Monday, October 21, 2013


Colin Austin, Menander, Eleven Plays. Cambridge Classical Journal: Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society. Supplementary volume, 37. Cambridge: Cambridge Philological Society, 2013. Pp. xiii, 84. ISBN 9780956838124. £35.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Benjamin Cartlidge, Oxford (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

2010 was an annus horribilis for Menandrean scholarship. The loss of Geoffrey Arnott (†1st December 2010) and Colin Austin (†13th August 2010) hit scholars in this branch of research very hard. Austin's was all the more palpable, because he was in the process of completing a long-awaited Oxford Classical Text of Menander. A number of small but significant gains have made a new text of Menander imperative. Sandbach (ed. 2, 1990) is now hopelessly outdated. Arnott (1979–2000) is a great improvement, but even this edition is slowly being superseded, notably due to the new Michigan texts of the Epitrepontes.1 Austin's Oxford Classical Text would have meant a dramatic increase in the accessibility and readability of Menander. The edition under review is sadly a shadow of what the completed Oxford text would have been. However, it gives us a valuable resource particularly for the understanding of the shorter papyrus fragments. Since these rarely attract the attention of commentators, owing to their parlous state, a new edition furnished with editorial commentary and the rich parallels Austin could supply is to be welcomed.

Austin's preface to his edition is a slice of life in an exciting period for twentieth-century classical scholarship; looking on the history of the rediscovery of Menander from the inside is fascinating, and will be required reading for those interested in this story. It serves also as a poignant reminder of Austin's own career, in which Menander figured so largely. There follows a text of the eleven plays (a table of contents is given at the end of the review). For each play, Austin gives a brief list of the testimonia for the title, a list of plays with comparable titles by other comic writers, and the textual witnesses, including bibliography for images and previous editions.

The text of the Georgos is fuller than before in both text and apparatus. P.Brit.Lib. 2823a is included for the first time (noticed already by Sandbach (1990) 28 but not edited); so is P.Oxy. 4937, making this the most up-to-date text of the play. The apparatus is a case study for Austin's enormous learning. The list of parallels and witnesses to the text is a valuable demonstration of Menander's role in ancient scholarship. Georg. 77–8 is a case in point, where the notion of 'poverty the beast' is traced through antiquity with much greater clarity than in Sandbach (1990) or Arnott (1979). The commentary on 37–8 is of interest; on one reading of Pollux's comments as cited there, the word γῄδιον may need to be added to Menander's corpus.

Being one of the few passages of Greek New Comedy for which we have an original and a Plautine adaptation, the Dis Exapaton has been much discussed. However, the text presented here is substantially fuller than that of Arnott (1979) or Sandbach (1990), neither of whom could exploit the full publication of the papyrus by Handley. Austin's skill at supplementing is demonstrated perfectly by the text of DE 6–12, 30–2, 50–1 (a particularly ingenious example); more will be said about supplements at the end of the review. The policy taken regarding papyrological signs is particularly noticeable in the difficult beginning of Act IV; however, it is a delight to read a text which includes these lines, especially in Austin's reconstruction. One should also state that there are examples where Austin is more scrupulous than Sandbach (e.g. DE 97). Again, this edition has provided a convenient full text of a play that had previously been rather inaccessible.

A full text of the Encheiridion is extremely useful, and the presentation is a little easier than in Arnott (1979). The scribal correction in line 6 is not noted. It is odd that line 21 is not obelized, as it is unclear what δραμετέον is taken to mean. Given that nominal word-formation in Menander shows no evidence for shortenings characteristic of the Koiné like θέμα for θῆμα, it seems unlikely that the form is an avatar of δραμητέον. The text of fr. 3 is more accurately presented than by Arnott (1979). Kraus has argued that fr. 862 K.–A. comes from this play, on the strength of the near identity of personal names in it and on the Encheiridion mosaic; but given that this rests on an emendation (Δέρσιππος on the mosaic to be read Δέρκιππος as in the fragment) it is probably correct that the edition does not print the fragment here.

For cross-referencing, labelling the Cairo fragments of the Hero as in other editions might have been helpful. At 56 the apparatus records Sandbach, not Arnott as the source of the conjecture εἰ νῦν, differently from Sandbach's apparatus. The arrangement of the scraps from the later acts follows that of Sandbach, not that of Arnott – but the fragments barely support one arrangement over another. Unlike Sandbach and Arnott, Austin scrupulously records the parts of old quotations attested on papyrus, as well as the text of the book fragment itself (Her. 76–7 is a case in point, but it might have be illustrated from other plays). Austin also lists other comic fragments (both Menandrean and adespota) which have been thought to be connected with the play.

Theophoroumene has seen some changes: the 'fragmentum dubium' of Sandbach is now not considered such; lines 42–49 (= 12–19 Sandbach) have been restored fully by Austin; and, so far as this reviewer is aware, the addendum lexicis ζιγόστατοι in line 15.2 As for other plays, it aids legibility tremendously now that we can see the fragments properly spaced line by line. Karchedonios is more complete here than ever before, though the reasons for assuming that P.Colon. 4 followed P.Oxy. 3966 directly are unclear to me; this is impossible physically, at least, since each fragment is at the foot of a column and both are very probably from the same roll.

