, Thomas L. Pangle (trans.), Sophocles. The Theban Plays: Oedipus the Tyrant; Oedipus at Colonus; Antigone. Agora editions. Ithaca; London: Cornell University Press, 2014. Pp. xvii, 195. ISBN 9780801478710. $12.95 (pb).

Reviewed by Michael Fontaine and Richard Fontaine, Cornell University; Center for a New American Security (fontaine@cornell.edu; rfontaine@cnas.org)

Version at BMCR home site

Preview

In a field crowded with competitors it is a surprise to find a new prose version of Sophocles' three Oedipus plays. In the first paragraph of their preface the translators explain:

[T]here does not exist, and we see a classroom and scholarly need for, a translation that … provides the most literally exact reproduction of precisely what Sophocles wrote, as it has been transmitted to us in the best manuscripts, rendered in readily comprehensible, fluent English, especially for students and teachers and scholars who do not know Greek (or do not know Greek well), but who wish and need to study Sophocles with care.

This is an inauspicious start to a curious book. It is not immediately obvious that students today do lack good translations of Sophocles, but instead of expanding on the merits of their work, the rest of the preface is given over to an arraignment of every existing English translation of these three plays. We will come back to that below, but since the bulk of the book consists of the translations (and the three short introductions that precede them), let us turn to them first.

Ahrensdorf and Pangle recast Sophocles' verses as prose formatted to match the original line numberings. They follow the Greek manuscripts in not supplying independent stage directions. (They make exceptions at Antigone 222, 331, and 376, where they also adopt Brunck's emendation of the MSS' name for the character, "messenger," to "guard," although in the dramatis personae they still have Triclinius' 'Guard-Messenger'). These externals apart, how successfully do they fulfill their promise to provide the most literally exact reproduction of precisely what Sophocles wrote, as it has been transmitted to us in the best manuscripts, rendered in readily comprehensible, fluent English? Let us see some samples.

Here is the start of Oedipus the Tyrant (Oedipus speaks):

Oh children, young nurslings of ancient Cadmus,
Whatever are these seats you have thronged to take,
Wreathed, and with suppliant olive branches?
The city teems with incense, and
With paeans for health, simultaneously with lamentations.
And I, having deemed it just, children, not through messengers,
Not through others, to hear, have myself thus come:
He who is famous in name to all as Oedipus.
But do you speak, elder — since by nature it is fitting for you to
Speak on behalf of these: in what disposition do you sit here?

Others may disagree, but in our view this is not readily comprehensible, fluent English. All three translations proceed in the same fashion. Witness Oedipus at Colonus 202–6:

Oedipus: Alas, for the disaster of an unsound mind!
Chorus: Oh miserable one, now that you are at rest,
Speak! Who of mortals are you by nature?
Who is the one who is led, laboring so much? What,
May we ask, is the land of your fathers?

Here is the start of the polla ta deina ode in Antigone (332-41):

Many are the terrible things, and nothing
More terrible than man!
Across the gray
Sea with winter wind this being
Travels, under surrounding surge
Of passing waves; and of the gods,
The highest — Earth the
Imperishable — he tirelessly wears away,
With plows going back and forth, year in and year out,
Turning the soil with the offspring of horses.

The tragic flaw in their design is that fluency and ready comprehensibility in English cannot be achieved while simultaneously providing the most literal reproduction of precisely what Sophocles wrote; any shift from one language to another entails the loss of some associations and the importation of others. At any event, despite their claim of meticulous fidelity it is remarkable, and surprising, that the translators themselves sometimes shrink from reproducing what Sophocles wrote too literally. For example, they render the opening line of Antigone (ὦ κοινὸν αὐτάδελφον Ἰσμήνης κάρα) as "Oh partner Ismene — my very own dear sister!" How could the reader who does not know Greek guess that the words literally say, "O common own-sister head of Ismene"?

We can also take issue with the accuracy of their choices. For example, in the OT passage above, "seats" and "'you have thronged to take" (2) should be "sittings" (i.e., in supplication, cf. LSJ 'ἕδρα', II) and either "you are thronging to take" or "you are sitting" (the majority view, cf. LSJ 'θοάζω (Β)). Lines 4-5 should be "teems simultaneously with incense and with paeans and lamentations" and line 6 should be "deeming it just" (δικαιῶν), not "having deemed it just."

Taken as a whole, therefore, Ahrensdorf and Pangle's translation represents a missed opportunity. It is an effort that is, however, partially redeemed by the strength of their introductions to each of the three plays. Their incisive reflections interrogate the texts in original and thought-provoking ways, particularly in regard to their political elements. Even where we disagree with them, their ideas merit serious consideration.

Building on their academic backgrounds as professors of political science and appealing to Ahrensdorf's 2009 interpretative study of Sophocles (reviewed in BMCR 2010.05.22 and by Edith Hall), the translators situate Oedipus the Tyrant in its political context and ask probing questions about the nature of tyranny, guilt, and knowingness. Sophocles labels Oedipus a tyrant, but why?1 As the introduction points out, Oedipus acts "tyrannically" toward neither Creon nor Tiresias. He does not rule violently; in fact, he is praised as an effective ruler devoted to the commonweal. For the translators, Oedipus is tyrannical because he violates a particular set of obligations — the laws, handed down from the gods, which forbid parricide and incest. They find another deeper and still more intriguing meaning in Oedipus' "tyranny" by arguing that in ceasing to credit oracles and prophets, Oedipus rules by reason and not by the gods.2 Though, they reject the implication that tyrannical rule, guided only by reason, calls down the vengeance of the gods, they go on to suggest that it's Oedipus' abandonment of his rationalism that leads to his downfall (p. 11).

The introductions to Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone are similarly rich in ideas. Alternately considering matters of justice, allegiance and political legitimacy, Ahrensdorf and Pangle mine themes of timeless interest and application. In Antigone, they question Creon's injunction to obey — son to father, young to old, ruled to ruler — and his admonition that "there is no greater evil than anarchy." In these two principles, one finds the root of arguments, both ancient and contemporary, over the nature of political legitimacy and stability.

In emphasizing filial piety and duty to elders and rulers, for example, they help us see parallels with Confucian values, according to which social harmony stems from the correct fulfillment of one's individual duty within a familial and political hierarchy. In emphasizing the second principle they prefigure Thomas Hobbes, for whom man's nasty, brutish and short life in a state of nature — in anarchy — justified the leviathan's imposition of order.

How far should that imposition extend? Debates are everywhere raging about the nature of political legitimacy in the world. Despite past premonitions, there has been no general triumph of democratic politics worldwide, of either the radical Athenian or the modern liberal variety. Revolutions ranging from Europe in 1848 to the Arab Spring in 2011 raised many expectations but neither material nor intellectual history suggests a coming democratic denouement. Not least in the corridors of American government (and of the think tanks to whom they hearken), policymakers remain uneven in promoting values abroad that most of their citizens hold to be universal. The Theban plays suggest that Athenian thinkers were engulfed in similar debates more than two millennia ago, and no closer to final answers than are our own thinkers today.

We applaud the introductions to each play. We take a different view of the preface, however, and regret that it is the first thing that readers will encounter upon opening the volume. Rather than rest content with offering their work up to the marketplace of ideas, the translators chose to charge their predecessors — all of them, "the existing translations" — with straying from the true faith. The ardent pages that follow read like a caricature of the Inquisition, an impression strengthened by the claim that their effort provides access to the "authentic original historical context" and "profoundly thought-provoking Sophoclean challenges and puzzles. . ." Theirs is "a meticulously faithful rendition of his words, in all their pregnant ambiguities and astounding twists and turns."

