Monday, August 16, 2010


Version at BMCR home site
S. David, C. Daude, E. Geny, C. Muckensturm-Poulle (ed.), Traduire les scholies de Pindare... I. De la traduction au commentaire: problèmes de méthode. Dialogues d'histoire ancienne. Supplément 2. Franche-Comté: Presses universitaires de Franche-Comté, 2009. Pp. 204. ISBN 9782848672779. €40.00 (pb).
Reviewed by Gregor Bitto, University of Rostock

Table of contents and summaries in French

Good times for Greek scholia! In recent years they have become more and more appreciated for their literary critical value and studied for their own sake.1 In 2007 the University of Franche-Comté hosted a conference on the Pindar scholia (a second one followed in 2008). The seven contributions of the first conference are now published in the book under review here. A French research group, involving most of the contributors, is now undertaking a translation-cum-commentary of the Pindar scholia which would be the first one of its kind in a modern language. So, Traduire les scholies de Pindare ... I might be called a first volume of prolegomena. And an interesting one at that.

The volume opens with two introductory notes by M. Fartzoff and C. Calame stressing the importance and the value of the Pindar scholia. Next comes an article by C. Daude which is concerned with the paraphrases and how they can be translated into a modern language (that is French). C. Daude asks very important questions about the relationship between poetry and paraphrases. Furthermore, she shows how a closer look at what might seem at its surface to be just a bunch of synonyms reveals deep insight into the commentators' methods and interpretations of Pindar's poetry.

S. David analyses the scholia to O.1–6 regarding two different approaches to interpretation. The commentators are on the one hand eager to find the one exact and true meaning of a certain passage, but on the other hand able to admit that there are multiple ways of explaining some verses.

C. Muckensturm-Poulle applies the notion of énonciation in her discussion of the scholia to O.6, that is how the scholiasts speak in their own persons or let someone else speak (Pindar himself, other poets, historians, grammarians, etc.; see p. 77, n. 1 and p. 91). I especially liked her observations on Schol. O.6.1c, an allegorical explanation of the beginning of O.6 (p. 85f.). Unfortunately, concentrating on the scholia to just one Olympian ode without considering the general practice of the Pindar scholia gives a somewhat distorted presentation of their methods. So, on page 79, for example, Muckensturm-Poulle does not take into account that on numerous other occasions Pindar's odes are imagined not as oral works (legein), but as written ones (graphein). Also on page 79 we read that scholiasts take a pedagogial stance pratiquement jamais, but we find the exact opposite view in the conclusion (pp. 83, 87, 91). Are these examples just exceptions to the rule? But then again, why state a rule when only exceptions will follow?

An interesting paper concerning triadic structure and epinician performance, especially dancing, is offered by M. Briand, who presents an overview of different opinions and interpretations of epinician dancing from the scholia until recent times. His more general approach, often in the form of questions, offers food for thought.

The next one is a more technical paper by M. Steinrück about the metrical scholia. He focusses on the question whether these scholia are correct, that is, whether they reflect Pindaric or later, meaning Hellenistic, practice. Steinrück concludes (p. 120) that editors who print the epinician odes according to the metrics of the manuscripts and scholia follow Alexandrian principles, while Boeckh and his followers, like West in his edition of the Iliad, try to imagine un état archaïque.

E. Vassilaki sets out to question a long held view of Aristarchus' exegesis. Generally, the opinion prevails that Didymos was superior in the field of historical interpretation and that his commentary compensated for the one by Aristarchus by including references to contemporary history and by citing relevant historians. In her discussion of four examples from the scholia to O.2, 3, and 5 Vassilaki shows that Aristarchus' explanations do take account of historical information and do not contradict Didymos' more elaborate historical discussions, but even exceed them from time to time. In my opinion, Vassilaki is succesful in correcting an established belief not by stating the opposite extreme but by presenting a more balanced and nuanced perspective.

The final contribution, by J. Schneider, is basically a comparison of the scholia to P.4 and the Homeric scholia regarding their treatment and explanation of the poet's text (cf. the definition of grammatike by Dionysius Thrax at the beginning of his Techne, to which Schneider justly refers several times). Schneider points out a lot of (methodological) resemblances and some interesting differences (e.g. there is nothing comparable to the Viermännerkommentar or the Mythographus Homericus in the scholia to P.4). In his final sentence, Schneider curiously suggests that we can infer from the differences between the scholia to Homer and P.4 that "the readers of Homer were far more numerous and on average far less cultivated than those of Pindar" (p. 173; see also p. 204), though I don't see why we need the scholia to deduce that. Furthermore, a more elaborated structuring would have rendered the reading and rereading a lot easier than one continous text full of details and different points without any headings at all. But I would like to emphasise that this should not distract one from the merits of this discussion.

After Schneider's paper there follows a brief epilogue by C. Daude with some general remarks about the conferences and the translation of the Pindar scholia in which she participates.

The remainder of the volume consists of helpful indexes to the scholia discussed, scholiastic terminology, mythological, historical, and geographical names, and finally ancient and modern authors. The last two pages present brief summaries of the articles in French.

To sum up: The essays are generally of good quality, some of them excellent like the ones by C. Daude and E. Vassilaki. All of them make important points about the Pindar scholia. They are worth reading for anyone interested in the Pindar scholia, though, I guess, the intended audience consists more of specialists and not the general reader or neophyte. So, this volume of prolegomena is a promising one and the second one as well as the translation with commentary is very much looked forward to.


1.   Cf. e.g. the excellent recent books by R. Nünlist (The Ancient Critic at Work, Cambridge 2009) and E. Dickey (Ancient Greek Scholarship, Oxford 2007).

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