Friday, November 30, 2018


Antonio La Penna, Ovidio: relativismo dei valori e innovazione delle forme. Bibliotheca, 16. Pisa: Edizioni della Normale, 2018. Pp. xi, 432. ISBN 9788876426261. €40,00 (pb).

Reviewed by P.J. Davis, University of Adelaide (

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Antonio La Penna, a highly distinguished Latinist, has committed himself to writing a history of Augustan literature. The first volume, dealing with the period 42-15 BCE, appeared in 2013. This, the first of two volumes on the second half of the Augustan period (15 BCE-18 CE; the lives of emperors and poets do not always coincide), is devoted to Ovid. Aimed at a general rather than a scholarly audience, it lacks notes but has a bibliography prepared by Franco Bellandi.

The book is divided into two sections, with the first examining the erotic and narrative works and the second discussing the explicitly exilic poems. (I say 'explicitly' because, as La Penna is aware [p. 274], there are good reasons for treating Fasti as we now have it as exilic.)

Section 1 begins with an account of Ovid's life based primarily on the poet's autobiography (Tristia 4.10) and self-defence (Tristia 2). Then follows an 'approximate' chronology of Ovid's works. Given the poet's tendency to revise earlier works (recently discussed in detail by Francesca Martelli in her important book Ovid's Revisions [2013]), untangling the order of composition is a tricky business and La Penna's discussion exhibits due caution.

La Penna begins his discussion of Amores with an account of the work's structure. He concludes that, while Ovid sometimes arranges his poems in pairs and larger groups, no overall architecture is to be found in any of the three books. If we reflect that Ovid's greatest work, Metamorphoses, lacks the concern for tightness of structure that characterises Virgil's Aeneid, this seems highly likely. Ovid is interested in fluidity, not symmetry. For La Penna the Amores' characterising feature is the displacement of eros from the central position that it holds in Catullus and Propertius. Thus he labels Corinna a 'cliché' (p.17) and includes words like 'decline' (tramonto, p. 15) 'trivialisation' (banalizzazione, p. 17) and 'emptying' (svuotamento, p. 21) in the titles of the subsections that examine Ovid's treatment of pathos. In reply a more positive reader might argue that Ovid simply takes a fresh approach to love elegy. On the vexed question of the collection's politics, La Penna argues for an entirely reasonable position: Ovid takes an anti-conformist stance and refuses to place elegiac poetry in the service of power (p. 32).

Primarily because of the centrality of genuine pathos (pp. 36, 41), La Penna rates Heroides far more highly than Amores. While giving full and due emphasis to the fact that these poems are letters, La Penna also reads them as monologues, but monologues that can never become dialogues (p. 39). Most of his discussion here is taken up not with form but with Ovid's treatment of passion in its various shades and gradations. It is, however, Ovid's use of inherited rhetorical forms like the suasoria and controuersia as a means of understanding complex and sometimes perverse characters (Phaedra, for example) that, in La Penna's view, justifies us in speaking of Ovid's 'relativism' (p. 53; cf. the book's title).

If the Amores are lacking in pathos, there is even less to be found in Ars Amatoria, a didactic work concerned with sexual success, not genuine emotion (pp. 81-2). For La Penna pathos is to be found only in Book 3's story of Cephalus and Procris (p. 83). But the concern with pathos and its absence leads La Penna, in my view, to underplay some of the poem's more outrageous aspects. He speaks, for example, of Achilles' 'seduction' of Deidamia (p.73; cf. the reference to heroines 'seduced' by gods in Metamorphoses [p. 116]), although the teacher himself makes it clear that the issue is not persuasion but force (673: uim licet appelles: grata est uis ista puellis). Note too that the teacher follows the story of Achilles and Deidamia with the examples of Phoebe and Hilaira (679-80: uim passa est Phoebe, uis est allata sorori / et gratus raptae raptor uterque fuit). In this case the repetition of forms of uis and the juxtaposition of raptae with raptor in successive lines make the issue unambiguous. And, in my view at least, the fact that the story of the rape of the Sabine women is played for laughs (una fantastica commedia, p.79) renders the episode more outrageous, not less. While the teacher may claim that women like sexual violence, it is worth remembering that rape was covered by several criminal statutes at Rome.1 As for the poem's politics, La Penna claims that neither in Ars Amatoria nor in any other work of Ovid is there opposition to the regime (p. 93). This assertion seems to contradict the earlier assessment of Amores (quoted above), but perhaps the key issue here is what is meant by 'opposition'. But, however we define that word, one thing is certain: Caesar Augustus found Ars Amatoria problematic.

La Penna devotes roughly a quarter of the book to Metamorphoses (pp. 103-205). In just over a hundred pages he guides the reader expertly through many of the poem's complexities: the nature of transformation itself, the brief but densely allusive proem and the many and varied myths that constitute the poem's substance. There is also an analysis of its structure, treated not as unified architecture, but as a series of interconnected building blocks or symphony (p. 126). For La Penna Metamorphoses is an epic in so far as it conforms to the expected conventions: narrative, hexameter verse, use of patronymic or geographic epithets, archaic language (though Ovid tends to modernise), alliteration, compound words, catalogues, similes and so on. On the other hand, Ovid employs these conventions in unconventional ways, giving us catalogues of dogs and hunters, employing language derived from love elegy, monologues of the kind we expect from tragedy, and, above all, using irony and humour in his presentation of the sorts of episodes typical of epic poetry. As in his treatment of the earlier works, pathos, both erotic and tragic, is a particular focus. La Penna notes rightly that in episodes of erotic passion humour is for the most part absent. In discussing the story of Pyramus and Thisbe, however, he perhaps underplays the comic elements (pp. 164-5), ignoring the bathetic effect of the lead-pipe simile (4.121-4). Under tragic pathos he discusses the stories of Niobe as well as Tereus, Procne and Philomela (derived from Sophoclean tragedy via Accius, but also related to tragedies involving Atreus and Thyestes, perhaps also via Accius). This section is something of a tour de force, making sense as it does of an immensely complicated work, articulating its points with clarity but without sacrificing attention to detail.

For La Penna, Fasti is another example of Ovid's 'experimentalism' (p. 209; cf. the second half of the book's subtitle). The major differences in technique, language and tone between these two narrative poems underline a remarkable fact: Metamorphoses and the first edition of Fasti were written around the same time. Fasti also differs in its overt engagement with politics, a subject that a poem on the calendar, reshaped by both Julius Caesar and Augustus, could hardly avoid. While La Penna's treatment of the poem's politics is consistent with the stance outlined in his account of Ars Amatoria (there are no ambiguous expressions, no hostile allusions, no condemnations of the princeps, p. 276), he is also willing to set aside the poem's panegyric elements and emphasise Ovid's independence from the regime's ideology (p. 276). He notes, for example, the absence of the Ludi Saeculares from Ovid's list of festivals. On the other hand, he fails to underline the poem's emphasis on the connection between rape and key moments in Rome's history: the foundation of the city and its transformation into a republic. While he treats Lucretia's rape with appropriate subtlety and sensitivity and underlines the Heroides-like emphasis on pathos (pp. 259-60), he also speaks of the 'happy love' of Mars for Rhea Silvia (l'amore felice, p. 253), rightly stressing the lack of violence (pp. 238-9), but ignoring the lust and deception involved (Mars uidet hanc uisamque cupit potiturque cupita, / et sua diuina furta fefellit ope , 3.21-2).

Section 2, is primarily concerned with Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto. La Penna presents the relegation to Tomis in 8 CE as the great point of rupture in Ovid's life. From now on the poet will deal not in the fictions of love elegy and narrative poetry but in his own lived experience (p. 296). The main thrust of La Penna's argument here is that despite the poet's protestations to the contrary, there is no rupture in the quality of his work. Now the poet concentrates on his own cultural isolation, on his longing for Rome, for the people he loves and for an audience for his work. Although there are formal differences between the two collections, most notably the consistent naming of addressees in Epistulae ex Ponto, La Penna emphasises continuity rather than difference. Epistulae ex Ponto differs from Tristia primarily in presenting a bleaker, more rigid and more sterile world.

I should say something about Bellandi's bibliography, because it seems to have been composed independently of the text. It is difficult to use because it is organised chronologically rather than alphabetically and it does not contain all the items to which La Penna refers. Thus Bernd Latta's book on double Heroides (1963), Douglas Little's article on Pythagoras in Metamorphoses (1970) and Sandra Citroni Marchetti's book on the exiled Cicero and Ovid (2000), all mentioned by La Penna, are not listed at the end of the volume.

Lacking as it does some of the apparatus of scholarship, this is very much a personal book. La Penna uses expressions like 'I believe' (io credo) and 'I am convinced' (sono convinto) freely. Although I do not accept some of La Penna's arguments, I admire his achievement in presenting a challenging argument that encompasses all of Ovid's work.


1.   For the republican period see Elaine Fantham, 'Stuprum: Public Attitudes and Penalties for Sexual Offences in Republican Rome' EMC 10 [19913]; for the charge of per uim stuprum under Julius Caesar's lex Iulia de ui publica see Jane F. Gardner, Women in Roman Law and Society [1986] 118-21.

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Tim Whitmarsh, Dirty Love: The Genealogy of the Ancient Greek Novel. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2018. Pp. xviii, 201. ISBN 9780199742653. $45.00.

Reviewed by David Konstan, New York University (

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There are two principal, and interrelated, arguments in this book. The first is that there is no genre corresponding to the ancient Greek novel (it is rather "a field") and so, strictly speaking, the novel has no unique history; hence the term "genealogy" in the subtitle. To be sure, there survive five lengthy prose narratives representing the mutual enamorment of a heterosexual couple, whose passion is tested by various misadventures until they are reunited in the finale (Daphnis and Chloe is something of an outlier and is not discussed in this book), but this is not enough to constitute them as a genre in the sense that tragedy or lyric are genres, defined by meter and other formal features. Instead, Whitmarsh situates them in a lineage of prose tales more broadly conceived, and since story-telling is universal, the Greek novels appear as one variation of a long series of compositions that range across cultural boundaries. Whitmarsh thus rescues the Greek novels from what he perceives as a Eurocentric view, which ascribes their invention to Greece, independently of foreign influences. But these works were traditionally regarded with disdain (only recently have they been honored in English with the title "novel" rather than "romance"), and Erwin Rohde's interest in them may have had less to do with 19th-century orientalism (he thought of the Greek novel as decadent) and more with his personal amorous inclinations.1 I think we may speak of a sub-genre of romantic fiction, perhaps launched by the novels of Xenophon of Ephesus and Chariton, just as Roman satire had its beginning in Lucilius and took shape with Horace, Persius, and Juvenal, though its antecedents can be traced to Old Comedy (as Horace did) and beyond. At all events, the genealogical ancestors of the novel on which Whitman mainly concentrates were written in Greek: Xenophon's Cyropaideia, Joseph and Aseneth, and the Alexander Romance, though the sections (or "movements") under which they are treated bear the titles "Persians," "Jews," and "Egyptians."

