Monday, October 23, 2017


Antonietta Gostoli, Roberto Velardi (ed.), Mythologeîn: mito e forme di discorso nel mondo antico. Studi in onore di Giovanni Cerri. AION. Quaderni, 18. Pisa; Roma: Fabrizio Serra editore, 2015. Pp. 540. ISBN 9788862277389. €245.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Michela Piccin, Northeast Normal University (NENU), Institute for the History of Ancient Civilizations (IHAC), Changchun (

Version at BMCR home site

[Authors and titles are listed below.]

This Festschrift, entitled Mythologeîn ('to tell mythic tales'), is dedicated to Giovanni Cerri. It contains 85 essays, each very different in content and methodology, assorted into ten sections based thematically around Cerri's main fields of interest. The volume starts with a brief preamble by the editors and a very concise summary of Cerri's biography, and ends with a bibliography of his 148 publications. These include 12 books, among which are many well-known volumes on the history of Greek literature, culture and philosophy, published between 1977 and 2014.

Overall, the essays are of good quality. However, some have been recycled and were not written specifically for this volume. 1 While these reflect a wide range of topics, they often do not fall naturally into the sections where they are inserted. Festschrifts generally choose themes that reflect the interests of the person to whom the volume is dedicated. A general introduction, therefore, after the all too brief preamble would have been desirable in order to explain the collection's goals: this would have provided a key with which to unlock interpretations of the titles and different sections. At present, these appear disconnected, creating a fragmentary resource, the contents of which are not in line with the title. Equally, short introductions to the various sections would have helped readers to follow the threads that are interwoven throughout the contributions, the sections, and the preamble.

Before continuing this review, it will be helpful to define mythos and mythologeîn. In Greek, mythos designates a formulated verbal expression, whether it is a story, a dialogue, or the announcement of a project. Mythos, therefore, belongs to the same order as legeîn, as the compounds mythologeîn and mythología indicate. Legeîn, initially, is not in contrast to lógoi, whose semantic values are close to it, referring to the different forms of what is said. 2

Several types of documents are included in the the category of myth: fragmentary versions, short stories, literary transpositions or even extensive theological elaborations. All these texts, albeit at different levels of thought, share the same tradition. They change elements of this tradition, but maintain its main features – otherwise, they would be unintelligible. These tales have three characteristics (i) to enchant the listener, as in spoken stories and fables; (ii) to communicate central commonalities and the deepest truths of human existence, as in fiction or fantasy; (iii) to have characters that act to modify, during the story, the initial situation which, in the end, is no longer entirely the same as in the beginning. 3

Different formulations of myth are related to the following factors: the switch between oral and written forms, and the topic to be conveyed (namely history, religion, philosophy, etc.). The various contributions in Mythologeîn are grouped into ten sections concerning the different formulations of myths and how they were communicated. However, a few articles deal with the theme proposed by the title of the whole volume. I will focus on these articles.

The emergence of writing affected the elaboration and transmission of thought within an ancient culture. Oral expression is oriented towards rhythmic pleasure and charms the listener like a spell. Its metrical form, which provides the rhythm, arouses emotional communion in the audience. Conversely, the logos, aiming at truth, requires scrupulous analysis and hence presents a sequence of facts that appeal to the critical mind of the reader. Velardi and Ercolani argue from two different points of view, but both discuss how the deeper reflection on written texts allows the reader to gain more understanding than they can from the more fleeting spoken forms. Velardi deals with the concept of kleos and highlights how, in Philostratus' Heroicus, the protagonist of the Iliad recaptures the tribute paid to him by the poet. Philostratus, singing the praises of Homer to Achilles, recognises the essential function of Homeric poetry in making the figure of the hero immortal. 4 For his part, Ercolani reflects on the terms basileis and dikai. They are not simple generic plurals: they refer to a correlative (basileis) linked in turn to several motions for resolving a dispute (dikai). 5

