Wednesday, July 18, 2018


P. J. Rhodes (ed.), Aristotle. The Athenian Constitution Written in the School of Aristotle. Aris & Phillips classical texts. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2017. Pp. x, 441. ISBN 9781786940704. £19.99.

Reviewed by Gertjan Verhasselt, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (

Version at BMCR home site

The Aristotelian Constitutions offered a massive collection of information on the history and organization of reportedly 158 Greek city-states. The only one that survives is the Athenaion Politeia (hereafter abbreviated as A.P.), which is preserved on a papyrus, first published in 1891. The work gives a history of the Athenian constitution from the mythical times of Ion, Pandion and Theseus down to the restoration of democracy in 403 BCE (§1-41), followed by a synchronic description of the political system in the time of Aristotle (§41-69). One of the most important studies of A.P. is Rhodes' much admired, monumental commentary, published in 1981.1 Rhodes later also completed an English translation of the text with the Penguin Classics series2 and has recently published an edition with an Italian translation and commentary for the Scrittori greci e latini series.3 The book under review is Rhodes' English text, which was the basis for the Italian translation. Most non-Italian scholars will therefore probably prefer this 2017 English version to the 2016 Italian version. One point needs to be rectified, however: contrary to the BMCR review of the Italian version 2017.08.11, the commentary was written by Rhodes alone; Gargiulo was only responsible for translating Rhodes' manuscript into Italian.

The blurb announces that the author has used the scholarly advances of the past few decades to bring the material up to date. However, the commentary (trimmed down from 671 to 263 pages) is mainly an epitome of his much richer 1981 commentary, with only minor updates. The text-critical and philological notes have been particularly reduced in this process. Most updates in the commentary consist in bibliographical additions that rarely have any impact on Rhodes' main argument. The same holds true for the introduction, which is an abbreviated version of the 1981 text, with minor rearrangements. Thus, in both the introduction and the commentary, Rhodes does not address the comments of scholars who reviewed his 1981 commentary, nor does he cite the further literature suggested by these reviewers.4 The most conspicuous omission, however, is the other substantial commentary on A.P., written by Chambers and published in the Aristoteles: Werke in deutscher Übersetzung series in 1990.5 Apart from in the critical apparatus, Chambers is nowhere mentioned by Rhodes. This is a serious omission for a book that claims to take advantage of the latest scholarly progress.

In keeping with the general approach in the Aris & Phillips Classical Texts series, the book aims to be accessible to readers with little to no knowledge of Ancient Greek. This is reflected in the abovementioned omission of most philological notes, a reduced critical apparatus and the use of English instead of Greek lemmas. Indeed, this is an ideal book for undergraduate and graduate students of ancient history since it includes an English translation, focuses on the historical and historiographical aspects and is more affordable than the large commentary. In terms of its intended readership, the book is largely successful, although it does still contain several philological notes that are only understandable to readers who knows Greek. Most scholars, in contrast, will probably prefer Rhodes' 1981 commentary. Nevertheless, they will find it useful to read the 1981 commentary in combination with the edition and translation and will occasionally find some further bibliography here. The standard scholarly edition, however, remains Chambers' Teubner edition.6

Since the content of the introduction and the commentary is essentially the same as in 1981, I will focus on what is new, namely the edition and translation. The edition begins with six fragments of the lost beginning of A.P.. Contrary to current practice in editions of fragments, however, Rhodes has not included a critical apparatus for these fragments. Moreover, for the textual constitution of both those six fragments and the papyrus text, he does not mention which editions he relies on. His edition of the papyrus seems to be based on Kenyon's 1920 OCT edition7 (which he also used as the basis for his 1981 commentary) combined with the readings reported to him by J.D. Thomas (cited in his 1981 commentary) and occasionally supplemented by readings from Chambers' edition. He does not seem to have consulted the original papyrus, however (in his 1981 commentary, he stated this more explicitly). Like Kenyon, Rhodes has preferred to present a more readable text by not systematically putting square brackets for supplemented letters and underdots for uncertain letters, except where the text is uncertain.

