Monday, January 25, 2010


Version at BMCR home site
Franco Ferrari (ed.), Pindaro, Pitiche. Classici greci e latini. Milano: BUR, 2008. Pp. 211. ISBN 9788817024983. €10.50 (pb).
Reviewed by Maria G. Xanthou, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

Ferrari (henceforth F.) has followed a path with which he is well acquainted since his edition of the Olympian odes.1 The volume offers a quite extensive introduction presenting the most up-to-date interpretative keys for reading these odes, with ample reference to modern secondary bibliography and ancient authors, regarding the performance of the epinician ode. F.'s main argument is that Pindaric odes cannot be interpreted simply as the outcome of rhetorical convention, but one must focus on the relationship between the epinician ode and the factual context of its performance, i.e. the occasion of its composition, the religious setting of its performance and the political agenda of its time in order to establish the correlation between epinician literary artifact and its factual performative context. In addition, F.'s concern with the construction and the articulation of the poet's and the chorus' "I" permeates this overview.

In his second chapter, "Premessa al testo", under the title "Agoni sportivi ed epinicio" F. gives a brief account of the athletic context which usually occasioned the composition of an epinician ode. In "Dati biografici" F. goes on to give a succinct but very informative sketch of Pindar's biographical data to be extracted from direct evidence in his corpus and in testimonia such as the various Vitae and the entry in the Suda Lexicon. Next comes the account of how the Pindaric corpus was treated by Alexandrian scholars, how they meticulously edited the text and divided the odes into genres. Tracing the survival of the Pindaric corpus through the vicissitudes of the centuries, F. concludes his introduction to the text by giving a brief account of its transmission from the sixth century C.E. and after its transliteration, until the fourteenth century C.E.

F.'s edition is based on Snell-Maehler's,2 from which I have noticed thirty-four divergences.3 In ten cases,4 out of twenty5 following the text of Gentili,6 F. adopts the readings given by the manuscript tradition. There are a few problems. For example, although Gentili rightly suggests that μελησίμβροτον (Pyth. 4.15) is a hapax legomenon, it is accredited by the manuscript tradition, and while Snell-Maehler's μελησιμβρότων as an adjective modifying ἀστέων, not ῥίζαν, may seem a probable reading, it discards the possibility of μελησίμβροτον being a case of enallage.7 Likewise, in Pyth. 4.145 ἀφίσταντ' F. justifies his choice as being a reading supported by "la maggior parte della tradizione", but the apparatus criticus of Gentili's edition and Mommsen's editio maior list only three codices.

In the third chapter, entitled "Giudizi Critici", F. presents seven excerpts of equal in number interpretative approaches to the Pindaric epinician odes. Each excerpt is translated into Italian. A puzzling detail is that this useful compilation starts with U. von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff's Pindaros, published in 1922 and then jumps well over half a century to modern approaches such as Gregory Nagy's Pindar's Homer: the lyric possession of an epic past (1990), G. Bonelli's Pindaro, Canti (1991), L. Kurke's The Traffic in Praise. Pindar and the Poetics of Social Economy (1991), P. Hummel's La Syntaxe de Pindare (1993), Gentili's et al. Pindaro, Le Pitiche (1995), and concludes with M. Sotiriou's Pindarus Homericus: Homer-Rezeption in Pindars Epinikien (1998), all published in the nineties.

F.'s tripartite introductory treatise concludes with a catalogue of bibliographical references as cited in the commentary and a thorough list of all the major bibliographical data as regards Pindaric scholarship, such as compilations of bibliography, a catalogue of critical editions, commentaries, translations into Italian, monographs and articles. The index concludes with a list of monographs regarding Greek athletics.

Thereafter, the Greek text of the Pythian odes is given, facing the Italian translation. The notes of the commentary take the form of footnotes keyed to the translation. This footnote contains F.'s comment on the particular Greek word or cluster of words. The length of the footnotes varies and depends on the word or the cluster of words they illustrate. The first one is usually an explanation of the inscription of each ode. Therefore, it cites the chronology of the ode, the name of the victor and the athletic occasion of the victory. In certain instances, a reference to other epinician odes, written for the same occasion and by a different poet i.e. Bacchylides, is also cited. One might expect further information on the metre of each ode in this introductory footnote, but it should be born in mind that F.'s commentary is addressed to a mixed public, i.e. both scholars and non-specialists.

F.'s notes reveal a scholar well versed in Pindaric poetry and secondary literature, and his comments include cross-references to the Pindaric text, references to the text of other ancient authors and to modern authors. He chooses to comment on words calling for further illustration, e.g. proper names or derivative epithets, both mythical and historical, such as Ὑλλίς, Πάμφυλος in Pyth. 1.62, and Κινύρας in Pyth. 2.15. His notes give the essential information needed for the understanding of a particular point. This information varies from cross-references to other genres in the Pindaric corpus, to references to the genres of ancient Greek literature and to secondary literature.