The second thesis proposed by Whitmarsh is that the novels take their place within a larger discourse that is not that of romance or reciprocal erôs (which I have taken to be specific to the form) but rather endogamy versus exogamy over the course of Greek literature. Whitmarsh tracks the origins of this theme back to the Iliad and Odyssey, both of which are interpreted as "foundation myths for the rejection of intermarriage and hybridity" (22) — Greeks marrying Greeks rather than foreigners — as opposed to the hybrid pattern that characterizes the stories of Cyrus, Joseph, and Alexander. Seen this way, the coherence of the five prose fictions conventionally identified (these days) as romantic novels dissolves, since the novels of Xenophon of Ephesus and Chariton hark back to the Homeric epics: in each case the leading couple are from the same city (Ephesus and Syracuse, respectively), whereas Achilles Tatius and Heliodorus are continuators of the hybridizing model, since Clitopho and Leucippe come from different regions (Tyre and Byzantium, though they are cousins), and Theagenes is a Greek descendant of Achilles whereas Chariclea is Ethiopian by birth, though she was raised in Delphi. The romantic novels, disaggregated in this way, reflect an ongoing debate between traditionally approved conjugal alliances that affirmed a specifically Greek identity and what, from this angle, were perceived as transgressive unions, or what Whitmarsh, after Mary Douglas, calls "dirty love" — this is the meaning of the book's title, for those who might have been expecting something more titillating.

Whitmarsh's argument is bold and original, and part of a larger endeavor, he says, to revise our understanding of classical Greek literature by locating it in a wider horizon in which Greekness itself is interrogated. Of course, it is Greeks who are raising the challenge, and thus a sense of national identity abides, as it must, if one is to have a notion of hybridity and not just abstract humanity. This is fair enough. But how productive is it to revise the narrative of the novel's origins and (to a certain extent) of Greek literature as a whole by singling out the thread of ethnic endogamy versus exogamous hybridity? Engaging as I find the hypothesis, I cannot suppress some doubts.

To begin with, is it plausible to take the Iliad and Odyssey as representing a defense of endogamy? To be sure, Menelaus recovers Helen from the embrace of the Trojan Paris, and Odysseus rejects unions with Calypso, Circe, and, more tellingly, Nausicaa, to return to his Greek wife. But Penelope herself was not Ithacan but the daughter of the Spartan Icarius, Tyndareus' brother (she was Helen's cousin), and her connection to Odysseus was not any closer than that of Leucippe to Clitopho, since, even if Sidon, where Clitopho narrates his story, is identified as Phoenician at the beginning of Achilles Tatius' novel, there is no sense that it or Tyre are somehow foreign or "barbarian" (we may wonder, too, why Homer chose not to represent even a single suitor as "barbarian"). Even in Athens, where Pericles promulgated the rule in 451 restricting marriage to men and women of Athenian descent, vase images celebrating the elopement of Paris and Helen were popular. The lekythos in the Getty Museum (91.AE.10) is but one of many examples. Samantha Masters observes, "Makron's scenes showing the abduction of Helen by Paris . . . both render the moment in the form of a quiet and fairly orderly procession, and one which specifically evokes associations with a marriage procession."2 Whatever the value of these images, did Homer's audience regard Helen's abduction by Theseus as less transgressive because he was Greek rather than Trojan? Perhaps I am too blinded by the traditional reading to see exogamy as the core theme of these epics (Whitmarsh allows that things might have been different in the Epic Cycle). I would have identified New Comedy as the site where transgressive erôs is programmatically recontained through the device of the recognition, though at the same time it acknowledges that foreignness is no obstacle to passion. But Whitmarsh does not include drama among the novel's antecedents. In any case, he maintains that "Greek poetics, as a rule, perpetuate and develop the Greek cultural tradition relatively hermetically rather than interrogating it – for that, after all, is their function" (127).

Although in Xenophon's and Chariton's novels it is fellow citizens who marry, I am inclined to see a substantial difference between the two, for all their similarities. In Chariton, Chaereas and Callirhoe are fully integrated into Syracusan society at the end, and traditional gender roles are reasserted. In Xenophon, however, the story ends with the couple reunited on Rhodes, with a bare hint at the final return to Ephesus. There, they meet up with their former slaves – if indeed they are free even now – Rhode and Leucon; they had been sold to a Lycian who upon his death made them his heirs. What their status would be back in Ephesus is unclear. Habrocomes' dear friend Hippothous, moreover, is to set up home in Ephesus as well, along with his beloved Cleisthenes, a Sicilian whom he adopts so that he will now have an heir. This is an odd set of relations, rather on the dirty side. Chariton's Callirhoe, already pregnant and under the false impression that her husband has died, marries the wealthy Dionysius, a citizen of Miletus, then under Persian rule; Dionysius is Greek, to be sure, but a friend of the Great King. When Callirhoe is reunited with Chaereas, they decide to leave their son to be raised by Dionysius, who is allowed to believe that it is in fact his child. It is hard to know what to make of this, but perhaps even the message of Chariton's novel is not as hostile to hybridization as Whitmarsh supposes (at least with another Greek).

Whitmarsh's analyses of the hybridizing precursors to the novel, or more strictly to the exogamous subset of the novels, are wide-ranging, subtle and imaginative. He recounts the story of the unconsummated affair between the Median general Stryangaeus, who was enamored of his enemy, the Scythian queen Zarinaea, clearly a hybrid relationship related by Nicolaus of Damascus and going back ultimately to Ctesias' Persica. Zarinaea refuses Stryangaeus' proposition (both are married), and Stryangaeus commits suicide. As Whitmarsh notes (37), there are some features reminiscent of the Greek novels, though a romance between two married adults seems to me to be foreign to them (it is closer, I think, to Virgil's account of Aeneas and Dido, and to the subplot of Clitopho and Melite in Achilles Tatius). Whitmarsh concludes: "If the earliest surviving romances look to us now as thoroughly Greek, and indeed as promoting a poetics of endogamy, that was "a deliberate act of exclusion of both the Near Eastern context of the Zarinaea story and its sympathetic portrayal of exogamous love." The novelized biography of Cyrus by Xenophon of Athens and the anonymous and still more fanciful romance of Alexander the Great do indeed represent their heroes as mongrel, and Whitmarsh has fascinating insights into the erotic aspects of these texts, in regard, for instance, to Cyrus's strategies to gain the loyalty of his subjects and his relation to Pantheia, whom Whitmarsh sees as "a female doublet for Cyrus himself" (79), although Cyrus also dehumanizes her (81).

Few scholars today deny that Jewish and Greek cultures interpenetrated, certainly in the Hellenistic era, when the amplifications of the Biblical narrative of Joseph were composed. It is because Jews were becoming assimilated to Greek culture that anxieties about ethnic identity arose (99), resulting in rebellions like that of the Maccabees, which may be understood as what Stephen Dyson has described (in the Roman context) as "nativistic."3 This is the world of Judith who, by taking up the sword against Holofernes, "assumes control of the phallus" (110). In Aseneth, Whitmarsh focuses on Joseph's arrival at Aseneth's house, where we are told that foreigners are excluded; but where does this place Joseph himself, who is admitted to the home? For Whitmarsh, "Aseneth's dominant ideology seems incapable of countenancing any marriage that is not in some sense intraethnic, even if the ethnicity in question is in the final analysis nominal or metaphorical" (117). Nevertheless, it is "a text born of hybridity" as well as being "about hybridity, specifically the problem of intermarriage between a Jewish patriarch and an Egyptian"; indeed, over the course of the narrative, "hybridity is transformed from a negative state . . . into a positive, enabling force" (120). There is an interesting twist, however: Joseph is gorgeous and "all the women and daughters of the Egyptians used to suffer terribly on seeing Joseph, on account of his beauty" (7.3, quoted on p. 111). I would have wanted more on this unusual reversal of the object of the erotic gaze: in this text Joseph has been thoroughly "Helenized."

The Alexander Romance, for its part, inverts the Homeric model and signals a "wider rejection of the founding tropes of the 'endogamic' tradition"; it is the story of "the artful construction of new modes of being in the world" (139). Thus, Chariton and Xenophon of Ephesus "did not invent the form out of nothing," but rather "intervened in what was already a centuries-old constellation of literary accounts of 'dirty love stories'" as "forceful reassertions of a Hellenocentric position in the face of a wave of 'dirty' exogamous love stories" (155-56).

In sum, this is a rich and stimulating book, and even my reservations may be taken as a sign of how much it engaged me. 4


1.  "Erwin Rohde: Ein Philolog der Bismarckzeit," in Wilhelm Doerr, ed., Semper Apertus: Sechshundert Jahre Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg 1386–1986 (Berlin, 1986) 436-505, esp. 451–56.
2.   The Abduction and Recovery of Helen: Iconography and Emotional Vocabulary in Attic Vase-Painting C. 550–350 BCE (diss. Exeter, 2012) p. 156.
3.   "Native Revolt Patterns in the Roman Empire," Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt 2.3 (1975) 138–75.
4.   One amusing slip: Whitmarsh accidentally writes of Phaedra and Hippolytus that "she is his stepson" (77).

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Lisa Irene Hau, Alexander Meeus, Brian Sheridan (ed.), Diodoros of Sicily: Historiographical Theory and Practice in the «Bibliotheke». Studia Hellenistica, 58. Leuven: Peeters, 2018. Pp. x, 612. ISBN 9789042934986. €115,00.

Reviewed by W. P. Richardson, University of Otago (

Version at BMCR home site

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[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

Diodoros of Sicily: Historiographical Theory and Practice in the «Bibliotheke» contains a variety of contributions on this influential ancient historian, based on a 2011 conference at the University of Glasgow. Broad topics include, but are not limited to, Diodoros' context within the first century B.C.E., the composition of the Bibliotheke, Diodoros' depiction of mythology, and the concept of New Quellenforschung. The term New Quellenforschung is the name suggested by the editors (p. 8) for a more recent development in the scholarship, the revival, albeit in a moderated form, of the traditional view of Diodoros, which argued that his work was largely restricted to being a copyist of earlier writers and included limited original content.