A point which Rhodes could have clarified, however, is the criteria he used in drawing up the apparatus. With Kenyon, he has tacitly corrected iotacisms, dittographies and orthographic, morphological and syntactic errors and has tacitly adopted most of the corrections introduced by the scribes. In the particular case of §31-46, the sections copied by the second and third scribe (who barely seem to have understood the text), this choice has allowed him to avoid creating an unnecessarily long apparatus. However, the apparatus does contain a few inconsistencies. For instance, Rhodes mentions: 8

§22.7 τάλαντα ἑκατὸν ἐκ τῶν ἔργων L: ἐ̣κ τῶ̣ν̣ [ἔ]ρ̣γ̣ω̣ν̣ ἑκατ̣[ὸν τάλαντα] B but not §13.2 μεγίστην εἶχεν δύναμιν L : μεγίστην δύναμιν [εἶχ]εν B
§28.3 πρῶτον ὑποσχόμενος: πρῶτος ὑποσχόμενος L but not §36.1 οἱ δὲ πρῶτον ἐναντιωθέντες: οἱ δὲ πρῶτοι ἐναντιωθέντες L
§29.1 συμφορὰν: διαφορὰν L but not §40.1 ἀπογραφὴν: ἀναγραφὴν L
§30.5 πληροῦν: κληροῦν L but not §43.1 κληρωτὰς: πληρωτὰς L
§36.2 <ἐγ>γεγραμμένων but not §42.1 <ἐγ>γράφωνται
§42.1 ἀποψηφίσωνται: ἐπιψηφίσωνται L but not §12.1 ἐπορεξάμενος: ἀπορεξάμενος L
§61.2 ἐπιβαλεῖν: ἐπιβάλλειν L but not §3.2 γενέσθαι: γίνεσθαι L
§63.1 τὰ δὲ {τὰ} δικαστήρια but not §31.3 τὸ δὲ {τὸ} λοιπὸν L4

There are also a number of tacitly corrected corruptions to which Rhodes probably should have drawn attention, since they affect the meaning, e.g.:

§13.1 ἀναρχίαν: ἀρχαίαν L
§19.1 ἄπιστος καὶ πικρός: ἄπιστος καὶ πιστός L
§19.4 εἰς τοῦθ᾿ ἕως: εἰς τοῦτ᾿ εὐθέως L
§20.2 μετ' αὐτοῦ: μετὰ τοῦ L
§21.3 οὐκ εἰς: οὐ καὶ εἰς L
§23.3 τὰ πολιτικὰ δεινὸς: τὰ πολεμικὰ δεινὸς L
§43.6 διαλέξεται: διαδέξεται L

These omissions are especially curious, since the apparatus includes several much more straightforward corrections, which probably do not require special mention in a selective apparatus, e.g.:

§12.1 τοῦτον <τὸν> τρόπον (so also §29.5 and § 37.1 τόνδε <τὸν> τρόπον)
§30.5 πρεσβείαις: πρεσβειαι L
§41.2 μετά<σ>τασις
§55.5 δοκιμασθέν<τες>

It is also perhaps unnecessary to explicitly cite puristic corrections such as δυοῖν for δυεῖν (§42.5, §50.2, §56.3) and ἐλάαν for ἐλαίαν (§60.2). Further, there are a few interventions by the scribes not mentioned by Rhodes, some of which may be variant readings, e.g.:

§1 καταγνωσθέντος L: καθαρθέντος L1
§2.2 καὶ δὴ ἐδούλευον L: καὶ δὴ καὶ ἐδούλευον L1
§5.2 φιλονικίαν L1: φιλοτιμίαν L
§11.2 τὴν κατάστασιν L1: τὴν ̣ ̣σαν τάξιν L (probably τὴν [πᾶ]σαν or [οὖ]σαν)
§14.4 ἀρχαίως L1: ἀρχαϊκῶς L
§21.3 μερίζειν πρὸς L: μερίζειν κατὰ L1
§27.1 ἔτι συνέβη L: ἐπισυνέβη L1

In most cases, these inconsistencies could have been avoided if Rhodes' edition had been based more consistently on that of Chambers or even on Kenyon's Berlin edition (which is superior to his OCT).9 Another, minor issue is that the apparatus sometimes gives the somewhat frustrating comment that "other suggestions have been made." 10

In the rest of this review, I will provide some comments on individual passages.

F 1(3) = schol. Ar. Av. 1527: strictly speaking, Aristotle is not cited here.

F 2: τριττύς ἐστι τὸ τρίτον μέρος τῆς φυλῆς means "a trittys is one third of a tribe" (not the third part).