To judge from the samples they select from other translations, some criticisms of "infidelity" are on the mark. Others, however, are cast in impassioned language atypical of scholarship that seems designed to engage readers' emotions. For example, they ask rhetorically (p. xi, emphasis original):

But do the contemporary English poetic reinterpretations capture even the authentic spirit or mood (leaving aside for a moment the precise meaning) of Sophocles — above all, of his choral odes? How well do rhyming couplets convey the baroque grandeur and anguished piety of the tragic choruses?

They single out recent or popular translations for special scorn. They accuse Berg and Clay (2011) of "creating a kind of extreme ee cummings out of old Sophocles" and conveying a "breathlessness verging on hysteria." They find Mulroy (2011) and other poetic translations "uneasily reminiscent of Gilbert and Sullivan." They "indict" other versions for assorted infidelities, but many of the "infidelities" amount to what is less fervidly called "scholarship" or "philology" — the transposition or reassignment of lines, textual emendations, or raising the possibility that LSJ is wrong about the meaning of a word. What is worse, earlier translators are said to have misconstrued Greek at key points (some "botch," others "vastly exaggerate, without warrant in the Greek") or vary their renderings of "words with weighty significance." "The most deleterious two failings" of existing translations are "the misleading ways in which key religious and political terminology is rendered." One translation "drastically obscures" while another engages in "unwarranted introduction and substitution" and "pervasive false colorings." Still others "erase, mute, or distort." And so on.

In emphasizing the political elements of the plays, Professors Ahrensdorf and Pangle spur their readers — our students — to engage deeply with Sophocles' masterpieces. Unfortunately, in prioritizing literalism and "fidelity" over fluency and comprehension, the stiff and self-conscious translations themselves will impede that engagement. Which is a shame. If some unmentioned reason explains this result, we can only reply Davus sumus, non Oedipus — the mystery escapes us.



Notes:


1.   The translators' insistence on the significance of the title of OT ("The Greek title of the play is Oedipus the Tyrant," p. 2) should be qualified. The original title was Oedipus. The longer title, first attested in the late 4th century, was used to distinguish it from the much later Oedipus at Colonus. Aristotle always cites the play as Oedipus.
2.   There is no real basis for this claim in the text of the play. It is not supported by the passages cited in the Introduction (p. 10).

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

2014.10.43

Massimiliano David, Eternal Ravenna: From the Etruscans to the Venetians. (Translated by Christina Cawthra and Jo-Ann Titmarsh). Turnhout: Brepols, 2013. Pp. 287. ISBN 9782503549415. €95.00.

Reviewed by Edward M. Schoolman, University of Nevada, Reno (eschoolman@unr.edu)

Version at BMCR home site

Several excellent monographs on Ravenna written in English have appeared in recent years. Deborah Deliyannis's Ravenna in Late Antiquity, (recently reissued in paperback in 2014), provides an accessible and detailed survey and synthesis of the scholarship of the city and its late antique churches, buildings and other monuments within the framework of the contemporary late antique and medieval sources.1 Mariëtte Verhoeven's The Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna incorporates the frequently overlooked medieval and early modern evidence to evaluate the history of Ravenna's churches, while simultaneously writing the history of these monuments from their creation to the present.2

Massimiliano David's Eternal Ravenna is a welcome addition to this growing corpus, first appearing in Italian in 2013 as Ravenna Eterna: Dagli Etruschi ai Veneziani. Unlike Deliyannis's survey and Verhoeven's detailed study, Eternal Ravenna offers a broader chronological overview of the city of Ravenna and its history primarily through the surviving material culture from the fifth century BC to 1512 and the capitulation of Ravenna to the forces allied with the papacy. In its form, it is primarily concerned with the history of Ravenna and illustrating it through images of the objects and monuments produced during the various phases of the city's history. It is, however, not an academic text and is less useful for scholarly study as it includes only a broad historiography and history of the study of its monuments (p. 11-14) and limited footnotes, and makes few claims for new conclusions. Perhaps it is best thought of as a kind of museum catalog for the monuments of Ravenna, well organized and illustrated, and ultimately successful in its aim "to provide the reader with an atlas of urban and regional history through the distant gaze of an external observer," (p. 6).

The first chapter delves into the tools for assessing the history of the city: an overview of the historiography from the early Middle Ages to the present and a summary of Ravenna's topographic and environmental position. For David, a key to understanding the history of Ravenna was its location as an estuary city, shaped by its position at the confluences of the Ronco and Montone just south of the end of the Po delta. The local rivers served the city as its natural defense, but also provided links to agricultural land and the Apennines and the environment necessary for lagoons and harbors.

The second chapter covers nine centuries from the Etruscans in the fifth century BC to the Christian city of the fourth century AD, with room for some speculation as the Etruscan "roots" of Ravenna are faint (the archaeological evidence is substantial in the surrounding area but relatively scant for the city). Coming to the age of the Republic and Principate, David narrates the development of the city and the rise of the port at Classe illustrated by the few remaining archaeological and material fragments from this period, but primarily the surviving late Roman sarcophagi.

The third chapter is dedicated entirely to the fifth century AD and in particular to the churches and monuments built in the city by the imperial family. David extends his descriptions not only to the monuments, but their histories to the present; for example, he traces the chapel or martyrium once part of the church of Santa Croce into its modern incarnation as the mausoleum of Galla Placidia. Although he does not problematize the actual burial of the empress, well researched by Deliyannis,3 the photographs of the so-called mausoleum are exquisite.

For David, the history of the city forms an arc, and Ravenna reaches its zenith in the fifth century; the following chapter, "From a centre to an outpost," covers the late fifth century to the end of reign of Justinian, with a focus on the churches (San Vitale, Sant'Apollinare in Classe, and Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, and the episcopal throne of Maximianus from the Cathedral). This chapter is the longest due to the significant amount of extant material and architecture, but it ultimately fails to address the notion of Ravenna as an outpost. The decline of the city and its transition to "outpost" is simply described as a result of the political collapses taking place in Italy with the arrival of the Lombards, although the city itself survives intact.

The shorter fifth and sixth chapters cover the Byzantine and Carolingian possession of the territory and the period from the Ottonians through the eleventh century. The former focuses its investigations on the meager archaeological and architectural remains, but in particular does a good job addressing the tombs and the renovation of Sant'Apollinare in Classe, while the latter takes a more regional approach and includes the creation of the Abbey of Pomposa to the north, the renovation of the Cathedral and the erection of towers throughout the city. The seventh and final chapter offers an overview of the history of Ravenna from the age of Dante through the Renaissance, including the political domination by the Polentani family and finally its short period as a subject of Venice.

The content is well organized and the text itself includes helpful headings, but as a whole offers little in the way of new understanding the history of Ravenna. Instead, it sticks to the familiar script: the city of Roman origins becomes grand as capital for the late antique and Christian Roman empire, only to descend from its lofty position at the end of Late Antiquity, although with continued evolution and regional importance. Its specific value then is in connecting the history of Ravenna's most ancient monuments to their medieval and early modern counterparts, and by tracing with broad strokes and specific anecdotes the history of the city from its origins to the sixteenth century.

Published in a large format, the text is lavishly illustrated, incorporating new images taken expressly for this volume covering every facet of the study from Etruscan bronze objects to fourteenth-century frescos. The presentation of the images and their connection with the text may by be seen as incongruous. While nearly all of the images are of excellent quality, and some are integral to the reading of the text, the major exist as captioned but not explained, floating between and within chapters, much like some museum exhibition catalogs. This ultimately limits their functionality in the book, although it likely was conceived with this particular form in mind. Yet when combined with the set of excellent maps and an illustrated gazetteer of themes and monuments (pp. 260-271) which is tied into the text, Eternal Ravenna succeeds in providing a wide perspective on the history and material culture of the city.



