Thursday, March 24, 2011


Carlos G. Steel, Leen van Campe (ed.), Procli in Platonis Parmenidem commentaria. Tomus III, libros VI-VII et indices continens. Oxford Classical Texts. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Pp. xv, 458. ISBN 9780199291823. $85.00.

Reviewed by Sarah Klitenic Wear, Franciscan University of Steubenville (

Version at BMCR home site


This Oxford Classical Text is the third and final volume of Carlos Steel's landmark project, the modern scholarly edition of Proclus' Commentary on the Parmenides, one of the most important philosophical works of Platonism. For all of the readers who have been using frayed photocopies of V. Cousin's editions (1839, 1864), this three -volume edition is a tremendous gift, and scholars of late antique and medieval philosophy will be grateful for generations to come. This third volume is co-edited by Steel and Leen Van Campe, who published a first version of the edition as her Ph.D. dissertation in Leuven in 2008. Steel and Van Campe's third volume is a tremendous achievement, as they have made workable a very difficult portion of Proclus' text. The three volumes are the result of a research projected entitled "Plato Transformed" headed by Steel, at the De Wulf-Mansion Centre at the University of Leuven.

The third volume contains the Greek text for books VI and VII of Proclus' Commentary on the Parmenides, on the first hypothesis on the One, and concludes with the last lemma of the first hypothesis. The final part of the Greek text (Parm. 141e7-142a8) is not preserved in the Greek, but survives in the Latin translation of the Flemish Dominican, William of Moerbeke. Moerbeke's Latin translation, completed between 1280-86, is crucial, not only because it preserves Proclus' work, but it was based on a Greek text that, Steel argues, was better than the extant Greek text. Because the Moerbeke translation exists for the sections now lost in Greek, Steel not only provides Moerbeke's Latin translation of sections, but he reconstructs the lost Greek. This retroversion is an update of the Greek translation Steel and Friedrich Rumbach prepared in 1997, which Steel revised according to corrections in vocabulary and style which have come up over the years. Steel places the Greek retroversion alongside the Latin translation, with a reduced critical apparatus that points out when Moerbeke misinterpreted the Greek text or when a Latin vocabulary word has no Greek equivalent (p. vii). At the end of this volume (pp. 357-458) are the indices for the three volumes, as well as a list of corrigenda and addenda. There are also four appendices, including lists of emendations and scholia.

The editorial decisions regarding the text itself are explained in the introduction to volume I. Here, Steel explains the complex history of the transmission of the text. The text of Steel and Van Campes' edition, unlike Cousin's edition, takes into consideration Moerbeke's Latin translation, which used a Greek text that was better than what we now find in the other two groups of the manuscript tradition. These two groups, which comprise 34 Greek manuscripts and Moerbeke's Latin translation, are divided into the Parisinus Graecus (1810), copied at Constantinople by George Pachymeres, and the manuscripts derived from it; and copies of two manuscripts (1489 and 1569) which depend on a manuscript now lost. The former of these manuscript groups was privileged by Cousin, while the latter, which has a larger number of errors, represents an older tradition of the text. The leading manuscript for Cousin's edition was the oldest of the manuscripts and had a complex history of readers making emendations to the text and repairs to the manuscript itself. By returning to Moerbeke's extremely literal translation, however, Steel and Van Campe identify numerous kinds of errors common to all of the Greek manuscripts (e.g., 1062.16). Steel and Van Campe make use of recent work on Moerbeke's text, by R. Klibansky and C. Labowsky in the Plato Latinus series (1953), which published part of the Latin version, and by Steel himself, who undertook a full edition of Moerbeke's Latin in Leuven (vol. 1 1982, vol. 2, 1985.) The text of this third volume also makes use of emendations suggested by J. Dillon in his annotated English translation of Proclus' commentary (1987), which made frequent corrections to Cousin's text, at times under the suggestion of the great L.G. Westerink.

The edition is, of course, beautifully printed and bound by Oxford. Steel and Van Campe adopt Cousin's column numbers, making it easily cross-referenced to that text. I found no certain typos in the Greek text. There are notable fine additions in the text from the Latin, such as in 1058..1-2, that make the line more readable. The text critical apparatus is fascinating, particularly in light of the complex tradition of the text.

This volume is published at around the same time as the Budé edition (Collection des universités de France), edited by A. Segonds, C. Steel, and C. Luna, which should also be a great and helpful work.

1 comment:

  1. I don't feel this review is useful. Not only does it not pass any critical judgement on the text itself, but it also makes some strange assertions - most strikingly that Steel himself, after publishing a critical edition in the OUP, would be responsible of the "competition" from Budé - Les Belles Lettres. This would be indeed uncommon; needless to say, Steel is not co-editor in the Budé series. This review would have been of some use if it at least compared the OUP text with the Budé edition...


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