Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Version at BMCR home site
R.F. Regtuit (ed.), Scholia in Thesmophoriazusas; Ranas; Ecclesiazusas et Plutum. Scholia in Aristophanem, III 2/3. Groningen: Egbert Forsten, 2007. Pp. 131. ISBN 978-90-6980-173-5. €110.00.
Reviewed by R. Tordoff, York University, Toronto

This is a momentous occasion. The publication of the final fascicule of the Groningen edition of the scholia to Aristophanes marks the completion of the scholarly endeavours of nearly half a century, made possible by the support of the NWO (The Netherlands Organisation for the Advancement of Pure Research). The project began in 1960, under the supervision of W.J.W. Koster (until 1975) and latterly of D. Holwerda, who has seen it through to completion in the new millennium with the appearance of the scholia to the Thesmophoriazusae and Ecclesiazusae edited by Remco Regtuit.

Given that this slender, handsome volume sets the capstone upon nearly fifty years of international cooperation in the painstaking process of producing the first new critical edition of the complete scholia to Aristophanes since Dübner's in 1842, the reader will forgive the inclusion of a brief list of the contributors and their achievements.

Part IV: The Commentaries of John Tzetzes: (1) on Plutus, ed. L. Massa Positano (1960); (2) on Clouds ed. D. Holwerda (1960); (3) on Frogs and Birds, ed. W. J. W. Koster (1962); (4) Indices (1964).

Part I: (1A) Prolegomena on Comedy, ed. W. J. W. Koster (1975); (1B) Scholia to Acharnians, ed. N. G. Wilson (1975); (2) Scholia to Knights ed. D. Mervyn Jones, N. G. Wilson (1969); (3.1) Ancient Scholia to Clouds, ed. D. Holwerda (1977); (3.2) Recent Scholia to Clouds, ed. W. J. W. Koster (1974).

Part II: (1) Scholia to Wasps, ed. W. J. W. Koster (1978); (2) Scholia to Peace, ed. D. Holwerda (1982); (3) Scholia to Birds, ed. D. Holwerda (1991); (4) Scholia to Lysistrata, ed. J. Hangard (1996).

Part III: (1a) Ancient Scholia to Frogs, ed. M. Chantry (1999); (1b) Recent Scholia to Frogs, ed. M. Chantry (2001); (2/3) Scholia to Thesmophoriazusae and Ecclesiazusae ed. R. F. Regtuit (2007); Ancient Scholia to Plutus, ed. M. Chantry (1994); (4b) Recent Scholia to Plutus, ed. M. Chantry (1996).

The quality and the interest of the material preserved in the Aristophanes scholia show considerable variation across the corpus taken as a whole. The scholia to the Ecclesizausae are particularly jejune, containing very little of the scholarly richness of the Alexandrian work on Birds or Frogs. In the case of the Thesmophoriazusae, undoubtedly the most scholarly annotation attaches to v. 162 (162a in Regtuit's edition) and preserves remnants of the learning of Aristophanes of Byzantium and a good dose of the fractious, disputatious comments of Didymus.

Richness of content aside, the scholia to Thesmophoriazusae are particularly to be treasured because their transmission, like that of the play, hangs by a single thread, the Codex Ravennas 429 (R). Were it not for the survival of R, a manuscript written in miniscule around AD 950 and containing all eleven surviving plays of Aristophanes with scholia, the Thesmophoriazusae would be known only in quotations and papyrus fragments, and its scholia would be lost except for those preserved in the indirect tradition in the Lexica.

The scholia of the Codex Ravennas, including those to Thesmophoriazusae, were first published by Immanuel Bekker in London in 1829. In 1818 Bekker had produced the first collation of the scholia in R, which had recently been rediscovered in Ravenna by Invernizi, apparently a few years before his 1794 edition of Aristophanes. To relate its earlier history as briefly as possible, Codex R, taken from the library of Urbino, furnished the texts of the Lysistrata and Thesmophoriuzusae for their first printed edition, the Juntine Aristophanes published in Florence in 1515; but precisely how and when it came to Ravenna remains shrouded in obscurity. Bekker pronounced Invernizi's efforts in making this collation a testament to his incredible sluggishness matched by an equal measure of ignorance, and thus began a long history of the despair of successive classical scholars over their predecessors' failings. Bekker's collation of the scholia, which W. G. Rutherford excoriated for being conducted in a "slovenly manner" (1896, vol. I, p. xiv n. 6, cf. xiii-xiv), was revised by Seidler and was the foundation for a flurry of activity in the 1830s, as Thiersch and Fritzsche edited the Thesmophoriazusae with scholia in 1832 and 1838 respectively, while Dindorf's 1838 four-volume Aristophanes, published in Oxford, included an edition of the scholia in part III of volume IV. It appears that the Ravennas scholia were transcribed afresh for Dindorf's edition by M. Miller1 and it is all but certain that Dindorf never consulted R himself. Further contributions came in the form of Dübner's single-volume edition of the Aristophanes scholia in 1842, which re-edited and expanded Dindorf's work, and in Enger's edition of the play and scholia in 1844 which added further scholia vetera. However, neither Dübner nor Enger based his edition on an independent examination of the manuscript of R, and work of the ancient scholars of Aristophanes preserved therein had to wait more than fifty years until W.G. Rutherford's edition, which relied on the work of Dr. Hans Graeven who consulted the Codex Ravennas and compared the collations of A. Martin and von Holzinger, both published in 1882. Rutherford's edition and translation of scholia to all eleven plays (vol. II including the scholia to Thesmophoriazusae appearing in 1896) is something of a white elephant in the study of the Aristophanic commentators because he edited (and translated) only the scholia preserved in R; but in the case of Thesmophorizusae, where R is our only source, his work has been of enduring importance.