Notes:


1.   Deborah M. Deliyannis, Ravenna in Late Antiquity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).
2.   Mariëtte Verhoeven, The Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna: Transformations and Memory (Brepols: Turnhout, 2011).
3.   In particular, see Deborah M. Deliyannis, "'Bury me in Ravenna?': Appropriating Galla Placidia's Body in the Middle Ages" Studi Medievali 42 (2001), 289-299.

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2014.10.42

Jessica Priestley, Herodotus and Hellenistic Culture: Literary Studies in the Reception of the 'Histories'. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. Pp. viii, 288. ISBN 9780199653096. $99.00.

Reviewed by Bryant Kirkland, Yale University (bryant.kirkland@yale.edu)

Version at BMCR home site

Preview

Since Arnaldo Momigliano's 1958 essay "The Place of Herodotus in the History of Historiography," the occasional work, including Oswyn Murray's landmark 1972 article, has addressed various aspects of Herodotean reception.1 In an area still open to a number of avenues of inquiry, Jessica Priestley's Herodotus and Hellenistic Culture significantly expands Herodotean reception studies beyond the "history of historiography."

Starting with Murray's claim that "the Hellenistic world view [cannot] be understood without appreciating the importance of Herodotus,"2 the work addresses five thematic spheres of Herodotus' reception, between the late fourth century and the middle of the second century BCE. Encompassing an array of "receivers," whose active role in the reading process Priestley is keen to emphasize,3 the monograph engages with works of poetry, history, geography, ancient scholarship, and literary criticism from the Hellenistic period. Priestley shows how the Histories rapidly became contested, revered, corrected, and otherwise appropriated. At its strongest points, the volume explores reception across genres, a challenge both to Herodotean reception studies centered on later historiographers and to studies that would constrict focus to Herodotus' ancient reputation (as a stylist, as a liar, etc.).4 Indeed, the book shows how Herodotus' Histories became a package of themes and ideas that later writers continually opened, in turn refracting for modern readers some of the ways in which the Histories' many dimensions were repurposed in antiquity.

Chapter One, "Biographical Traditions," examines the extant biographical data on Herodotus with the goal of establishing his importance for various Hellenistic audiences. Analyzing evidence drawn primarily from the Suda, Priestley reconstructs traditions about Herodotus' birth, the possible place of the Histories' composition, his possible role in colonization at Thurii, and the place of his death and burial (ancient sources cite Thurii, Athens, and Pella). Local pride ties Herodotus at different points in his life to different places. Priestley suggests that certain claims may reflect different communities' views of their ancestors' representation in the Histories. Outlining how some of these traditions rival each other, Priestley takes the contested biographies as one piece of evidence that the Histories mattered to Hellenistic communities, and having established their importance she is on surer ground in arguing for the literary resonances that occupy the rest of the book.

The second chapter, "The Great and the Marvelous," offers an original analysis of Herodotus' rhetoric of wonder before arguing for its crucial role in informing the paradoxography that flourished during the Hellenistic period. The chapter, which also argues for the Histories' influence on Hellenistic lists of the Seven Wonders of the World as well as on select works of Callimachus and Posidippus, is among the book's most rewarding and ambitious. Priestley shows how, in the Histories, wonder stems from and stands in positive relation to knowledge. Herodotus' notion of the wondrous is thus distinguished from later treatments of the theme in Thucydides and Aristotle. Though Priestley concedes that Herodotus was not always a direct source for paradoxographers, her tropological model of Herodotean wonder makes it possible to see Herodotus even when he is not named or specifically cited. She applies Herodotus' model of wonder to Callimachus Iambus 6 and, in an excellent close reading, shows how the poem's references to size and measurement mix Herodotean interest in the great and marvelous with Callimachus' own aesthetics of smallness. Her discussion of Posidippus reveals similar tactics of rhetorical appropriation in relation to the very small. Priestley closes the chapter by suggesting a relationship between wonder and Hellenistic scholarly inquiry. Herodotus' interest in aetiology and his practice of source-citation may have influenced Callimachus' Aetia, which Priestley shows to be "much more closely aligned generically" (106) with historiography than with philosophy. Chapter Three, "Herodotus and Hellenistic Geographies," explores how Herodotus became a source of geographical knowledge for Hellenistic writers, particularly as geographical notions from previous eras came under scrutiny or were challenged by new discoveries. First, Priestley connects Herodotean comments on Hyperboreans and Hypernotians to fragments of Eratosthenes (quoted in Strabo), arguing that Herodotus' hypothesis on the existence of Hypernotians shaped Hellenistic geographers' thoughts on the issue. The chapter then offers an extended treatment of how Herodotus' discussion of the Nile influenced later treatments of its source and nature. Priestley focuses on the enduring belief in a west African source, indicating the continued importance of Herodotus' report. She also interprets Diodorus Siculus' disquisition on the source and inundation of the river, including his murky account of what is probably Agatharchides' description of its source. Priestley argues that Diodorus supplements Agatharchides' critique of Herodotus with his own somewhat incoherent refutation of the historian.5 Finally, this chapter explores Herodotean geographic influence in a further passage of Diodorus (this time dependent on Hecataeus) and in a passage of Apollonius' Argonautica in which, through a series of subtle allusions to Xerxes' march, Apollonius is shown to have set the Argonauts' journey in the wider context of East-West conflict, underscoring the ambivalence of their "heroic" undertaking.

The fourth chapter, "The Persian Wars: New Versions and New Contexts," grapples with the theme of the war in Hellenistic literature. This includes a useful discussion (157-62) of the difficulty of tracing the specifically Herodotean aspects of the Persian War's reception, given its extensive and diffuse afterlife. Priestley takes as a case study Timaeus of Tauromenium's fragments (again from Diodorus), whose account of the Persian War she shows to be a polemical re-write of the Athenocentric Herodotean version. If Diodorus is paraphrasing Timaeus, we get an idea of how at least one Western Greek writer recast Herodotus' account by boosting Gelon's contribution to the war effort. The chapter concludes with two close readings, one of a passage from the Argonautica and the other from Lycophron's Alexandra. Both poems, Priestley contends, evoke Herodotus' Persian Wars in order to fit their narratives within the larger framework of international feuds.

"The Prose Homer of History" marks the fifth and last chapter, an engaging discussion of the ancient epithet's implications. 6 Priestley explores possible reasons for and meanings behind the title under the categories of "Herodotus and Poetry" and "Herodotus the Liar." The chapter ranges into the work of Hermogenes, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, and Plutarch as it gets to grips with ancient criticism on Herodotus, using these later critics to sort out what might have been at work in the Hellenistic view that a kinship existed between Homer and Herodotus. Finally, the book closes with an Appendix on the fragments of Aristarchus' Commentary on Herodotus.

An ambitious study of Herodotus' ancient reception has been a desideratum for some time,7 and there is much to commend in Priestley's volume. The range of texts canvassed is wide, and this is one of the book's strengths. The caution of earlier Herodotean reception studies has left the field open for the venturesome approach Priestley takes. Admittedly, this makes for a work based not so much on direct intertextuality or allusion as on "soundings" (Richard Hunter's term, 109). Thus, the words "apparently" (109) and "seem" (111) appear in the midst of arguments more often than some might find comfortable. And as is almost inevitable in a work treating a wide span of texts, some of Priestley's connections between Herodotus and later writers appear more fully developed and persuasive than others. Her interpretation of Callimachus Iambus 6, for example (94-99), made for a more pointed, precise, and ultimately satisfying literary interaction than the link proposed between Herodotus and Antipater (89-94). In the book's most convincing pairings, Priestley steps back from the details of her arguments to discuss their consequences. Two good examples are her discussion of Apollonius' engagement with the Persian War theme (178-79), and her exploration of the meanings of Plutarch's comparison of Herodotus to the aoidos (219).

