Bryn Mawr Classical Review 04.06.08


Alan Cameron, The Greek Anthology from Meleager to Planudes. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993. Pp. xvi + 414. $75.00. ISBN 0-19-814023-1.


Reviewed by W.J. Slater, McMaster University.

"This is an austere book" writes Cameron. One can be more precise: it is a book of great learning and, despite Cameron's lively style, stupefying tedium. The tedium lies in the nature of the subject, for it is not possible to analyze the relations between anthologies of epigrams without comparing long lists. Few, I suspect, will ever read this book from cover to cover, but it will be difficult to use it in any other way, for it will resist being consulted selectively. Cameron's purpose is to follow the development of the anthology of epigrams to its maximum extent in Cephalas, and then its slow epitomization to Planudes, and -- despite the title -- beyond. He chases the manuscripts through the Renaissance, with a splendid piece of detective work on the AP itself, which he argues passed through the hands of Thomas More on its adventure-filled way ultimately to Paris and Heidelberg. Though some of the chapters have in some form been published before, the book itself builds its argument as it goes along. It is not at all easy to follow the tight argumentation, and Cameron's austerity does not help. If on p.161 one wonders what is the SIGMA to which one is suddenly introduced, one will seek in vain in the index; is it a manuscript or what? In the hard to find introductory list of sigla it is defined as "Sylloge praemissa Euphemianae", which we have not reached yet. Eventually one can work it out, but Cameron has not made it easy.

The welding together of previous studies and the elephantine gestation period of the book over some decades result in many such inconcinnities. Sometimes there are digressions into literary criticism, sometimes into history. Sometimes the same problem is revisited from different angles. How one longs for a simple old fashioned stemma, which one could consult; but sadly there is not a single diagram in the book, which is all the more to be regretted, because the relationships which Cameron posits are relatively simple, and usually convincing: they would lend themselves well to a diagrammatic summary, and that would be something that everyone would wish to consult, rather than hacking around in what must seem an amorphous mass of detail.

And yet ... this is a book of extraordinary learning. One is amazed at the chalcentery which drives Cameron to trace the intricate relations between the epitomes of Cephalas' anthology and its sources. It has never been done before, and he has many original things to say. He has shirked no problem, and time after time illuminates the context of Cephalas' composition that have been only mysteries till now. But students of the Hellenistic anthologies will find much information here in his description of how the early anthologies of Meleager, Philip and later Agathias were created.

He starts by examining the systems of the Hellenistic authors. Philip's work was alphabetic, while Meleager's and Agathias' tended to bunch themes -- ekphrastika, erotica, anathematika, funerary -- and to separate major authors by inserting minor ones. Those interested in how poems were organized within a book will learn from these pages. Since Cephalas excerpted thematically, Philip has suffered most changes, but alphabetization points to a Philippic group. It is impossible to reconstruct either Meleager or Philip, partly because, Cameron argues, Cephalas had two different copies of both, both abridged. Meleager is published about 100 B.C., Philip under Nero. Cephalas had in addition Agathias' Cycle composed ca. 657, but also another anthology which was the source of the Epigrammata Bobiensia and Ausonius' translations; this contained Rufinus, whom he dates in the 1st c. A.D. Cameron suspects that this nameless anthology was a reworking of the fourth century anthology of Diogenian, in which Palladas was the latest author, composed perhaps in Constantinople ca. 390.

From Chapter 5 the swishing of Occam's razor becomes more evident, as Cameron moves to dissect the AP itself and the role of Cephalas and his redactors. Aubreton is the chief sufferer, as a remarkably clear picture emerges of how the AP was produced, and of the society that produced it. Cephalas is dated to 900 A.D., and it is shown that his excerpting was not without method; the AP was copied ca. 950 all at one time, by a team of scribes working at the same time. The corrector C of the first part of AP (to ix.163) had another ms., a direct apograph of Cephalas by Michael Chartophylax, but which was less accurate than the original exemplar. From Cephalas' work, or fuller or other versions of it than AP, derive the AP, the Suda, the anthology of Planudes [1301 A.D.] and five minor syllogae. AP xv and viii and possibly iii are additions to Cephalas, but Cameron argues that i, iii and iv were probably in the manuscript of Cephalas, perhaps separate from the old epigrams, while viii was at least in AP's source; some of ii was known to Cephalas as well. The minor syllogae, on which Cameron spends much time, add little to AP + APl save the ekphrastika missing in a gap in AP.

This summary does not do justice to much detailed spade work by Cameron. Perhaps most interesting is his demonstration that Arethas noted epigrams from Cephalas' collection in his scholia, shortly after the anthology was composed, at any event after 907 and before 932. In chapter 15 Cameron argues that the book AP xv is an addition by Constantine the Rhodian, and suggests that he is the redactor J of the AP in the next generation after Cephalas. This is where Cameron shows himself at his best: he analyzes the references of the poems in xv from a historical point of view and demonstrates that none of them is later than 930. Likewise Planudes used versions of Cephalas in which there were no poems later than 930 added. The book xv represents then a post-Cephalan collection intended as a supplement to AP, some of which had already been added independently to viii.

The collection of Cephalas is shown by Cameron to be typical of the Macedonian period, and he provides in chapter 16 a summary of the history of epigram in the Byzantine period, in order to provide a context for Cephalas. He concludes by pointing out that there must have been at least 13 other early copies of Cephalas' work in existence. There are 8 appendices, mostly about minor problems of manuscripts. Of these most interesting are no. 5, on the possibility of a common edition of Posidippus, Hedylos and Asklepiades; no. 7, arguing that P.Oxy. 3724 is a selection from Philodemus only; and no. 8, arguing that the epigrams of the pseudo-aristotelian Peplos could be as late as the 2nd c. B.C.

It should be obvious from this summary that no one interested in the textual history of the AP or Apl can afford to ignore the conclusions of this book. There is at the moment no other remotely similar guide to the text, of which there is indeed only one complete edition, that of Beckby. Even if here and there some corrections may be made in the future, this is the standard against which all future work will be measured. There will undoubtedly be more to be said. In the addenda Cameron noted that a papyrus with 500 lines of Hellenistic epigrams has been discovered and is to be published from Milan. Since he wrote it has been ascertained that these epigrams are by the important epigrammatist Posidippus of Pella. Here therefore Cameron will have a unique chance to compare one of the main sources of Meleager with his reconstruction.

One does not meet this kind of Quellenforschung in recent scholarship, and its austere exterior is uninviting, just as its long history is unencouraging. Yet when we have apographs and handwriting, the genre becomes not only justifiable but justified, though only someone with Cameron's historical range and massively wide reading could persuade us of its validity.

As is to be expected, the book is well printed. Here and there words are distorted or omitted; on p.88 nonsense is produced.