The myth is opposed to tragic and lyric poetry. Epic, lyrical and tragic poets draw on the fundamentals of mythology, but with artistic freedom, in order to make literary material. They use myth according to their needs. Privitera points out how, in lyric, the mythical past and its heroes were a model to be built upon. For example, in Nemean 5, Pindar recounts how Hippolyta sought to ensnare Peleus and how, in the end, he is rewarded with marriage to Thetis. Pindar does not just recount this tale. Instead, he uses the mythical subject matter to develop his own style: he tells the story extensively (like a rhapsody), but in reverse narrative order (like a lyric). 6

In the case of tragedy, the mythical traditions are used to describe problems that are not resolved. Heroes are no longer ideal models, and their positions become problematic. They belong to a different age, but speak a familiar language. Fileni highlights these aspects in her article. The contrast between logos and mythos and between ergon and mythos are also explained, as divine prescriptions and metatextual indications respectively. 7

Myth is opposed to history: it represents only fantastic discourse, rather than actual occurrences. On the veritable and verisimilar in an evolving cultural system, Gentili-Cerri's 1983 article is a milestone. 8 Following this contribution, Dorati proposes an analysis of the psychological and mental states of the characters and highlights how the narrator, albeit a historian who must be super partes, represents the attitudes of the characters. This makes us question the likelihood of narrated actions and events. This article is contrasted with Vallozza's article, where she explains why a historian, in addition to historical truth, must reproduce the characteristics of the individual's people, when an individual's speeches are reported.

Myth is opposed to philosophy. The gap between myth and logos in the philosophical field is played out at a formal level between the narrative plot of myth and the argument and demonstration of philosophical discourse. Myth constructs the content for the abstract concepts of philosophical discourse. Palumbo sheds light on the use of mythos within the construction of Plato's philosophy. The myth in Plato is used as a means of persuasion. It has a psychagogical function: it addresses the irrational dimension of the psyche to accept the guidance of reason. Her argumentation – which frames the myth as didactic to make visible all the images one wants to make visible – is convincing. 9

Myth is opposed to religion: it is not a dogma, a mandatory belief. Myths may vary from one version to another without calling into question the general belief system. A good example of this is the reimagining of the myths of the magical papyri. 10 Casadio discusses the adaptation of the myth of Myrrha in the ritual that derives from the Parisian great magical papyrus. In it, myrrha refers to the aromatic gum-resin that burns during the ritual and to the heroine in the cities of Myrrha or Smyrna.

Some papers give imprecise information. For example, Cantilena (p. 50) compares the story of Patroclus appearing in spirit form in the penultimate episode of the Iliad with Gilgamesh and Enkidu in the last tablet (XII) of Gilgamesh. He states that this parallel supports the thesis that the Iliad is not related to the most ancient versions (Sumerian and Old-Babylonian), but to the 'classical version'. However, what Cantilena means by 'classical version' is not specified; nor is the question of why there is disagreement among scholars about whether we should consider the last tablet (XII) as part of the saga or not. 11

The volume is well edited, with very few inaccuracies. 12 However, the editors did not cross-reference the text, and there is no analytical index, list of abbreviations, or index locorum. Not all papers have their own bibliographies, and sometimes they do not have footnotes. Several papers do not offer translations of Greek and Roman words and texts, making the book less accessible to non-classicists. There are four papers written in English, and the others are in Italian. The Italian papers do not have translated abstracts to make the content accessible to non-Italian speakers. The black-and-white maps and photos have a good resolution.

Despite the issues raised in this review, the volume has been well edited, the proofreading is almost perfect, and it collects stimulating articles that leave the door open for further investigations. Overall, it is well suited to the celebration of an eminent scholar such as Cerri.