Occasionally one wishes Priestley had pushed even further in her interpretations of the dialogue between Herodotus' text and the works that later engaged it. Priestley contends that unlike other ancient biographical scraps, those concerning Herodotus "have little to support them in the Histories" (21), and she observes that the tradition makes no reference, for example, to Herodotus' travel to many of the places he claims to have visited. Downplaying a connection, however, between the biographical data that survive and the Histories may not do justice to the ingenuity of certain ancient readings. In the Suda passage cited (20), for instance, Herodotus is said to have expelled the tyrant of Halicarnassus. One wonders if this detail points to an ancient tradition in which Herodotus' "views" on tyranny were inferred from his text and incorporated into a biographic entry. A pattern from the Histories—the downfall of tyrants—was thus possibly mapped onto Herodotus' own actions, consonant with the ancient tendency to construct biography from an author's work. Indeed, in light of his own highly advertised presence in his text, one wishes to learn more about the reception of the Herodotean narrator-persona during the Hellenistic age, especially given the equivocal implications that adopting this persona would later generate in the works of Lucian and Pausanias.

These objections should not obscure the book's important accomplishments. Herodotus and Hellenistic Culture steers readers toward a more radical model of Herodotean reception than prior scholarship has put forth. It will teach contemporary readers not only about Herodotus' ancient readers but also about Herodotus. Students of Herodotus8 should find the book a refreshing turn in Herodoteana, in which scholarly perspectives and tendencies long since honed and, in some cases, at risk of becoming "unduly entrenched" (222) find new life as they are directed toward less familiar texts.



Notes:


1.   These include K.-A. Riemann, Das herodoteische Geschichtswerk in der Antike (Munich, 1967); O. Murray, "Herodotus and Hellenistic Culture," Classical Quarterly 22 (1972): 200-213; and S. Hornblower, "Herodotus' Influence in Antiquity," in The Cambridge Companion to Herodotus, 306-18 (Cambridge, 2006). See also G. Bowersock's 1989 essay ("Herodotus, Alexander, and Rome," American Scholar58.3: 407-14), critiquing Momigliano's view that Herodotus was among the most lambasted writers in antiquity. Bowersock finds remarkable, and deserving of further study, instances of ancient reception in which Herodotus did well — and particularly where he was appreciated for the "substance and structure of his work, not merely his style" (409).
2.   Murray (1972), (see footnote 1 above) 213.
3.   See 13, n. 49, citing S. Goldhill, Who Needs Greek? (Cambridge, 2002), 297 on the sometimes misleading passivity of the term "reception."
4.   R. Drews, The Greek Accounts of Eastern History, ch. 4 (Cambridge, MA, 1973) remains a valuable example of an historiographically focused reception of Herodotus.
5.   Priestley, "A Question of Sources: Diodorus and Herodotus on the River Nile," in Diodorus Siculus (L. Hau, A. Meeus, and B. Sheridan, eds., Leuven, forthcoming) promises a discussion of the source criticism related to her arguments about Diodorus — which she concedes are controversial.
6.   The phrase Ἡρόδοτον τὸν πεζὸν ἐν ἱστορίαισιν Ὅμηρον appears in the Salmakis Inscription recovered off Bodrum in 1995 (SGO 01/12/02).
7.   Priestley's work joins a wave of creative reception scholarship: L. Kim's Homer between History and Fiction in Imperial Greek Literature (Cambridge, 2010); R. Hunter's Hesiodic Voices (Cambridge, 2014); the Handbook to the Reception of Thucydides (C. Lee and N. Morley, eds., Malden, MA, forthcoming), and the Brill Companion to Herodotus in Antiquity and Beyond (V. Zali and J. Priestley, eds., Leiden, forthcoming).
8.   Readers less familiar with Herodotus may on occasion cast their eyes down the page, hoping for examples of the Herodotean phenomena Priestley mentions (for example, in the first full paragraph on p. 90, some readers might welcome examples of man-made thōmata).

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2014.10.41

David Branscome, Textual Rivals: Self-Presentation in Herodotus' 'Histories'. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2013. Pp. 262. ISBN 9780472118946. $70.00.

Reviewed by B. A. Ellis, The Warburg Institute (Anthony.Ellis@sas.ac.uk)

Version at BMCR home site

Preview

Herodotus' Histories presents its author engaging in 'inquiry' and (implicitly) displaying his results to an audience. One would therefore expect to learn a lot by examining characters in the Histories who engage in a similar task: Hecataeus, Aristagoras, Demaratus, and perhaps Solon, Artabanus, and others. Is it possible, by studying how protagonists succeed or fail to educate an audience with the fruits of their inquiry, to see how we, the audience, are supposed to respond? Does the narrator provide us with the evidence to evaluate his own efficacy as enquirer and presenter of enquiry? And how does he fare in comparison with his characters?

The author of Textual Rivals applies himself to the latter two questions, and presents interesting, if not uniformly persuasive answers. Branscome is not the first to consider them, as he notes in his introduction—which includes a careful doxography—but he asks these questions of a number of interesting episodes rarely considered together.

Chapter One ('Solon "using the truth"') looks at Solon's failure to convince Croesus of his evaluation of Croesus' olbos ('happiness'). Branscome argues that Solon uses the tools of historical enquiry in a manner analogous to the narrator, pointing to an implicit contrast with Herodotus' successful persuasion of his audience.

Chapter Two ('The "struggle" of Demaratus') contends that Demaratus, in his two dialogues with Xerxes, is presented as an 'inferior ethnographer' to the narrator, since he fails to persuade the Persian king of his account of foreign customs (namely those of the Spartans, in which he is an expert).

Chapter Three ('Aristagoras "deceiving well"') contends that Aristagoras rivals the narrator in a new way: whereas Solon and Demaratus told the truth but failed to persuade their interlocutors, Aristagoras is less truthful than Herodotus and meets with only partial success (Athenian support of the revolt). Aristagoras also serves as a negative foil for the narrator by providing basic details about Persian geography which Herodotus can expand on and correct.

Chapter Four ('The Athenians "alone" at Marathon'), the most original and engaging of the book, discusses the competing speeches of the Tegeans and the Athenians before the Battle of Plataea, each attempting to persuade the Spartans to allot them the prestigious right wing. Branscome notes the discrepancy between Herodotus' account of the Battle of Marathon in Book 6 and the Athenian version before Plataea, and argues that the Athenians' successful speech is presented as 'epitaphic' history that rivals his own more accurate account. Primed by the prologue's competing nationalistic aetiologies of the conflict between Europe and Asia, which Herodotus ultimately rejects as unverifiable, the reader has been taught to reject the patriotic Athenian version.

Chapter Five ('Xerxes' "laughable" Spectacle') looks at Xerxes' attempt to control his troops' perceptions of the outcome of Thermopylae, by hiding and moving the corpses and inviting his soldiers to behold the result. Xerxes too emerges as a textual rival to the narrator, but is less successful than any other, being rejected by both the internal and external audience. Herodotus' judgement that the spectacle is 'laughable' refers, Branscome argues, to the fact that the only misinformation Xerxes succeeds in spreading is unintended; the narrator's laughter at Xerxes' fabrications (8.24.2) recalls his polemical laughter at maps made by rival geographers (4.36.2).

A three-page 'Epilogue' contrasts Herodotus' authorial persona with that of Thucydides: where Herodotus uses 'rival inquirers' like the Athenians and Xerxes to present inferior versions of history, Thucydides' characters act as the narrator's 'allies' by explicitly criticizing or omitting epitaphic history of which the author disapproves.

The chapters vary greatly in interest and readability, but the book will nevertheless be an indispensable resource for those interested in Herodotus' metanarrative techniques, a field of growing interest. While the first three chapters lack pace and their analysis not infrequently fails to persuade, the fourth and fifth are fresh and engaging, and demonstrate Branscome's ample capacity for cogent analysis. The book might have made more attempt to demonstrate what Herodotus' creation of textual rivals tells us about the author's intellectual milieu (beyond Thucydides), but this is, perhaps, a task for future work.

