Bryn Mawr Classical Review 03.06.04


James Diggle, The Textual Tradition of Euripides' Orestes. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991. Pp. viii + 184. ISBN 0-19-814766-X.


Reviewed by Martin Cropp, University of Calgary.

This book provides a full introduction to the edition of Orestes which will appear in Diggle's new Oxford Classical Text of Euripides, volume III. It also completes a series of major studies on the text of the Byzantine Triad of Euripides, following K. Matthiessen's Studien zur Textüberlieferung der Hekabe des Euripides (1974) and D. J. Mastronarde in The Textual Tradition of Euripides' Phoinissai (1982, with J. M. Bremer contributing some collations and the Testimonia). All of these have given very thorough attention to a large number of manuscripts -- a necessary measure, as their findings make clear. Amongst fifty-five which he considers, Diggle has come face to face with thirty-three in Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan, Paris, London, Oxford and Cambridge, and collated fifteen more from microfilm, photograph or facsimile. He generously describes his work as a "modest complement" to Matthiessen and Mastronarde/Bremer, whose findings along with Diggle's work in progress have already influenced the Orestes commentary of C. Willink (1986) and M. L. West's text and short commentary (1987). The present book confirms, supplements, and refines what may now be called an orthodox account of the text of the Triad, and in a deceptively slim volume assembles a wealth of information about the text of Orestes itself. In 19 crisp chapters Diggle explains the relationship of his work to Turyn's (ch. 1), lists with some brief comments the fifty-five manuscripts (including three gnomologies: ch. 2), discusses their classification and interrelationships (ch. 3-13), assesses the contribution of the papyri, testimonia and colometric phenomena (ch. 14-16), assesses the presence of medieval conjectures in the manuscripts (ch. 17), tests the relative performance of the manuscripts in preserving endangered truths (ch. 18), and states in ch. 19 his choice of a set of nineteen manuscripts which will provide (subject to occasional supplementation from elsewhere) "a more than adequate picture of the manuscript evidence which is available for the constitution of the text." This selection contains no large surprises when compared with the recent recommendations and practice of Matthiessen (Studien, 122), Mastronarde (Textual Tradition, 167, and his Teubner text) and Diggle himself in his Oxford text of Hecuba.

The foundation for all this work lies in A. Turyn's Byzantine manuscript tradition of the tragedies of Euripides (1957: for the history of work before and after Turyn, which Diggle does not rehearse, see Turyn 15-22 and Mastronarde 20-4). At a time when editions of Euripides had long relied almost exclusively on a handful of manuscripts, Turyn redirected attention to the lower reaches of the medieval tradition, which include some or all of the Triad in more than 250 manuscripts. The majority of these (Turyn's Byzantini) strongly reflect the attentions of Byzantine scholars of the Palaeologan period, especially in the form of scholia, while a minority of about fifty are more or less free of these attentions and have older scholia if any. Turyn employed a stemmatic model (sketched on p. 308 of his book) which tended to disguise the openness of the tradition both before and during the Palaeologan period and to exaggerate the influence on the text of the Palaeologan scholars Moschopoulos, Thomas Magister and Triclinius, rather as if they were modern editors preparing text and commentary together. As for the rest, Turyn associated some of them with the oldest extant manuscripts in a broad class alpha (his veteres vetustiores) and others in another broad class rho (his veteres recentiores), deriving these two classes through two separate intermediaries from a single 9th/10th century minuscule copy of the text of the select plays. These main lines of Turyn's account were received with scepticism (see, e.g., H. Lloyd-Jones, Gnomon 30 (1958) 503-510) and his stemma undermined by V. di Benedetto's La tradizione manoscritta euripidea (Padova, 1965: cf. di Benedetto's introduction to his edition of Orestes of the same year).

The work of rebuilding a sound structure on Turyn's foundations has required detailed study of a sufficiently large number of manuscripts. What emerges is largely a composite picture of the Triad as whole, although it is valuable that scholars working separately on the texts of each of the three plays have been able to verify each other's findings with some degree of independence. The essentials as now refined by Diggle are as follows.

(1) For Turyn's family alpha the relationships amongst the pre-1280 manuscripts HMBOV are more fluid than Turyn's stemma suggested, and the much-used A (Paris, c. 1300) must be detached entirely. The close association of C (Turin, early 14th C.) with this family is confirmed, and Cr (Cremona, early 14th-century) is now seen to have some strong connections with O. As Turyn suggested, Ad (Athos, 15th century) has no such connection in Orestes although it does in parts of Hecuba and Phoenissae. The Vatopedi gnomology (12th century, called gV by Diggle, Ga by Matthiessen and Mastronarde) is also related but has no unique connection with any one of HMBOV; it is the only gnomology which demands citation.

(2) Turyn's account of the recentiores as a coherent family r must be discarded in favour of a complicated network of stronger and weaker affinities both amongst these and with their predecessors. One small coherent group, AbFMnPrRSSa, is called by Diggle theta -- a little confusingly, since this corresponds to the sub-groups theta plus phi defined for Phoenissae by Mastronarde in his Teubner text (and in his earlier study, rho 2 and rho 1). Diggle's identifications of the pairings within the theta group for Orestes (AbR, MnS, and with some instability FPrSa) agree closely with Mastronarde's for Phoenissae, less closely with Matthiessen's for Hecuba. Looser affinities are found or confirmed between theta and several other mss. (the duo RfRw, Aa, the above-mentioned Cr, and another duo GK which also has interesting links with HMBOV). A and (for 1277-1693) Mt are a relatively isolated pair (cf. Mastronarde's rho 4). L and P each remain anomalous.

