Friday, September 28, 2018


Ioanna Karamanou, Euripides, Alexandros: Introduction, Text and Commentary. Texte und Kommentare, 57. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2017. Pp. xv, 381; 11 p. of plates. ISBN 9783110534023. €109,95.

Reviewed by Martin Cropp, University of Calgary (

Version at BMCR home site


Alexandros is one of the best-known of Euripides' lost tragedies, thanks to a fair number of quotations and references in ancient authors, the extensive Strasbourg papyrus fragments published in 1922, and an almost complete papyrus hypothesis published in 1974. The relevant material was included by François Jouan and Herman Van Looy in Volume 8.1 of the Budé Euripides,1 in Richard Kannicht's magisterial edition of the Euripides fragments,2 and subsequently in my own brief edition (2004)3 and Lidia Di Giuseppe's monograph (2012).4 Ioanna Karamanou has published a number of preparatory studies over the last seven years and now provides a welcome full edition with commentary. Her extensive introduction discusses the legend and its dramatic treatments, Dramatis Personae, plot-structure, staging, the 'Trojan Trilogy' of 415 BCE (with suggestive comments on conections between Alexandros and Troades, first and third in the trilogy), the text (papyrus and book-fragments), and reflections of Euripides' play in ancient literature (Ennius, Lycophron, Ovid, Nero), modern performance (notably a recent reconstruction by David Stuttard for the London-based Actors of Dionysus), and the visual arts (chiefly Etruscan). This is followed by texts and English translations of the testimonia and fragments, a commentary running to 172 pages, the fragments of Ennius's Alexander (apparently adapted from Euripides' play), a thorough Bibliography, and two Indexes (General and Passages Discussed). Eleven colour plates show all of the papyrus fragments (at varying scales, mostly unspecified) and the earliest of twenty-two Etruscan mirror-backs depicting Paris menaced at an altar by a male and a female attacker. The book's traditional commentary format differs from that of Di Giuseppe's monograph, which wove the text-fragments into a sequential reconstruction of the play. Both formats have advantages and disadvantages, the traditional one allowing thorough philological discussions of the texts but sometimes obscuring the larger issues of reconstruction and interpretation in a profusion of tangential information and bibliographical references.

Karamanou has renumbered the fragments to accord with her reconstruction of the play, placing most of the text fragments in eight dramatic segments (frs. 1–21): a prologue probably spoken by a god and explaining the history of Paris's exposure, rescue and upbringing, and the commemorative games instituted by his royal parents; a parodos which included dialogue between the Chorus and the bereaved Hecuba and may have led to a dialogue between Hecuba and Cassandra (perhaps too confidently identified in the commentary on fr. 6, p. 166); an agon-episode in which Paris defended himself against his fellow-herdsmen's complaints about his hybristic behaviour and somehow persuaded Priam to allow him to compete in the games; a choral song about the nature of nobility (eugeneia); a report-scene in which Hecuba learned of Paris's victories at the games; a further episode in which Hector and Deiphobus debated their reactions to these victories and Deiphobus persuaded Hecuba to conspire with him in killing Paris; probably a brief choral interlude, then Paris arriving, lured into the palace, and fleeing out of it to take refuge at an altar visible to the audience; and a dénouement in which Paris was identified by his rustic foster-father and restored to the royal family despite Cassandra's mantic warnings that he would bring about the destruction of Troy. This reconstruction is generally orthodox and consistent with the hypothesis, but Karamanou reasonably questions the placing of some of the sententious fragments (F 49, 51, 55, 57, 59 Kannicht) in the trial scene and thinks they may rather come from the debate between Hector and Deiphobus, which she has identified as a formally structured agon;5 the fragments are printed here as incertae sedis (frs. 22–26: see below on fr. 26). Karamanou agrees with others in assigning Kannicht's F 61a and 54 (Nauck's 47 and 54) to the report of Paris's victories (frs. 16, 17 Karamanou) rather than his trial before Priam.