In the Introduction, the editors do an exemplary job of setting the scene, and especially of describing the evolution of Diodorean scholarship from the 1800s to the modern day. While the review of the literature is relatively condensed, they define Diodoros' key themes and issues in a manner straightforward enough for a relative novice to the topics to understand, while still being technical enough to engage seasoned scholars. They are well supported by the subsequent paper based on Catherine Rubincam's keynote address, since this contribution expands on the more recent development of the scholarship and muses on ways to bridge the divide between the competing interpretations of Diodoros. The most important part of the Introduction comes on p. 12 where the stated theme binds the following 24 chapters into a cohesive whole. The editors assert that the collected papers demonstrate the modern potential of scholarship on Diodoros, and more importantly, that these studies open up new avenues of inquiry and new perspectives on his work. Our focus will be on the most noteworthy entries from each section. Most commonly, the stronger contributions did not definitively answer every question, but rather introduced a new theory or perspective with the potential to be applied more broadly to Diodoros or even, in some cases, other ancient works.

Following the Introduction, the second section of this volume examines Diodoros within the context of the first century BCE. Kenneth S. Sacks' contribution begins by discussing the impact of previous and contemporary philosophical thinking upon Diodoros' work, as well as his views on these schools of thought. While the whole paper is interesting, this chapter shines especially when it discusses parrhesia in Diodoros' work. Beginning by analysing the use of this concept, Sacks demonstrates Diodoros' development of a concept of historike parrhesia, and discusses Diodoros' representation of the historian as an objective judge of past figures and events who aims to improve society. The final comments show how Diodoros used the reception of parrhesia by historical figures as a means of judging past rulers and opens up a wealth of potential future studies on the depiction of leaders in this work. This convincing discussion of Diodoros' development of parrhesia makes this contribution the highlight not only of this section, but of the volume as a whole.

The third section turns to an examination of Diodoros' Genre and Purpose. Alexander Meeus' contribution asks an interesting new question. The claim is that the old debate over Diodoros' originality should not be the main focus, particularly in regards to his proem. The focus should instead be on Diodoros' purpose in writing, and Meeus explores this, with particular emphasis on a comparison with Cicero's definition of history (De Or. 2.36). Regardless of the originality of any particular passage, Diodoros made a choice to include it, and that reveals information about him. Meeus has demonstrated well how such an examination can be undertaken, and while the debate over originality will continue, it need not dominate the scholarship.

Liv Mariah Yarrow's contribution in the section on New Quellenforschung has perhaps the greatest potential usefulness in this volume. This chapter sets forth a typology of fragments (or reliquiae, the term Yarrow prefers here) and their uses by ancient authors. As noted (p. 251), the basis for this discussion comes from Yarrow's previous work, which itself was influenced by a 1980 article by Brunt. This chapter functions as a 'How-To' guide on utilising this typology and, more generally, as an argument in favour of it. It does so through an analysis of Diodoros as both a source transmitter and a source being transmitted. The most exciting aspect of this chapter is that the methodology and typology can be genericized, and are applicable to the transmission of any fragment, not just those of Diodoros. Yarrow here provides an approach to fragmentary evidence that can be emulated, and will supplement the study of a wide variety of sources.

Following this is the section devoted to the Composition and Narrative of the Bibliotheke. Lisa Irene Hau's contribution, much as Meeus', demonstrates the editors' desire for this volume to reveal new methods of inquiry in Diodorean studies. In this case, Hau argues that there is fertile ground for the discussion of Diodoros' narratorial interventions throughout his work. That is to say, there is work to be done on the ways in which Diodoros relates himself to the narrative of his work. The strength of Hau's suggestion (pp. 300-301), is that it may appeal to scholars favouring either side of the copyist debate; traditionalists may use this stance as a way of examining narrative structures in Diodoros' sources, while revisionists may prefer a study of the choice of narratorial register as emblematic of Diodoros' intent in a particular episode. As with Meeus' contribution, this paper will not entirely dissipate the originalist/copyist debate. Hau, though, has shown additional avenues to explore.

In the section on Gods and Myth, Charles E. Muntz explores Diodoros' choice to include a discussion of mythological times in his historical work. While a number of points are raised in this chapter, here we focus upon Muntz's final discussion. Having established the methods by which Diodoros demarcated history from mythology, with a further explanation of Diodoros' trifurcated understanding of historical matters (for Muntz's summary, see p. 384), a comparison is made between Diodoros' methodology and that employed by two other contemporary writers, Varro and Livy. Muntz argues for parallels between those two authors and Diodoros, indicating Diodoros' interaction with Roman historiography of his period. While this discussion is brief, Muntz expresses (p. 387) a compelling belief that exploration of Diodoros' interaction with his literary context is a strong area for future study.

In the section on Ethnography, Language, and Literacy, Dylan James discusses Diodoros' view of the Greek language in the multilingual Roman world, as expressed in Book 17. The argument is that Diodoros saw Greek as a cultural unifier and means of overcoming practical issues surrounding multiculturalism. Primarily using examples based upon narratives of conflict, James shows that Diodoros praises the resilience and pervasiveness of Greek, even outside of Greece itself. Within the context of Book 17, this leads to the conclusion that Diodoros praised Alexander for disseminating the language. While these discussions are convincing, again, the most intriguing aspect is what James left unsaid, and the application of this concept to sections of Diodoros outside of Book 17 is another promising line of inquiry.

For the section on Rhetoric and Speeches, I break with my pattern to discuss both contributions, and I actively encourage that these chapters be read together. Dennis Pausch begins, discussing Diodoros' stated methodology for employing oratory in his work, in that he tries to avoid it where he can. Extended orations, it is shown, are employed when they have utility to the overall structure of the Bibliotheke, serving his didactic purposes or some literary function. This viewpoint gives us a tool with which to analyse further those speeches Diodoros did include, and that is indeed what Christopher Baron achieves in the accompanying contribution; Baron examines the inclusion of a speech of Theodoros in Book 14, and concludes that it was included in order to highlight aspects of Sicilian history important to Diodoros. Baron's work gives a practical demonstration of Pausch's concept, and explores the deeper meanings of Diodoros' use of oratory.

The final section of this book, on Military History, concludes with Nadejda Williams' discussion of Diodoros' depiction of morality in warfare. The argument is that Diodoros was more interested in that aspect of military history than reporting on the actual events. Diodoros' focus on siege warfare, the consequences of battle, and statements on warfare's negative consequences for the advancement of civilisation in general all provide convincing evidence for this point, and Williams (pp. 536-9) also relates such themes to Diodoros' reasons for writing his work. Interestingly, Joseph Roisman's contribution to this section also argues for a lack of actual military history in Diodoros, suggesting that Diodoros' focus is on the valour and virtue displayed by individuals and groups, rather than on in depth descriptions of battle narratives. Taken together, these two papers again complement each other, and demonstrate Diodoros' intriguing interest in the more human elements of warfare.

This volume has two primary weaknesses, though the editors know of and openly acknowledge both. Moreover, while these weaknesses should be stated, neither of them is overly detrimental, and an awareness of them when reading this work is sufficient to redress the issues they create. The first stems from the fact that this volume originated in a 2011 conference, and original drafts of the published papers were submitted in 2012. As such, the editors note (p. x) that there is a lack of the most recent bibliography. While there are clear signs of contributors trying to amend this in later editing phases, works from 2013 onwards are cited less frequently than might be expected. Consequently, this volume should not be entirely relied upon for a full bibliography of the most recent scholarship. The second is the imbalance in the traditionalist/revisionist debate. The editors note (p. 9) that in the submissions to their conference and volume, traditional Quellenforschung has largely died out; the balance now appears to be heavily in favour of the revisionist approach, with examples of New Quellenforschung beginning to emerge. This could simply be attributed to the current scholarly trends, though the lack of balance is noticeable when the volume is read as a whole. As such, the Introduction's short bibliography of exponents of New Quellenforschung (p. 8) will prove useful for those wishing to explore this viewpoint further. This reviewer would note, though, that the emergence of New Quellenforschung does in itself encourage new areas of discussion; it removes the need for tribal debates on Diodoros as a copyist versus an originalist. Instead, it allows us to place him on a spectrum between the two extremes.

As a last note, the overall production quality is excellent. The apparatus is strong, typographical errors are very rare, and those few that escaped notice are inconsequential. Finally, a random check of 20 entries from each index (General and Locorum) revealed no errors.

This volume set out to demonstrate that Diodorean scholarship is alive and well in the early twenty-first century. In that regard it has excelled. More than that, the studies within it, both those discussed and those not discussed in this review, have effectively laid the groundwork for the expansion of Diodorean studies by presenting a wealth of new concepts for further investigation. The editors say that the scholarship surrounding Diodoros is 'as vibrant as ever' (p. 12). This reviewer can only agree.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements (ix)
Setting the Scene
Introduction; Lisa Irene Hau, Alexander Meeus & Brian Sheridan (3)
New and Old Approaches to Diodoros: Can They Be Reconciled?; Catherine Rubincam (13)

Diodoros in the First Century
Diodoros of Sicily and the Hellenistic Mind; Kenneth S. Sacks (43)
The Origins of Rome in the Bibliotheke of Diodoros; Aude Cohen-Skalli (65)
In Praise of Pompeius: Re-reading the Bibliotheke Historike; Richard Westall (91)

Genre and Purpose
From Ἱστορίαι to Βιβλιοθήκη and Ἱστορικὰ Ὑπομνήματα; Johannes Engels (131)
History's Aims and Audience in the Proem to Diodoros' Bibliotheke; Alexander Meeus (149)
A Monograph on Alexander the Great within a Universal History: Diodoros Book XVII; Luisa Prandi (175)

New Quellenforschung
Errors and Doublets: Reconstructing Ephoros and Appreciating Diodoros; Victor Parker (189)
A Question of Sources: Diodoros and Herodotos on the River Nile; Jessica Priestley (207)
Diodoros' Narrative of the First Sicilian Slave Revolt (c. 140/35-132 B.C.) – a Reflection of Poseidonios' Ideas and Style?; Piotr Wozniczka (221)
How to Read a Diodoros Fragment; Liv Mariah Yarrow (247)