(3) The status and influence of Turyn's 'Moschopoulean recension' (which Diggle calls xi, Mastronarde chi) are undermined by two crucial facts: (i) although the three early 14th c. manuscripts, XXaXb, which Turyn used to reconstruct xi are indeed closely related, there are also cases of significant disagreement amongst them where Turyn's inferences as to the readings of xi and his attribution of these to Moschopoulos were arbitrary; (ii) some of Turyn's 'Moschopoulean' readings are in fact attested earlier (several recentiores are now dated, contrary to Turyn's assumptions, before 1300), and others may well have been although the evidence is lost to us. Diggle agrees with Matthiessen, and is more severe than Mastronarde, in rejecting the derivation from xi of readings shared between xi and manuscripts contemporary with Moschopoulos. "[W]e are dealing not with the influence of a single source ... but rather with a common fount of corrections and corruptions, as well as a trickle of older readings, which emerged in the second half of the thirteenth century and spread through several different channels" (57). The textual contributions of Moschopoulos himself were superficial. The later 'Moschopoulean' manuscripts (of which Diggle considers thirteen, some incompletely in ch. 9) are not totally subordinate to XXaXb but have a variety of other affinities and may offer independently some traces of both older texts and more recent conjectures.

(4) The Thoman manuscripts reflect neither systematic editorial work nor any substantial degree of critical activity. Rather, they too turn out to have variegated and complex associations both with other manuscripts and groups and amongst themselves. (Diggle demonstrates, however, that Zd (Cambridge, 15th C., lacking Phoenissae) is descended from Zu (Uppsala, 14th C.) at least for Orestes.)

(5) Turyn's account of Triclinius' three rounds of corrections in T is slightly modified (first-round corrections within the text may often be by the original scribe rather than Triclinius; brown ink is not confined to round 3). Diggle reconfirms Turyn's assessment of T (in its original form) as belonging in the Thoman group zeta and provides a helpful discussion of those readings which he regards as likely to be due to conjecture by Triclinius (96-98). Three interesting questions about the influence of Triclinius receive careful consideration. Like Mastronarde, Diggle finds it possible that some distinctive readings in early Thoman manuscripts which also appear as corrections in T (and even perhaps some which do not) are conjectures of Triclinius himself. He supports and strengthens Zuntz's view that the fragmentary Rylands manuscript (Ry, with Or. 13-156, 206-375: "basically pre-Moschopoulean" on Diggle's description) contains metrical conjectures derived from an early stage of Triclinius' work. Whether Tp (containing the lyrics of the Triad with scholia) is a similar case as O. L. Smith and Mastronarde have argued is a question left open by Diggle's examination of the Orestes text, though he reports forthcoming work by H. Günther as weakening this view.

Diggle also examines the ancient papyri and testimonia for Orestes as evidence for the text and its history. Those readings and colometric divisions found both in ancient sources and in occasional later medieval manuscripts, and plausibly attributed to transmission rather than medieval conjecture, are another indication of the independent value of these manuscripts (although MBCO retain the palm in the endangered truths test: see ch. 18, where the fragmentary H is not included in this calculation). So far as readings are concerned, Diggle finds eight plausible cases in the Orestes papyri (five right readings, three wrong; compare twenty-four -- seventeen right, seven wrong -- assessed by Mastronarde in Phoenissae) and rather larger numbers both right and wrong in the testimonia. At Or. 138 Diggle's finding that O(/MWS, apparently the reading of P. Köln 131, appears also in two medieval manuscripts (E)MOI/, cett.) supports Willink's suggestion that this is the right reading and 139 an interpolation. Diggle's assessment of unique truths and errors in the papyri (119-120) is almost always persuasive (although his comment on 141 is a little too curt -- the unwary reader may infer that Willink finds MHD' E)/STW KTU/POS acceptable -- and the case for deleting 1315-16 seems weak to me). Similarly with colometry in ch. 16: Diggle offers a dozen instances where an ancient colometric division (attested or presumed) is reproduced in only one or a few manuscripts. The pattern of these occurrences tends to confirm the affiliations otherwise traced amongst the medieval manuscripts, and especially the peculiarity of the group theta and its associates; and some support is found for Mastronarde's contention that more than one majuscule manuscript was transcribed into minuscule when the foundations of the medieval tradition of the Triad were laid in the 9th century.

Returning to the manuscripts, Diggle lists in ch. 17 some 50 instances (including half a dozen in HMBOV) of emendations which are probably/possibly conjectural and not attributable to Moschopoulos or Triclinius. This level of conjectural activity is similar to that suggested by Mastronarde for Phoenissae. The quantity is as Diggle says "substantial", even if the diagnosis of conjecture is wrong in some cases. As for quality, it is notable that some respond to hints in the scholia, whether appropriately or not (for the varieties cf. Mastronarde, 61-65) and that the majority are responses to (usually real) metrical or prosodic problems. While this brings welcome news of metrical awareness in scholars other than Triclinius, it also indicates a rarity of engagement at the level of syntax or meaning. Only a handful of the emendations in question seem to be direct responses to problems of sense; of these only GE for TE at 118 and D' H)=T' at 1473 are correct, and these could be respectively accidental (or Triclinian: cf. pp. 87, 101) and inherited. (The correct restoration of sense at 79 seems to depend on the scholia and at 1047 on a gloss.)

In all, this is a consistently informative and judicious study. All three plays of the Triad have now been well served, and the view that has emerged of the medieval tradition is probably as soundly based as the evidence and current methods will allow . Cladistic analysis may take us further (see BMCR 3.4 (1992) 331-7) -- when someone is ready to take up the challenge!