Monday, September 15, 2014


Cornelia Römer, Alcman. Commentaria et lexica Graeca in papyris reperta (CLGP), Pars I – Commentaria et lexica in auctores. Vol. 1 Aeschines - Bacchylides, fasc. 2.1. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2013. Pp. xvi, 159 p., 8 p. plates. ISBN 9783110302967. $182.00.

Reviewed by Francesca Schironi, University of Michigan (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

This volume, published in the series 'Commentaria et Lexica Graeca in Papyris reperta' (CLGP), collects all the papyrological evidence concerning the ancient scholarship on Alcman. The volume includes 14 papyri, ordered according to their content: first, commentaries (P.Oxy. 2389; P.Oxy. 3210, P.Oxy. 2390, P.Oxy. 2391, P.Oxy, 2392); then, marginal scholia (P.Louvre E 3320, P.Oxy. 2387, P.Congr. XV.1), glossaries (P.Oxy. 2393), commentaries or monographs on lyric poets where Alcman is quoted (P.Oxy. 2506), as well as notes on choral lyric, possibly by Alcman (P.Oxy. 2394); lastly, Römer lists and briefly analyzes three papyri that might contain some notes on Alcman or his poetry (P.Oxy. 2388, P.Oxy. 2802, P.Oxy. 3542). It must be noted that some of these papyri are only tentatively considered to be texts commenting on Alcman, as none of their lemmata is clearly recognizable as belonging to the Spartan poet; rather, such attribution is suggested by the fact that they comment on a poem in Doric (P.Oxy. 2391, where perhaps also the name of Alcman can be supplemented in one place, and P.Oxy. 2394) or that their entries mention Spartan realities (P.Oxy. 3210, where perhaps Archidamus is mentioned, even though the name of Alcman never occurs in this papyrus, while Sappho is mentioned twice). In addition, some papyri are scanty or very fragmentary, so that it is often impossible to figure out the content of their explanations (P.Oxy. 3210; P.Oxy. 2391; P.Oxy. 2387; P.Oxy. 2393; P.Oxy. 2394). On the other hand, P.Oxy. 2392 preserves only traces of a title (or a title tag?) of a commentary on Alcman's Book 4 by a certain Dionysius but no explanation whatsoever. Notwithstanding these issues, unavoidable when dealing with texts preserved on papyrus, this volume gathers together some very interesting pieces.

In the introduction (pp. 3-9), Römer gives a (by necessity) brief overview of these texts: none of them is later than the 3rd century CE, which suggests that Alcman as a poet lost popularity with time. Yet, exactly because Alcman was a poet for learned people these papyri preserve interesting and rather refined notes, making this one of the most fascinating cases of 'reception' in ancient scholarship. Alcman was an object of interest for the most important scholars of the Hellenistic and early Imperial periods, such as Aristophanes of Byzantium, Aristarchus, Crates, Sosibius, Theon, Pamphilus and Tyrannion, all authorities quoted in these papyri. In terms of content of the ancient exegesis on Alcman, aside from the usual glosses, parallels with other poets and explanations concerning historical, mythical and geographical details of his poems, the main topics covered by ancient scholars relate to Alcman's origin (from Sparta or from Lydia?) and the discussion on Partheneion 1. As for the latter topic, two papyri (P.Oxy. 2389 and P.Louvre E 3320) discuss this poem with some interesting overlaps; yet, what seems to us an ancient obsession with Partheneion 1 might be simply due to chance: perhaps the rest of Alcman's poetry was commented upon just as much, but these commentaries have not reached us.

Among the most interesting commentaries are P.Oxy. 2389, a hypomnema on several of Alcman's poems (as the coronis in fr. 4 proves), including Partheneion 1, and P.Oxy. 2390, which contains an allegorical reading of Alcman's so-called 'cosmogony' (fr. 2, iii) as well as other more 'philologically oriented' notes (in fr. 2, i-ii, where again another coronis shows that the commentary originally dealt with more than one poem). Among scholia, P.Louvre E 3320 stands out: it not only preserves the text of Partheneion 1, but also has some very interesting scholia for which Römer's edition will now become an obligatory reference. P.Congr. XV.1, on the other hand, preserves two lemmata with only one explanation preserved. The latter discusses a type of bird and, interestingly enough, seems to find parallels among Latin sources against the Greek ones. Finally P.Oxy. 2387, which preserves (often very faint) traces of seven scholia, does have an interesting marginal note discussing ordering problems for the ode preserved in the papyrus within Alcman's 'official' edition.

Römer has prepared a very good edition for these papyri. She applies the usual CLGP format: a very useful introductory 'bibliographical summary' is followed by a paleographical description of the papyrus, the re-edition of the fragments with both a papyrological and a critical apparatus and, finally, a commentary. Having recently used quite extensively this volume for research purposes, I can say that Römer's volume has been extremely useful and inspiring. In particular, her re-edition of P.Louvre E 3320 is especially praiseworthy. Her new readings of the scholia to lines 36-48 demonstrate that for the ancient scholar the 'beauty contest' between Agido and Hagesichora was sung by two semi-choruses led by the two girls; even though this might not be the reality of the performance behind the original ode, it is still a very interesting note – and one which shows an interest among ancient commentators for the performative aspects of the poem. These notes (admittedly quite faint on the papyrus) were not read fully by previous editors such as, for example, Page, Calame and Tsantsanoglou,1 and this is why Römer's achievement (of which her readings of these scholia are only one example) will become a key point of reference for any scholar interested in Partheneion 1.

