Monday, November 28, 2011


Ettore Cingano (ed.), Tra panellenismo e tradizioni locali: generi poetici e storiografia. Hellenica, 34. Alessandria: Edizioni dell'Orso, 2010. Pp. x, 596. ISBN 9788862742061. €70.00 (pb).

Reviewed by John Van Sickle, Brooklyn College and Graduate School, CUNY (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

In a brief preface to the twenty articles, the editor describes long collaboration with Paola Angeli Bernardini, Antonio Aloni, and younger colleagues on the fragmentary evidence for interplay between panhellenic and local traditions, focusing on the archaic and classical periods, not without some reach to Hellenistic and later material.

"Storie cretesi, ovvero altre storie: tra Idomeneus e i suoi parenti": Alberto Camerotto (carrying on from Fritz Graf) defines myth as an open web, adaptable in place and time. He traces the relative strength and weakness of Idomeneus as one of Helen's suitors, and his reported safe return, complicated in later traditions, with its parallels in the five false Cretan tales in the Odyssey, testimony to the traditions of Crete as a window to further worlds and a resultant font of stories.

"Diomede, la poesia epica e le tradizioni argive": Carlo Brillante argues that the Homeric catalogue of ships shows the influence of local traditions favoring Argos over Mycenae, assigning even Tiryns to Diomedes. He uses the specific local bias as a warning against the concept of a linear progress of ever expanding panhellenism, faulted for a certain rigidity.

"Differenze di età e altre peculiarità narrative in Omero e nel ciclo epico": Cingano reviews the epic cycle as a whole (eleven poems, including Homer's), reducing the entire heroic age to four or five generations, from Oedipus and his father to Achilles and his son, documenting the paradoxical case of the latter pair and their interface with another son-father duo, Telephus and Euripylus, as well as the controversial rapport between Patroclus and Achilles.

"La saga degli Alfeidi e l'epos messenico": Alpheus the river, his progeny and their links with Messene are treated by Damiana Baldassarra, tracing the river's origin back to Ouranos and Gaia through Tethys and Ocean; Alph's undersea flow to the spring Arethusa in Sicily a mytheme that joins the Peloponnese to Sicily with ideological point. The variant that Arethusa to escape the river fled from Arcadia to Syracuse Baldassarra attributes to Ovid, forgetting that Virgil used it with an original chronotope (ecl. 10, with mythic variants reported by Servius), placing her at home in Arcadia at a time before her flight, thus prior in mythic time to her location in Sicily by Theocritus (id. 1).

In "Esiodo a simposio. La performance delle Opere e Giorni," Aloni conducts a detailed critique of recent scholarship and close reading of the Works and Days . He concludes that "Hesiod" as much as "Homer" is a generic label not a personal name and demonstrates that the text bears signs of local agrarian interests in Ascra opposed to encroachment (synoikism) by neighboring Thespis and of sympotic performance for this select group: hints of local tradition that he finds confirmed by Pausanias' surprise at how Hesiod was represented at Ascra (9.29.1-4), not with a laurel staff as in the panhellenic Theogony, but with a sympotic lyre, and only as the poet of the Works and Days , inscribed on lead without a proem.

"L'ehoia di Egina e le Asopidi nel Catalogo delle donne esiodeo": Marta Cardin treats yet another set of riverine myths, Asopus, the name of four streams, figured as the great-grandfather of Alcinoos and Arete, but also great-great grandfather of Achilles, through, Peleus, Aeakus, Aegina, a daughter of the river. Availing herself of research by Cingano and others, she argues that the descendants of Asopus closed the fourth book of the Catalogue of Women, giving prominence to Peleus' marriage with Thetis, from which stemmed the discord recorded in the fifth book, Helen's Suitors, prefiguring Zeus' plan to extirpate the race of heroes.

"L'Ode 11 di Bacchilide: il mito delle Pretidi nella lirica corale, nella poesia epica e nella mitografia": Bruno Currie reviews the widespread Peloponnesian myth concerning the daughters of Proetus, their bovine fantasy famously contrasted with Pasiphaë's taurine fancy by Virgil (Proetides, ecl. 6.48-51), detailing hints of pressure from the local contexts of performance.

Orcomeno, Ascra e l'epopea regionale 'minore': Andrea Debiasi navigates speculative shoals with regard to Hesiod's remains, contested in epigrams, one assigned to Chersias, also the likely author of a local epos, the Miniade, shown to have included Meleager, Theseus, Pirithoos, Heracles, perhaps Orpheus too: the putative tale is compared with another epos reconstituted from exiguous remains and elusive traces in Pausanias, an Atthis by Hegesinus, itself compared with the ghost of a Corinthiaca by Eumelus.

"La geografia mitica delle imprese di Alcmeone dalla poesia epica alla tragedia": Oretta Olivieri recounts the vicissitudes of Alcmeon, who murdered his mother, Eryphyle, who had betrayed his father, Amphiareus, retold in an Alcmeonid, which includes references to Argos, Thebes, Delphi, Aetolia, Psophyde in Arcadia, Acarnana, and Corinth. Olivieri also notes the debated scene where Pindar wrote of meeting, on the way to Delphi, Alcmeon, who touched the poet with his ancestral prophetic arts (Pyth. 8.56-60).

"PSI 1386 e le fonti sul giudizio di Paride": Claudio Meliadò suggests a working hypothesis that the papyrus describes a scene in the Cypria, after the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, when Zeus orders the quarreling goddesses Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite to submit to judgment by the Trojan cowherd Paris, a motif itself directly reported and still debated.

