Thursday, February 28, 2013


Aude Cohen-Skalli, Diodore de Sicile. Bibliothèque historique. Fragments, Tome 1: Livres VI-X. Collection des universités de France. Série grecque, 486. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2012. Pp. cxl, 428. ISBN 9782251005713. €75.00.

Reviewed by Catherine Rubincam, University of Toronto (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of contents is at the end of the review.]

The Bibliotheke Historike of Diodorus represents an extraordinary challenge to scholarship. First of all, the text of the 15 books (1-5 and 11-20) that have come down to us more or less intact – a mere three-eighths of the original forty – runs to over 400,000 words. Second, its author, by his own profession (DS 1.3.5-8) intended his work to be something like a survey textbook of all the history worth knowing, down to his own lifetime, which would dispense readers from having to go through the many more specialized works that he used in producing it. He did not anticipate, of course, the eventual destruction of those more specialized works. An army of scholars has laboured for the past 150 years on the intricate task of reconstructing this huge body of lost historiography, so as to identify Diodorus' sources and the information he drew from them. The extreme size and diversity of contents of the Bibliotheke, together with the fragmentation of scholarship generated by the discipline of source criticism, have greatly complicated the task of producing new editions and commentaries on it. It is no accident that no commentary to the whole surviving work has been published since that of P. Wesseling (1746), although in recent years an Italian team has begun making progress towards that end (cf. BMCR 2009.12.03). The volume under review represents a significant contribution to the 20-volume Budé edition (which began publication in 1972 with M. Casevitz's translation of Book 12). The earliest published volumes of this edition comprised a newly edited text with a facing-page translation, and very little explanatory material. In more recent volumes, however, the introductory "Notice" and the "Notes complémentaires" have expanded considerably, so that each more resembles a volume of "translation and commentary".

This volume (Fragments – Tome I: Livres 6-10) is the third to appear among the four designed to encompass the 25 fragmentary books of Diodorus' Bibliotheke Historike: two predecessors, both by P. Goukowsky, contained, respectively, Books 21-26 (Fragments – Tome II [2006]) and Books 27-32 (Fragments – Tome III [2012]). This publication represents also an important milestone on the way to completion of the full 20 volumes of the Budé edition: still to appear are a fourth volume of fragments (of books 33-40) and four volumes devoted to complete books (5, 13, 16, and 20). That it should have taken 40 years (1972-2012) to achieve the publication of three- quarters of the projected 20 books reflects the difficulty of the undertaking: both the very long period of time included in Diodorus' summary of World History (beginning with the mythical period and ending with Julius Caesar's first consulate [60/59 BC]) and the complexity of the historiographic traditions that underlie it require the combined expertise of a team of scholars. Furthermore, whereas other translations published in the late 20th and 21st centuries have been based on the Vogel/Fischer Teubner text (1888-1906), the Budé edition is unique in offering a new text, reflecting more recent textual scholarship (see the authoritative statement of the principles on which this edition is founded by F. Chamoux in his "Introduction Générale" to volume 1 [1993]).

The task of dealing with a pentad of fragmentary books is necessarily much more complex and difficult than the production of a translation and notes on one of the complete books. This difference is reflected in the enormous bulk of the introductory "Notice" (140 pp.), the five "Notices du livre" (92 pp.), and the "Notes complémentaires" (187pp.), compared to the mere 122 double pages (= 244 single pages) occupied by the text and translation of these five books. The introductory "Notice" deals exhaustively with the Fragmentary Transmission of the Text (IX-XXIII), the Branches of the Indirect Tradition (XXIV-LXXVII), and some important Historiographic Questions (LXXV-CVI), before going on to supply a Table of Concordances (CIX-CXII; necessary because of the well justified decision to group the fragments in a different order from that used by earlier editions, such as the Loeb), an extensive Bibliography (CXIII- CXXXI), and a Conspectus Siglorum (CXXXIII-CXL). This publication began as the author's doctoral dissertation, the defence of which (2009) earned a unanimous vote of "distinction" from a panel representing the Sorbonne in Paris and the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa. It shows an impressive depth and breadth of knowledge concerning the relevant scholarship, a commendable lucidity in the exposition of the sources and MS traditions of the various groups of fragments, and an ability to make judicious decisions on the organization of the complex supplementary material, and in the wording of the translation.

