Bryn Mawr Classical Review 02.03.07: Review of Callimachus

Hollis, A.S., Callimachus: Hecale. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990. Pp. xiii + 401. ISBN 0-19-814044-4 (hb).

Reviewed by James Clauss, University of Washington.

Scholars of both Hellenistic and Roman literature will enthusiastically welcome A.S. Hollis' splendid text and commentary of the fragments of Callimachus' Hecale, the first major overhaul of the poem since Pfeiffer's magisterial edition was published over forty years ago. The emendation, identification, and arrangement of scraps of verse and pieces of letters and words that go into the reconstruction of so fragmentary a text is a daunting task, to say the least, and one that requires the intellectual acumen and stamina of a scholar of the highest order, if such an edition is going to be convincing. This edition is convincing.


Hollis fully prepares his reader for the issues which he takes up in the commentary. The twelve sections of the prefatory material might well have been subsumed into three wider categories: the poem itself (Composition of the Hecale [I ]; Subject-Matter and Sources [II]; Style and Language [III]; Meter [IV]); the influence of the poem in its own day and beyond (Hecale and the Hellenistic Epyllion [V]; Influence and Survival [VI]; Ancient Commentators, Copyists, and Grammarians [VII]; The Hecale in Byzantine Times [VIII]); and the reconstruction of the poem (The Gathering and Ascription of Fragments [IX]; The Arrangement of Fragments [X]; Papyri of the Hecale [XI]; Other Main Sources of the Text [XII]). In what follows, I shall discuss the introduction using these categories and confine myself to issues that give an idea of Hollis' preconceptions and methodology.

The poem itself. From the scholiast's note on H. 2.106 (that Callimachus wrote the Hecale in response to his critics' claim that he could not write a sustained narrative) Hollis deduces -- without going very far out on the limb -- that the Hecale was "written at a time (? the 270s BC) when his literary principles and practice had already been established by published work, and had become well enough known to attract opposition" (p. 3). Moreover, he suggests that these negative comments might have been occasioned by the first edition of the Aetia. If so, the Hecale would have been "both a response to criticism and a positive manifesto, showing how a smart modern poet should handle traditional epic subject-matter (one of the Labours of Theseus) in the traditional epic meter" (pp. 3-4). All quite reasonable. Hollis neatly sums up Callimachus' use of earlier and contemporary material and the style and language of his verse: "The Hecale seems to have encompassed a variety of tone as wide as the range of literary genres ... from which Callimachus drew" (p. 26). He provides brief discussions of the various elements which went into the composition of the poem (the literary background, Attic geography, traditions, cult, vocabulary, recondite learning, and verbal experimentation) with informative examples. The very approachable section on meter which follows is of particular importance (pp. 15-23); for, as Hollis makes clear, a thorough understanding of Callimachean metrical practice is essential for the identification or restoration of the fragments (e.g., a line in which Hermann's Bridge is not respected could not, without emendation, belong to the Hecale).

The influence of the poem in its own day and beyond. Hollis believes in the existence of a distinct category of poetry which we have come to call the epyllion -- though he acknowledges such problems as the absence of this term among ancient critics. He points to Catullus c. 64 and the Ciris as indications that the Romans at least saw this as a recognizable literary form, and offers as pre-Hellenistic prototypes the Shield of Heracles and Homeric Hymns (p. 25). Hollis next discusses the influence that the Hecale had on writers from Apollonius to Nonnus on the Greek side, and from Lucretius to Apuleius on the Roman. Given our lack of secure chronological information about the publication of poems in the third century BC, the assertion that the Hecale pre-dates all four books of the Argonautica, as well as the Idylls (p. 26), may not find acceptance in all quarters. Hollis concludes his discussion of the poem's fate among the ancient and Byzantine scholars and poets by suggesting that Michael Choniates' copy of the Hecale, which he brought with him from Constantinople to Athens, was destroyed by the Frankish soldiers of the Fourth Crusade in 1205 (p. 40). This was possibly the last complete text to survive.