The first two chapters fail to make a fully convincing case that Solon and Demaratus are presented as 'rival inquirers' to Herodotus. In contending that the reader of the Histories is invited to compare Solon's and Demaratus' failures with the narrator's successful persuasion of the reader, Branscome ignores a number of fundamental questions: is it not possible that some people are truly incorrigible—that no warning can shatter their illusions, and that suffering alone can educate them (see below on πάθει μάθος)? If Solon's words failed to hit the mark because they were true and devoid of flattery (1.30.3), is Solon therefore inferior to the narrator? Ought he to have used flattery and lies to put across his message? This would seem to be an unavoidable but untenable implication of Branscome's conclusions on p.53, particularly since Branscome points to no passage where the narrator suggests that he has persuaded or could successfully persuade an intransigent audience. Consideration of wider themes in the Histories should also give us pause for thought. The refusal of the wise Persian at 9.16 even to attempt to persuade Mardonius of the doom that will overtake the Persians suggests a narrative logic in which all attempts at persuasion are vain because 'what must happen' cannot be avoided (cf. 1.91.1, 7.17.2).

Also problematic is Branscome's characterization of Herodotus' narratorial persona. The Introduction makes a persuasive case that 'truthfulness ... is a fundamental element in Herodotus' self-presentation' (p.11), a welcome response to the increasingly popular view that Herodotus gives subtle clues to his reader that he is lying, even as he professes to tell the truth. Less convincing is the ubiquitous but undefended assumption that Herodotus, as narrator, 'presents himself as being completely successful at persuading his readers' (p.21) and as 'perfectly in tune with his audience' (p.30). We might imagine that Herodotus, like many writers, hoped that his work would meet with a positive reception. This does not mean that he presents himself as successful. Herodotus, in fact, never comments directly on his own reception, but several passages undermine the claim that he was uniformly persuasive to all audiences. Before relating the constitutional debate Herodotus infamously protests that many Greeks find the debate implausible (ἄπιστος), but that it is nevertheless true (3.80.1, cf. 6.43.3); later he prefaces his claim that the Athenians were the saviours of Greece with the qualification that this opinion will be odious (ἐπίφθονος) to most people (7.139.1). Although Herodotus engages polemically with his predecessors, Textual Rivals points to no occasion on which the narrator suggests that his discourse is capable of persuading those predisposed to disagree with him, or where it would be preferable to depart from the truth in order to do so.

Branscome also makes no mention of an important motif in the Histories and archaic literature: πάθει μάθος ('learning by suffering'). If, as the adage voiced by Croesus at 1.207 may suggest, a lesson is sometimes only fully grasped after one has suffered unfortunate consequences, the inclusion of unsuccessful warnings before great misfortunes may not be an object lesson in poor persuasive speaking. Arguably, speeches warning of future misfortune serve a metanarrative function, and Solon's delivery of unpalatable truths is anything but a 'failure'. In a qualified form the thesis of the first two chapters could no doubt cope with many of these issues; at the moment, however, rather too much is taken for granted.

The book's significant value lies in its insightful and careful analysis of five scenes not typically read against one another. Although less convincing in their wider argument, the early chapters have much to offer. Chapter One, for example, disabuses scholarship of a widespread misreading of Solon's conversation with Croesus logos: that Herodotus represents Solon as speaking tactfully and obliquely. As Branscome forcefully observes (pp.25-30), Solon is explicitly described as 'not flattering [Croesus] at all' and 'telling the truth' (οὐδὲν ὑποθωπεύσας, ἀλλὰ τῷ ἐόντι χρησάμενος, 1.30.3).1 Here and elsewhere Branscome's attention to detail allows him to bypass common misconceptions. But not all his close analysis is so convincing, and he is occasionally seduced into somewhat tendentious arguments by the exigencies of his argument. Take the claim that Solon's account of Tellus' life is 'historical' because it is told by Solon and therefore chronologically situated (as prior to or contemporary with Solon's own lifetime), so that it resembles the narrator's practice of dating other historical characters (e.g. Cylon, whom the narrator describes as 'before the time of Pisistratus', Hdt. 5.71). Or the argument that, despite mentioning no source for the story of Tellus, Solon nevertheless resembles the Herodotean narrator because he is, in effect, his own Athenian epichoric source for an Athenian event. Such parallels between the historical activity of Herodotus and Solon are more ingenious than persuasive: one must do much more than tell a story about someone from one's own city to resemble the remarkably source-aware narrator of the Histories. Branscome would have done better to base his discussion on the stronger similarities he also mentions.

Despite occasionally buttressing provocative claims with tenuous arguments, Branscome invariably gives fair and open consideration to competing readings, allowing the reader to make an informed opinion (an admirably Herodotean practice). A prime example is the discussion of the status of Plataea at the time of Marathon (pp.160-70): does Herodotus' statement that the smaller city had, long before 480 BCE, 'given itself to Athens' (6.108.6) indicate a relationship of total subservience and even absorption (so that Plataea could be implicitly counted as part of Athens, rendering its omission from Athenian accounts of Marathon insignificant) or was the relationship an alliance between (unequal) partners who retained distinct identities, so that Plataea's omission from the Athenian version constitutes a warped, epitaphic version of the past? The issue is complex, and the ancient sources inadequate. Branscome's exposition informs without imposing, yet wins through to a bold and novel conclusion.

In general, the research is punctilious and impressive. The absence of Grethlein (2009)2 from the Introduction is a rare omission; the article tackles topics central to Branscome's project and is mentioned only in chapter two. Branscome's exposition is slow and clear throughout. Generally this is admirable, but occasionally the pace leaves the reader flagging: points are set up, examined in detail, echoed through other discussions, and summed up in conclusion. The same arguments might have been housed in a slimmer volume.

Several stylistic eccentricities disrupt the reading experience, particularly the occasional use of formal narratological terms to no discernable advantage. It adds little, for example, to observe that both the stories Solon relates to Croesus constitute 'external analepsis', 'actorial analepsis', and 'completing analepsis' (pp. 25-6). It is more helpful to read that the stories took place independently of Solon's conversation with Croesus, are narrated by a character and not the narrator, and are not retold elsewhere in the Histories. Branscome does, at least, translate such words as he deploys them, but one gets the feeling that these relatively simple observations have been included precisely because of the labels they can bear. Here and elsewhere Textual Rivals fails the jargon litmus test by introducing (and swiftly abandoning) obscure specialist vocabulary which contributes nothing to the clarity or substance of the argument. He is, of course, scarcely alone in this indulgence. Particularly gratuitous is a long theoretical discussion of the discrepancy between extradiegetic and intradiegetic resonances (or, as Branscome finally calls it, 'irony'; pp.119-21).

Translations are surprisingly literal throughout, occasionally following Greek rather than English idiom (e.g. p.45: 'When by talking of the many prosperous things in relation to Tellus Solon had incited Croesus, [Croesus] asked whom [Solon] had seen as the second [most olbios] man after that one, thinking that he would surely win second prize, at least'). The advantage to this decision (and a decision it must be) is that readers with little Greek will follow Branscome's close analysis of the text; translations can occasionally be questioned (e.g. ἄλκιμοι: 'warlike', p.115; νέμεσις: 'righteous indignation', p.47). Another practice helpful to the Greek beginner will be Branscome's habit of giving key words first in Greek then in transliteration (e.g. ὅδε ... hode, p.129).