It may now have been superseded. In dealing with difficult matters Regtuit has proceeded with the work of editing with all due caution and austere textual conservatism. Among the bolder decisions, a confident transposition has been effected at 870 which assigns the words οἶσθ' οὖν ὃ δρᾶσον; to the lost Polyides of Euripides in disagreement with Nauck and more recently Kannicht (TGrF V.2) who preferred to assign the quotation to Euripides, Hecuba 225, explaining the scholium's Polyidus as a corruption of Polydorus, the alternative title by which the play was known. Naturally, the final word will rest with the editors of the fragments of Euripides, but from the position of expert in editing the scholia to Aristophanes, Regtuit has struck a blow for the Polyidus: the passage is discussed in the editor's prolegomena (pp. 12-13) and the arguments offered are compelling.

The work of editing the scholia in Ravennas 429 underlines the difficulty when dealing with a single manuscript tradition of steering a course between the competing claims of preserving faithfully, accurately, and without prejudice the readings of the manuscript as they stand and the need to make sense of an inevitably flawed textual tradition. As Rutherford remarked rather caustically of his predecessors in the editorial tradition, "[i]f editors of the scholia had taken the trouble to translate them, they would scarcely have been so apt to print them in a form which often makes desperate nonsense" (ibid. p. viii). The following is a case in point.

The scholium 389b contains notes on the usage of the verb σμήχειν. The first sentence of the notice declares that the use of ἐπισμῇ here is metaphorical and comparable to the (metaphorical) sense of ἐπιτρίβει, meaning to afflict or to destroy, but literally to break something down into fine particles (to rub or crush). Diodorus, the annotation reports, argued that the usage here is not metaphorical but rather it is to be explained as a dialect feature. Thus, according to Diodorus, σμήχειν does not mean ἐπιτρίβειν (in its metaphorical sense) but rather τύπτειν ἢ σκώπτειν. The point here is that the verb σμήχειν is supposed to convey a simple, physical action, as the non-metaphorical usage of ἐπιτρίβειν does. The verb τύπτειν (hit, strike) fits perfectly; the verb σκώπτειν (jeer, ridicule) does not. If σμήχειν means σκώπτειν (as well as τύπτειν), then the former must be a metaphorical usage and Diodorus' note is self-contradictory. Clearly what Diodorus wrote is τύπτειν ἢ σκήπτειν ("hit or smite / hurl down upon"), as Rutherford saw. It is of course significant that this note was so mishandled as to allow the word σκώπτειν to infiltrate the text and establish itself there contrary to common sense, and that information should be available to the reader; but at the very least Rutherford's σκήπτειν should be remembered in the apparatus, and one might even go so far as to argue that the text is not in fact the proper place for σκώπτειν.

If I have suggested that the conservative bent of the editorial decisions has on occasion been a little too severe, it should not detract from the very great achievement that this volume represents. When reviewing the first fascicule to appear, which was of course from Part IV, Mervyn-Jones remarked "Tzetzes never had it so good."3 With the completion of Alan Sommerstein's commentaries and indices and now the consummation of the NWO scholia project as well as the publication of Nigel Wilson's OCT Aristophanes, Aristophanes scholars will be delighted to confess that they have never had it so good; they will indeed be in a better position to study their author than any generation of scholars since the Alexandrians.3


1.   See W. G. Clark, 'The History of the Ravenna Manuscript of Aristophanes', Journal of Philology 3 (1871), pp. 153-60, at p. 153.
2.   Classical Review (1961), p. 120.
3.   The number of errors (nisi fallor) that I detected is small and there is nothing, I think, that is seriously misleading.

Th. 267/8: read λαλήσεις for λαλήλεις
Th. 533: read Ἕρσης for Ἔρσης
Th. 1174: read κἀνακάλπασον for κἀνακάλπισον
Th. 1175d Rutherford's [τί] τὸ περσικὸν ὄρχημα has much to recommend it.
Eccl. Argumentum A2, l. 5: read αὑτῶν for αὐτῶν
Eccl. 18: read σκίρον for σκῖρον
Eccl. 346: read ἅρμοζον for ἁρμόζον

1 comment:

  1. BMCR 2008.09.24 Tordoff on Regtuit is an early and incomplete draft (as will be clear from even the most casual reading: incomplete footnotes, Wilson's OCT has of course appeared and been reviewed in this journal, etc.). This draft was sent to the journal in error. That error was corrected but sadly and inexplicably has been reinstated in the distribution of this piece.

    In particular, I would like to apologize to Colin Austin, whose generosity with his time and expert help went unacknowledged, and again to him and to S. Douglas Olson, whose work on Thesmophoriazusae it appears from the text of the review I have deliberately ignored: nothing could be further from the truth.

    Rob Tordoff


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