F 4(1): περὶ τὰ Μηδικὰ means "around the Persian Wars" (not after).

§3.3: νεωστί has not been translated.

§6.2: δανεισάμενοι γὰρ οὗτοι συνεπρίαντο πολλὴν χώραν means "for these men raised loans and bought up large quantities of land" (rather than conspired to buy).

§6.3: ὑποποιησάμενον means "won over" or "subjected to himself" (not "outwitted").

§7.3: ἑκάστοις ἀνάλογον τῷ μεγέθει τοῦ τιμήματος ἀποδιδοὺς τὴν ἀρχήν probably means "granting offices to each in proportion to the size of their property" (rather than assessment).

§9.2: θεωρεῖν τὴν ἐκείνου βούλησιν means "judge his intention" (rather than make conjectures about).

§12.3: με... ἐκφανεῖν (future infinitive!) is still ruled by κἀδόκουν ἕκαστος, so: "(everyone expected) that I would reveal" (rather than should).

§18.3: τὴν δ᾿ ὅλην ἐλυμήναντο πρᾶξιν means "they (i.e. the people conspiring against the tyrant Hippias) ruined the whole affair" (not this).

§19.3: The apparatus cites Kaibel and Wilamowitz's conjecture εἰς ταύτην τὴν συμφοράν as the lemma (thus implying that Rhodes accepts it, as he also did in 1981). However the Greek text reads μετὰ ταύτην τὴν συμφοράν and is translated accordingly.

§19.6: ἑνὸς δεῖ πεντήκοντα should probably not be changed to τριάκοντα ἕξ. The sum of Pisistratus' reign (19 years: cf. §17.1) and Hippias' reign (17 years) should yield 36 years. However, A.P. is probably counting the number of years from Pisistratus' first coup (33 years before his death) to Hippias' banishment. Since the last year of Pisistratus' life overlaps with the first year of Hippias' reign, the total is 49 years. Note that the same error recurs in Heraclides' epitome (Pol. 4).

§21.4: διένειμε δὲ καὶ τὴν χώραν κατὰ δήμους τριάκοντα μέρη means "he divided the land by demes into thirty parts" (not distributed them over the country-side).

§23.2: Rhodes deletes καί in ἐπολιτεύθησαν Ἀθηναῖοι καλῶς καὶ κατὰ τούτους τοὺς καιρούς with Kaibel-Wilamowitz, but this is unnecessary. See Chambers 250. 5

§23.5: καὶ τοὺς ὅρκους ὤμοσεν τοῖς Ἴωσιν means "he swore the oaths to the Ionians" (not with).

§26.1: ἐφθάρθαι τοὺς πολλοὺς means "the majority of these men had perished" (not many).

§27.4: πρὸς δὴ ταύτην τὴν χορηγίαν ἐπιλειπόμενος ὁ Περικλῆς τῇ οὐσίᾳ means "Since, against this wealth, Pericles with his property fell short" (rather than "Since Pericles' property fell short for that service"); χορηγία does not refer to the leiturgia here but is a metaphor for wealth (see LSJ s.v. χορηγία II 1). So Keaney 455. 4

§27.4: κληρουμένων ἐπιμελῶς ἀεὶ μᾶλλον τῶν τυχόντων ἢ τῶν ἐπιεικῶν ἀνθρώπων probably means "they were anxiously trying to get allotted" (rather than "they were careful to present themselves for allotment").

§28.3: κἂν ἐξαπατηθῇ τὸ πλῆθος means "even if the people were deceived" (not particularly if).

§30.2: τὰς δ᾿ ἄλλας ἀρχὰς ἁπάσας κληρωτὰς εἶναι καὶ μὴ ἐκ τῆς βουλῆς has not been translated: "all the other offices should be appointed by lot and not from the council."

§31.2: It is unnecessary to correct καὶ ἂν to καὶ ἐὰν: cf. Arist. APr. 1.6.28a26; 1.18.37b11; 2.15.64a12; a27; 2.14.98a14-15; HA 9.22.604a8; GA 7.3.782a15.

§35.2: The implied object of κύριον ποιήσαντες καθάπαξ is probably τὸν νόμον, so: "they gave (the law) absolute legal force" (rather than "they gave men absolute power"). So Chambers 307. 5

§38.2: "Demaenetus" is a typo for "Demaretus" (Δημάρετος).