The book is handsomely printed, with only a handful of typographical errors in its 262 pages ('histôres' for histores, p.15; 'triple bids', p.32; ηρὸς for πρὸς, p.61; σημαινω for σημαίνω, n.72 p.135; 'area' for 'distance', p.139; 'The Athenian speakers [...] most take on', presumably for 'must', p.187; 'Any further Athens' ancient exploits', p.189). ​



Notes:


1.   Branscome happily avoids polemic, but this point provides a welcome correction to, e.g., Nagy (1990) Pindar's Homer (Baltimore, MD), pp.244, 247-8; Cairns (1996) 'Hybris, Dishonour, and Thinking Big', JHS 116, p.22; Munson (2001) Review of T. Harrison, Divinity and History, BMCR 2001.08.17; Pelling (2006) 'Educating Croesus', ClAnt 25, pp.150-1.
2.   Grethlein, J. (2009) 'How not to do History: Xerxes in Herodotus' Histories', AJPh 130: 195-217.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

2014.10.40

Peter Bing, Regina Höschele, Aristaenetus, Erotic Letters. Writings from the Greco-Roman world, 32. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2014. Pp. xxxvi, 147. ISBN 9781589837416. $34.95 (pb).

Reviewed by Anna Tiziana Drago, Università di Bari (anna.drago@uniba.it)

Version at BMCR home site

Nel panorama degli studi sull'epistolografia fittizia in lingua greca di età imperiale e tardoantica, la raccolta di cinquanta lettere d'amore attribuite da un unico testimone superstite (un codice viennese vergato da due copisti attivi tra il XII e il XIII secolo: Vindobonensis Phil. Gr. 310) ad Aristeneto ha goduto di un interesse intenso, ma episodico.

Dopo l'editio princeps delle Lettere ad Anversa nel 1566 a cura di Sambucus1 e la successiva edizione con traduzione latina e note di commento a cura di Mercier,2 alle epistole furono dedicate l'edizione integrale negli Epistolographi Graeci di Hercher3 e il monumentale commento di Boissonade.4 Alle cure di autorevoli studiosi novecenteschi – quali Albin Lesky e William Geoffrey Arnott – sono seguite, a intervalli di tempo irregolari, diverse traduzioni moderne, talvolta corredate da commento: i lettori italiani, che conobbero la raccolta molto tardi (data al 1807 la prima traduzione a stampa pubblicata a Pisa dall'abate Giulio Perini)5 dispongono da qualche anno delle traduzioni di Giuseppe Zanetto6 e dell'autrice di questa recensione (BMCR 2009.11.09); 7 al variegato panorama delle traduzioni in lingua tedesca, francese e spagnola e catalana8 è corrisposto una modesta fortuna editoriale in ambito anglosassone. Questo bel volume curato da Peter Bing e Regina Höschele colma ora meritoriamente questa lacuna (si tratta della prima traduzione integrale in lingua inglese dopo quasi tre secoli)9 con l'intento di raggiungere un più vasto pubblico di lettori non specialisti.

L'Introduction, articolata in diversi paragrafi (pp. xi-xxxvi), affronta con chiarezza esemplare e informazione aggiornata le questioni più complesse poste dalla raccolta: la fondatezza dell'attribuzione del Viennese, l'identità storico-letteraria dell'autore, la datazione della raccolta, le peculiarità della 'forma' lettera. Il corpo centrale e più cospicuo del volume è costituito dalla traduzione (Text and Translation: pp. 1-101) basata sul testo greco – riportato a fronte – dell'edizione teubneriana di Otto Mazal;10 dal testo prescelto, emendato di refusi tipografici e sviste, gli autori si discostano solo in pochi casi opportunamente elencati in incipit alla sezione delle Notes alla traduzione, che contempla una breve introduzione a ciascuna lettera, la spiegazione dei nomi dei corrispondenti (quando rilevanti) e il necessario bagaglio di informazioni che consenta ai lettori non specialisti una agevole lettura del testo. Chiude il volume una agile ma molto accurata Bibliography (pp. 143-147), dove trovano spazio non solo i titoli relativi alla raccolta, ma anche i lavori imprescindibili capaci di restituire un'immagine complessiva dell'epistolografia antica (in primis gli studi di Patricia Rosenmeyer, autorevole Editor del volume, ma anche i fondamentali lavori di Peter Bing sulla ricezione della poesia ellenistica e di Regina Höschele sul genere epistolografico).

L'Introduction racconta, con le modalità avvincenti di una narrazione romanzesca (e accattivanti sono anche i titoli dei vari paragrafi: Sender Unknown, Postmark Unclear, ecc.), la storia del codex unicus e le complesse vicende editoriali connesse a questo testimone, vergato in area idruntina, in quel territorio di frontiera di culture eccentriche che fu l'Italia meridionale di lingua greca. Ampio spazio gli autori dedicano alle questioni più ardue poste dalla raccolta: il problema dell'attribuzione di questo corpus epistolografico e quello della sua collocazione cronologica. Perduta la rilegatura originaria del codice (e dunque l'eventuale inscriptio con nome dell'autore e titolo dell'opera), l'attribuzione dell'epistolario ad Aristeneto si fonda esclusivamente sull'intestazione presente nella prima pagina conservata del testimone, che riporta le lettere sotto il titolo Ἐπιστολαὶ Ἀρισταινετ', interpretato per congettura, dal Lascaris in poi, come Ἐπιστολαὶ Ἀρισταινέτ[ου. E tuttavia, stante l'unicità del manoscritto (piuttosto corrotto, per di più) che tramanda la raccolta e data la circostanza quantomeno sospetta per cui il nome dell'autore della raccolta coincide con quello del mittente dell'epistola incipitaria, del tutto giustificata appare la cautela (se non scetticismo) di Bing e Höschele sull'attribuzione del corpus ad un epistolografo di nome Aristeneto, che i due studiosi preferirebbero individuare piuttosto con "Anonymous". Gli autori aderiscono, dunque, alla posizione più accreditata per cui Aristeneto è, con ogni plausibilità, un 'nome parlante'; sconfessano, tuttavia, l'interpretazione tradizionale del nome in senso passivo ("Degno della miglior lode") per suggerire un possibile significato attivo ("Cantore del bello" = "Praiser of the Best": p. xiii), già sostenuto nelle animadversiones di Boissonade («non optime laudatur, sed optime laudat») e particolarmente calzante per il mittente dell'epistola 1, 1 dedicata alla lode della suprema bellezza dell'etera Laide. Quanto alla cronologia, Bing e Höschele accedono alle argomentazioni tradizionali di Arnott e Mazal, riconsiderate e ottimamente ridiscusse di recente da Renate Burri:11 la menzione nell'epistola 1, 26 della città di Costantinopoli, "nuova Roma" fondata dall'imperatore Costantino nel 324 d.C., il riferimento, nella stessa epistola, al mimo Caramallo – la cui identificazione risulta, tuttavia, tutt'altro che univoca – , la vicenda narrata nell'epistola 1, 19 relativa a una mima redenta che approda a un matrimonio legittimo, in cui si è voluto vedere il rispecchiamento letterario della vicenda storica di Teodora, divenuta moglie dell'imperatore Giustiniano dopo aver esercitato il mestiere di attrice. Sulla scorta di questa documentazione, i due studiosi propendono per una datazione flessibile intorno al 500 d.C.; introducono, tuttavia, un assai interessante e non trascurabile elemento: il mittente dell'epistola 1, 26 presenta se stesso come "corriere pubblico" (τῆς πολιτείας ἱππεύς: r. 22; vd., diffusamente, la nota all'epistola a p. 123); il sistema dei corrieri di stato, istituito da Augusto, fu riformato sotto Diocleziano (284-305) e Costantino I (306-337) con la fondazione di un cursus velox (ὀξὺς δρόμος) che prevedeva l'uso del cavallo; la possibilità che lo stesso nome del mittente della lettera, Speusippo, evidentemente ingaggiato come funzionario del cursus velox, sia espressione della riforma di Costantino costituisce un ulteriore terminus post quem per la datazione della raccolta. L'Introduction comprende anche una serrata ancorché convincente analisi della tecnica imitativa dell'epistolografo: strutturate secondo complesse strategie imitative e organizzate in un tessuto linguistico ordito di infinite allusioni e reminiscenze, le Lettere costituiscono il testo collettore di una eccezionale stratificazione culturale, che fa capo al grande serbatoio della tradizione letteraria greca. I due studiosi fanno luce sul meccanismo compositivo che sottende le epistole attraverso l'analisi di alcuni casi esemplari: il dittico costituito dalle epistole 1, 5 e 1, 22 e il caso, per vari aspetti emblematico, della lettera 1, 19; un approssimarsi più minuzioso della lente interpretativa alle articolazioni del senso, per rintracciare l'idea generativa che è dietro la codificazione linguistica.

