Bryn Mawr Classical Review 04.02.14


M. L. West, Iambi et Elegi Graeci ante Alexandrum cantati vol. II, editio altera. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992. Pp. 277. $69.00. ISBN 0-19-814096-7.


Reviewed by Michael W. Haslam, UCLA.

IEG was published twenty years ago, in two volumes, vol. I containing Archilochus, Hipponax and Theognis, vol. II the rest, i.e., according to the sub-title, "Callinus Mimnermus Semonides Solon Tyrtaeus Minora Adespota." Here is a second edition of vol. II, "aucta atque emendata." The sub-title remains the same, but in one respect is no longer an accurate representation of the contents, for what we find now occupying more pages than any other poet except Solon, and obviously deserving better than subsumption under Minora, are the elegiac remains of Simonides. A newly published papyrus -- in fact West's edition here actually comes in advance of its official first appearance in The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, thanks to the generosity of its editor Peter Parsons -- has contributed extensive fragments of Simonidean elegy. The importance of this last-minute E(/RMAION is such that it throws everything else that is new about this volume into the shade. I shall return to it below. But I should say something of the less dramatic ways in which this second edition differs from the first.

Accessions to the corpus of pre-hellenistic iambic and elegiac verse over the last twenty years have been comparatively meager. Apart from the new Simonides, we have gained significantly more of only three poets: Archilochus, Tyrtaeus, and now Homer, or rather "Homer," the composer of the Margites. Everyone knows the Cologne Archilochus epode, published in 1974. The new fragment of Tyrtaeus, published in 1980, was an interesting but hardly riveting piece, and less important than it would have been if we did not already have the Berlin fragments. These two texts appeared in time for inclusion in West's highly serviceable Delectus ex Iambis et Elegis Graecis (Oxford 1980), as Arch. 196a and Tyrt.23a. The burlesque curiosity that was the Margites, for its part, will probably always be one of those things that is richer in testimonia than in actual fragments, but the piece published in 1954 (fr.7 West) is now joined by two more (making no fewer than three manuscripts of the poem at Oxyrhynchus), and they appear here for the first time (frr.8-9 West, P.Oxy.3963-4). The attribution seems safe enough, given the metrical mix of hexameters and trimeters. I note, though, that in both bits the iambics heavily predominate over the hexameters -- not what one would have predicted either from Hephaestion's description of "iambics scattered among the hexameters" or from the earlier fragment. In content they are far from perspicuous -- only damaged line-ends survive -- but West discerns interesting sexual possibilities in them. 8.11 is an unsignalled oddity: either the line was quite extraordinarily short, or it was left blank. Fifth-foot anapests occur in the trimeters (9.15, 2, 8.8?), and differentiation of stylistic level between the hexameters and the iambics is less strong than might have been expected: the iambic 8.9 ends in (-)FA/SGANON. A 7th-cent. date of composition seems unlikely to me ("vii vel vi" West).

The first edition had a very pleasing choliambic preface (counterbalanced by the elegiac one in the Delectus), and the second follows suit, conveniently signalling the main differences between the two editions and incorporating a wickedly contrived hidden allusion to the rival Teubner Poetae Elegiaci (connoisseurs of such things will compare Livrea's translingual pun in the cynic elegy prefaced to his edition of Cercidas). Pride of place goes of course to the papyrological windfalls. Other differences from the first edition are of a minor order, though surprisingly numerous. As West quietly proclaims, "omnia polivi." He has made corrections to the apparatus, added and improved testimonia, and updated references to modern editions, but in the poetic texts themselves I observe no changes of any greater moment than the restitution of E)PH\N for E)PEI\ at Mimn.12.4. Unsurprisingly, West was not swayed by conservative critics of the first edition. To those who object to such paleographically minimal changes as MA/Q' for PA/Q' (Tyrt. 11.16) or E)/XWN for E(LW/N (ib.34) or DH\ for A)\N (Sol. 36.12) belongs the burden of showing that the transmitted text is actually better, not merely that it can be made sense of. Echembrotus has lost his one remaining hexameter in favor of two lyric cola; West does not eject him, but one hopes that editors of early Greek lyric will be equally hospitable. A certain Philiadas gains a place as one of three appended "poetae addendi," a couplet that had been deemed epigrammatic now being deemed elegiac.