"Su alcuni frammenti papiracei in esametri relativi a Eracle e Perseo": Giuseppe Ucciardelli writes that published collections of anonymous papyrus scraps of dactylic hexameter poetry omit not insignificant fragments worth study. He focuses on P. Berol. 9870 and 9871, to which he relates P. Ryl. 32 by comparing the manner of writing and sniffing out a motif of founding heroes slaying monsters, which served ideological agenda in the Hellenistic world (not to mention the ideologies of Indo-European kings killing snakes, although Calvert Watkins' How to Kill a Dragon is absent from the copious bibliography).

"Eracle: una biografia eroica tra epos arcaico, poesia lirica e tradizioni locali": Paola Angeli Bernardini in a masterful synthesis describes the unique importance of Heracles as the quintessential emblem of Greek manhood—tireless traveller, explorer, defender against evils, founder, both international and regional (panhellenic and epichoric)— not taken as a mythic forebear by aristocracy but appropriated rather for particular regions and cities. Her core study focuses on the hero's city of birth, Thebes, his first exploits, and perhaps greatest celebrant, Pindar, although she casts her net widely and systematically, reviewing Homeric and Hesiodic epos, minor epos, mythography and lyric, to come to Bacchylides and Pindar and to an increasing shift from the panhellenic paradigm to lore of the particular polis, confirmed by the recent find of a shrine to Heracles at Thebes. She closes by underlining the 5th C. emphasis on the hero's flawed humanity, ripe for tragic revision.

"Oracoli esametrici a Corinto arcaica tra epos e tradizione orale": Maurizio Giangiulio locates the oracles concerning the Corinthian tyrant Cypselus as contemporary ideology, their political message conveyed by their close intertextual bonds with the Iliad (13.136-40; 15.592-631) portraying the tyrant as terrible, yet dealing justice with power benevolent and divine.

"Tra storia ed epos: il donario degli Apolloniati a Olimpia (Paus. 5.22.2-4)": Claudia Antonetti evokes a group of sculptures (bronzes, cf. Riace) representing Thetis and Dawn entreating Zeus on behalf of their battling sons, Achilles and Memnon, flanked by pairs of Greek and Trojan heroes: the whole dedicated at Olympia by the city of Apollonia (Epirus, now Albania) and commemorating a victory over a now lost site, but asserting alliance with Corinth as well as territorial control.

"II racconto mitico fra tradizione iconografica e tradizione poetica: il pensiero dei moderni e il modello simonideo": Sara Brunori furnishes welcome illustrations from vase painting to argue that painters shaped their own variants of crucial moments from epos, often combining in one frame scenes separate in narrative time and space; she describes, e.g., the judgment of Paris, the duel of Achilles with Penthesilea, and one vase showing Menelaus reclaiming Helen while Neoptolemus kills both Priam and his grandson, Astyanax. Luigi Bravi examines the slim association of Simonides with the cognitive scheme ut pictura poesis, although the Latin does not figure in his discussion.

"Forbante auriga e compagno di Teseo": Paola Dolcetti selects from the range of heroes called Phorbas (17 in Roscher) one reported as the charioteer and comrade of Theseus, providing a review of the often tenuous evidence for a mytheme that she seeks to link with political phases in Athens, attracted to Theseus especially in the age of Cimon.

"Il. Parv. fr. 21 Bernabé e la Gorgo di Simia di Rodi": Marco Perale makes dextrous use of stemmata codicum to disentangle confused references by Tzetzes to the suppositious destiny of Andromache and Aeneas, booty of Neoptolemus, going on with careful navigation through scholarly shallows to tease out the Gorgo of Simias, assigning to it a link between myths of flight by the Pleiades and Aeneas, the latter figured as great- grandson (via Anchises and Dardanus) of the Pleiad Electra.

"II mito di Telefo nell'epos ellenistico: l'Epyllium Telephi, fr. ep. adesp. 3 Powell": Alessandra Pellin studies the Telephus epyllion (P. Oxy. 214). She identifies the female voice as Antioche, wife of Telephus, pleading on behalf of her son, Euripylus, who will die at Troy; and she employs strenuous metrical and stylistic analysis yet does not assign authorship.

II 'punto di vista' di Zeus. Narratore onnisciente e narrazione oggettiva nell'epica e nella storiografia": Marco Dorati remarks how Lucian compares the shifting viewpoints of the historian to those of Zeus observing divers battles in divers lands. Dorati directs his analysis to focalization, persona, and object, which he develops with reference to the narratological theory of Genette. He turns then to omniscience and objectivity in historians, glancing at what and how Calypso and Odysseus know and tell, closing with a brief survey of history writing, which (unlike poetry) presupposes inquiry and research, moving from constant presence as ethnographer and storyteller (Herodotus) to potential and largely absent witness (Thucydides [e.g., dialogue at Melos]), to varied blends in Xenophon and Ctesias.

"Epica, identità ed erudizione: il caso dell'Asia Minore in età imperiale": Carlo Franco documents the role of epos as shared memory for the Greek cities in Asia Minor as they defined their place in the empire of Rome through public oratory, inscriptions, coins, and festivals.

An index of passages cited concludes. The results, reporting a wide range of scholarship and assembling dispersed texts for astute analysis, will be a useful tool for specialists. I was surprised to find how often I referred to one or another of these pieces in the course of classroom discussion this term.

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