Cohen-Skalli begins (VII-XII) by summarizing the evidence concerning the loss of Books 6-10 and 21-40 of the Bibliothêkê, accepting Casevitz's dating of this to the 15th century A.D., rather than Goukowsky's argument for an earlier date. She goes on to present (XII-XV) an analysis of the "fragmentary" status of these lost books based on the work of P. Brunt, D. Lenfant, and G. Schepens. There follows (XV-XXIV) a brief history of the publication of the fragments, which notes that the Vogel/Fischer Teubner edition (1888-1906) "can be considered as the last scientific edition", since C.H. Oldfather's more recent Loeb edition of these books (1939 and 1946) reproduced the Vogel/Fischer text, whereas F.R. Walton, who edited the Loeb edition of books 21-40 (1957 and 1967) used the more recent editions of some of the Constantinian Excerpts to improve the text. Her subsequent discussion of the sources of the second pentad fragments gives pride of place to the Constantinian Excerpts ("which furnish nine-tenths of the published fragments" [LXV]), dealing lucidly with both their history and their reliability, and then proceeds to list the various author-excerptors responsible for the citations of Diodorus that comprise the remaining fragments: first the Christian writers (Tertullian [II cent. A.D.], Sextus Julius Africanus [III cent. A.D.], and Eusebius [III-IV cent. A.D.), and then the Byzantines (John Malalas [early VI cent. A.D.], George Syncellus [c. 810 A.D.], the eklogê historiôn [probably IX cent. A.D.], the florilegia [various dates from IX cent. A.D. on], Tzetzes' Chiliades [XII cent. A.D.], Eustathius' Commentaries on the Iliad [XII cent. A.D.], plus two other sets of scholia). For each of these sources Cohen-Skalli gives full details of the MS tradition, explaining her choice of a particular published edition as the basis for the text here published, as well as the means by which she checked problematic MS readings. This section is completed by an exposition of "The principles of the edition" (LXV- LXXVI), which more systematically explains the thorough process followed in establishing the text of the different types of fragments. She proceeds to justify the decision to propose "a new classification – and consequently, a new numbering – of the fragments of books VI-X" (LXXI), on three grounds: (1) the need to represent faithfully the boundaries of the individual excerpts in the Constantinian collections (obscured by previous editions' grouping of several excerpts into "chapters"), (2) the desire to facilitate the reader's comparison of two fragments from different secondary sources that clearly derive from the same passage in Diodorus' text, and (3) the importance of arranging the fragments in an order that reflects the latest scholarship. The argument that the canonical order (unchallenged since the editions of Dindorf and Vogel/Fischer, published over a century ago) badly needs adjustment is a strong one, and follows the path taken by Goukowsky (Fragments: Tome II [2006]).

A few examples will illustrate the improvements made in this edition, in terms of: (a) text, (b) translation, (c) organization, (d) supplementary notes. The following comments derive from a necessarily limited sampling of the following fragments, representing a selection of sources:

(i) DS 6.1 (Budé) = 6.1 (Loeb) - Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica 2.2.52-62 [Mras 1954-56]

(ii) DS 6.4 (Budé) = 6.5 (Loeb) - Iohannes Malalas, Chronographia, 1.13, p. 13, 35-36 and 38-52 [Thurn 2000]

(iii) DS 6.9.1-2 and 6.9bis.1 (Budé) = 6.6.4-5 + 6.7.1-4 (Loeb) - de Virt. et Vit. 21-22 [Büttner-Wobst 1906] and an Odyssey scholiast [Ludwich 1885]

(iv) DS 7.5+7.5bis, 5ter, 5quater (Budé) = 7.4.4-5.12, 7.6, 7.7 (Loeb) - Eusebius, Chronica 1, p. 283.18- 289.21 [Schöne 1875], supplemented by Syncellus, Ecloga Chronographica 366.11-367.3 [Mosshammer 1984], de Insid. 21 [de Boor 1905], and de Virt. et Vit. 26 [Büttner-Wobst 1906]