A few other small accessions have been gleaned from various sources, and incorporated within the body of the book. Readers are not warned of an undesirable side-effect: wherever such new material has been added, some spatially compensating deletion is liable to have been made, either on the same page or the facing one. Victims of this shearing include adesp.el.*2, adesp.ia.44, adesp.ia.60, Herm.7-8, 'Hom.'1, 2, Ion 32. The cuts have been made as judiciously as could be, and in each case the added material is worthier of inclusion than what it displaces, but it is clear that the excisions have been made solely in order to minimize resetting. If the result is a book that is less expensive than would otherwise have been the case (and it is not cheap!), complaint would be ungenerous, but it does mean that this second edition is not in quite every respect an improvement on the first. There are also mechanical accidents: e.g. apparatus to Tyrt.23.6ff. turns up on the wrong page, after 23a, and repagination has disrupted the apparatus to Ion 26.

The word-index of the first edition is reprinted unchanged, and a "supplementum" to it has been provided (largely reassigning to Simonides what had been adespota). So we shall have to consult them both. The new index is not without its anomalies: while it does not exclude conjectural supplements (beware of using it as a list of attested occurrences, therefore), it does not include everything that West has seen fit to print in the text (e.g. Sim.14.5-6). As crude a tool as it is, in some ways the index is thus a better guide to the degree of textual security than is the text itself. The index of papyri is selective, and should have been stated to be so.

So we come back to what far outshines everything else in the volume, the accession of Simonidean elegy. The new papyrus, P.Oxy.3965, consists of numerous fragments, none very sizable, and none giving a single complete line, but collectively of great interest and importance; they have received wonders of physical, textual and contextual reconstruction from Parsons and from West himself. The fragments come, it seems, from a book of the elegiac poems of Simonides, and they not only contribute text of their own but also serve to unite a variety of previously known pieces. Textual overlap with fragments of P.Oxy.2327, previously adespota (adesp.el.frr.28-60 in the first edition, now redistributed under Simonides), suggests that that papyrus was another manuscript of the same book; the arrangement of the corpus will have been Alexandrian. (Textual variants are recorded by collation in both MSS, along with occasional reference to Ap(ion) and to Ni(canor); the MSS are roughly contemporary, both 2nd cent.) Edgar Lobel, in publishing P.Oxy.2327, had mooted Simonidean authorship ("It may be worth while to recall that Simonides is known to have written elegiac pieces about battles of the Persian wars"), but had added "But I doubt whether Simonides would be considered, if it were not for the fact ... that there are Simonides fragments in the same hand," and his scepticism prevailed. No-one will resist the ascription now. (Lobel himself announced the confirmation in 1981, at P.Turner 3, but subsequent editors went on printing the fragments as adespota.) If this is not how we would have guessed Simonidean elegy would look, all the more valuable to know this is how it does look. If the style is less distinctively Simonidean than in some of the lyric pieces, we can say it is because generic proprieties assert themselves. And if I romantically confess I would still rather have had a dirge, that is not to depreciate what we have now gained.

The new papyrus also overlaps with the well-known piece on Homer's OI(/H PER FU/LLWN GENEH/, quoted by Stobaeus. That has sometimes been ascribed to Semonides of Amorgos, but is now vindicated for Simonides; in the first edition West had printed it as a Simonidean "dubium" (fr.8), commenting with enviable sensibility "ego si non manum, at aetatem Cei sentio" (cf. his Studies in Greek Elegy and Iambus, 179f.) And it is now shown to be not one extract but two, discontinuous between the quoted lines 5 and 6 (the break coinciding with a shift in transmissional status in Stobaeus).