Four other fragments reasonably ascribed to Alexandros are printed here as probable, all involving Cassandra (fr. 29–32 = Eur. F 867 and Eur. Alex. F 62f–h Kannicht). Others conjecturally ascribed are discussed in the commentary as likely (Eur. F 937 Kn. μὴ κτεῖνε· τὸν ἱκέτην γὰρ οὐ θέμιϲ κτανεῖν) or merely possible (Eur. F 1082 Kn. Ζεὺϲ γὰρ κακὸν μὲν Τρωϲί…ταῦτ' ἐβούλευϲεν πατήρ, and the sententious Eur. F 958, 960, 976, 1068 Kn.) or unlikely (Eur. F 938 Kn. νῦν οὗν ἕκατι ῥημάτων κτενεῖτέ με;, TrGF adesp. F 71 μαρτύρομαι δὲ Ζηνὸϲ ἑρκείου, and adesp. F 721b–c, the Judgement of Paris mentioned in a papyrus commentary on an unidentified play). TrGF adesp. F 286 and F 289, probably from either Sophocles' or Euripides' Alexandros are discussed inconclusively but with a preference for Sophocles in the case of F 289. These discussions can be traced through the Index of Passages Discussed.

Karamanou has re-examined the papyri in Strasbourg and London and makes some minor adjustments to previously accepted readings, along with some plausible conjectural supplements (some published in her recent articles). I note fr. 7.i.2 (F 46a.2 Kn.) ]τάϲ[δε κηλητη]ρίουϲ, fr. 7.i.21 (46a.21 Kn.) προϲηυ]ξ̣άμην (accepting Janko's ]ξ̣ rather than ]κ̣), fr. 15.13 (61d.13 Kn.) Πρία̣μοϲ τίθηϲιν [ἆθλα, fr. 18b.ii.8 (62d.29 Kn.) ἴτω νυν αὖ δ]εῦρ' (ἴτω Kn.), fr. 18b.ii.9 (62d.30 Kn.) ὡϲ μήποτ' ε]ἰ̣δηιϲ (ε]ἰ̣δηιϲ Page, ϲὺ μήποτ' ε]ἰ̣δηιϲ Di Giuseppe, alii alia). In fr. 18a.i.8 (62a.8 Kn.) Karamanou argues persuasively in favour of replacing φόβω[ι with Collard–Cropp's φθόνω[ι. For the play's half-preserved opening line (fr. 1 = F 41a Kn.) she adds three conjectures to an already long list, of which the first is plausible (ἥκω Φρυγῶν γῆν], spoken by a god) but the third (Πριάμου δόμοϲ ὅδε]) is metrically inadmissible.6 Likewise Karamanou's ψυχῆϲ [ἐ]μαυτοῦ μὴ κατ̣α[φρόνει in fr. 18a.ii.11 (62b.32 Kn.).7