(v) DS 8.4 (Budé) = 8.3 (Loeb) - de Insid. 24 [de Boor 1905]

(vi) DS 8.3 (Budé) = 8.4 (Loeb) - de Virt. et Vit. 31 [Büttner-Wobst 1906]

(vii) DS 10.32 (Budé) = DS 10.15 (Loeb) - de Legat. 2 [de Boor 1903]

(viii) DS 10.33 (Budé) = DS 10.16.1 (Loeb) - de Sent. 89 [Boissevain 1906].

(a) The Budé text generally differs little from that of Oldfather's Loeb edition (vol. 3: books 6-8 [1939]; vol. 4: 9-10 [1946]), which was drawn from Vogel 1890. The only exception is (ii), where H. Thurn's recent edition of Malalas' Chronographia (Berlin 2000) has made significant changes to the text. The full apparatus criticus provided by Cohen-Skalli for each fragment, however, enables the reader to understand the textual history and have confidence in the improvements proposed by various editors.

(b) Cohen-Skalli's French translation of the fragments whose text remains essentially unchanged reads at least as well as that of Oldfather into English. Here again the Budé offers much more discussion and explanation of terms whose meaning is less than straightforward, which effectively takes the reader into partnership in the understanding of the text.

(c) Cohen-Skalli's reorganization of the fragments was designed, as explained above, to preserve the boundaries of each fragment, to facilitate comparison of several excerpts of the same Diodoran passage from different sources, and to reflect the latest scholarship on the order in which they probably stood in Diodorus' text. Like the full apparatus criticus and the explanations of points in the translation, these organizational strategies remind the reader constantly of the distance that separates a 'book' artificially reconstructed from small excerpts from the lost complete text. Oldfather's Loeb edition, which aimed primarily to make the Bibliotheke easily accessible to modern readers, naturally elided such issues. Although the printing of comparable fragments in parallel columns has some significant advantages, the consequent interweaving of texts can sometimes cause confusion, as one tries to follow the thread of text and notes (some printed as footnotes, others as endnotes) from page to page, and refer to the apparatus, located at the end of each fragment.

(d) The supplementary notes are extremely comprehensive – sufficient, in fact, to constitute, together with the very extensive "Notice" and Bibliography, a full commentary on these skeletal texts (187 pages of endnotes, plus footnotes to the translation). Their content is admirably thorough and judicious, including references to other similar ancient accounts, discussion of scholarship on the possible inter-relationship of these different accounts, and comments on the textual tradition, translation, and proper ordering of the fragments.

This new publication of these sadly fragmentary books, so crucially important for our understanding of how Diodorus designed his Bibliotheke, is to be welcomed wholeheartedly. The meticulous care it devotes to every aspect of scholarship makes it a worthy addition to the Budé Diodorus.

Table des matières

I. La transmission fragmentaire du texte, IX
A. La perte du texte, IX
B. La catégorie du "fragment", XII
C. Les éditions, XV
D. Principales traductions en langues modernes, XXIII
II. Les branches de la tradition indirecte, XXIV
A. Les Extraits Constantiniens, XXV
1. Project et réalisation des Extraits, XXV
2. Composition du recueil, XXVIII
3. Fiabilité des Extraits Constantiniens, XXXVI
4. Les manuscrits, XXXVI
B. Témoignages d'auteurs, XLVII
1. Apologistes et écrivains chrétiens, XLVIII
2. Érudits byzantins, LV
C. Principes de l'édition, LXV
I. Questions de chronologie, LXXXI
II. Questions thématiques: le regroupement kata genos, XCII
III. Un cas singulier dans l'étude des genê: hypothèses sur la place de Rome dans le récit des archaiologiai, XCVII
Notice, 3
Texte et traduction, 26
Notice, 37
Texte et traduction, 50
Notice, 77
Texte et traduction, 94
Notice, 121
Texte et traduction, 134
LIVRE X, 163
Notice, 165
Texte et traduction, 186

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