His Italian translation follows the original text and clarifies certain ambiguous points, acting as support to the enlightening footnotes, e.g. λευκαῖς ... φρασίν in Pyth. 4.109 is directly translated in Italian as "in un cuore furioso" and is supported by a lengthy footnote glossing the particular phrase. Another example is δμᾶθεν δὲ κεραυνῷ in Pyth. 8.17, which is translated "furono domati dalla folgore di Zeus" with "di Zeus" being an addition of the translator as it is suggested by F. in the corresponding footnote. In Pyth. 1.21 τᾶς ἐρεύγονται μὲν ἀπλάτου πυρὸς ἁγνόταται F. translates the generic πυρὸς with the specific and scientifically accurate "magma". In Pyth. 1.35 F. translates καὶ τελευτᾷ φερτέρᾳ νόστου τυχεῖν with the succinct rendering "presentimento di felice ritorno", which disregards F.'s adoption of the reading φερτέρᾳ and its consequent attribution to the noun τελευτᾷ. In Pyth. 3.5 F. translates νόον ἔχοντ' ἀνδρῶν φίλον into the simple phrase "amica agli uomini". F. does not hesitate, however, to transpose words in order to give a new translation of a phrase or a clause, cf. the word-order of the original Greek and the Italian text in Pyth. 1.52-53, 2.3-4, 20, 30-31, 5.6-8, 6.1-8, 9.1-3. His translation is thus characterized by a creative attitude towards the original text.

There are a few misprints8 and the third chapter might have benefited from a rather different form. Instead of translated excerpts, it would be more welcome to read F.'s personal view towards the interpretative approach of each scholar in the form of a running text. Finally, I suggest three bibliographical addenda to the catalogue of commentaries.9

All in all, given the size of the volume and the aforementioned standard of an extensive commentary set by Gentili et al., F.'s annotated edition is a successful achievement. F. has responded with erudition, conciseness and painstaking accuracy.


1.   Italian scholarship has also produced a translation of Pindar's odes and fragments: Pindaro, Odi e Frammenti, traduzione e prefazione di Leone Traverso, note introduttive e note al testo di Eugenio Grassi (Firenze: Sansoni Editore, 1956), already cited by F. in his bibliography.
2.   Cf. p. 47.
3.   Pyth. 1.35, 52, 77, 92; 2.17, 90; 3.11, 16, 18; 4.15, 105, 140, 145, 164, 233, 272; 5.16, 28, 72, 98; 6.4, 50; 9.19, 35, 38, 113, 114; 10.69; 11.8/9, 56/57; 12.11, 13, 25, 30.
4.   Pyth. 1.52 μεταλλάσσοντας, 92 εὐτραπέλοις, 3.18 ἑταῖραι, 4.15 μελησίμβροτον, 105 ἐντράπελον, 145 ἀφίσταντ', 5.28 βαττιαδᾶν, 6.50 ἱππείαν ἔσοδον, 9.113 ἆμαρ ἐλθεῖν, 12.30 τό γε μόρσιμον.
5.   Pyth. 1.52, 77, 92; 2.17; 3.16, 18; 4.15, 105, 145, 164, 233; 5.16, 28, 98; 6.50; 9.113; 11.8/9; 12.13, 25, 30.
6.   Pindaro, Le Pitiche: introduzione, testo critico e traduzione di Bruno Gentili, commento a cura di P. A. Bernardini et al. (Roma: Fondazione Lorenzo Valla/Milano: A. Mondadori, 1995).
7.   See V. Bers, Enallage and Greek Style, Mnemosyne Supplementum 29 (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1974), pp. 33, 39, 47; see also Bers' argumentation, ib., pp. 3-4, on how "enallage bridges the figurative and the prosaic" sense.
8.   p. 16 πρώσοπον should read πρόσωπον; p. 74, v. 32 ἀγγέλων should read ἀγγέλλων; p. 110, v. 13 Κέκλυτε should read 'Κέκλυτε with single initial quotation mark; p. 118, v. 87 Οὔ τί should read 'Οὔ τί with single initial quotation mark; p. 182, v. 80 ἀτιμασαντα should read ἀτιμάσαντα; p. 204, v. 8, διαπλέξαις' Ἀθάνας ' with sigma, as if at the end of a word, should read διαπλέξαισ' Ἀθάνα.
9.   The first is addressed to the Greek-speaking public, but has already been cited by I. L. Pfeijffer [Three Aeginetan odes of Pindar: a commentary on Nemean V, Nemean III and Pythian VIII (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1999)]: Πινδάρου Πυθιόνικοι, translated into Modern Greek by Γιάννης Οἰκονομίδης, with introduction and commentary by Δανιήλ Ἰ. Ἰακώβ [Daniel J. Jakob], (Ἡράκλειον· Βικελαία Δημοτική Βιβλιοθήκη, 1994). The second is by P. J. Finglass, Pindar, Pythian Eleven, edited with introduction, translation, and commentary (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), already reviewed for BMCR 2008.08.37. The third is by Paolo Santé, Gli scoli metrici a Pindaro (Pisa/Roma: Fabrizio Serra Editore, 2008), already reviewed for BMCR 2009.04.56 and published almost simultaneously with F.'s volume.

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