La traduzione delle lettere, sorretta da una rigorosa esegesi del testo, si segnala, a quanto è dato giudicare a una lettrice non anglofona, per essere molto godibile e letterariamente atteggiata, riecheggiante l'eccezionale stratificazione della langue poetica e tuttavia non esente da incursioni più colloquiali: una felicissima varietà stilistica, particolarmente adatta a rendere lo spessore linguistico convenzionale dell'originale, sempre attraversato da ironici effetti di spiazzamento. In particolare, mi piace segnalare la felice traduzione di 1, 12, 8, dove il termine ἡλικία è, a mio avviso, appropriatamente reso con «stature» (già Boissonade, che riprende Mercier, traduce «staturae decus»), laddove altri interpretano diversamente («jeunesse»: Vieillefond, «juventud»: Gallé Cejudo», «freschezza»: Zanetto): l'epistolografo sta qui chiaramente riproponendo il cliché retorico e letterario dell'alta statura della donna amata (l'archetipo è la Nausicaa omerica di Od. 6, 162-3). Altrove, gli autori seguono l'interpretazione vulgata: è questo il caso di 1, 7, 15-16, dove, in riferimento alla controversa e variamente emendata giuntura παρενήχομαι τῇ θαλάττῃ, comunemente intesa "nuotare lungo la riva del mare" (così Abresch, Reiske, Vieillefond e, da ultimo, Zanetto) o, più genericamente, "nuotare nel mare" (Perini, Boissonade, Hercher, Lesky), Bing e Höschele rendono «swim by in the sea» (diversa l'interpretazione di Gallé Cejudo, in linea con l'esegesi del passo fornita da Boissonade: «nadar a lo largo de la orilla del mar»; la protagonista si spinge più al largo, in quanto rassicurata dalla bonaccia).12 Analogamente, in 1, 24, 3, i due studiosi, come già Vieillefond13 e Zanetto, rendono con efficacia la scena per cui ciascuno degli amanti della protagonista cerca di incitare il proprio vicino, «his neighbor» (e non, genericamente, uno dei vicini), a farsi portavoce del malcontento generale (andrebbe qui coerentemente emendato il testo a fronte, che riproduce quello del codice e prevede il partitivo τῶν πλησίον, per accogliere l'accusativo τὸν πλησίον proposto da Mercier, peraltro confermato dai modelli platonici cui l'epistolografo si ispira).

Le note di commento, sia pure calibrate sulla scelta di privilegiare fruitori non specialisti, riescono nell'arduo intento di conciliare divulgazione e rigorosa analisi testuale; Bing e Höschele segnalano i riecheggiamenti più interessanti e privilegiano la memoria letteraria comica, saffica e alcaica (il lettore poco esperto potrà forse essere disorientato dalla citazione dei frammenti talora dall'edizione di Lobel e Page, talaltra da Voigt) nonché epigrammatica.

In definitiva, questo pregevole volume risulterà sicuramente efficace, secondo i desiderata dei curatori, per guidare nuovi e giovani lettori alla scoperta di un testo oltremodo piacevole; non mancherà tuttavia di fornire rilevanti spunti di riflessione anche agli studiosi della (cosiddetta) Spätantike.



Notes:


1.   Ἀρισταινέτου ἐπιστολαὶ ἐρωτικαί· τινὰ τῶν παλαιῶν ἡρώων ἐπιτάφια. E Bibliotheca c.v. Ioan. Sambuci, Antverpiae 1566.
2.   Ἀρισταινέτου ἐπιστολαί. Aristaeneti epistolae Graecae. Cum Latina interpretazione et notis [Josiae Merceri], Parisiis 1595.
3.   Epistolographi Graeci, recensuit, recognovit, adnotatione critica et indicibus instruxit Rodolphus Hercher, Parisiis 1873.
4.   Ἀρισταίνετος. Aristaeneti Epistolae. Ad fidem cod. Vindob. recensuit… aliorum notis suisque instruxit Jo. Fr. Boissonade, Lutetiae 1822.
5.   Lettere di Aristeneto tradotte da un accademico fiorentino, Crisopoli 1807.
6.   Alcifrone, Filostrato, Aristeneto. Lettere d'amore, a cura di F. Conca e G. Zanetto, Milano 2005 (la traduzione di Aristeneto, curata dallo studioso, occupa le pp. 233-417).
7.   Aristeneto. Lettere d'amore, introduzione, testo, traduzione e commento a cura di A.T. Drago, Lecce 2007.
8.   È ora in preparazione una traduzione commentata delle Lettere in greco moderno a cura di Vassilis Vertoudakis.
9.   In ambito anglosassone, si segnalano la traduzione di una selezione di lettere a cura di T. Brown confluita in M. Voiture, Familiar and Courtly Letters to Persons of Honour and Quality, London 1701 (riproposta in T. Brown, The Works of Mr. Thomas Brown in Prose and Verse; Serious, Moral, and Comical, London 1707) e quella a cura di A. Boyer, Letters of Wit […] Also Select Letters of Gallantry out of the Greek of Aristaenetus […], London 1701. Si ha notizia inoltre di una traduzione pubblicata anonima: Letters of Love and Gallantry: Written in Greek by Aristaenetus, London 1715?; cfr. anche N.B. Halhed-R.B.B. Sheridam, The Love Epistles of Aristaenetus Translated from the Greek into English Metre, London 1771 (seguìta da una seconda edizione corretta nel 1773 e da numerose ristampe). Esistono anche traduzioni parziali: a F.A. Wright (Alciphron. Letters from the Country and the Town, London 1928) si deve la versione inglese (alle pp. 15-6) della lettera 1, 5. Va anche segnalata la traduzione di tre lettere dell'epistolario (1, 13, 2, 3 e 2, 15) fornita da C.D.N. Costa, Greek Fictional Letters, Oxford 2001, 60-7.
10.   Aristaeneti epistularum libri II, edidit O. Mazal, Stutgardiae 1971. Da questa edizione riportiamo, a seguire, la numerazione delle lettere di Aristeneto.
11.   R. Burri, Zur Datierung und Identität des Aristainetos, «MH» 61, 2004, 83-91.
12.   Aristéneto. Cartas Eróticas, introducción, traducción y notas de R.J. Gallé Cejudo, Madrid 1999.
13.   Aristénète. Lettres d'amour, texte établi et traduit par J.-R. Vieillefond, Paris 1992.

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2014.10.39

Nicoletta Brocca, Lattanzio, Agostino e la Sibylla Maga: Ricerche sulla fortuna degli 'Oracula Sibyllina' nell'Occidente latino. Studi e Testi TardoAntichi 11. Roma: Herder editrice e libreria, 2011. Pp. 437. ISBN 9788889670651. €50.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Lorenzo DiTommaso, Concordia University Montréal (L.DiTommaso@concordia.ca)

Version at BMCR home site

There are three basic types of oracular literature attributed to the legendary prophetesses known as Sibyls. The first type consists of the oracles of classical antiquity, traditionally composed in Greek and arranged in heroic hexameters. Virtually nothing survives of what was once a vast and varied corpus that included the famous Libri Sibyllini of ancient Rome, which were kept in the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus and officially consulted in times of national emergency. Reconstituted after a fire consumed the temple in 83 BCE, the Libri Sibyllini survived until the early fifth century CE.