Antonietta Gostoli, Roberto Velardi, Premessa

Omero e poesia epica
Anna Sacconi, Concordanze omeriche con i testi micenei
Stefano Dentice di Accadia Ammone, Tersite all'assemblea. Oratoria e demagogia nell'Iliade
Roberto Velardi, Achille, l'eroe che canta se stesso (Il. 9, 186-191; Philostr. Her. 55)
Simonetta Nannini, Razionalismo, iperrazionalismo e stratigrafia a proposito delle due armature di Achille
Riccardo Di Donato, La morte di Patroclo: decostruzione dell'aristeus omerico
Mario Cantilena, Nota a un passo dell'Iliade ([Y] 99-100)
Franco Montanari, Penelope al simposio. Od. 1, 328-335 e Dicearco
Carlo Brillante, Teoclimeno, il veggente dell'Odissea
Eleonora Cavallini, Achille 'sposo ideale' da Omero a Euripide
Franco Ferrari, Cronaca di due morti annunciate: dall'Iliade all'Etiopide;
Brun o d'Agostino, Odisseo ante litteram
Livio Sbardella, La geografia simbolica del mito: Lemno nella tradizione poetica greca dall'epos omerico al Filottete di Sofocle
Diego Lanza, La fabbricazione della sposa
Andrea Ercolani, Modi e forme del procedimento giudiziario in Esiodo. Un'ipotesi ricostruttiva
Bruna M. Palumbo Stracca, Le maledizioni del poeta itinerante nella Vita Homeri Herodotea
Massimo Di Marco, "Neppure sotto tortura": la patria di Omero e un singolare exemplum fictum (AP 7, 5 = Alc. Mess. 22 G.-P.)

Lirica arcaica e tardo-arcaica
Vincenzo Di Benedetto, Saffo e i discorsi di allora;
Franca Perusino, Maria Colantonio, Saffo e Titono: due vecchiaie a confronto
Gabriele Burzacchini, Espero e Aurora da Saffo (fr. 104a V.) a Meleagro (AP 12, 114 = HE 75)
Alfonso Mele, Tra Grecia e Occidente: l'Oresteia di Stesicoro
Luigi Bravi, Qualche ripensamento sul fr. 555 P. di Simonide
Carmine Catenacci, Tre note all'Olimpica 2 di Pindaro
Bruno Gentili, L'Olimpica 6 di Pindaro
G. Aurelio Privitera, Psamatheia e Pytheas. Note alla quinta Nemeadi Pindaro
Paola Angeli Bernardini, Ideologia militare e ideologia agonistica nell'Isthm. 5 di Pindaro 

Sapienti e filosofi
Claude Calame, Procedure inniche nei versi dei sophoicosmologi. Pragmatica della poesia didascalica (da Esiodo e Teognide a Empedocle e Parmenide)
Livio Rossetti, Anassimene vs.  Anassimandro
Giovanni Casertano, Tragedia e commedia nella (della) vita umana nei dialoghi platonici
Lidia Palumbo, Appunti sulla funzione del mito nei dialoghi di Platone
Mauro Tulli, Ione fra la pittura, la scultura e la musica: un catalogo di Platone
Marisa Tortorelli Ghidini, Rivivere cigno (Plat .Resp. 10, 620a-b)
Romano Romani, Su Aristotele, Metaph. [L] 1069a 18-1069b 15: materia e luce.

Teatro tragico e comico
Bernhard Zimmermann, Riflessioni sull'origine del dramma
Riccardo Palmisciano, Una testimonianza sul Satyrikon in un aryballos di Nearco (570-550 a.C.)
Paola Volpe Cacciatore, Il timore di Atossa: Aesch. Pers. 162
Vittorio Citti, Danao e le sue figlie (Aesch. Suppl. 176-220)
Monica Centanni, [Démou kratoùsa cheír]: Aesch. Suppl. 604
Maria Grazia Fileni, La parola sulla scena del dramma attico: il Prometeo
Valeria Andò, Il mostro argivo (Aesch. Ag. 824)
Giulio Guidorizzi, Antigone e l'abolizione del tempo
Roberto Nicolai, Edipo archeologo. Le profezie sul passato e le origini della ricerca storica
Renzo Tosi, Soph. fr. 155 R.[2]: un caso di intertestualità proverbiale
Daša Bartoňková, Comic Effects of Hybris in Euripides' Tragedies Alkestis, Ion, and Helen
Simonetta Grandolini, Poesia [térpsis] e poesia [fármakon] in Euripide
Giuseppe Zanetto, Un pulcinella filosofo: l'Eracle dell'Alcesti
Maria Pia Pattoni, Tracce eschilee nelle Supplici di Euripide, tra riprese e distanziazioni
Ester Cerbo, Il canto della Sfinge tra mito e scena nelle Fenicie di Euripide
Giuseppe Mastromarco, Euripide e il mito di Bellerofonte
Donato Loscalzo, "All'alba vincerò": prove di regia nelle Ecclesiazuse di Aristofane
Michele Napolitano, Note a Eup. fr. 175 K.-A. (Kolakes)
Antonietta Gostoli, L'emergere della figura del [tragodós] nel teatro attico di fine V sec. a.C. (Aristofane ed Euripide)
Emanuele Greco, Sui teatri di Efestia nell'isola di Lemno