The reconstruction of the poem. Following a recapitulation of prior work on the text (pp. 40-46), Hollis sets forth his approach to the fragments. First of all, he does not intend to supplant, but to supplement Pfeiffer, and for this reason he will deal more with "problems of subject matter and ... parallels from other ancient poets" (p. 45). This is an accurate appraisal of what the reader will encounter in this edition. Anyone working on the Hecale will want to have Pfeiffer -- not to mention Supplementum Hellenisticum -- alongside Hollis. There are, however, some changes and additions to note: Hollis fr. 6 consists of the letters mentioned but not recorded in Pfeiffer's addenda (p. 507 ad fr. 230); following Wilamowitz, in his fr. 85 Hollis expands Pf. 305 by promoting material in the scholiast's remarks on Thuc. 2.15.4 from comment to poetry; likewise Hollis fr. 97 is assigned to Callimachus' text rather than to marginal scholia as in SH 291; and Hollis fr. 26 (= 525 inc. sed. Pf.) has been listed among the fragments of the Hecale. Two other points to keep in mind when using this new edition: Hollis counts separate sides or columns of a papyrus as separate fragments (p. 46); and whereas Pfeiffer arranged frs. 230-264 "ad ordinem narrationis" and the other fragments "secundum fontium ordinem alphabeticum," Hollis has arranged his fragments 1-83 along the lines of the narrative and the remaining fragments, as they allowed, according to subject-matter; where the subject-matter could not be identified, he reverted to Pfeiffer's second principle (pp. 47-48). The new arrangement will complement Pfeiffer's and could well inspire other scholars to make some new connections, especially if more fragments surface in the years to come.

Text and Commentary

First of all, the present edition is certainly more "user-friendly" than Pfeiffer's. The testimonia precede the text -- they were published in the second volume of Pfeiffer's Callimachus -- separated only by essential information: the abbreviations of earlier editions, the sources, the sigla, and the diegesis. Moreover, since the commentary is printed separately after the fragments, it is easier to read what text survives and the testimonial and critical apparatuses, which, complicated enough given the fragmentary state of the poem, are unencumbered by the daunting Latin exegesis. The present format will certainly provide a wider readership for this fascinating and influential poem. Hollis' arrangement of the testimonial apparatus is particularly easy to follow, each item set off in its own paragraph; a good example of this is fragment 74.

In order to understand just how different (and more assertive) this text is from Pfeiffer's, I point out the following facts. As mentioned above, Pfeiffer arranged his fragments of the Hecale into two sections: 35 fragments which follow the storyline given to us by the diegesis and Plutarch in his Life of Theseus (Pf. 230-264), and 113 fragments in alphabetical order according to the name of the source of the fragment (Pf. 265- 377; total 148). Hollis follows the storyline in 83 fragments, introducing an addendum from Pfeiffer (Hollis 5-6 = Pf. vol. 1.506-507) and 12 fragments from SH (280-291), promoting 31 fragments from Pfeiffer's second section; Hollis' second section contains 72 fragments (Hollis 84-155; total 155), many of which are arranged by subject matter (e.g., "res Atticae" and "res Argivae"). One fragment from Pfeiffer's "Fragmenta Incertae Sedis" is introduced into Hollis' first section (Hollis 26 = Pf. 525); while Hollis' section "Fragmenta Incerta," -- like his second section arranged where possible along thematic lines -- contains 24 fragments (Hollis 156-179), 20 of which come from Pfeiffer's "Fragmenta Incertae Sedis" and 4 from his "Fragmenta Incerti Auctoris." In addition to increasing the number of fragments which he thinks do or might belong to the Hecale, Hollis rearranges more than a few fragments from their original order in Pfeiffer, as the third table of the section "Numbering of Fragments: Comparative Tables" (pp. 398-401) reveals. Despite these seemingly numerous changes, however, the story that emerges from Hollis' arrangement of the fragments is not after all radically different from Pfeiffer's (in fact, in many cases Hollis simply acts upon Pfeiffer's suggestions) but it is certainly richer, and in my view represents a significant improvement. The reconstruction is plausible and well argued. Hollis always informs the reader where he offers a speculative reading, and strikes a delicate balance between academic squeamishness and irresponsible boldness.

Since an evaluation of all the changes that Hollis has introduced into the text, apparatuses, and commentary is beyond the scope of this review, I shall limit myself to some general observations. First of all, as I have already made clear, I believe that this is a superb piece of scholarship. The fragments, their provenience, and critical notes are set out in a lucid and readable fashion. The suggestions offered for joining or positioning fragments are, if not convincing, at least worth considering and often helpful in getting a sense of the likely flow of the poem (e.g. ad fr. 24, 26, 60, et passim). Hollis' sensitivity to Callimachean metrical practice adds authority to his text (e.g., ad 17.11, 23.2, 49.18, etc.), and his appreciation of Hellenistic literary aesthetics is everywhere apparent. The use of the poetry of Michael Choniates for the reconstruction of the text has proven especially beneficial (e.g., pp. 218-219). Latinists will be particularly pleased with the numerous references to Republican and Imperial poetry, not unexpected from an Ovidian scholar. My suspicion is that this new edition will spawn further work not only in Callimachean and Hellenistic studies but on Latin poetry as well.