Composition and Narrative
Narrator and Narratorial Persona in Diodoros' Bibliotheke (and their Implications for the Tradition of Greek Historiography); Lisa Irene Hau (277)
Ring Composition in Diodoros of Sicily's Account of the Lamian War (XVIII 8–18); John Walsh (303)
Terminology of Political Collaboration and Opposition in Diodoros XI-XX; Cinzia Bearzot (329)

Gods and Myths
The Role of the Gods in Diodoros' Universal History: Religious Thought and History in the Historical Library; Cécile Durvye (347)
Diodoros, Mythology, and Historiography; Charles E. Muntz (365)
Diodoros and Myth as History; Abram Ring (389)

Ethnography, Languages, and Literacy
Ethno-Geography as a Key to Interpreting Historical Leaders and Their Expansionist Policies in Diodoros; Serena Bianchetti (407)
Diodoros the Bilingual Provincial: Greek Language and Multilingualism in Bibliotheke XVII; Dylan James (429)
Inscriptions and Writing in Diodoros' Bibliotheke; Peter Liddel (447)

Rhetoric and Speeches
Diodoros, the Speeches, and the Reader; Dennis Pausch (473)
The Road Not Taken: Diodoros' Reasons for Including the Speech of Theodoros; Christopher Baron (491)

Military History
Fate and Valour in Three Battle Descriptions of Diodoros; Joseph Roisman (507)
The Moral Dimension of Military History in Diodoros of Sicily; Nadejda Williams (519)
Bibliography (541)
Index Locorum (589)
General Index (605)

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Tino Shahin (ed.), Fragmente der Historiker: Nikolaos von Damaskus. Bibliothek der Griechischen Literatur 84. Stuttgart: Hiersemann, 2018. Pp. 127. ISBN 9783777218045. €158.00.

Reviewed by Benedikt Eckhardt, University of Edinburgh (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

Although Nicolaus of Damascus is cited regularly by ancient authors from Strabo to the late antique lexicographers, only fractions of his impressive oeuvre have been preserved (mainly in the "Excerpta Constantiniana"). Modern interest in them has been very unevenly distributed. While the "Life of Augustus" is now available in English, French, Italian, Spanish, and German translations, the fragments of the "Universal History", the "Autobiography", and the "Collection of Customs" have received much less attention. Some fragments contain unique information on their subject matter (e.g. F 57 on Cypselus, F 135 on Herod) and have been discussed several times, but until now there had been only one complete translation, in French.1 Shahin now offers the first German rendering of all fragments, excluding the "Bios Kaisaros", of which a fairly recent German translation already exists.2

The "Bibliothek der Griechischen Literatur" is traditionally a translation-only series, and Shahin's volume is no exception to this rule. A brief introduction assembles the relevant information on Nicolaus' life and works. The commentary is useful but very limited in scope and not free of errors.3 The value of the book thus depends on the translation. Shahin does not try to be elegant, but seems to make a point of staying very close to the original, at the risk of becoming almost unintelligible. A single passage (F 132,2) may stand in for many:

"[Nikolaos] meinte, dass die Kenntnis von den Musen oder das Fehlen der Kenntnis nicht dem Fehlen der Künste der Banausen glichen, sondern im Gegenteil, dass für diejenigen, die maßvoll leben, die Unkenntnis über sie und die Kenntnis der Banausen schimpflich sei".

I doubt that many native speakers will understand this on first sight, let alone other scholars. They may want to turn to the French of Parmentier and Prometea Barone:

"[Nicolas] considérait que le fait de pratiquer ou d'abandonner les Muses n'est pas semblable à la pratique ou à l'abandon des métiers vulgaires et que, au contraire, un homme ordinaire qui les ignore et connaît les métiers vulgaires, doit être blâmé".

On many occasions, Shahin's Nicolaus is more difficult to understand than he has to be; many sentences have to be read at least twice to yield some sense. However, accuracy is the most important criterion in assessing a translation, and there are certainly passages where Shahin captures the meaning better than his predecessors.4 If the overall verdict has to be negative, the reason is not the inelegant nature of the translation, but the fact that such cases are rare. In general, Shahin's translation suffers from three problems that severely limit its potential uses.

The first problem becomes apparent simply from reading the German text: on numerous occasions, Shahin gets the temporal relationships wrong, most frequently by using the perfect tense where German requires pluperfect, but also by oddly inserting present tense into a chain of past tense verbs. Examples could be cited from every testimonium or fragment where anteriority occurs; the result regularly reads like this: "Als die Juden dies gesagt haben, befreite Nikolaos die Könige von den Beschuldigungen" (T 9); "(sie) konnten sich allerdings nicht mit ihr allein besprechen, denn das meiste ist ihr von Dirke verboten worden" (F 7); "… begegnete ihm ein Mann, der ausgepeitscht worden ist und Mist in einem Korb wegtrug" (F 66,13); "… dass er auch seine Tante beseitigen wollte, die anderen Brüder, die er hat, und die Kinder der Beseitigten" (F 136,6). These are accurate translations of the tenses used in the Greek text, but of course a translation needs to take into account the way temporal relations are constructed in the respective languages (e.g. in the last example, where ὄντας indicates contemporaneity in the past, it obviously makes no sense to use present tense in German, as if Nicolaus wanted to say that Antipater was still alive). One wonders how this problem, which leads to ungrammatical German text on almost every page, could have been overlooked, since no knowledge of Greek is required to spot it.

The second, related problem is the way Shahin deals with participles. Where he transforms them into main clauses, the result is often inelegant but usually correct. Subordinate clauses often lead to the temporal problems pointed out above. But there are also quite a few cases where the choice to use a subordinate clause generates a nonsensical text. In F 50 on Arkesilaos and Learchos, Shahin chooses a causal sense for δυσθνητοῦντα, which leads to the unsatisfactory conclusion that Arkesilaos was killed because he was dying anyway ("Weil er aber schwer im Sterben lag, erwürgte ihn sein Bruder"). Similarly, in F 66,25 εὑρόμενος cannot have a causal meaning ("weil er durch einen Eunuchen den Einlass zu erreichen suchte, berichtete er ihm [sc. Astyages] alles"). In F 103q on Machlyan marriage customs, the suitors come together for a meal in the house of the future father in law. Shahin translates πολλὰ δὲ σκωπτόντων as "wenn sie viele Scherze machen", as if that might happen or not, but the gathering is a joke contest to determine who wins the woman, so the sense cannot be conditional. Again, examples could be multiplied.

The third problem is that even if we ignore the first two issues, significant errors remain. In Nicolaus' advice in T 6 (should Herod have his other sons imprisoned or killed?), the optatives are difficult, but the sense must be the same as in F 136: if you have a different punishment in mind (i.e. death, rather than imprisonment), you should not give the impression of having acted out of anger rather than reason; and in any case, if you set them free, the misfortune is not irreversible (as it would be if you killed your sons). Shahin's version has Nicolaus say the opposite.5 F 4 on the effeminization of Parsondes makes little sense if οὐδείς τε ἂν ἰδὼν ... οὐχὶ γυναῖκα ὑπέλαβε is translated "Keiner, der ihn gesehen hat, … hätte ihn für eine Frau gehalten" (perhaps a "nicht" has been lost?). Later in the same fragment, Artaios' messenger wonders how a warlike man like Parsondes did not kill himself as he was unable to kill others (οὐ διεχρήσατο ἑαυτόν, εἰ μὴ καὶ ἄλλους ἐδύνατο); the point is lost in Shahin's translation ("… wenn schon nichts Anderes möglich gewesen ist"). In F 57,2-3, Cypselus' would-be killers disclose the truth to Eetion (φράσαντες ... τὰς ἀληθείας); it is unclear why Shahin insists that they somehow tricked him in the process ("… wobei sie dem Vater die Wahrheit verdreht darstellten"; "sie hatten ihm zwar etwas vorgemacht" in 57,3 for δόξαν ... μὲν εἶπαν). In 57,4 (Cypselus' return to Corinth), οὐδὲν μελλήσας should be "without delay" rather than "ohne feste Absicht". In F 61,3 on Cleisthenes of Sikyon's usurpation, Isodemus co-opts Cleisthenes as ruler because he believes his claims; Shahin supplies the wrong names and has Cleisthenes co-opt Isodemus. In F 66,33, Astyages offers to put only Cyrus and his supporters in chains (δήσειν αὐτοὺς μόνον παχείαις πέδαις) to make them surrender (for he will kill them when they are caught); Shahin turns the offer into a trick ("allein um ihnen nämlich schwere Fußfesseln anzulegen"). Minos met Zeus every ninth year (F103aa), not nine years in a row. In F 131,3, Shahin has Nicolaus use his father's deathbed wish (to make an offering for Zeus) to prove the questionable point that those who die do what is necessary and do not enjoy life anymore ("… dass auch die Sterbenden das Gebotene wahren und sich nicht mehr am Leben erfreuen werden"), but the sense must surely be that "divine ordinances have to be followed even by the dying and those who no longer have any prospect of enjoying life" (ὅτι τὸ πρὸς θεοὺς ὅσιον δεῖ καὶ τελευτῶντας φυλάττειν καὶ μηδὲν ἔτι ἀπολαύσεσθαι τοῦ βίου μέλλοντας). Nicolaus praises himself in F 137,5 for not having used his fame and wealth for the wrong purposes (τῷ γνώριμος εἶναι καὶ εὔπορος εἰς σὐδὲν ἄτοπον ἐχρήσατο); Shahin makes him "not use (fame and honor) wrongly" to become "famous and rich to anyone" ("… der keinen verkehrten Gebrauch machte, um für irgendjemanden bekannt und wohlhabend zu sein"). Of numerous smaller quibbles, I only point to T 12 where Nicolaus is called ὁ κατ' αὐτὸν [sc. Ἡρώδην] ἱστοριογράφος, which I would understand as referring to contemporaneity, not as "his historiographer" ("sein Geschichtsschreiber").

A review should not be pedantic, but as the book offers little apart from a translation, there is not much else to discuss (and the above is only an extract from a longer list of errata). It is good to have Nicolaus in German, but more care should have been given to this project at all stages of production.6 This leads to a final consideration, for no review of a volume of the "Bibliothek der griechischen Literatur" is complete without a remark on pricing. Leaving aside incredulity or moral outrage, it comes down to simple facts. At the time of writing this review, Les Belles Lettres still offer, for 47 Euros, a bilingual edition of all of Nicolaus' fragments including the "Life of Augustus", with substantial introduction and commentary supporting an elegant and for the most part accurate translation. Hiersemann now wants to sell, for 158 Euro (i.e. 1.24 Euro per page!), a German-only version that does not include the "Life of Augustus", provides only very basic introduction and commentary, and features a far from unproblematic translation. The choice of any responsible librarian should be clear.


