Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Version at BMCR home site
Christos Karvounis (ed.), Demosthenes. Reden zur Finanzierung der Kriegsflotte. Texte zur Forschung Band 90. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2008. Pp. 143. ISBN 9783534193479. €39.90.
Reviewed by Jeremy Trevett, York University

This volume, published in the series Texte zur Forschung, offers an introduction, Greek text and facing German translation, of three private speeches in the Demosthenic corpus. The speeches (47, 50, and 51) are connected, as the book's title indicates, by their subject matter, the financing and operation of Athens' navy in the middle years of the fourth century BC.

The idea of a thematically linked selection of speeches is a good one, but there are two fundamental features of the book which are likely to limit its usefulness. The first is that the text, which is described as being based on Rennie's 1931 Oxford Classical Text ('Dem Originaltext liegt die Oxfordausgabe von W. Rennie, Demosthenis orationes, III, Oxford 1931 zugrunde': p. 10), is presented without either an apparatus criticus or any discussion of how it was constituted. It is thus unclear where, if anywhere, it diverges from Rennie's edition. (I have not spotted any differences in the passages that I have compared, but under the circumstances have regarded it as a work of supererogation to collate the two systematically.) Since Karvounis has purportedly edited ('herausgegeben': title page) the text, and refers to it as an original text, albeit based on that of Rennie, it is frustrating to be unable to tell how his text differs.

The second feature is the absence, in accordance with the format of the series, of notes or commentary. As a result, the only explication that Karvounis is able to provide is in the book's Introduction. Comparison with Victor Bers' recent English-language translation of speeches 50 and 51, in the University of Texas Press series 'The Oratory of Classical Greece', in instructive.1 Bers, in line with that series' policy, provides footnotes rather than a commentary, but there are many points, e.g. on matters of prosopography, where he provides necessary information, and on which Karvounis is perforce silent. I do not wish to labour the point but the primary interest of these speeches for most readers is likely to be historical, and I cannot imagine, for example, what reader of the speech Against Polycles would not wish to know, or benefit from knowing, that the shadowy exile Callistratus whom the speaker refuses to transport in his ship (section 46) is the important politician Callistratus of Aphidna. A rather optimistic footnote in the Introduction (p. 42, n. 75) advises the reader who wishes to pursue questions of prosopography to consult either Kirchner's Prosopographia Attica or Davies' Athenian Propertied Families,2 but how many of Karvounis' intended readers are likely to be in a position to do this?

The Introduction covers a lot of ground in relatively brief compass, and does so very well. Its sections deal with Athens in the mid-fourth century (11-15); Athens' legal (15-18) and taxation and liturgical systems (18-20); the trireme (20-26); the trierarchy (26-34); and the individual speeches, discussing their content, style and date (34-47). Obviously the coverage of some of these topics is somewhat brief, and there are points on which one might quibble, but Karvounis presents a lot of material with admirable clarity, and the section on the trierarchy in particular provides an impressively succinct and useful summary. Karvounis' scholarship is thorough and up-to-date, though some of the footnotes seem pitched at the wrong level for a (presumably) introductory work: for example, it is (again) hard to imagine many readers following up the references to T. N. Ballin's (excellent, and unpublished) 1978 Washington dissertation, a commentary on [Dem.] 50.3

In addition to the Introduction there is a very brief index, a map of the north-eastern Aegean and Propontis that helps locate some but not all of the places named in the speeches, and two photographs of the reconstructed trireme Olympias.

The translation seems both clear and reliable, so far as this non-native reader of German can judge.

The volume is attractively produced, though the Introduction contains a sprinkling of typos (e.g. Drachen for Drachmen on p. 43, srachliche for sprachliche on p. 47; the word 'immens' appears, as if an item of scribal marginalia, floating without context on p. 14).

Karvounis' credentials as an expert on Demosthenes have been amply established by his substantial and extremely useful commentary on the earlier assembly speeches.4 Within the limits that have been imposed on him he has done a good job here, but those limits substantially detract from what could have been an extremely useful contribution to the study both of Demosthenes and of the operations of the Athenian fleet. It is hard not to see this as an opportunity missed.


1.   V. Bers, Demosthenes, Speeches 50-59 (Austin, 2003).
2.   J. Kirchner, Prosopographia Attica. 2nd ed. (Berlin, 1901-1903); J. K. Davies, Athenian Propertied Families 600-300 B.C. (Oxford, 1971).
3.   T. N. Ballin, ''A Commentary on [Demosthenes] 50 'Against Polykles'.'' Diss. Washington, 1978.
4.   C. Karvounis, Demosthenes. Studien zu den Demegorien orr. XIV, XVI, XV, IV, I, II, III (Munich, 2002).

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