Friday, October 23, 2009


Version at BMCR home site
Dominique Lenfant (ed.), Les histoires perses de Dinon et d'Héraclide. Persika; 13. Paris: De Boccard, 2009. Pp. 370. ISBN 9782701802558. €52.00 (pb).
Reviewed by M. Weiskopf

Once again the long arm of Felix Jacoby has reached out to compel his successors to complete, emend, comment upon or otherwise improve his Fragmente. In this case he selects Dominique Lenfant, producer of a new Ctesias text and editor of a series of studies on Athenaeus' use of historians, to take up the task of the editing and commenting upon fourth-century Persica written during the final years of Achaemenid existence. Although her focus is on Dinon FGrH 690 and Heraclides FGrH 689, she addresses the topic of Persica as a whole, displaying a firm grasp of literary and archaeological evidence and offering a circumspect, complete discussion of earlier attempts to resolve issues raised by these historians. Her work is accompanied by a series of well-executed line drawings illustrating physical evidence (works with photographic plates are enumerated in the notes). In all, an excellent research tool deserving a place, in some edited form, on the ethereal (on-line) version of Brill's new Jacoby.

Lenfant begins by discussing the problem of the Persica as a whole (pp. 5-49): Their existence only as fragments; the genre they represent may not uphold Jacoby's five-part schema; their contributions to our knowledge of Achaemenid history and practices. The earlier writers of Persica, e.g. Dionysius FGrH 687 and Charon FGrH 687b, consider the Persians as topics worthy of interest in themselves. Ctesias FGrH 688, in spite of his flaws, takes as large a view of the Achaemenid world as possible, not limiting his focus to far western border campaigns. Lenfant then outlines the principles of her edition: Jacoby's numeration is maintained, but not necessarily the fragments' extent and readings. She prefers a minimalist solution, printing only those pieces directly naming Dinon or Heraclides. A discussion of Plutarch's and Athenaeus' compositional habits is offered.

Dinon receives the lion's share of attention (pp. 51-253). He was perhaps the father of Clitarchus, and his Persica, finished c. 340 (based on F21), set the tone for the Alexander historians. His origin from Colophon would help explain his interest in administrators' luxury and magi rituals. He relied on locals familiar with the King's court and proved a keen observer of Achaemenid manifestations in the far west. Focus falls upon what Dinon actually reports. F1 is representative: four lines of Greek, four lines of lemmata, six pages of commentary based on Lenfant's knowledge of Achaemenid onomastics, the historical record, and her predecessors' attempts to grapple with problems raised. Her discussion of the data recorded in F9 (Athenaeus 14.633c-d; her pages 133-145) offers a superior analysis of later Median times as viewed through the Achaemenid era prism.

Heraclides' remnants are fewer in number (pp. 255-314). As with Dinon, Lenfant attempts to explain possible subdivisions within this Persica and places this work as a near contemporary to Dinon's (redactions parallèles), one which focuses on the Achaemenid recent past and present, the Empire's structure a still functioning organization. Her analysis and understanding of the historian's strengths are admirable. Her treatment of F2 (Athenaeus 4.145a-146a, her pages 279-298) eschews any attempt to fabricate an Achaemenid court office at the crux en idein (pp. 280-281), but spares no effort in commenting upon Heraclides' presentation and explanation of the King's "dinner" as a well thought out economic, social, and political institution. She is to be congratulated on pointing to the complete absence in Dinon and Heraclides of the Athenian-held viewpoint that the Empire was in a state of decadence (p. 323).

There are no aspects of the work with which I quarrel. I note only some lexical and bibliographic items. Danakes (Heraclides F3) appears as item on p. 450 of J. Tavernier Iranica in the Achaemenid Period (ca. 550-330 B.C.), OLA 158, Peeters Publishers, 2007. Schironi has published (2009) in de Gruyter a new text and commentary on P. Oxy.1802 (source for Dinon F29). The reference to Douglas Domingo-Forasté's Teubner of Aelian's fragments and letters has fallen out of the bibliography. Aelian's animal studies will appear in late 2009 in a new Teubner text. If only the modern commentators on nineteenth century 'exploration literature' could display the clarity and care of Lenfant!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.