1.   E. Parmentier & F. Prometea Barone, Nicolas de Damas, Paris 2011.
2.   J. Malitz, Nikolaos von Damaskus. Leben des Kaisers Augustus, Darmstadt 2003.
3.   The συνέδριον convened for Antipater's trial (T 7) was not the high council of the Jews (p. 13 n. 7 and in the translation), but a group of friends and relatives that Varus συνήδρευε (Josephus AJ 16,93). That Cypselus was related to the Bakchiads via his mother is not a proprium of Nicolaus F 57 (as stated p. 57 n. 117), but simply summarizes the Herodotean account of Eetion's marriage with Labda (5,92). When the Causians mourn those who are born and praise the dead as happy (F 117), the obvious reference would not be to Spartan ideals of an honorable death (p. 101 n. 41), but to the wisdom of Silenus. Antipater's mother (F 143) was Doris, not Mariamme (p. 118, n. 11).
4.   E.g. F 44,2, where Shahin brings out the passive Δαμοννὼ ... ὑπό τινος ἀνεψιοῦ ... μοιχευθεῖσα, whereas in Parmentier/Prometea Barone, "Damonno prit pour amant un cousin …". In F 66,12, εἰσῄει Κῦρον introduces Cyrus' thoughts as in Shahin's translation, not the Babylonian's as in Parmentier/Prometea Barone.
5.   "… wenn du entscheiden solltest, sie auf andere Weise zu bestrafen, scheint es nicht, als seist du eher deinem Gemüt als deiner Vernunft gefolgt. Wenn du aber umgekehrt entscheiden solltest, sie freizulassen, ist das Unglück für dich nicht rückgängig zu machen" (καὶ εἰ μὲν ἑτέρως σοι δοκοίη κολάζειν αὐτούς, μὴ φαίνοιο ὀργῇ τὸ πλεῖον ἢ γνώμῃ κεχρῆσθαι, εἰ δὲ τἀναντία ἀπολύειν, μὴ ἀνεπανόρθωτον εἴη σοι τὸ ἀτύχημα). Incidentally, the close correlation to F 136 would perhaps justify elevating T 6 from Testimonium to Fragment.
6.   Note typos: p. 15 "bekannter ist <er> aber für die Berichte"; p. 31 "erkundig<t>e sich"; p. 39 "dass der Plan {aus} vom Umfeld des Kissos ausging"; p. 58 "bei den Korinther<n>"; p. 95 "hapax legeomenenon"; p. 98 "rechtlichste<n> Volkes"; p. 114 "an <und> für sich".

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Thursday, November 29, 2018


Jonathan L. Ready, The Homeric Simile in Comparative Perspectives: Oral Traditions from Saudi Arabia to Indonesia. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2018. Pp. xiii, 315. ISBN 9780198802556. $90.00.

Reviewed by Miklós Péti, Károli Gáspár University (

Version at BMCR home site


Five years after his Character, Narrator, and Simile in the Iliad1 Jonathan L. Ready has published another book-length study of Homeric similes. The new volume entitled The Homeric Simile in Comparative Perspectives, however, has a very different take on similes than Ready's previous monograph: instead of meticulous close readings, readers find a series of detailed comparative studies which introduce new perspectives to the critical discussion of similes and provide fresh answers to some of the age-old problems (e.g. the function of the simile). Based on an impressive mustering of evidence of contemporary oral poetries as well as other verbal and non-verbal arts (such as blues and rap music and stone-carving), Ready argues for dispensing with ideas of tradition and innovation (which have significantly influenced the critical reception of Homeric similes). Instead of adopting such binding binary oppositions, Ready proposes to conceive of the oral poet as negotiating a "spectrum of distribution" between "shared" and "idiolectal" elements and thereby demonstrating his competence for the audience. The book is an extended demonstration of this proposition whose implications range far beyond the field of Homeric similes, indeed, beyond the realm of Homeric scholarship.

The 'Introduction' sets out the author's goals, and, after clarifying the methods to be used, provides some essential definitions for the succeeding discussions. As a general objective Ready aims to "encourage Homerists to look into modern oral traditions and the scholarship of those who study them full time"; while on a more concrete level he proposes that such comparative enterprises will reveal more about "the ways [the] Homeric poets put together their similes and the ways their audiences thought about their similes" (4). The close focus on the similes, however, does not mean that Ready treats these elements of the Homeric epics in isolation from other aspects of oral poetics, since his comparative inquiries have important ramifications concerning how "the poet of the Iliad and the poet of the Odyssey succeeded in performance" (4). Such wide-ranging goals require a keen methodology, and Ready spares no time to elucidate and justify his use of modern material to shed new light on, or to hypothesize about, Homeric phenomena. The sheer volume of material to be used for comparison is essential for the accomplishment of Ready's objectives: only by surveying and sampling a wide-range of modern sources can he provide representative data for the discussion of Homeric poetry. Accordingly, Ready uses evidence from five major modern traditions of oral poetry (in some cases inevitably in translation): Kyrgyz poems about the hero Manas, the epic of Pabuji from Rajasthan, South Sumatran epic, heroic songs from the former Yugoslavia, and the so-called Najdi poems (which are shorter oral poems) from Saudi Arabia.

The main body of Ready's monograph falls into two major parts. Part 1 (Chapters 1–3), a slightly longer section entitled 'The Modern Material', gathers evidence from contemporary and relatively recent recordings of oral poetries to measure up against the Homeric poems as well as to introduce Ready's main theoretical innovation, "the spectrum of distribution." In the first chapter ("Formal Points of Contact with Homeric Similes") Ready considers four important formal characteristics of Homeric similes: length, the "duration of the comparative moment" (36), arrangement (including the clustering of similes), and the positioning of the tenor and the vehicle. With the exception of positioning, a respect in which the Iliad and the Odyssey exhibit a playful flexibility not characteristic of other traditions, all of these features are common to both modern oral poetries and the Homeric poems. According to Ready, these data should challenge long-held critical views about the uniqueness of the Homeric simile, and they also prompt a revaluation of some of the critical commonplaces associated with these tropes.

This revaluation happens in the central theoretical-methodological chapter entitled "The Spectrum of Distribution." Ready here takes a "geographic" approach, and uses the terms "idiolectal," "dialectal," and "pan-traditional" to classify the elements of orally-derived texts (56). The spectrum of distribution is defined by these three categories with the idiolectal representing features that are unique to a performer, and the dialectal and pan-traditional standing for characteristics that are to a larger or smaller extent shared with other performers. The oral poet demonstrates his competence by moving across this spectrum, deploying shared or idiolectal or individual elements in a variety of ways. Ready's introduction of these concepts is especially useful in overcoming the age-old critical debate about the role of tradition vs. innovation in the Homeric poems. Ready provides a detailed critique of both positions, and his subchapter 2.2 ("Problems with the Terms "Tradition" and "Innovation"") could even stand alone as an excellent overview and appraisal of both older and most recent positions in this debate. He argues that "opposing the traditional to the creative and aligning the creative with the original are reductive moves" (68). Instead, he proposes to adopt a model from folkloristics, and to employ the terms "shared" and "individual" to describe how the creative and the traditional may interact and even coincide in the performance of oral poetry. In subchapter 2.3 ("The Spectrum of Distribution Defined") he provides the necessary (interdisciplinary) theoretical underpinning for the use of these terms, while in subchapter 2.4 ("Ranging across the Spectrum of Distribution") he marshals evidence form a vast array of oral traditions to highlight the oral poet's use of shared and idiolectal material. In subchapter 2.5 ("The Importance of Shared Elements"), Ready seeks to highlight how the use of shared elements helps strengthen the sense of community for both the singer and his audience; subchapter 2.6 ("Similes and Competence") argues, however, that similes are "marked sites of distinction and differentiation" (126), i.e., they present an excellent opportunity for the poet to introduce idiolectal material. For the oral poet and his audience both shared and idiolectal elements are important; in fact, "traversing the spectrum of distribution enables an oral performer's display of skill" (127).

Chapter 3 ("Similes in Five Modern Oral Poetries") uses these conclusions to consider the use of similes by modern oral poets. Ready's nuanced reading of similes prevents readers from assigning priority to idiolectal or individual instances; he convincingly demonstrates that it is sometimes the subtle combination of the shared with the idiolectal that can result in surprising effects proving the singer's competence and satisfying the audience's expectations. Armed with these conclusions, Ready proposes to examine the Homeric poems, the subject of Part 2 (Chapters 4–6; "Application to the Homeric Epics").

In Chapter 4 ("Two Preliminary Points") Ready first highlights the Homeric poems' focus on poetic competence, then goes on to situate his idea of the spectrum of distribution against the background of previous scholarship. Drawing on the works of John Miles Foley, Richard Martin, and Deborah Beck, Ready points out that the concern with the shared and idiolectal has been present for some time in Homeric studies (under the guise of different terminology), but almost always at the expense of "prioritizing the apparently unique or valuing the typical only in so far as it helps the unprecedented stand out" (189). Ready aims to set the balance right by showing the value of shared elements in their own right.

In accordance with this aim, Chapter 5 ("Shared Similes in the Homeric Epics") presents a longer discussion of similes than Chapter 6 ("Idiolectal Similes in the Homeric Epics"). Ready acknowledges that the scarcity of evidence from epic poetry contemporaneous with the Homeric epics makes it difficult in certain cases to determine to what extent a given simile is shared, therefore, he also consults other hexameter poems from the archaic period (Hesiod and the Homeric hymns), as well as early Greek lyric poetry. Obvious parallels in the available body of texts (such as e.g. the image of the falling leaves in the Iliad (6.146–149) and in Mimnermus (fr. 2.1–4 West)) allow Ready to hypothesize that they are shared from a common stock, and that the (for us obvious) differences between the images were not necessarily conspicuous to the original audience and the poets themselves. The model recommended to account for such images is one inspired by folkloristics: Ready proposes that the oral poet thought in "scenarios" when he created the vehicles of his similes. A scenario is "the irreducible component lying at the heart of the vehicle portion" (205) of a simile, it represents an activity the vehicle is engaged in. Thus, for example, the scenario shared by the similes in Iliad 5.87–92, 11.492–495, and 16.384–92 is the river flooding (216). These scenarios can be attended by distinct "features," e.g. the river is full, or the river destroys. Ready proposes a more conservative and a more radical approach to account for the construction of such similes. According to the former, the Homeric poet chose to put shared elements into the vehicle portions, while according to the latter "the vehicle portions that came from the same scenario were considered the same" (227). However it may be, Ready argues (building on a theoretical model from frame semantics) that the scenarios with their distinct features made up "easy-to-learn templates" for the poet which allowed him to recycle "the same" image again and again (237).