Prosa dall'età classica all'età romana
Marco Dorati, La rappresentazione del pensiero dei personaggi nella Ciropedia e nelle Elleniche di Senofonte
Maddalena Vallozza, Aneddoto e biografia: la voce di Demostene
Mario Mazza, "L'atto di nascita dell'Ellenismo"? Qualche considerazione sulla c.d. "Lettera di Aristotele ad Alessandro sulla politica verso le città"
Settimio Lanciotti, Sen. Epist. 102, 1-2
Luigi Leurini, Il De Iside et Osiride di Plutarco nel codice Ambrosianus 448, H 113 sup
Lorenzo Miletti, Esiodo nello scrittoio di Elio Aristide
Jerzy Danielewicz, The Scholar at Play or the Advantages of a Prosimetric Logodeipnon
Ugo Criscuolo, Sinesio e i [thrulloúmena dógmata]

Poesia ellenistica e di età romana
Carles Miralles, Un epigramma di Mero
Massimo Giuseppetti, La profezia apollinea su Cos nell'Inno a Delo di Callimaco
Krystyna Bartol, Apollonius' Judgemental Narrative. The Case of the Argonautica 1, 917
Albio Cesare Cassio, Due atticismi in Teocrito (14, 6)
Fabrizio Conca, Proverbi e sentenze nell'Antologia Palatina
Gabriella Ricciardelli, Una canzoncina da Dura-Europos. 

Emanuele Dettori, Un'ipotesi etimologica per [brotoloigós]
Adriano V. Rossi, Ancora su gr. [paragaúdes] e sui problemi dei 'graeco-iranica'

Liana Lomiento, Colometria e sintassi nella lirica di Simonide (con osservazioni sull'uso del polisindeto e dell'enjambement)
Andrea Tessier, Come termina il gliconeo?
Pietro Giannini, Un capitolo dimenticato della metrica di Eliodoro: la sillaba [koivé]

Storia delle religioni, antropologia, semiotica
Antonio Martina, Dalla Sfinge di Tebe alla Porta dei Leoni di Micene: testimonianze di un culto aniconico
Fritz Graf, Consilia: a Strange Roman Festival in Late Greek Disguise
Manuela Giordano, Perché ad Atene cessarono le vendette? Dal sistema della vendetta al sistema della pena
Luigi Gallo, Il "barbaro" a tavola: regimi nutritivi e alterità culturale
Giovanni Casadio, Differenza del desiderio e desiderio della differenza: eros e philia nella magia erotica greco-romana
Giovanni M. D'Erme, Segni. 

Fra antico e modern
Amneris Roselli, Le età dell'uomo nella lettura allegorica dell'Eneide: da Fulgenzio a Dante
Vittorio Ferraro, "Li due occhi del cielo" (Dante, Purg. 20, 132). Genesi e storia di una metafora dotta
Luigi Munzi, Un proemio al mezzo in Walafrido Strabone
Emanuela Andreoni Fontecedro, I moderni e Virgilio: l'armonia di buio e luce. Echi sparsi dell'Eneide
Maria Cannatà Fera, Pindaro/Spintaro in Celio Calcagnini e Plutarco
Ezio Pellizer, Il paradosso di Cassandra
Sergio Audano, Eraclito e l'eterno ritorno: nota di lettura ai Mémoires d'Hadrien di Marguerite Yourcenar
Anna Beltrametti, Neottolemo o della coscienza. Il Filottete di Sofocle, la lettura di Giovanni Cerri, la riscrittura di Jannis Ritsos

