Bryn Mawr Classical Review 03.03.02


Malcolm Campbell (ed.), Moschus. Europa. Altertumswissenschaftliche Texte und Studien Band 19. Olms-Weidemann, 1991. Pp. 144. DM 29.80. ISBN 3-487-09432.


Reviewed by James J. Clauss, University of Washington.

Students of Greek and Roman "epyllia" cannot fail to pay close attention to the Europa, a mini-epic of 166 lines by the Sicilian poet, Moschus, who lived and wrote during the second century B.C. So few are the number of such poems to survive intact or in fragments that any new light shed on individual poems or on the whole group of survivors is certainly welcome, and so we are fortunate to have a new commentary on the Europa by Malcolm Campbell, distinguished for his work on other Hellenistic poets, especially Apollonius Rhodius.

Following four pages of abbreviations and bibliographical references, Campbell prefaces his text and commentary with a two part introduction in which he discusses the antecedents of Moschus' version of the story and offers a brief characterization of the poem's style. Comparison with the authoritative edition of Winfried Bühler (Die Europa des Moschus [Wiesbaden 1960]) -- now over thirty years old -- and the school edition of Neil Hopkinson [A Hellenistic Anthology [Cambridge 1988]) is inevitable. Campbell provides an intelligent overview of the sources that precede the Hellenistic epyllion, updates these sources by the inclusion of material not available to Bühler (e.g., the three editions of Greek epigrams by Gow and Page and the Supplementum Hellenisticum), and expands the possible sources (e.g., the addition of Phrynichus TGF 3F16 and Sophocles F881 and the upgrading of Euripides F820 N2 and Hypsipyle F1iii.17 ff. Bond). But the presentation comes across as a stiff catalogue of information that lacks Bühler's lucid style or Hopkinson's concision. Moreover, Campbell does not include in his introduction a formal discussion of the subsequent versions of the Europa story (i.e., those of Horace, Ovid, Achilles Tatius, Lucian, and Nonnus), an asset of the German commentary which I found very helpful in appreciating Moschus' place in the tradition of this tale; rather, his comments on the ancient literary Nachleben of the poem are scattered throughout the commentary. The conclusion of both scholars nonetheless is the same Moschus composed a highly original version of the Europa story. Hopkinson's more abbreviated introduction in three pages provides all of the essential details unencumbered by references to comparanda and secondary literature (Campbell underwrites his nine and a half page introduction with 46 wissenschaftliche notes) and as such is more likely to reach the targeted audience of college undergraduates, about which I shall say more below. The major contribution here (as in the commentary) is Campbell's underscoring of the influence that Argonautica III exerted on Moschus' version of the Europa story, which he describes as "more extensive than is commonly supposed" (pp. 13-14, n.46). His examples and arguments throughout the book are convincing.

The text does not differ radically from Bühler's or Hopkinson's, a fact which would have been clearer if Campbell had provided an abbreviated apparatus criticus, similar to the one offered by Hopkinson. Aside from a few minor differences of punctuation (on which more often than not Campbell agrees with Hopkinson) and word composition (i.e., whether or not to print a simple or compound pronoun [cf. 41 and 60] or verb [cf. 6, 80, 82]), I find only four places where Campbell's text substantially differs from the other two texts, and none of these, to my mind, changes our understanding of their immediate contexts in any significant way EI)=NAI (14) of the MSS instead of Ahrens' EI(=O; Bühler's suggested ZEU/GLH| (83) is printed instead of leaving the unintelligible O(/STIS in daggers (Bühler) or adopting Ahrens' MA/STI (Hopkinson); the lectio difficilior PORFURE/HN KO/LPOU PTU/XA (127) of FBM replaces PORFURE/AS PE/PLOU PTU/XAS (the plural being found in the sigma branch of the stemma and PE/PLOU being Bühler's emendation for KO/LPOU); and TE/KNA TI/KTE (166) of Mn is preferred over TE/KE TE/KNA of the other MSS. One further note on the text. The Greek font is tiny and stiff, making it almost impossible to tell the difference between circumflex with a rough or a smooth breathing. The Roman font is similarly tight and unappealing.

The commentary is nothing less than thorough. Campbell looks at the poem from various angles textual and intertextual, lexical and metrical, psychological and literary. He observes the known antecedents of words, phrases, lines, and scenes and calls attention to the subsequent treatment of the same. In general, Campbell strikes a good balance between the philologist and the literary critic. On the one hand, he chases down and grapples with phraseological unica, adapted formulae, instances of engagement in ancient scholarly debate on controversial points; on the other hand, he confronts, and offers in-depth interpretation of, the inner thoughts of the main character, a good example of which is his analysis of Europa's dream (cf. pp. 21-25). He is also willing to discuss the implications of the wider context of a borrowed line on the Moschan narrative (e.g., the "arresting adaptation of Herm. 307" in lines 135-136; cf. note ad loc.). Moreover, in the commentary he is careful to set the Europa within the larger tradition of the epyllion on both sides of the Adriatic (see, for example, the note ad 1).

The Europa is a very erotic poem and Campbell duly notes the suggestive phrases and lines. For instance, he underscores in considerable detail the sexual innuendos of lines 95-96 (pp. 92-93), which Bühler and Hopkinson prefer merely to adumbrate, by calling attention to the act of fellatio that is hinted at in Europa's initial approaching of Zeus in taurine form. Another such suggestive image is to be observed in Europa's sea journey, in particular the way in which she situates herself on the back of the transformed god. At lines 126-128, Moschus says that with one hand she holds onto the bull's long horn (DOLIXO\N KE/RAS) while with the other -- however one reads line 127 -- she raises her dress in order to keep it from becoming wet. The picture anticipates the immanent intercourse (164) and playfully hints at Europa's eagerness to fulfill her recently awakened desires. None of the commentators notes that the bull's KE/RAS might represent the membrum virile (cf. LSJ s.v. V7b); Bühler (ad 127/128) even goes so far in the opposite direction as to say that the raising of the dress is "nur ein lieblicher, kein erotischer Zug." Although Campbell does not call attention to the erotic possibilities of Europa's actions in these lines he finds "potentially indelicate or even possibly obscene" the phrase used to describe the water that she tries to avoid POLIH=S A(LO\S A)/SPETON U(/DWR (128).

In his Preface, Campbell envisages a commentary which is not, like Bühler's, "beyond the reach of most undergraduates, whatever their nationality" but rather "an alternative mode of access," to facilitate which goal he offers translations of some of the Greek quotations in his commentary (vii). Yet, in my opinion, Hopkinson's commentary will be far more useful to undergraduates reading the Europa for the first time, and also has the advantage of possessing a sufficient amount of material for a whole course. In short, the book will be of greater use and interest to the advanced scholar of Hellenistic poetry who has a keen interest in, and tolerance for, the Sprachgebrauch of epic and epicizing verse. Thus, although I would not order this book for a course on Hellenistic poetry, I am nonetheless pleased to have Campbell's updated edition and meticulous commentary of the Europa, which I shall consult with great benefit in the years to come.