In the brief treatment of idiolectal similes Ready differentiates between two possibilities depending on whether the tenor of the "unparalleled vehicle" is itself paralleled or not within the available corpus of texts. The idea of the spectrum of distribution once again allows us to see the question of tradition vs. innovation in a more nuanced light, since in presenting an unparalleled vehicle with a paralleled tenor the Homeric poets noticeably demonstrate their competence by aligning themselves with, but also differentiating themselves from, other oral poets' practices (252).

Ready's immensely erudite monograph (the bibliography contains around 700 items) caters for a wide audience including Homerists, folklorists, and comparatists. Accordingly, in the conclusion he steps beyond the narrow focus on the similes to show how his adopted method of comparison might be used in a completely different field, the study of the textual reproduction of the Homeric epics. Indeed, the intellectual rigor that characterizes the book from beginning to end makes it a model of comparative scholarship. Occasionally one might miss the exciting critical readings of Homeric similes that abounded in Ready's previous book, but the wide-ranging focus of the discussion, the author's deep familiarity with the state-of-the-art scholarship, his keen and insightful engagement with the critical traditions of several disciplines, and the abundance of new perspectives proposed amply compensate readers. The Homeric Simile in Comparative Perspectives will be a starting point and an indispensable source for anyone interested in ancient and modern oral poetries, the Homeric similes, comparative methods, or any combination of these.


1.   See my review in BMCR 2014.05.37.

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William Robert Wians, Ronald M. Polansky (ed.), Reading Aristotle: Argument and Exposition. Philosophia antiqua, 146. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2017. Pp. xii, 388. ISBN 9789004329584. $162.00.

Reviewed by Joachim Aufderheide, King's College London (

Version at BMCR home site


When I started reading Aristotle many years ago, I wondered why it was so hard. My fellow students felt the same way. Indeed, when reading Aristotle my flatmate regularly fell asleep — not because it was boring, but because it's too much to take in if you don't know how to read it. Generations of students have had the same experience: Aristotle is really interesting, but inaccessible to many.

As a teacher I respond by assigning smaller and smaller portions of the original text. But this response suggests that we can profitably read, say, a chapter of Aristotle. The editors of the volume under review caution against such an approach in favour of a more holistic approach. They not only charge analytic interpreters with a tendency to focus myopically on individual arguments, but they also contend, more surprisingly, that developmentalists neglect the larger context of an argument (2). So we need to keep in mind the macro-level of text organisation (whole treatises, books) if we are to understand the arguments at micro-level (topics, individual arguments). The editors put a new spin on this fairly wide- spread insight by stressing that Aristotle's treatises consist in the search for the principles appropriate to the enquiry, where 'the organized pursuit of principles is carefully and deliberately structured both at the level of fine detail and across the unfolding exposition.' In short, we cannot ignore those expository principles at any level of analysis (3).

The volume consists of twelve papers (a full table of contents is included at the end of this review). They advance their hermeneutical claims by focusing on specific texts or interpretive impasses. Nine papers deal with theoretical philosophy, while only three address questions in practical philosophy (two of which are on the Poetics!). As usual with edited volumes, the papers differ not only in size (three papers are very long), but also in quality. Here are what I take to be the key hermeneutical insights.

1. In 'Ways of Proving in Aristotle', Marco Zingano argues exhaustively that proofs phusikôs and proofs logikôs need not be opposed to each other, but can work in tandem. Point taken.

2. In the second 40+ pages paper of the volume — 'Aristotle's Scientific Method' — Edward Halper shows on the basis of Physics I and II that Aristotle does not expound his doctrine, but that he rather takes his reader on a journey of inquiry into the explanations of motion. Demonstration plays a much more important role in organising the material than does deduction. Interesting, but does it generalise?

3. Diana Quarantotto tries to illuminate Aristotle's writing in 'Aristotle's Problemata-Style and Aural Textuality.' Although there is much of interest, her conclusion that verbal communication has a great influence on the texts and that the verbal aspects sometimes shine through is hardly news.

4. The next paper, on 'Natural Things and Body: The Investigations of Physics' is nearly 40 pages long, and packed with interesting and useful reflections. Through a reading of the Physics and explaining how the De Caelo is related to it, Helen Lang exonerates not only the arrangement of the Physics (as in our editions), but also the order of other parts of the corpus. Although Lang does a great job at explaining what a topic is and how they relate to each other, many will have heard the claims that the texts should be arranged topically and that they are systematic wholes that begin with what is most important and then deal with what is less so. However, the paper begins with a fascinating and less familiar exposition of ancient Greek reading and writing techniques. This account strongly undermines the picture (or projection?) that Aristotle had lecture notes that he kept updating.

5. Mariska Leunissen helpfully expands in on the order of exposition 'Surrogate Principles and the Natural Order of Exposition in Aristotle's De Caelo II'. She explains that Aristotle sometimes posits substantial claims (with hupokeisthô) in order to preserve the proper order. Good observation; point taken.

6. Some of Aristotle's writing appears to be exploratory. After revealing some hermeneutical principles that underlie an inquiry into Aristotle's writing, Philip van der Eijk argues plausibly in 'Arrangement and Exploratory Discourse in the Parva Naturalia' that the exploratory style is studied: Aristotle employs it for polemical, rhetorical, and primarily pedagogical reasons. He makes a very strong case for this reading in relation to the De Divinatione and De Somno. The results seem transferable to many other Aristotelian treatises, and not only theoretical ones.

7. In 'The Place of the De Motu Animalium in Aristotle's Natural Philosophy' Andrea Falcon addresses the macro- organisation of Aristotle's texts. He deftly argues against those who take De Motu to be a mixed-genre work, and places it firmly within natural science, highlighting that it belongs to the project of the Physics, even if it is less general than the Physics. The point about levels of generality lends support to, and further expands on, Lang's thesis about the organisation of both individual works and the arrangement of these works in the Corpus.

8. William Wians's paper 'Is Aristotle's Account of Sexual Differentiation Inconsistent?' is one of three that show how to resolve an apparent contradiction within one work of Aristotle's by taking into consideration the context in which the conflict arises. By highlighting the different stages of the argument, Wians can give a coherent account of the female's contribution to the formation of the embryo. The other two papers conveying the same insight are 11 and 12 in the Contents, both concerning the Poetics. Thornton Lockwood's 'Aristotle on the (Alleged) Inferiority of History to Poetry' qualifies the offending remark about history in Poetics 9 by arguing that Aristotle at this point is only speaking about the unity of the plot. Malcolm Heath's perceptive 'Aristotle on the Best Kind of Tragic Plot: Re-reading Poetics 13-14' celebrates the complexity of Aristotle's writing. Which plot structure makes for the best tragedy? Heath explains Aristotle's apparently ambivalent answer by referring to pedagogical and dialectical reasons. He reminds us that patience must be one of the readers' virtues.

9. Suitably placed after the papers on natural philosophy, the contribution of Vasilis Politis and Jun Su, 'The Concept of Ousia in Metaphysics Alpha, Beta, and Gamma', makes a case for approaching the concept of ousia from Books Alpha and Beta; not merely from Gamma. They argue that some of the aporiai in Beta question the ordinary understanding of ousia that many interpreters bring to Gamma. If, as they contend, the Metaphysics is a well-structured whole (at least up to this point), then we should start at the beginning if we are to learn properly about ousia.

10. In another paper on the macro-organisation, Ron Polansky substantiates the claim in his title, that 'Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics is a Work of Practical Science', through an insightful tour of the EN. Much hangs on the claim that ethics does not rest on or require deep understanding of natural science. Against numerous critics, Polansky maintains that we can reach the goal of the EN — becoming practically good agents — without studying Aristotle's theoretical works: a good person does not have to be a natural philosopher!

Here is not the place to discuss the arguments of the papers in detail. My question is: does the volume work as a whole? My answer is a qualified yes. I'll start with the bad news. I do not think the volume will help teachers much to bring Aristotle closer to the hearts (or minds) of their students. Accessing the hermeneutical insights from the papers requires significant background-knowledge of some of the less familiar Aristotelian texts such as De Somno or Generation of Animals: not exactly the stuff one usually teaches. Still, teachers should follow the example of the papers and be careful to contextualise properly the material we do make the students read. But presumably many of us do that anyway. Perhaps we can console the students by citing the claim that 'in their functioning as pedagogical instruments, the treatises seem designed to be challenging. They are contrived to force the student — and the reader — to unpack their concentrated thought' eventually leading 'to the reader's secure assimilation of the principles and what follows from them' (4). As the papers make abundantly clear — many difficult in their own right — there is no easy way into Aristotle's texts.

This nicely produced volume, then, seems primarily pitched at experts, especially those with a penchant for Aristotle's natural philosophy. For papers 2 to 8 give a well-rounded account of how Aristotle proceeds in the texts falling under that rubric. The papers vindicate the editors' claims about the structuring importance of principles, the pedagogical intent, and the careful organisation of the texts on the micro- and macro-level. I am not sure whether the editors' hope that the volume 'will inspire readings of Aristotle's texts that open up new lines of interpretation of the corpus' (6) will pan out. The papers are fine: all are learned, and some are very insightful. And there is currently no volume or book that deals with reading Aristotle. However, among the key hermeneutical insights, I could not find one that I had not heard of before. The strongest and potentially the most influential line shared by many contributions is the emphasis on instruction. Aristotle wrote the way he did because he pursued certain educational goals. So, instead of brushing off a difficult or tortuous bit of text as under- or over-written, we should try to make sense of it in terms of what it is supposed to tell the student. It is, basically, a plea to take the texts as we have them seriously. A group of Plato scholars, spearheaded by M.M. McCabe, operates under the assumption that Plato wrote nothing in vain. This volume might provoke a battle-cry for Aristotle scholars to adopt a similar strategy: Aristotle also wrote nothing in vain. This principle might indeed lead to new interpretations. At least, doing so will force us to think harder about the text, and to proceed even more slowly than many of us do already. This would be a good development.