Bibliografia di Giovanni Cerri


1.   For example, Bruno Gentili (pp. 138-141) offers the text and the translation of 'Olympian' 6 by Pindar. The text has been excerpted from Bruno Gentili's volume, Pindaro. Le Olimpiche, Milano, 2013.
2.   For more about this, see Fritz Graf, Il mito in Grecia Roma-Bari: Laterza, 2007, p. 1. Moreover, see '"suite de paroles qui ont un sens, propos, discours", associé à ἔπος qui désigne le mot, la parole, la forme, en s'en distinguant ...', in Pierre Chantraine Dictionnaire Etymologique de la Langue Grecque Parigi: Klincksieck, 1968, p. 718.
3.   For more on this topic, see Jean-Pierre Vernant Mythe et pensée chez les Grecs: Études de psychologie historique Paris: Editions La Découverte, 1990.
4.   For Miles (in 'Music and Immortality: The Afterlife of Achilles in Philostratus' Heroicus', Anc. Narrative, 4 (2004), pp. 127-141), the relationship between Achilles and Homer set up by Philostratus would be within the text and in line with the creativity of Philostratus; not by chance 'the writing of the past [the Homeric and Cyclic epics] shapes that of the present [the Heroicus], which is in turn concerned with remaking, even reanimating that past' (p. 71).
5.   An up-to-date bibliographical review of Greek law can be found at:
6.   It would support the argumentation on metaleptic bleeding of voices in the narration. See Irene De Jong, 'Metalepsis and Embedded Speech in Pindaric and Bacchylidean Myth', in Ute E. Eisen and Peter von Mollendorff (eds.) Über die Grenze. Metalepse in Text- und Bildmedien des Altertums Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, pp. 97-118. This work was not taken into account.
7.   For more about this, see Donald J. Mastronarde, Contact and Discontinuity. Some conventions of Speech and Action on the Greek Tragic Stage, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979.
8.   B. Gentili and G. Cerri, Storia e biografia nel pensiero antico Roma; Bari: Laterza, 1983.
9.   The figures of the imagination originate from the soul. Mythical narratives point to this place, and are intended to convey images along with the systems of life and thought. See Elizabeth Asmis, 'Plato on poetic creativity', in R. Kraut (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Plato, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992, pp. 338-364; and Brisson, Luc 'le mythe apparaît comme un message par l'intermédiaire duquel une collectivité transmet de génération en génération ce qu'elle garde en mémoire de ce qu'elle considère comme son passé', in Luc Brisson (ed.), Sauver les mythes Paris: VRIN, 1996, p. 28.
10.   See Frankfurther 2009, 'The Laments of Horus in Coptic: Myth, Folklore, and Syncretism in Late Antique Egypt', in U. Dill and C. Walde (eds.), Antike Mythen. Medien, Transformationen und Konstruktionen, Berlin-New York, pp. 229-250: 'sometimes in direct reflection of "myths" we know from more synthetic "mythographic" collections and sometimes with no known archetypes or sources, as if the composer invited the myth ad hoc' (p. 229).
11.   For more about the text in original languages, see Andrew George, The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic: Introduction, Critical Edition and Cuneiform Texts Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003, pp. 732-733.
12.   In the translation of page 16, the words of line 234 appear with no spaces. On pages 20 and 21, footnotes 54, 55, 62 and 63 are separated by a space instead of following each other smoothly. There is a least one small mistake such as this in each contribution in the book.

1 comment:

  1. Mi pare una recensione pretestuosa, che dimostra più polemica personale (ad esempio nei confronti di Cantilena) che autentica discussione critica. Il volume ha richiesto un immenso lavoro redazionale, che ha garantito ai singoli autori piena libertà, senza troppe restrizioni. Ai curatori deve essere tributato un sincero ringraziamento per il loro grande lavoro (qualche errore potrà essere sfuggito, ma certe lezioncine sembrano francamente inutili e immotivate).