Bryn Mawr Classical Review 94.06.07


John J. Keaney, Harpocration: Lexeis of the Ten Orators. Amsterdam: Hakkert, 1991. Pp. xxi + 291. ISBN 902561017X.


Reviewed by William J. Slater, McMaster University .

I confess that I had offered to write a review of this book many months ago, but as I inspected it more closely, my almost unqualified enthusiasm for any work that brings the works of Greek Lexicography up to date began to fade. It is now quite clear that this edition simply will not do. One's suspicions are aroused by a statement such as that on p.XXVII that Porson's edition of Photius is "based on an inferior ms." This can only mean the Galeanus, the source of all our surviving manuscripts. On p.XXIII Barocc.50 is said to be of the 12th century, when it is certainly 10th century. Fortunately I can now spare myself and the readers of this review by referring to R. Otranto, Quaderni di Storia 19 (1993) 225ff., and there is no point in reproducing his detailed list, which is, as far as I have checked, accurate. For the purpose of most readers, who will want to know if they can at least rely to some extent on the new text, the answer is regrettably negative. A complete gloss is missing s.v. thesmos [152.13-15], as one can even see from the numbering. Page 228 repeats 227. A line is missing at the top of p.181. On such an edition there can be no reliance. It is obvious enough from the many misprints -- e.g. Nigel Wislon -- that a good percentage of these errors are due to some dubious printing and proofreading procedure.

This reviewer is one of those who feels that exaggerated standards of exactitude not unaccompanied by inaccurate polemic have often prevented us having any editions at all of some needed authors: better a less than perfect edition than none at all. But after all, we do need some general confidence that what we read may be better than what we had before, and that is not given in this case. It is of course useful that Keaney has charted the manuscripts, which are all later than 1300, of both the pre-Photian epitome, and of the fuller version, which Keaney has attributed to an archetype that originated with Moschopoulos. Neither source preserves the original text, and the epitome contains material now missing in the fuller version. There is a useful stemma on p.XXXI.

What is most necessary with editions of these lexica and scholia is the fullest compilation possible of testimonia from the grammatical tradition and from authors such as Plutarch, Stephanus and Athenaeus who had access to it. After all, authors like Harpocration are usually consulted by scholars for individual readings, and these scholars will reasonably expect to be informed of the relationship of the Harpocration glosses to other glosses that bear on the one they seek. Without much effort, if one knows how to go about it, one can put together a page of ancient discussion on some of these glosses. But if the testimonia are absent, any proper use is greatly reduced; it will not be clear that Harpocration was part of a tradition of exegesis, and even if the editions of Photius or Suidas, which form the bulk of the testimonia offered, will often give most scholars a lead in their search, they will not always do so, and the labour should have been done for them. Here there is very little use of the other lexica and scholia that deal with the orators, and which could show how Harpocration was dealing with often traditional problems. Certainly some of the editions that exist are inadequate, but one must start somewhere, and glosses bereft of their context are misleading. A testimonia apparatus, if properly constituted, can in fact act as a useful substitute for a commentary. With Harpocration, we can be reasonably sure that a better manuscript of him than anything we now have, existed into late Byzantium, and the testimonia therefore take on added significance. There is however no discussion of the influence of Harpocration on the Byzantine lexical tradition, though the epitome at least was excerpted by lexica from before the time of Photios. The close agreement with the similar fifth Bekker lexicon, of which a new edition is in preparation, would have been worth studying. All this remains now to be done.