Handley's hypothesis that the book fragment of the Leukadia follows immediately on the papyrus fragment is mentioned by Austin but not reflected in his arrangement of the text; Austin also adjusts one of Handley's supplements (ῥεῖ for ᾿στι). Austin includes a reference to com. adesp. 1127 K.–A., assigned to the Leukadia by Handley and Arnott, but does not print the text. This is advisable, as the identification rests on very slim grounds.

The new hypothesis of the Phasma is a welcome addition to a text of the play, and again the text is fuller than in previous editions. The St. Petersburg fragments suffer from two difficult problems: the relative order of the pages, and the extent of the prologue speech of the goddess. Turner argued that placing Ia first allowed for quite enough space before the beginning of the goddess's speech, assuming that 32–39 are spoken by the goddess (using the common phenomenon of reported dialogue). Austin has the goddess begin only at 40; then the second-person forms must be real dialogue, and we have an enormous amount of space for the action in the gap between the two leaves. In short, this edition has synthesised the virtues of Körte (who offered a fully reconstructed text) with modern scholarship on the play. It will certainly stimulate discussion of the play.

This in fact is the singular virtue of this edition: it will draw our attention back to the neglected plays of Menander, long overdue in the light of our improved knowledge of his work. On the face of it, this book might make for rather an exciting introduction to Menander. The richness of the text and apparatus might be taken to show something of Menander's appeal through the ages; there may also be some advantages in introducing students to the interesting problems of plays other than the Dyskolos. The main audience for this book, however, will be scholars working on Menander, who will benefit from the details that fill this fascinating edition.

To end, some minor quibbles. The book comes with a serious drawback in its layout (though it is virtually without misprints): 2 the apparatus criticus is printed at the end of the text, not at the foot of each page. For some plays this is of little importance, since the fragments are so short anyway. For others, it makes the book much more difficult to use and only encourages students in the reprehensible practice of ignoring the basis on which a text is constituted. This is a particular issue for a poet like Menander, for many of whose plays no consensus on the order of papyrus fragments yet exists. I feel sure Austin would not have approved of this decision.

A general comment on the nature of the text. Austin has tried to lighten the load of dots, brackets and so forth that usually disfigures Menander's text. This is a difficult issue. Anyone who has used the edition of van Leeuwen (31919) will know how frustrating it is to be given no indication in the text of what is on the papyrus and what is not. Sandbach's OCT is infuriatingly inconsistent, which makes matters worse. But it is also true that many supplements are obvious. Austin comments that anyone wishing to know more 'may always consult the originals, or photographs, the first diplomatic transcript and the first editions' (xii). Indeed – but he who does not may easily gain a false impression of the state of Menander's text. Something in a 'standard' or '(near-)definitive' edition should flag the difficulties rather more than is done here. There is a sense in which the usefulness of this edition depends on the quality of the library one is reading it in, assuming that one will work from it and want to check details.

But these are minor points; the breadth of learning, the rich supplements, the supporting materials and the user-friendly presentation (all books should have margins this generous) make this edition a vital stimulus for Menandrean studies. The Cambridge University Press deserves our thanks for bringing out this fragment of fragments.

Table of Contents

Editorial Note
Lectori salutem
Note on Images
Δὶς Ἐξαπατῶν


1.   The Oxford Classical Text of F. H. Sandbach, Menandri Reliquiae Selectae (21990), the Loeb edition of W. G. Arnott, Menander, 3 vols. (1979, 1996, 2000), and the Teubner edition of Körte (31957) are hereafter cited only by name.
2.   This form was first suggested by Webster, JHS 93 (1973) 199, where it is supposed to mean a 'drink-stand' (thanks to P. G. McC. Brown for pointing this reference out to me). The basis for the reconstruction seems extremely slim: a Cilician gloss ζιγοῦν in the Antiatticist (Bekker 98.6), and an (orthographically different) variant ζιγγοῦν, also supposed to be Cilician, and attributed by Photius to Nicostratus (= fr. 36 K.–A.). If we assume that the two hastae after zeta (certainly not xi) are not two letters (ιπ or ιγ), but one, one might think of [ἀ]ζη[λέ]στατο[ι] (not found, but at least built according to entirely predictable rules), or if that is too long perhaps [ἀλα]ζ<ο>ν[έ]στατο[ι]. The details of this must be argued elsewhere.
3.   I record the few I have noticed: p. 56, some of the square brackets are missing from Sudhaus's restoration of Cith. 70–2; p. 76, 'Herm. 1938' for '138'; p. 79, '35' is one line too low.

1 comment:

  1. Dr C. Stray advises me that the Cambridge Philological Society, not the University Press, are in fact the organ responsible for the book's publication, and therefore should have been the body thanked ad fin. in the review. My apologies, and all our thanks, then, to the CPhS!
    Ben Cartlidge.