Bryn Mawr Classical Review 02.03.09

E. M. Craik, Owls to Athens: Essays on Classical Subjects Presented to Sir Kenneth Dover. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990. Pp. xvi + 413. ISBN 0-19-814478-4 (hb). $98.00 (hb).

Reviewed by Anton Bierl, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and University of Munich.

Sir Kenneth J. Dover, former President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, now Chancellor of the University of St. Andrews and part-time professor of Classics at Stanford, is one of the most outstanding British Hellenists since Gilbert Murray. After his studies at Oxford he devoted his life to teaching and research in the ancient Greek language and culture. His books range from a strictly linguistic inquiry on Greek word order to careful commentaries on Aristophanes' Clouds, Plato's Symposium, Theocritus and Thucydides to studies of social and sexual behavior, as his highly innovative and influential Greek Popular Morality and Greek Homosexuality. For Dover's seventieth birthday his pupils and close colleagues presented this rich collection of essays to their teacher.

What strikes at first sight an American or continental European is the almost exclusively British origin of the contributors. Thus, despite Dover's international reputation and influence, his Festschrift is somewhat provincial. Even in the "Tabula Gratulatoria" besides a few American scholars there are listed only one Japanese and one German; first-rank scholars from countries such as France, Italy, Germany, Scandinavia, Holland, Greece or Spain are missing. One sees how local Dover's personal influence was. This is partly due to the fact that the English system has had no tradition of doctoral students.

The complete bibliography of the honorandus until 1989 at the end of the volume (pp. 401-409) is of great value. However, it is a pity that reviews of Dover's books are not included. This would have been the easiest index of reception of his work. The numerous entries of publications prove that the 42 essays of the contributors reflect closely the wide range of Dover's own interests. The editor Elizabeth Craik arranged these contributions according to thematic subject units, as "Drama" (Nos. 1-9, pp. 1 -84), "Other Poetry" (Nos. 10-15, pp. 85-130), "History" (Nos. 16-23, 131-199), "Beliefs, Society and Art" (Nos. 24-29, pp. 201-277), "Language, Metre and Rhythm" (Nos. 30-38, pp. 279-359) and "Texts and Scholars" (Nos. 39-42, pp. 361-400). The reader finds an amusing sketch of Dover portrayed as an Athenian owl with the title "Rara Avis in Nostris Oris" (vi) and a Prologos (in Greek) by Donald Russell (vii-viii) in form of a Platonic dialogue which praises the man and his work. At the end (pp. 411-413) there is a useful index.

All contributions are on a high level of scholarly quality. A common feature is that most of them can be labeled as strictly analytical in the typical Anglo-Saxon tradition. Therefore, there is a complete lack of papers dealing with modern literary theoretical approaches. Most of them are concentrated on specific small issues, as textual criticism, staging matters, the discussion of the meaning of certain words or brief passages. One might say that some of these marginalia are somewhat old fashioned, belonging to Wortphilologie but in its best form.

The collection is more like a vast philological journal. It is certainly not a book which one can or should read from cover to cover. The reader can pick what might interest him. A main objection to a volume like this is the fact that a general classicist might be on the average attracted by only half of the articles. Some are too specialized for a broad public and will only be of interest for a few scholars working on exactly the same problems. These papers might be called "Owls to Athens" in the broader sense,1 because there is little need for them. Among these I would count e.g. No. 2 "Textual Notes on Sophocles' Philoctetes" by Michael Stokes, No. 3 "Some Skewered Gobbets in Euripides" by P.T. Eden, No. 22 "Bithys Son of Kleon of Lysimacheia: Formal Dating Criteria and IG ii2 808" by Alan Henry and No. 40 "The a Class of the Manuscripts of the Periochae of Livy" by Robert Reid (although here every student can follow in an exemplary way, how one reconstructs a stemma of manuscripts). Another example of this kind of scholarship is No. 7 "The Ornithology of Aristophanes' Bird-Wall: Birds 1136-1157" by Nan Dunbar who in her interest for birds follows the tradition of the famous Sir D'Arcy Thompson.2

