Monday, May 4, 2009


Version at BMCR home site
Walter Lapini, Capitoli su Posidippo. Hellenica, 25. Alessandria: Edizioni dell'Orso, 2007. Pp. xvii, 493. ISBN 978-88-7694-993-7. €60.00 (pb).
Reviewed by Alexander Sens, Georgetown University

This volume comes as a useful contribution to the still burgeoning literature on the epigrams of Posidippus, and especially the 'new' poems published in 2001 as P.Mil.Vogl. VIII 309. Although it is formally divided into two halves--the first containing lengthier studies of individual poems or groups of poems, the second a series of briefer observations on individual passages--the primary focus of the entire volume is the constitution of the text of the poems from the Milan papyrus as well as those preserved in the Greek Anthology and by other sources. I should say up front that I am thanked by Lapini for providing him with an early draft of my forthcoming commentary on Asclepiades or Posidippus AP 5.209 (*128 Austin-Bastianini).

The volume covers a great deal of ground. The Milan papyrus is organized in sections, each preceded by a generic label. Poems from each of these groups receive close attention, as do epigrams known prior to the publication of the papyrus. In the first half of the book, Lapini devotes chapters to the conclusion of the lithika; to a series of poems from the oionoskopika; to the poem on Arion's dolphin from the anathematika (here, Lapini defends a reconstruction he proposed at ZPE 143 (2003)); to one of the epitymbia (51 A-B); to an epigram from the andriantopoiika (67 A-B); to the so-called Seal of Posidippus (118 A-B); and to an epigram preserved by Athenaeus. There is also a stimulating discussion of possible references to Aphrodite Zephyritis in the extant poems. The second half of the book contains chapters on each of the sections of the Milan Posidippus, as well as on poems from the "old" corpus; in this half of the book, Lapini offers briefer critical and exegetical suggestions on a range of epigrams.

Although Lapini's interests are broad, the bulk of his attention is devoted to correcting and supplementing the text of Posidippus as it has been preserved on the Milan papyrus, in the manuscripts that constitute the Greek Anthology, and in the secondary tradition.

There are, indeed, many passages of the Milan papyrus (and of the "old" Posidippus) where the text is largely intact but manifestly corrupt and thus in need of editorial intervention. There are others in which the point is obscure, the language seemingly awkward, or the letters surrounding a lacuna hard to explain. The extent to which these also warrant correction is a very tricky question, to which different scholars are likely to have different answers. In several places, Lapini argues for retaining the transmitted text by repunctuating or reinterpreting, but in general his approach is interventive, and the volume brims with suggestions, some of them attractive, for improving the text that has been transmitted to us. Lapini often rethinks problematic or lacunose passages in interesting ways, as for example in his discussion of relationship of the fly and the miniature statue of a chariot in 67 A-B (pp. 98-107), or his suggestion of [ἐ]κνεῖν rather than [ὀ]κνεῖν (edd. prr.) in 110 A-B (pp. 157-9). For some other passages I am sometimes less convinced, in large part because I have a slightly different threshold for editorial intervention and adopt a more conservative attitude, colored by the fact that many passages that seemed manifestly corrupt to earlier generations of scholars have been shown to be perfectly sound and comprehensible in the light of a better understanding of Hellenistic intertextual and narrative strategies.

Lapini is quite comprehensive in his collection of primary and secondary material (the bibliography comes in just shy of a hundred pages), and the volume offers a useful collection of information from which all scholars working on Posidippus will benefit. There are also moments when one feels things have gone somewhat too far. Thus, for example, Lapini rightly observes that not every passage in which the poet seems to be engaging in play with a speaking name is actually a literary game, and to illustrate the point, he accumulates almost two full pages (42-3) of modern examples of real works of modern scholarship in which the relationship between the name of the author and the subject matter might appear too good to be true. Similarly, I am not sure that it is necessary to give a complete enumeration of the various but often very similar translations of the phrase θαλάττης | ψαύοψσαν at *128. 5-6 (pp. 166-8) to make the point that the phrase is a difficult one, as Gow-Page and others observed; a more synthetic summary of various approaches would have sufficed.