What we seem now to have are the following: scanty remains of a poem on the battle of Artemisium (frr.2-4; Simonides apparently also wrote a lyric poem on the same battle, PMG 533); perhaps a scrap of a poem on the battle of Salamis (frr.6-7); extensive fragments on the battle of Plataea (frr.10-18); and substantial remains of "convivalia" (frr.19-33); plus the inevitable residue of scraps of uncertain context (frr.34-85).

Two pieces (or rather amalgams of pieces) of exceptional interest stand out. Fr.11, parts of 45 consecutive verses (according to the proffered reconstruction), evidently comes towards the beginning of a lengthy poem on Plataea. An invocation of the Muse (20ff.) is preceded by an evocation of the Trojan War, framed as an apostrophe of Achilles: analogy is implicit between the victorious Greeks who returned from Ilium (and those who did not), immortalized by Homer, and their Spartan successors. The transition from proemium to Muse-invocation replicates the old connection between hymn and epic song, here transmuted into elegy: A)LLA\ SU\ ME\]N NU=N XAI=RE, QEA=S E)RIKU[DE/OS UI(E/ / KOU/RHS EI)N]ALI/OU *NHRE/OS: AU)TA\R E)GW/ / KTL. (cf. e.g. the end of the Homeric Hymn to Apollo). The poem then swings into a detailed narrative account, starting with the departure from Sparta in company with the Dioscuri and Menelaus. West adduces points of contact with Herodotus' later account; historians take note. The other fragment that must be singled out is fr.22, which incorporates adesp.el.frr.29-30 of the first edition. As reconstituted, this is a romantically homo-erotic piece in which it seems the aged poet envisions rejuvenation ("[?losing] white(?) wrinkles") on an island (the Isle of the Blest?), reclining on flowers in the sensual company of the lovely Echecratides.

It looks as if we may distinguish two kinds of Simonidean elegy: fairly lengthy narrative poems on the Persian Wars, composed presumably for performance at public festival, and personal poems evidently belonging in sympotic context. (For studies of the types and performance contexts of elegy cf. West's Studies, 10-18, and E.L. Bowie in JHS 106, 1986, 13-35.) The fragmentary nature of the material imposes caveats: it has to be remembered e.g. that assignment of fragments to different poems depends on prior notions of what belongs in a single poem. And many questions remain. Was the Plataea elegy performed competitively (see Bowie), or was it commissioned? I would imagine the latter. And what was the occasion? The inaugural Eleutheria makes a tempting guess.

Some of West's actions are bold, and would seem temerarious if they came from anyone else (e.g. the placing of Sim.11.1-4, or the alteration of indicative to optative at 22.12). Some of his readings stretch the evidence to or beyond the breaking point (e.g. PANDAMA/[TWR at 20.15, or PA]IDO\S at 22.13), and an unkind critic would call them irresponsible. But the laser-like quality of West's instincts is not something I would care to contest. Not quite everything will be right -- the task is one of constructing coherence out of the incoherent, after all -- but everything is illuminating.

In Sim.8 the attestation of Homeric KUANOPRW(E)I/OUS will refer to Od.3.299. At Sim.22.8 West prints EU)AE/A NH=SON in the text (the contraction of -EA should have been marked), but reports the papyrus as having EUAG[.]A (the break comes between two fragments newly combined by Parsons [previously adesp.el.30.1 and 31.1]): I do not see why EU)AGE/A should not stand. (Preceded by E)S [TH\N] ?) At Sol.5.1 the preference for the commonplace E)P- (Plut. codd.) over A)P- ( Ar.AthPol pap.) seems perverse. A daffy Bophocles-type typo mars the main new Simonides fragment (and at 14.7 read POTAMOU=), and there are other signs of things being done in rather a hurry. But E(SPE/RIOS KEI=NO/S GE TELEI= TA/ KEN H)=RI NOH/SH|. By now there will be another book or two.