In a book of this magnitude, it is inevitable that some errors will have been left behind or that idiosyncratic complaints about format and differences of opinion in the area of context will manifest themselves. The problems I have observed are few and minor. For instance, one finds relatively few typographical errors: e.g., "ahout" (p.38); no dot under the tau of line 4 of the Argumentum Hecalae (p. 66, unless the situation has changed since the publication of Pfeiffer's text), a closing parenthesis left out at fr. 10 (p. 71), "Gen." omitted in citation of "Et. Gen." in the critical apparatus ad 15 (p.72), and a few others. There is no note for fr. 138, which I assume was an oversight, since every other fragment receives a comment. In the matter of format, I must confess that I find the positioning of the question mark before a query annoying, especially as it is done inconsistently; and frequent reference to observations offered informally (through letters or in conversation) by friends, albeit renowned scholars, is frustrating, especially since it is not always clear, despite the editor's prefatory remarks (p. viii), what suggestions were published or what were communicated personally to Hollis. With regard to the content of the commentary, I find that at times Hollis unnecessarily repeats in expanded form what was already reported in the apparatuses -- perhaps not surprising since at times there is not much to say about some of the fragments. But these complaints are nugatory. Hollis treats every issue he takes up so evenhandedly and honestly, that few will take umbrage at what they find within.

Appendices and Indices

Hollis provides five very useful appendices. In the first (Some Other Fragments), he considers 34 fragments under the category of "inc. sed." and "inc. auct." in Pfeiffer and 3 "Frustula Adespota ex Auctoribus" in SH which might have some claim to belong to the Hecale. In the second (The Length of the Hecale), Hollis takes on the thorny issue of the length of the poem. He looks at three different angles: 1) the lacunae between sides or columns of a papyrus; 2) Hutchinson's calculation -- communicated to him by letter -- of 930, 1030, or 1120 lines, based on the proportion of quoted verse to exegesis in the ancient commentaries of the Hecale; and 3) Pfeiffer's hypothesis on the probable length and contents of P. Oxy. 1011 which suggests that the poem was considerably longer than the 1000 line length that has been traditionally assigned. Hollis leans toward the third and accordingly favors Naeke's view that the poem could well have approached the length of Apollonius' fourth and longest book -- 1781 lines.

The third appendix (The Hospitality Theme) is by far the most interesting and significant. In this section Hollis sets the story of the Hecale in the wider context of the age-old hospitality theme, beginning appropriately with Eumaeus' entertainment of Odysseus and ending with the Byzantine life of St. Philaretus of Amnia by Nicetas. Of particular note in this section is the connection of this theme with the invitation poem in which a guest of higher social status is entertained at the humble home and table of the poorer host. The implication that the invited guest was to be subtly equated with a god/hero is not brought out by Hollis, but cannot be ignored. Equally fascinating is Hollis' connection of this motif with the "rural entertainment as an idyllic interlude in a martial epic," a conceit which began with Aeneas' visit to the home of Evander.

The last two appendices are of a more speculative nature. In the fourth (Theseus' Return from Marathon), Hollis discusses two possibilities relating to what Theseus did after he captured the Marathonian bull: he either stayed a night near Marathon and went to Hecale's hut the next day, only to discover that she had died, or returned directly to Athens on the same day as his heroic feat, and then retraced his steps to Hecale's hut the following day. Although Hollis tends toward the second, as elsewhere throughout the commentary, he admits that we do not know enough to come to any compelling conclusion. In the fifth appendix (Ten Poetic Citations in Suidas), Hollis considers ten anonymous glosses in the Suidas which he thinks have a chance of coming from the Hecale. The selections and the accompanying discussion are typical of the rest of this learned and judicious text. (I particularly like the seventh entry, Nêrêinê; it would, as Hollis states, "be welcome to have a Greek example of Nêrêinê earlier than Catull. 64.28," especially from Callimachus.)

The various indices and tables will surely be appreciated by anyone who works with the Hecale. Hollis provides a thorough index of complete and incomplete Greek words; an index of the sources of the fragments, except for the papyri (which he discussed in the Introduction); an index of allusions and imitations; and a general English index. The work concludes with tables which compare the numbers of the fragments in Pfeiffer and SH with those in Hollis.

In short, Callimachus has been well served.