Table of Contents

Introduction, William Wians and Ron Polansky 1–6
1. Ways of Proving in Aristotle, Marco Zingano 7–49
2. Aristotle's Scientific Method, Edward C. Halper, 50–96
3. Aristotle's Problemata-Style and Aural Textuality, Diana Quarantotto 97–126
4. Natural Things and Body: The Investigations of Physics, Helen S. Lang 127–164
5. Surrogate Principles and the Natural Order of Exposition in Aristotle's De Caelo II, Mariska Leunissen 165–180 6. Arrangement and Exploratory Discourse in the Parva Naturalia, Philip van der Eijk 181–214
7. The Place of the De Motu Animalium in Aristotle's Natural Philosophy, Andrea Falcon, 215–235 8. Is Aristotle's Account of Sexual Differentiation Inconsistent? William Wians 236–256
9. The Concept of Ousia in Metaphysics Alpha, Beta, and Gamma, Vasilis Politis and Jun Su 257–276
10. Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics is a Work of Practical Science, Ron Polansky, 277–314
11. Aristotle on the (Alleged) Inferiority of History to Poetry, Thornton C. Lockwood 315–333
12. Aristotle on the Best Kind of Tragic Plot: Re-reading Poetics 13–14, Malcolm Heath 334–351
Bibliography 353–368
Indexes 369–388
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Carlo Vessella, Sophisticated Speakers: Atticistic Pronunciation in the Atticist Lexica. Trends in Classics – Supplementary Volumes, 55. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2018. Pp. xvi, 320. ISBN 9783110440409. €99,95.

Reviewed by Eleanor Dickey, University of Reading (

Version at BMCR home site


It is well known that in the second century AD many Greeks attempted to erase centuries of language change and write in the language of fifth-century BC Athens. This Atticism was primarily a feature of writing; it could also affect speech in matters such as lexical choice, but linguistic features not reflected in writing, such as pronunciation, are normally thought to have remained untouched by Atticism.

Challenging this traditional view, Vessella's book provides considerable evidence that Atticism sometimes extended to pronunciation. Its core is a set of passages from the Atticist lexica that can be argued to prescribe Atticistic pronunciation. Of course, most prescriptive statements that might refer to pronunciation could also refer to spelling, so the focus of this work is on identifying statements that must originally have concerned pronunciation as opposed to spelling. Many of Vessella's passages are dubious in this respect, but some (such as the statement that the alpha of πελαργός should be pronounced short, p. 238) appear close to unassailable, and overall there are enough convincing passages to demonstrate the author's thesis: Atticism probably did extend to pronunciation.

But how could Greek speakers of the second century AD know how words had been pronounced in Classical Attic? Often, of course, they did not really know. Sometimes they used the pronunciation found in the Attic of their own day as a guide, and sometimes they guessed or extrapolated from the Classical Attic features they knew, producing phonetic 'hyperatticisms'.

The work begins with an overview of the evidence for Atticising pronunciation. This evidence is not confined to the Atticist lexica, and indeed some of the most interesting passages occur in other texts. Vessella has done a good job of gathering these and discussing them in the first chapter, but he gives them a subordinate role: the book's focus is on evidence in the Atticist lexica, and therefore only the passages from the lexica appear in the central passage-by-passage discussion.

The first chapter also provides an introduction to relevant ancient scholarship, particularly the Atticist lexica that make up the corpus on which the book is based: Antiatticista, Aelius Dionysius and Pausanias, Phrynichus, Moeris, Philemon, Philetaerus, Herennius Philo/Ammonius, Pollux, and lexica found on papyrus.

Atticistic pronunciation, according to Vessella, concerned the timbre (quality) of vowels, the quantities of vowels, and gemination (whether consonants were single or double); apart from the question of gemination, there does not seem to be any evidence for Atticizing pronunciation of consonants. Vessella also considers the features marked by accents and breathings to belong to pronunciation rather than spelling, since accents and breathings were rarely written in the second century AD. The features Vessella identifies as ones for which Atticistic pronunciation was possible all probably underwent changes between the fifth century BC and the second century AD, and some understanding of those changes is needed in order to evaluate ancient prescriptions that might pertain to pronunciation. Accordingly, chapter 2 is devoted to vowel timbre, chapter 3 to vowel quantity, chapter 4 to prosodies (accents, breathings, and other diacritic signs), and chapter 5 to degemination; the discussion proceeds sound by sound, examining the evidence for pronunciation changes and comparing it to the pronouncements of Atticist lexicographers. This discussion is detailed (totalling more than 80 pages) and makes use of the most important modern literature on the vexed question of the chronology of Greek vowel changes. It will be of interest to specialists but is best avoided by those without prior background, both because it is not very clear and because it sometimes makes assumptions not shared by many English-speaking classicists, without flagging them as contested.

For example, on p. 68 it is assumed that a stress accent is simply incompatible with the existence of distinctive vowel quantity: when a language has one, it cannot have the other. Many American and British scholars will find this puzzling, since they are likely to consider classical Latin to be an obvious counterexample, that is, a language with both distinctive vowel quantity and a stress accent. In fact the assumption is not as odd as it looks in that context, for many continental scholars believe that classical Latin had a pitch accent — for them, the incompatibility of stress accents and vowel quantities makes more sense. But Vessella does not explain that he is operating in that framework, nor does he defend his argument against the objections of those who do not share his framework. Likewise, on pp. 96–9 Vessella claims that the Atticists prescribed the position of accents more often than their types (i.e. acute or circumflex) — but he does not adequately make clear that this claim is only valid if one believes that prescriptions specifying both position and type were really intended to refer only to position. The words used by ancient scholars for labelling accents automatically specified both position and type (e.g. προπαροξυτόνως 'with an acute on the penultimate syllable', περισπωμένως 'with a circumflex on the final syllable), so in fact most of the words listed in this section as having only their positions mentioned are in fact described in Atticist lexica with terms that specify the accent's type as well.

Next comes a passage-by-passage discussion of nearly 200 passages from the Atticist lexica. These discussions vary in quality, but many are good and interesting, at least for specialists. Even if readers are likely to remain unconvinced about many of the passages, Vessella's discussions usually represent the most thorough investigation that these passages have ever received and are therefore useful for anyone with a serious interest in the lexica. The work ends with an impressive set of concordances and indices.

This book was written for specialists, and many non-specialists will find it difficult or impossible to read. The crucial passages from the lexica, for example, are not translated, and some of them are difficult to understand without a translation; each passage is discussed in detail, but these discussions are hard to understand or evaluate if one cannot read the passage itself. (Other passages of Greek are scrupulously translated, so the non-translation of the passages under discussion must have been a deliberate attempt to avoid prejudicing the argument.) Tables sometimes present data without adequate labelling or explanation, leading to confusion.1 Potentially unfamiliar symbols are frequently used, sometimes unnecessarily and often without any explanation. (Note in particular that the different types of brackets are explained on p. 39, the symbol → indicates a cross-reference to another part of the book, and the two little triangles arranged like a colon and placed after a vowel indicate that it is long, as a macron would; this symbol and others not mentioned here come from the International Phonetic Alphabet, to which a key can be found at Similar issues arise with terminology; for example 'isochrony' (meaning the loss of distinctive vowel quantity) is defined on p. 67 but used from p. 48. Arguments are sometimes presented in a more difficult and convoluted fashion than is necessary, and/or without the information needed to follow them easily. The English is often poor, with misused words and ungrammatical sentences; usually it is possible to work out what was intended, but reading takes more effort than some readers will be prepared to invest.2 (A hint for those inclined to try: in this book 'Hellenism' means 'the Hellenistic period', 'to base (on)' means 'to be based on', 'lecture' means 'reading', 'rising' means 'raising', 'vital' means 'productive', and 'redoublement' means 'doubling', not 'reduplication'.)

The presence of enough English mistakes to diminish readability is disappointing in a book with such a high price tag: could De Gruyter really not afford to employ a copyeditor with a decent command of English? The author, who is not a native speaker of English (and whose English is far better than my Italian), may have thought that he had protected himself against this outcome by seeking out a publisher that on its website promises authors the 'highest publication standards'.

For those with the background and the patience to read and understand it, however, this book makes a real contribution to our understanding of the Atticist movement and its conception of classical Attic.


1.   For example, the table on p. 37 is taken from another work and cannot be understood without looking in that other work, while the table on p. 89 has headings that only make sense in the context of a note that does not appear on the same page.
2.   For example, 'Moeris for instance includes Homer and Herodotus, but not tragedy, which together with Old Comedy distinguishes Phrynichus' canon form other lexica basing mostly authors of Attic prose.' [p. 35]; 'These glosses either discuss the accentuation of difficult words, sometimes apparently basing on accented manuscripts or identify Attic forms: in particular various instances of non-Koine accentuations due to Vendryes' Law, an accent shift exclusive to Attic.' [p. 120]; 'The entry in Ammonius is not prescriptive, as it is normally the case with entries in synonymical lexica.' [p. 125; does 'normally the case' apply to 'prescriptive' or 'not prescriptive'?]; 'The ancient explanation basing on ἄδην has been abandouned (note also that Phrynichus does not explain the change in breathing, a compound of ἄδην should have a rough one). ... The iota can serve the only purpose of signalling the long vowel, therefore implying that the 'long diphthong' <ᾳ>/<αι> had already merged with [a:].' [p. 130]. Mistakes have also been introduced into quotations from other scholars; for example 'The diction that is appropriate for Solemnity consists of broad sounds' has been turned into 'The diction that is apporpriate for Solemnity consists on broad sounds' [p. 65].

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Wednesday, November 28, 2018


Richard F. Thomas, Why Bob Dylan Matters. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2017. Pp. 352. ISBN 9780062685735. $24.99.

Reviewed by Thomas Palaima, University of Texas at Austin (

Version at BMCR home site


I begin not with a disclaimer, but a proclaimer. I wrote a review essay on the British edition of Richard Thomas' Why Bob Dylan Matters as book of the week in Times Higher Education (November 30, 2017) Palaima rev Thomas. The mandate from my editor was to use half the essay explaining why I thought Dylan mattered. Interested readers may go there for my broader perspective on why Dylan matters and what I said to a general readership about Thomas' take on Dylan. I quote here a few short passages to serve as points of departure for classicists and other readers reading BMCR who are curious about Dylan's familiarity with and use of classical texts and culture.