A little broader interest may lie in the more general "Homeric philos: Love of Life and Limbs, and Friendship with One's thumos" (No. 11) by David Robinson, who convincingly argues that philos in Homer is never possessive, but that it has to do with the meaning 'friend', either in the passive sense that something is beloved, or in the active sense that it is sympathetic and friendly. Essential because concentrating on a key passage in Thucydides (1.23.6) is John Richardson's analysis of the disputed meaning of prophasis (No. 19), questioning the view which has prevailed since the appearance of H.R. Rawling's study.3 It is generally accepted that prophasis is derived from phaihn ('cause to appear'). But Richardson argues for the alternative derivation from phhmi ('pretext, explanation').4 The superlatives of adjectives connected with the word indicate that there was a variety of 'explanations'. Thus Thucydides would not be selectively judging the competing claims of Sparta and Athens in 432, but saying that the 'truest explanation' for the war was the fear of the growth of Athens.

Other contributions deserve to be mentioned: an excellent example for the editing of a literary papyrus is No. 6 "An Unpublished Papyrus of Aristophanes from Oxyrhynchus: Thesmophoriazusae 25(?), 742-766, 941-956" by Walter Cockle. The text is of relevance and confirms some older conjectures. "Synecphonesis and Consonantalization of Iota in Greek Tragedy" (No. 36) by Antonios Kapsomenos gives new insight into the phenomena of synecphonesis and synizesis which commonly were supposed to occur rarely in tragedy. The contribution of Oliver Taplin (No. 12) on the citation of the Iliad in the Odyssey is stimulating and will have some impact on the discussion of orality in Homer. Hugh Lloyd-Jones' contribution "Erinyes, Semnai Theai, Eumenides" (No. 24) is of relevance to religion in Greek tragedy.5 He demonstrates that the Erinyes as chthonic goddesses originally share negative and positive aspects. In other words, the positive powers which Athena promises to them in Aeschylus' Eumenides are not a new acquisition but only complement their ambivalent nature. The study provides further evidence for the quintessential ambivalence of the Greek gods and can serve as a further stimulus to shed light on the dramatic exploitation of this feature in tragic texts.

Many readers will certainly be attracted by the more general, cross-cultural essays "Plato's Philosophy of Sex" (No.26) by John Lucas and "Sexual Violence: Archaic Athens and the Recent Past" by Martin Kilmer (No.29). Lucas discusses the "distasteful, not to say disgusting" (p.226) judicial arrangements concerning love, family life and the education of children in Plato's Republic. He is not simply condemning those laws, but tries to inquire into the social motives which led Plato to think so. He acknowledges that Plato had a deep sociological insight into the problems which emotional love between men and women creates for the stability of society. He compares how modern states try to solve these difficulties. The second study analyses critically a recent statement that in Greek art of the late archaic and classical periods there is to be found an apparent undercurrent of sadism, masochism and pornography. By confronting vase scenes with modern representations of sexual phantasies (with 12 illustrations) the author comes to the conclusion that one should avoid those modern terms when describing the ancient tendencies for sexual violence at least so far as they are illustrated.6

Important is Mortimer Chambers' contribution to Wissenschaftsgeschichte, "The Genesis of Jacoby's Atthis" (No 41). He first uses the correspondence between Felix Jacoby and Kenneth Sisam, Secretary of the Delegates of the Oxford Press (1942-48) about the financial difficulties in printing Jacoby's monumental manuscript on the local historians of Athens. He illustrates the outstanding role Oxford played in supporting refugee German philologists who had to flee the Nazi regime. The Oxford Press had already agreed to publish Pfeiffer's Callimachus and Fraenkel's Agamemnon. Therefore it was forced by financial constraint to convince Jacoby to agree on a compromise. Oxford printed the introduction as Atthis and left the edition and commentary of the fragments to be included within FGrHist published by Brill, Leiden.