§38.3: It is unnecessary to delete ἤ in πρὶν ἤ <τε> Παυσανίαν {τ᾿} ἀφικέσθαι. Although, in Attic prose, the conjunction usually occurs without ἤ, πρὶν ἤ + infinitive is attested among others in Aristotle (Meteo. 3.1.371a22; PA 3.5.668a35).

§39.3: ἐὰν δέ τινες τῶν ἀπιόντων οἰκίαν λαμβάνωσιν Ἐλευσῖνι, συμπείθειν τὸν κεκτημένον means "if any of those departing (want to) take a house at Eleusis, they must persuade the owner" (not took).

§48.4: ἐντὸς λ´ ἡμερῶν: since a horizontal bar is visible at maximum height, the correct number can only be γ´ (3, so Kenyon), π´ (80) or τ´ (300, so Wilcken); of these τ´ seems improbably high.

§54.7: τούτων οὐδεμία ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ ἐγγίγνεται can only mean "none of these (festivals) take place in the same location", as Rhodes acknowledged in his 1981 commentary. Yet, although he keeps the text, he nevertheless translates it here as "take place in the same year". Kaibel and Wilamowitz' conjecture ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ `ἐν[ιαυτῷ]´ γίγνεται is unlikely, since the superscript εν does not seem to be followed by any further letters. In his 1981 commentary, Rhodes therefore suggested adopting Blass' conjecture ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ ἐν<ιαυτῷ> γίγνεται, so with haplography. Another way of correcting the text could be ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ <ἐνιαυτῷ> `ἐν´γίνεται, also with haplography.

§56.4: οἰκουρῶσι is better translated as "guard/stay at (the temple of Asclepius)" or "stay indoors" (as Rhodes argued in his 1981 commentary) rather than "stay at home".

§56.7: [τετταρ]ακαιδε[κέ]τις: the papyrus reads ]ακαιδ[ ̣ ̣ ̣]τειϲ, with ει corrected to η. The correct reading is therefore [τετταρ]ακαιδ[εκέ]της, so masculine instead of feminine. The παῖδες in the subsequent sentence probably refer to both boys and girls.

§67.4-68.1: The reconstructed text is extremely hypothetical. This is especially problematic for readers without knowledge of Greek, who will probably rely blindly on Rhodes' text. The following conjectures contradict the traces: [α]ὗται (rather - νται), ὁ δι[κ]ασ[τὴς] (rather οἱ δικασ[ταὶ]), [τοῦ χρόνου] μέρος (the word preceding μέρος ends in ]π ̣ ̣), [ἐλάττου]ς δ[ιδό]ασιν (]ς δ[ rather seems to be ]σθ[).


1.   P.J. Rhodes, A Commentary on the Aristotelian Athenaion Politeia. Oxford: 1981 (reprinted with addenda 1993).
2.   P.J. Rhodes, Aristotle. The Athenian Constitution. Harmondsworth: 1984 (reprinted with corrections 2002).
3.   P.J. Rhodes, Aristotele. Costituzione degli Ateniesi (Athenaion Politeia). Traduzione di A. Zambrini, T. Gargiulo e P.J. Rhodes. Milan: 2016.
4.   The most important reviews are J.J. Keaney, AJPh 103 (1982), 454-457; P. Cartledge, Hermathena 134 (1983), 77-85; G.J.D. Aalders, Mnemosyne IV 37 (1984), 187-190; M.H. Hansen, CPh 80 (1985), 51-66; P. Harding, Phoenix 39 (1985), 389-392.
5.   M. Chambers, Aristoteles. Staat der Athener. Berlin: 1990.
6.   M. Chambers, Aristoteles. Ἀθηναίων πολιτεία. Editio correctior. Stuttgart-Leipzig: 1994.
7.   F.G. Kenyon, Aristotelis Atheniensium Respublica. Oxford: 1920.
8.   The main papyrus is P. Lond. 131 (L). A second fragment is P. Berol. 5009 (B), which preserves parts of A.P. 12.3-4, 13.1-5 and 21.4-22.8.
9.   F.G Kenyon, Aristotelis Res publica Atheniensium. Berlin: 1903.
10.   §26.1 (p. 90); §26.1 (p. 92); §28.2-3 (p. 96); §28.3 (p. 96); §31.1 (p. 102); §34.1 (p. 106); §35.1 (p. 108); §37.1 (p. 112); §41.1 (p. 118).

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