The commentary is chiefly papyrological, but Römer sometimes broadens the analysis, either discussing some issues in more depth or quoting some parallels for similar issues. It is generally clear and full of interesting insights, as I have remarked above.

The main problem I have found in using this volume is with the translations, which can be a bit 'user unfriendly' for two reasons. First, while translations of supplemented words or conjectures are often clearly indicated with question marks or placed within square brackets (e.g., p. 20), this is not always the case; at pp. 22-23 in the translation, for example, the name 'So[sibius]' at line 13 is partly bracketed because it is supplemented (the papyrus reads only Σω[), while other supplements like those at line 11 are not noted as such in the translation. There might be a reason for that (perhaps the fact that Σω[ might also stand for 'Sosigenes', while the other supplements are more secure? This may be a good reason – yet one would like to know it). Even when a translation is indicated as dubious, some additional discussion might have been beneficial: for instance, at p. 43 we read 'die Mädchen von Atarnis (?)', where the papyrus (P.Oxy. 2389, fr. 35, i, 21) simply reads: ']τ̣ασαρδ̣['. The guess 'Atarnides' is probably correct (since elsewhere Alcman mentions 'the girls of Atarneus'; cf. P.Oxy. 2389, fr. 6, ii, 8-9); nevertheless, one would still have liked a note in the commentary explaining why such a translation is suggested, even if the text in the papyrus is not emended. This is even more necessary, in fact, because Lobel had proposed to read τὰ Σαρδ[ or τὰς Ἀρδ[αλίδας]; in the commentary at p. 44 Römer correctly notes that the latter might be too long for the space available, but this explanation is not developed further to discuss this problematic reading as well as the proposed translation. Secondly, the translation sometimes sounds continuous (divided only by a |) when it is actually not, because the text in the papyrus is lacunose: for example, at p. 20 'der Götter | den Tyndariden aus den' ('of the gods | to the Tyndaridai from the') seems to be a continuous sentence, but in fact the genitive plural θεῶν̣ and the phrase [Τυν]δ̣αρί̣δαις ἐκ τῶν are separated by one line of writing as well as by a blank line with a coronis. On the other hand, when the same papyrus (P.Oxy. 2389, fr. 6, ii, 12-15) quotes Pindar's Nemean Ode 2, 11-12 in full to explain that the Pleiades can also be called Peleiades, in the translation (p. 27) we read only: 'Die Plejaden nennt er Peleiaden wie Pindar', whereby Pindar's very lines are completely omitted in the translation. From a brief survey of previous volumes, their translations were much easier to match to the papyrus texts.

In the commentary Römer sometimes includes references to parallel sources, something readers unfamiliar with ancient scholarship will find very useful. Occasionally, however, such references are less useful than they might be because the edition cited is not the best one. For example, on p. 18 and p. 139 Ps-Herodian's De figuris is quoted according to Walz's edition (1835), not according to the much better one by Hajdú (1998).2 Similarly on p. 120 a passage from Herodian's Περὶ μονήρους λέξεως, the only work of Herodian to survive intact, is cited not from that work but from Lentz's reconstruction of the Περὶ καθολικῆς προσῳδίας, in which Lentz borrowed that passage from the Περὶ μονήρους λέξεως – i.e., a reference to Grammatici Graeci III 2, 942.13-14 would have been much more helpful than the current reference to III 1, 393. 3 These are, however, small points in the context of a commentary that readers will find very useful overall.

Römer's volume confirms my initial positive impression put forward when I reviewed the first book of the series (BMCR 2005.09.81); however, as I have often used the volumes of CLGP for research and teaching over the past few years, I am now in a better position to comment more generally on the series. While working with CLGP I have found myself wishing many times that there were an index listing lemmata or topics treated in the papyri collected in each volume. I am aware that editors plan a final volume of Concordantiae et Indices. This is all good, but perhaps, in the name of the 'amicitia papyrologorum', we might suggest that temporary indexes for each volume already published be made available online (as an 'informal' PDF?) to scholars who need to search for a word or topic without having to wait for the end of the series (which might take several years).

Aside from these remarks – which are only meant to improve a series that is still at the beginning and can indeed become a major philological and papyrological achievement – this volume on Alcman is a precious addition to CLGP. With her new readings and enlightening commentary Römer has produced what must now become the standard edition of papyri commenting on one of the most fascinating poets of archaic Greece.4


1.   D. L. Page, Alcman. The Partheneion. Edited with a commentary and a study on the dialect of Alcman, Oxford 1951; C. Calame, Alcman: Introduction, texte critique, témoignages, traduction et commentaire, Roma 1983; K. Tsantsanoglou, 'The Scholia on Alcman's Partheneion', Hellenica 56 (2006): 7-30
2.   K. Hajdú., Ps.-Herodian, De figuris. Überlieferungsgeschichte und kritische Ausgabe, SGLG 8, Berlin 1998.
3.   For further information on the pitfalls of using Lentz's edition of Herodian, see A. Dyck, 'Aelius Herodian: Recent Studies and Prospects for Future Research', ANRW II, 34, 1, Berlin – New York 1993: 772-794.
4.   I would like to thank Eleanor Dickey for very helpful discussions relevant to this review.

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