The most promising results are to be found when the contributors follow Dover's innovative inquiry about sexual vocabulary and behavior and how linguistic phenomena are reflected in the sociology of the audience: in "Marginalia Obsceniora: Some Problems in Aristophanes' Wasps" Ewen Bowie (No. 4) demonstrates in a refreshing way again how many possibilities of interpretation of Old Comedy are hidden in consistent tracing and explanation of sexual imagery. Martin West (No. 1) traces "colloquialism and naive style" in Aeschylus, who commonly is associated with a lofty, grandiloquent style. I find it difficult to accept his equation of a "naive style" with a style which is grammatically incorrect according to the laws of Attic Kunstprosa. But his conclusion that Aeschylus' is "a language of truth, perhaps rather than logic" (p. 12) and that he could not know about later rules and was writing for an audience similarly innocent about them is certainly right. Perhaps one could lay even more emphasis on the act of communication. In the rheseis the public would have the opportunity to identify with the actors. Such identification (empathy) is encouraged by the direct, idiomatic way of expression which the actors share with the average citizen in the theater.

In my opinion the most interesting contribution is Stephen Halliwell, "The Sounds of the Voice in Old Comedy" (No. 8) where he analyses the comic effects of the language of others (dialect or foreign language) on the internal framework of the Athenian theater. He links the comic exploitation of the language of the "Other" with the snobbish, chauvinistic attitude of the Athenians to their own cultural achievements. Here one misses R. J. Bonner, "The Mutual Intelligibility of Greek Dialects," CJ 4 (1908/9) 356-363 and C.C. Coulter, "The Speech of Foreigners in Greek and Latin Comedy," PhQ. 13 (1934) 133-139.

Like so many detached miscellaneous Festschriften, the book as a whole is rather disappointing.7 Although no article is a failure nor careless and inaccurate, one misses the great names in our field, who would have made a truly international variety of permanent contributions possible. Sir Kenneth deserved better.


1. For the title Craik (i) cites Francis Thynne, Emblemes and Epigrames (1600): dedication to Sir Thomas Egerton. The proverb is already ancient (glauka eis Athenas): sc. Suda g 279 Adler and Cic. ad Fam. 6.3, 9.3 and ad Quint. fr. 2.16. It is also reflected in Aristophanes, Av. 301.

2. A Glossary of Greek Birds (Oxford 1895; London/Oxford2 1936; reprint Hildesheim 1966).

3. H.R. Rawlings III, A Semantic Study of Prophasis to 400 B.C., Hermes Einzelschriften 33 (Wiesbaden 1975) esp. 61-64.

4. In a critical review of Rawlings (n. 3), which is unknown to Richardson, Ch. Schaeublin had already argued in a similar way: see Gnomon 51 (1979) 10-12.

5. But even this interesting article lacks originality, since it is greatly dependent on A. Henrichs' "Euphemismus und Namenlosigkeit: Zur Ambivalenz der chthonischen Mächte im attischen Drama," Fragmenta Dramatica: Beiträge zur Interpretation der griechischen Tragikerfragmente und ihrer Wirkungsgeschichte, unter Mitarbeit von A. Harder herausgegeben von H. Hofmann (Göttingen 1991) 161-201. Lloyd-Jones himself admits (302-304 n.3) that his contribution "may be considered as a footnote" to Henrichs.

6. I do not agree with Kilmer's interpretation (266) of Ulf Rahmberg's pictures, Figs. 29.6-7. I believe that both illustrations are not to be understood in a temporal sequence but as complementary. In 29.6 the male is dominant, the female is frightened and flees, in 29.7 we have the opposite situation.

7. See S. Dow, "Festschriften," Harvard Library Bulletin 8 (1954) 283-298 (with D. Rounds) and in Articles on Antiquity in Festschriften: an Index compiled by Dorothy Rounds (Cambridge, Mass. 1962) 547-560 makes an convincing case against this sort of book. See also e.g. W. M. Calder III's review of Arktouros: Hellenic Studies Presented to Bernard M.W. Knox on the Occasion of his 65th Birthday, ed. by G.W. Bowersock, W. Burkert, M.C.J. Putnam (Berlin/New York 1979) in CPh 78 (1983) 86-88.