Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Georgios A. Xenis (ed.), Scholia vetera in Sophoclis Electram. Sammlung griechischer und lateinischer Grammatiker Bd 12. Berlin/New York: De Gruyter, 2010. Pp. x, 280. ISBN 9783110227000. $154.00. Georgios A. Xenis (ed.), Scholia vetera in Sophoclis Trachinias. Sammlung griechischer und lateinischer Grammatiker Bd 13. Berlin/New York: De Gruyter, 2010. Pp. x, 267. ISBN 9783110227024. $154.00.

Reviewed by P. J. Finglass, University of Nottingham (

Version at BMCR home site

Editions of Sophoclean scholia are like buses: you wait ages for one, then two come along at the same time. The most recent edition containing the ancient scholia for all seven plays was published by P. N. Papageorgiou in 1888. Since then we have had editions of the scholia to OC by V. de Marco (Vatican City 1950), to Ajax by G. A. Christodoulou (Athens 1977), and to Philoctetes by T. Janz (Oxford 2004). Even these three volumes are not readily available: the first two are rare books (like Papageorgiou's), the last an as yet unpublished Oxford DPhil thesis. Georgios Xenis now provides us with up to date editions of the ancient scholia for two more plays, Electra and Trachiniae. Both these important volumes should be acquired by any library designed to support the study of Greek tragedy or Greek scholarship.

The major contribution made by these two volumes is found in their introductions. Xenis's great achievement is to explain the relationships between the different manuscripts that contain Sophoclean scholia. He shows that many manuscripts (which he has collated himself, often in situ) are entirely derivative on L for their scholia, and so do not need to be cited in an apparatus except where L's reading is now obscure or when they offer a good reading, which should be interpreted as a conjecture rather than preservation of the truth. In the course of eliminating manuscripts, Xenis sheds much light on the behaviour of Byzantine scribes and their handling of the exegetical material that came down to them from antiquity. As he writes, 'Scribes or scholars would frequently not copy faithfully the scholia which stood in their exemplars, but to respond to the differing needs of their readership or for other reasons, they would consciously modify them in many ways'.1

Xenis's reasoning is acute and persuasive throughout. The one place where I would substantially differ from him is in his treatment (in Trachiniae) of the Byzantine scholar Triclinius. Xenis admits that Triclinius's text (in T) of the scholia vetera has no other source but L and Triclinius's own fertile intellect, yet he asserts that 'T should be taken systematically into account, although it ultimately derives from L, for it contains much interesting material stemming from the conjectural activity of the eminent Byzantine scholar Demetrius Triclinius' (p. 42). Any such good conjectures should be recorded and duly ascribed to Triclinius. But it is misleading to go on to cite T throughout the apparatus, since wherever it gives the same reading as L, it derives from L and therefore does not offer independent testimony for the reading in question. If Xenis, or any modern scholar, were to copy out the scholia from L and make conjectures as he did so, his manuscript would have exactly the same authority as T; neither should appear in the apparatus except when it has a good conjecture to offer.

Xenis's editions are of the scholia vetera: that is, scholia which in their original form predate the tenth century, not the annotations added by Byzantine scholars after that date. He well justifies this aim, and his cut-off point, and describes some of the features which allow us to distinguish between ancient and mediaeval annotation.2 The reasoning is so good that I wanted more. Xenis is one of very few scholars with an expert knowledge of both classical and Byzantine Greek – it would have been helpful to hear more from him on how he tells the difference between the two when going through the scholia.

Papageorgios devotes 64 pages to printing the scholia to Electra, 72 to the scholia for Trachiniae; Xenis's editions take up 168 and 206 pages respectively for the same text. The extra bulk results does not result from the discovery of new material; rather the format is at once more lavish (spaces between lemmata) and more detailed (in terms of the critical apparatus). Indeed, the level of annotation often makes one think of a mini-commentary rather than an apparatus in the traditional sense.

Although Xenis is not a native English speaker, his English style is superior to that of many scholars who are. Clear, terse, and unpretentious, it expresses complicated conclusions with enviable simplicity, and contains very few idiomatic errors. The organisation of the books is also carefully thought through,3 and the bibliography is full and helpful.4 Both volumes conclude with several indexes, with the following titles: 'Scriptores in scholiis citati', 'Verba de quibus scholia agunt', 'Grammatica', 'Rhetorica', and 'Scaenica, ars tragica, histriones'. These will greatly increase the utility of the editions, and, I hope, ensure that scholars with a variety of interests will be encouraged to consult them.

The books are nicely crafted and appear extremely accurate.5 Xenis is to be congratulated on a task well done: more, please.


1.   El. p. 15; this is well brought out in, for example, his discussion of the 'a' scholia for Trachiniae (pp. 25-32).
2.   See El. pp. 15-22, especially 17-18, 19-20 n. 11.
3.   There are very few exceptions. At El. p. 25 with n. 35 Xenis claims that H and δ are gemelli, citing Turyn in support. But Turyn cites only the text of Sophocles, not the scholia. The evidence for the proposition that Xenis advances is in fact provided by Xenis himself on pp. 69-71; this, not Turyn, should have featured in the cross-reference. Then at El. pp. 28-9 we need a cross-reference to pp. 55-9, where Xenis shows that λ is a copy of L. On El. p. 76 the Suda could usefully have been placed in the stemma.
4.   Peppink's papers are collected in the volume Opera Minora Simonis Petri Peppink (Leiden 1938), and Maas's article from BZ 12 (1903) 278-323 (cited El. p. 38 n. 68) is reprinted in his Kleine Schriften (Munich 1973), 242-88; both volumes need to be cited, as well as the original articles, for the convenience of readers who may well find them easier to access.
5.   At El. p. 93 n. 171 read '1852' for '1952'. Footnotes have gone awry at El. pp. 24-6. I probably ought to know what 'datism' is (El. p. 32 n. 55), but a hint would be welcome. When Xenis refers to 'the Scholiast's text' (El. p. 81) or 'the text of the Scholiast' (p. 82), the referent is unclear. If it means 'the earliest recoverable form of the scholia vetera (as p. 94 'the ancient Scholiast' suggests), the nomenclature may lead the unwary to believe that a single person was responsible for composing them.

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