The second type of Sibylline literature is the Sibylline Oracles, a heterogeneous compilation of Jewish and Christian apocalyptic prophecies dating from the second century BCE to the seventh century CE. Its Greek text, likewise disposed in heroic hexameters, betrays evidence of many layers of redaction. The text survives in several ancient papyrus fragments and in three groups of late mediaeval MSS, designated Φ, Ψ, and Ω, which modern editions collate into twelve "books" of oracles (= SibOr 1-8 and 11-14).

The third type of Sibylline literature consists of the post-classical apocalyptic oracles. These were written almost exclusively by Christians from the end of the fourth century to the Reformation. They were composed in verse or prose, typically in Latin but also in a wide range of other languages. Two specimens of the type are the Vaticinium Sibyllae Erithraeae and the short prophecies of the ten (or twelve) Sibyls foretelling the advent of Christ, the latter often accompanied by portraits displaying iconography that is distinctive to each Sibyl. Several of these post-classical oracles exist in multiple versions, the result of recurrent textual updating as a response to changing historical circumstances.

Accompanying all three types of Sibylline literature are the writings of early Christian theologians that include information about the classical Sibyls or quote passages from the Sibylline Oracles, and thereafter were copied throughout the Middle Ages, occasionally forming the basis for new Sibylline compositions. Best-known among these patristic writings are Lactantius's list of the number and names of the Sibyls (D.I. 1.6, based in part on a lost work by Varro) and Augustine's Latin rendition of the acrostic hymn of SibOr 8.217-250 (Civ. Dei 18.23). For Lactantius, Augustine, and other such theologians, the 'pagan' Sibyls presaged Christ as surely as did the prophets of the Old Testament. Mischa Hooker's 2007 University of Cincinnati dissertation, still unpublished, remains the most thorough investigation of the patristic use of the Sibyls and the Sibylline Oracles.1

This book by Nicoletta Brocca investigates the Sibylline tradition in the patristic writings and the reception-history of these writings in Latin Christendom in the Middle Ages. Chapter One briefly surveys the Sibylline phenomenon in ten early Christian sources: the Shepherd of Hermas, Justin Martyr, Tatian, Athenagoras of Athens, Theophilus of Antioch, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, the Cohortatio ad Graecos, Lactantius, and Augustine. Chapter Two offers a summary outline of the patristic use of the Sibylline Oracles and an examination of the sources and contents of the so-called "Sibylline Theosophy." Chapter Three examines the Sibylline acrostic in its Latin translation. Extant in hundreds of MSS copies and often attributed to the Erythraean Sibyl (following Augustine), this short hymn appears in a range of formats and is sometimes appended to other Sibylline texts. Chapter Four discusses two lesser-known Sibylline texts, the cento In manus iniquas infidelium postea veniet (apud Aug., Civ. Dei 18.23) and the Dicta Sibyllae magae. Both texts are indicative of the long afterlife of the patristic understanding of the Sibyls well into the Renaissance and Reformation. Brocca concentrates on philological issues associated with the various texts, which reveals her careful scholarship in this respect. However, she devotes less attention to current literary and cultural issues, such as the proposals of Pier Franco Beatrice regarding the affiliation between the Tübingen Theosophy and the extant version of Greek text of the Sibilla Tiburtina,2 and the use of the patristic quotations of the Sibyls within their late mediaeval contexts.

Six useful appendixes following Chapter Four present critical editions of the central texts: (i) the catalogues of the Sibyls, according to Lactantius (apud Varro), Isidore, the Theosophy, Lydus, the Scholia to the Phaedrus, and the Suda, which are helpfully arranged in parallel columns; (ii) the Sibylline acrostic in its Greek and Latin versions; (iii) the Saeculare Sibyllinum in both Greek (SibOr 8.1-26) and Latin; (iv) the oracle Veniet enim rex omnipotens; (v) the cento In manus iniquas infidelium postea veniet and the Dicta Sibyllae magae; and (vi) a list of citations of the Sibylline Oracles in the patristic writings. One observes several minor inaccuracies in the MS references in this section:

"Il Iudicii signum" (Brocca pp. 365-66)
Paris, BnF lat. 2832, fol. 123 (should read 123v-124r)
Valenciennes, BM 404, fol. 65 (should read 65r-v)
"La traduzione nel Saeculare Sibyllinum" (pp. 369-71)
Karlsruhe, BLB Aug CLXXII, fol. 35 (should read 35r-v)
"Saeculare Sibyllinum 'vv.' 1-22(26)" (pp. 372-73)
Karlsruhe, BLB Aug CLXXII, fols. 33r-36v (should read 33r)
"I Dicta Sibyllae magae" (pp. 380-81)
Paris, BnF lat. 2773, fol. 24 (should read 24r-v)
Valenciennes, BM 404, fol. 62 (should read 62r-v)

Much of Brocca's book is essentially derivative, although to some degree this is neither avoidable nor necessarily objectionable. After all, the Sibylline prophecies have, since the Renaissance, been the object of intensive study by antiquarians, classicists, philologists, biblical scholars, and mediaevalists, and it is difficult to say something about them that is wholly brand-new. The only sure recipe for discovery is to return to the manuscript libraries in search of fresh evidence, as Anke Holdenried's 2006 study of the Latin versions of the Sibilla Tiburtina3 and Christian Jostmann's 2006 monograph on the Vaticinium Sibyllae Erithraea4 admirably demonstrate. Admittedly, Brocca's book contains an impressive list of nearly 100 MSS cited (pp. 423-34). Yet the bulk of these are utilised to adduce arguments that have already been advanced by other scholars, and perhaps a telling point is that several of the book's noted inaccuracies in MS referencing repeat those in a seminal study by Bernhard Bischoff.5 The chief exceptions to the rule appear in the footnotes, which contain such a wealth of manuscript information that one wonders whether some of it could have been incorporated into the book's main arguments.

In the final analysis, Brocca's book provides specialists in late antique and mediaeval apocalyptic literature with a fine overview of the patristic use of the Sibylline phenomenon, and of the history of that use into the Middle Ages. It also offers excellent critical editions of some important Sibylline texts and other primary material. For this we are in her debt.



Notes:


1.   Mischa André Hooker, "The Use of Sibyls and Sibylline Oracles in Early Christian Writers" (Ph.D. Dissertation: University of Cincinnati, 2007).
2.   Pier Franco Beatrice, Anonymi Monophysitae Theosophia: An Attempt at Reconstruction (Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae 56 Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2001).
3.   Anke Holdenried, The Sibyl and Her Scribes. Manuscripts and Interpretation of the Latin Sibylla Tiburtina c. 1050-1500 (Church, Faith and Culture in the Medieval West; Aldershot/Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2006).
4.   Christian Jostmann, Sibilla Erithea Babilonica: Papsttum und Prophetie im 13. Jahrhundert (MGH Schriften 54; Hannover: Hahnsche Buchhandlung, 2006).
5.   Bernhard Bischoff, "Die lateinischen Übersetzungen und Bearbeitungen aus den Oracula Sibyllina," Mélanges Joseph de Ghellinck, S.J. Tome I: antiquité (Museum Lessianum, section historique 13; Gembloux: J. Duculot), 121-47. Reprinted in idem Mittelalterliche Studien. Ausgewählte Aufsätze zur Schriftkunde und Literaturgeschichte. Band I (Stuttgart: Anton Hiersemann, 1966), 150-71.

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