Some further details: p. 77, fr. 3 (43 Kn.) τὸ δὲ κοινὸν ἄχοϲ μετρίωϲ ἀλγεῖν ϲοφία μελετᾶι is not 'wisdom explores how to bear the pain etc.' but 'wisdom practises bearing etc.', i.e. wise people train themselves to bear grief patiently. p. 80, fr. 7.i.4 (46a.4 Kn.) with commentary p. 175: Karamanou reiterates her conjecture ϲυ̣[μβ]α̣λοιϲ ἔριν, relating this to her interpretation of the fragment as referring to the purificatory purpose of the funeral games;8 the phrase might then be part of a plea to the gods of the Underworld, or to the dead child, not to impose destructive strife on the land of Troy because of its pollution. This seems to me unlikely; the speech as whole seems to be addressed to Priam (in any case, the singular verb cannot be addressed to plural gods), and it is difficult to make anything of ]μ̣ν[. .]ο̣ immediately followed by ϲυ̣[μβ]α̣λοιϲ. p. 97, fr. 18a.i.15 (62a.15 Kn.) νέον φῦϲαι cannot mean 'to be young by nature' since the first aorist φῦϲαι is transitive. p. 99, fr. 18a.ii.3 (62b.24 Kn.) δο]ῦ̣λοι δ' ἂν ἤϲκουν̣ means 'while slaves would be practising' (imperfect tense), not 'while slaves would have practised'. p. 101, fr. 18a.ii.20 (62b.41 Kn.) ἔ̣ρ̣ξ̣ειϲ δ' ἃ λυπούμεϲθα: the relative clause means 'what is causing us distress', not 'what is to cause our distress'; so Karamanou's suggestion (p. 245) that Hecuba is here resisting Deiphobus's proposal to kill Paris is questionable. p. 113, fr. 26 (57 Kn.): Karamanou accepts τὸ δοῦλον οὐ λόγωι ἔχοντεϲ, ἀλλὰ τῆι τύχηι κεκτημένοι as meaning 'being slaves not in name but through circumstance', and argues that this is more likely to be Paris accusing Hecuba and Deiphobus as they attack him than from the trial scene as has often been supposed. But can 'having acquired slavery through circumstance (τύχηι)' imply 'adopting the ignoble attitude of a slave' (p. 277), and are Hecuba and Deiphobus really doing that? p. 117, fr. 29 (fr. inc. 867 K): 'But this woman is approaching being inspired by Phoebus' should be 'But here close by is this Phoebus-inspired woman'. pp. 136–7: the incompletely inscribed list of Euripides' plays in IG XIV 1152 = IGUR 1508 (the so-called Marmor Albanum, Karamanou's T 6) is slightly misrepresented. According to Pechstein's reconstruction,9 the complete list would have included 68 titles (i.e. 74 plays including duplicates such as Alkmeon) and would not have included the four plays (Pirithous, Rhadamanthys, Tennes and one satyr-play) which were included in the Alexandrian corpus of 78 plays but whose authenticity was disputed.

These are small points, of course, and do not detract from the value of Karamanou's work as a whole. It should become a prime resource for future studies of Alexandros.

The book is finely produced by De Gruyter and virtually error-free. I noticed only that the comparative numberings of Karamanou's frs. 21 and 27 are confused on pp. 109 and 112–3 (fr. 21 is 62 Kannicht, 39 Jouan–Van Looy as on the opposite page, and fr. 27 is 63 Kannicht, 42 Jouan–Van Looy).


1.   Euripide, Tome VIII, Fragments 1: Aigeus–Autolykos (Paris, 1998).
2.   Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta, 5: Euripides (Göttingen, 2004). See BMCR 2006.05.23.
3.   In Euripides: Selected Fragmentary Plays, II: Philoctetes, Alexandros etc. (Oxford, 2004).
4.   Euripide: Alessandro (Lecce, 2012). See BMCR 2014.01.08.
5.   I. Karamanou, 'The Hektor–Deiphobus Agon in Euripides' Alexandros', ZPE 178 (2011), 35–47.
6.   δόμοϲ ὅδε gives a split 4th-element resolution of which the four Euripidean examples are all late and all involve prepositives. See M. Cropp and G. Fick, Resolutions and Chronology in Euripides (London, 1985), p. 42, type 4.4 (not 4.2c as Karamanou supposes).
7.   μὴ καταφρόνει gives a resolution which is both very rare (cf. Cropp–Fick above, p. 54, type 8.3b) and in this instance leads to a violation of Porson's bridge. Karamanou's translation of ψυχῆϲ [ἐ]μαυτοῦ as 'my own courage' (p. 101) is accordingly questionable.
8.   I. Karamanou, 'Allocating fr. 46a within the plot of Euripides' Alexandros', in P. Schubert (ed.), Actes du 26e Congrès International de Papyrologie, Genève, 16–21 août 2010 (Geneva, 2012), 399–405.
9.   N. Pechstein, Euripides Satyrographos: ein Kommentar zu den Euripideischen Satyrspielfragmenten (Stuttgart and Leipzig, 1998), 29–34.

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