The volume is too rich in detail for me to offer a thorough accounting of the places where I agree and disagree with the author, and I restrict myself to a few exempli gratia observations on specific passages. It is in the nature of a book review that I here focus on places in which I differ from the author, but that fact should not obscure my regard for the volume as a whole.

p. 145 n. 22 (on 120.1): for the confusion of ναί and καί, add Asclep. 17.4 Gow-Page (καὶ apogr. : ναὶ), though καὶ περὶ still seems to me more likely as a correction of the faulty text transmitted by Athenaeus. καὶ σὺ at Anyte 10 Gow-Page (ap. Poll. v. 48), though not line initial, may offer an interesting comparandum, since καὶ there may be understood to locate the dead dog to whom it is addressed in a broader tradition of funerary epigram.

pp. 165-91: Lapini makes the attractive suggestion that *128 A-B (ascribed alternatively to Asclepiades in the Greek Anthology), in which a narrative addressed to Aphrodite tells the story of the initiation of reciprocal love after Cleandrus sees Nico swimming off shore, may evoke the dual roles of Aphrodite Zephyritis as protector of those at sea and as guarantor of conjugal love. I remain unpersuaded, however, that editorial intervention is needed in *128.6. In defense of my own interpretation: Lapini's objections seem not to take into account the fundamental compression of epigrammatic narrative and other literary features of the poem.

p. 203 (on 17.3 A-B): It seems risky to eliminate the rare word ἀντήεις by emending ἀντήεντα to ἀντή[σ]οντα. As Lapini observes, the adjective has the sense 'hostile" in its only other attestation (Pi. P. 9.93), but Hellenistic poets often use adjectives in new ways, and there is no reason it cannot mean 'opposing' or the like here.

p. 210 (on 21.1 A-B): I would like greater clarity on what it means to set sail for "the whole voyage" in this context, whether the papyrus has πάντα πλέον or πάντα πλόον. Aristid. 17.249 is a less useful parallel than one would like, since there the broader context makes it transparent what expedition is intended.

p. 289 (on 86.4 A-B): The suggestion καὶ ἐ[ς ἕτερα (i.e. "on other occasions") is contextually attractive, though one wishes for comparable expressions for victories at athletic competitions.

p. 290 (on 87.3): It is not clear to me why one should wish to attempt to avoid the accumulation of relative pronouns in the first place. In the absence of more compelling grounds for altering it, the text as transmitted can stand.

p. 297-9 (on 93 A-B): Lapini argues for retaining ψυχρὸν rather than emending to ψυχροῦ, and to do so, punctuates ᾤχετο γάρ as a self-standing parenthesis. On its own, "(for he died)" seems completely banal as an explanatory parenthesis, however, and the point of the digression seems more likely to be that the honorand died while sailing in the middle of winter. That correption of -ου is not otherwise attested in the second hemistich of the pentameter in the corpus, is hardly fatal.

p. 306 (on 93.2 A-B): Whereas ἠέλιον ὥραν may easily be used in both a literal sense of a blind man recovering his sight and a metaphorical one of someone being born, it is less obvious that one can use the expression "see heavy Hades" metaphorically to mean "go blind," and Lapini's δὶς μ[οῦνος καὶ δὶς βαρὺ]ν εἶδ' ἀίδην seems less satisfactory than edd. pr.'s δὶς μ[οῦνος βλέψας τὸ]ν .. or the like..

p. 309 on 104 A-B: The opening expression στῆθι τεταρπ[ομένος combines two ideas common in addresses to passersby: the request that they stop to learn the information on the tomb, and that they rejoice (i.e. χαῖρε (χαίρετε)). The phrase as a whole stands in opposition to the third verse of the epigram (i.e. if [you can't stay but must] move on) and I am not convinced that it should be split into two clauses by a raised stop.

p. 315 (on 125.1 A-B = AP 5.186.1): Lapini's πιθανῶς ... δακρύουσα seems to me a more prosaic correction of the transmitted text than Reiske and Bothe's widely accepted πιθανοῖς ..δακρύοισι; although it cannot be excluded absolutely on those grounds, it seems less attractive to me.

p. 324 (on 121.1 A-B): What seems awkward to one may seem striking and meaningful to another: in my view, it is inadvisable to repunctuate or emend away the striking expression δάκρυα καὶ κῶμοι, τί μ' ἐγείρετε ... . I am not persuaded by Lapini's suggestion that the first three words might be taken as a complete sentence meaning "Even komoi (may be the cause of) tears," especially given how unsurprising such a claim would be in the epigrammatic tradition. The phrase as a whole captures the range of a lover's experience, from revelry to tears.

Such disagreements are inevitable in a work of this scope, and only illustrate the richness of this provocative and wide-ranging volume, which will be of great interest to all students of Posidippus, and of Hellenistic poetry in general.

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