As an expert in what he calls the "best of Roman literature" from the 3rd century BC to the 2nd AD, Thomas' work on Dylan complements Sir Christopher Ricks' Dylan's Visions of Sin (2004), which examines Dylan's songs along with "the greatest English literature of the last five centuries". Both Ricks and Thomas understand Dylan's "love and theft" of other musical and literary works. Thomas here explains Dylan's appropriations of passages from Homer's Odyssey, Virgil's Aeneid, Ovid's Epistles from Pontus, Catullus' love poems and Junichi Saga's Confessions of a Yakuza as a distinctive practice of those T. S. Eliot calls good or mature poets. They "will usually borrow from authors remote in time, or alien in language, or diverse in interest" and they will "[weld their] theft into a whole of feeling which is unique".

Thomas stresses that "for Dylan, it is the art of the song that matters". Indeed, Dylan tells us in his Chronicles: Volume One (2004) that early on he noticed other singers trying to put themselves across, but he always "puts the song across".

Thomas' literary critical observations on Dylan's art help us to see the Virgilian craft and hard labour that go into Dylan's making of song poems.

Thomas has real intellectual sympathies for Dylan, who is what the ancient Greeks called a "prophētēs", a "prophet", literally one who speaks forth what we would call true and false things. Dylan has always known, like the ancient Greeks, that what is not true can be truer than true.

Now really to begin. What will you, from a classical perspective, learn and think about if you read Why Bob Dylan Matters? First, through a ring construction (pp. 49-67; 291-323), Thomas covers in chapter 3 Dylan's life and career from his high school days (1955-59) in Hibbing, Minnesota when he took two years of Latin and was an active member of the Societas Latina and in chapter 9 and the conclusion, events surrounding the Nobel Prize, the Nobel Prize award banquet and speech and song performance (December 10, 2016, watch and listen to both these clips attentively: Dylan speech Nobel 2016 Dylan song Nobel 2016) and the required Nobel Prize lecture (recorded June 4, 2017, watch: Dylan lecture Nobel 2017). The conclusion loops back to Dylan's stop in Stockholm (April 1, 2017) to receive privately his gold medallion and diploma (pp. 11-17).

So you will get a sweeping overview of Dylan's songs and writings, their cultural significance—what personal experiences and concerns, intellectual influences and historical issues called them into being—the methods that produced them, their intertextual relationships with works of other songsters, poets, writers, thinkers—mostly ancient, but a good many modern —all concentrating upon songs that best exemplify Dylan's grounding and continuing interests in classical, mainly Latin, authors. Thomas also invites us to see classical form and rhetorical techniques in songs that contain no classical allusions, e.g., "Blowin' in the Wind" (pp. 25-27). And he guides us through the poetic artistry of Virgil and Dylan (pp. 193-225), covering instances where Dylan is lovingly stealing from translations of Virgil (e.g., "Lonesome Day Blues" and Aeneid Book 6, p. 194) and ways in which Dylan's painstaking reworkings of texts, now traceable in the Dylan archives in Tulsa, are Virgilian (pp. 203-225). Thomas discusses many clear thefts from translations of Ovid and Homer in chapter 8 (pp. 227-265). These riches are provided by a master of classical intertextuality who has longstanding intellectual and spiritual sympathies for Dylan's art and what Dylan's songs have meant and continue to mean to humankind, to himself, to you and to me.

The image and inscription on the gold Nobel medallion have connections with Virgil's Aeneid 6.660-665 and Eclogues 1. Thomas discusses these in relationship to fellow Nobel laureate T.S. Eliot's essay, "What Is a Classic?" (1945) and Cicero's De Officiis and to Dylan's "Desolation Row" and Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. Thomas explains (p. 13) how Dylan acquired, as a painter and a songster, sensibilities that caused him to be absorbed with the 'Virgilian' words and scene on the award medallion (more later). Thomas takes us along one of the many 'roadmaps for the soul' that reveal the "empathy for the human condition" and the "focus on humanity that is at the core of Dylan's art." Hence the nod to Cicero's On Moral Duties, where Thomas (p. 17) has Cicero writing: "I am a human. I consider nothing connected to humanity to be alien to me" (more later).

Thomas issues a kind of manifesto (p. 17) that all classicists should take to heart.

This is also a book about how Dylan's genius has long been informed by the worlds of ancient Greece and Rome, and why the classics of those days matter to him and should matter to all of us interested in the humanities. We live in a world and an age in which the humanities—the study of the best that the human mind has risen to in art, music, writing, and performance—are being asked to justify their existence…. At the same time, those arts seem more vital than ever in terms of what they can teach us about how to live meaningful lives. The art of Bob Dylan…can be put to work in serving and preserving the humanities.

There is no implication in Why Bob Dylan Matters that Dylan has had a deeper interest in the Classics than what taking two years of high school Latin and watching in the 1950s at his uncle's theater the wave of Hollywood movies on Roman themes (pp. 49-57) would instill into a receptive soul.

Yet Dylan turns to Rome and Roman themes (gladiators, the Colosseum, the Roman soldiers at the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the mafioso-glamor of Roman power figures) in his own songs from "Goin' Back to Rome" and "Long Ago, Far Away" (pp. 70-72), captured on subsequently bootlegged tape recordings in 1962-63, to "Early Roman Kings" (pp. 89-91) on the CD Tempest (2012). In the song "Early Roman Kings" Dylan derives topoi from Juvenal's 6th and 10th satires, while alluding to gang warfare in the Bronx, NY, in the '60s and '70s.

Thomas' work goes well beyond pointing out intertextual links between Dylan's compositions and translations of classical authors, most famously Peter Green's translations of Ovid, The Poems of Exile: Tristia and the Black Sea Letters (2006) (catalogue of intertexts by Cliff Fell on p. 240), placing them in the context of modern preoccupations with intellectual property rights and artistic authenticity, e.g., Joni Mitchell's spontaneous indictment of Dylan in the Los Angeles Times April 22, 2010 (Mitchell interview 2010): "Bob is not authentic at all. He's a plagiarist, and his name and voice are fake. Everything about Bob is a deception."

Classicists who take pleasure in the rigorous art of Quellenforschung will admire the magpie nature of Dylan's kunstvolle Quellennutzung, especially now that pleasurably scholiastic footnotes are anathema to even prestigious academic presses.

Cuiusvis hominis est errare (Cic. Phil. 12.2.5). There are a few places where Why Bob Dylan Matters could be tweaked. I would add Ian Bell's Once Upon a Time: The Lives of Bob Dylan (2012) and Time Out of Mind: The Lives of Bob Dylan (2013) to the closing bibliography as a fair-minded and critically insightful 'biography' of Dylan. Bell offers astute observations on the truly ridiculous controversies that have swirled around the songs Dylan has written and performed and around what Dylan has chosen to do with his artistic energies in various phases of his sixty years as an apprentice and then full-time songster, poet, prose writer, painter, scriptwriter, actor, Theme Time Radio announcer, business man, father, husband, lover, friend, recipient of numerous public honors and reluctant cultural icon. Bell's chapter (2013: 411-438) explicating Dylan's Chronicles (2004) as a "marvel" of story-telling that in Dylan's own words "doesn't attempt to be more than what it is" (2013: 412) complements Thomas' own two chapters (pp. 95-160) covering Chronicles and charges of plagiarism.

My second suggestion is pedantic. But paying careful attention to the details of texts and intertexts is what classicists can do best. Although Why Bob Dylan Matters is written for a larger public, elucidating fine details precisely could demonstrate even better to that public the value of careful reading of texts in foreign languages, ancient or modern.

I close here with the two cases in point that I signaled above. Thomas writes (p. 17):

Cicero in On Moral Duties wrote "I am a human. I consider nothing connected to humanity to be alien to me." For Cicero, thinking about justice and correct action in difficult times is a hallmark of humanistic thought.

Once inquiring readers find the passage Thomas has in mind—no easy matter without an exact reference—they will see that Cicero (De Off. 1.30) only paraphrases part of the Latin original for the full quotation from Terence and uses it to illustrate how difficult it is to practice what is preached in the statement:

est enim difficilis cura rerum alienarum. Quamquam Terentianus ille Chremes "humani nihil a se alienum putat";

For it is hard to be actively concerned with the matters of other people's lives. Nonetheless, the character Chremes in Terence's play "thinks that everything relating to the human experience is of interest to him."

It is to Dylan's and Cicero's and now Thomas' everlasting credit to highlight the need for human empathy. Cicero does this through logical argument. Dylan does so by ingeniously redeploying passages from now obscure texts, whether written by classical authors or by the likes of Civil War poet Henry Timrod (pp. 234-243), that make us see, think and feel what it is to be struggling human beings any time, any place in "this weary world of woe" (Dylan, "Ain't Talkin'" 2006).

Lastly, in discussing Dylan's fascination with the scene and inscription on the Nobel gold medallion, Thomas (p. 12) quotes Sara Danius, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy:

taken from Virgil's Aeneid the inscription reads: Inventas vitam iuvat excoluisse per artes, loosely translated as "And they who bettered life on earth by their newfound mastery."

Thomas agrees with her that "the words engraved around the medal's rim are also Virgil's: Inventas vitam iuvat excoluisse per artes" (p. 12) and he gives fuller context (p. 14) by stitching together Fagles' translation of Virgil's Aeneid 6.645-647 and 662-664, where line 663 is translated: "those who enriched our lives with the newfound arts they forged."

However, the phrase on the gold medallion is not Virgil's original line inventas aut qui vitam excoluere per artes. It is a loving theft from it. The official translation offered by the Swedish Academy and perpetuated unthinkingly on almost every Web site retrieved by Google is not a translation of the medallion inscription, but of Virgil Aeneid 6.63. More significantly for the art of intertextuality, the Swedish Academy is using a translation of the line taken from William Morris, The Aeneids of Virgil: Done Into English (London 1876) p. 175. Morris' Latin was not all that good, but his deep human concerns for the literally miserable lives of many common human beings are very much in line with Dylan's.

Inventas vitam iuvat excoluisse per artes means something appropriate to the individual Nobel awardees in literature and various scientific fields:

it is of use (i.e., it is beneficial) to have improved life through discovered arts.

That is what Bob Dylan has done as a songster and in many other roles for sixty years and counting. That is what Richard Thomas helps us to see clearly.

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