Friday, July 27, 2012


Paul Curtis (ed.), Stesichoros's Geryoneis. Mnemosyne supplements. Monographs on Greek and Latin language and literature, 333. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2011. Pp. xii, 201. ISBN 9789004207677. $127.00.

Reviewed by D. Thomas Benediktson, University of Tulsa (

Version at BMCR home site


Curtis provides us with an edition and translation of and a commentary upon the fragments of the Geryoneis as he reconstructs it. Only a very few possibly authentic but small fragments are omitted. A lengthy Introduction presents virtually all aspects of the author and work: biography of Stesichorus, the myth and cult of Geryon, Archaic Greece as relevant to the work, the dispute whether the work was performed as choral poetry (after extended discussion of the arguments Curtis concludes it was choral song for cult rather than monody and that Page's reconstruction is not solid), the language and meter of the work, the history of citation and description of the extant papyri, and the rationale for reconstruction of the Geryoneis. Text, apparatus criticus and translation appear together on the page as much as possible, with commentary following as a unit. Appendices provide texts and translations of Greek and Latin testimonia, followed by comparative material, texts (in Greek, Sanskrit and Iranian) again with translations. Finally, a full bibliography is followed by a concordance (Curtis' and Davies' numerations of the fragments) and indices.

The Greek text is conservative and thoroughly documented in apparatus and commentary. Information about the papyrus, based on Curtis' autopsy, is copious and makes a lasting contribution to study of the Geryoneis. Curtis is very sparing in his own conjectures.1 His translations are conservative, translating only what is fairly certain. The result is that the translation greatly aids a scholar trying to make sense of the Greek (probably Curtis' primary audience), but would not be a good read for a Greekless student trying to figure out what the poem was like. The apparatus and commentary are very full. Occasionally there are very thoughtful comments on literary issues, as for example the remarks on the "series of dactyls" in fragment 1 (page 103) or on parallel structure in Fragment 7 (page 122). There is also discussion interesting for its own sake, as for example on the use of prepositional dialectical forms (page 132).

I have a few minor criticisms. There seem to be intrusive apostrophes in the first word of line 3 of fragment 1 (page 73) and in the third word of line 10, column 2, of fragment 12 (page 84). There is inconsistency between the information in text, apparatus and commentary on fragment 6, line 1: the printed text is simply a dotted mu, the apparatus conservative, but the commentary speculative (pages 77 and 115). The Greek is remarkably clean throughout (although corrections need to made on page 47, line 9 (bis,, and on page 161, 17 lines from bottom), The modern language sections are not so carefully proofed.2 Curtis apparently uses subscripts when quoting a text edited with subscripts but uses adscripts when himself editing or where quoting a text with adscripts. Here consistency would be a virtue. On page 145, I am not sure why Aeschylus and Pindar are mentioned as examples of "6th century poetry." For testimonium 34 the translation runs past the Latin printed.

These details of course do not undermine my firm belief that for many years no one will be able to study the Geryoneis without the help of this book.


1.   For a rare example see fragment 19, line 1, where in the commentary a generous comment is made concerning Lobel's alternative conjecture (pages 91 and 163).
2.   For example: Abbreviations, line 21, read "Altertumswissenschaft"; page 28, note 115, line 6, read "roll"; page 58, last line, read "here it looks"; page 122, line 4, omit either "a" or "the"; page 129, line 21, read "emphasis"; page 168, 4 lines from bottom, read "in the archonship."

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