Bryn Mawr Classical Review 95.08.09

John Wilkins (ed.), Euripides: Heraclidae. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993. Pp. xxxviii + 198. $49.95. ISBN 0-19-814758-9.

Reviewed by David Kovacs, University of Virginia (

Hcld. is, to put it mildly, not everyone's favorite play (Wilamowitz at one point said it was not worth reading), and it has not been often edited or studied. Wilkins' commentary will give scholars the basis for making their own assessment of its worth.

The Introduction is a thorough and workmanlike treatment of the background necessary for interpretation. First comes a discussion of what is known of the earlier history of the separate story elements of the play, the flight of the Heraclids to Athens, the self-sacrifice of Heracles' virgin daughter (possibly an invention of Euripides), the rejuvenation of Iolaus, and the death of Eurystheus. Next come sections on the action and characters of the play, its religious and social context (subsections on human sacrifice, Eurystheus as "enemy hero," Heracles, and the play's setting), the integrity of the play (arguing against the idea that a scene has been lost after line 629), and representations of the play or its myths in ancient art. There are two final sections on the date of the play and its textual tradition.

The text of the play follows, reproduced from Diggle's OCT but slightly larger and easier to read and with more generous margins. Typographical errors noticed by reviewers and others have been corrected. The text also includes Diggle's "Fragmenta Heraclidis Falso Adscripta." As he makes clear in his commentary, W. is not so sure that the penultimate word in this title is accurate.

The commentary, 150 pages in length, is learned and bears witness to years of hard work. It will deserve the gratitude of future students of Euripides. In what follows I draw attention to its chief contributions and note a few points of disagreement.

2-5: Zuntz makes the case for Reiske's suggestion that a line has dropped out after 2, a case that once convinced me. W. argues convincingly for the integrity of the text. 5: AU(TO/S is not the nominative of AU(TOU= (which has none), but only crasis for O( AU)TO/S. 6: W. translates AI)DOI= KAI\ TO\ SUGGENE\S SE/BWN as "through respect and reverence for my kinsmen," but the kinsmen belong only to the second half, and it is possible that AI)DOI= means "from a sense of decency" (i.e. respect for what others approve of) or even "out of pity," a frequent sense of AI)DW/S where the helpless, such as suppliants, are concerned. 72: discussion with full bibliography of the so-called "accusative in apposition with the sentence." 73-110: W.'s discussion was unable to profit from C. W. Willink, CQ 41 (1991), 525-9, who shows that we need not on metrical grounds posit a lacuna after 110. 97-8: W. defends the repetition of these at 221-2, citing among others Page, Actors' Interpolations 103-5, but Page is actually skeptical that 221-2 are genuine. 147-50: to construe TIN' E)S SE\ MWRI/AN E)SKEMME/NOI / DEU=R' H)=LQON as MWRI/AN TINA E)SKEMME/NOI [E)N SOI\] DEU=R' H)=LQON E)S SE/ (Elmsley) is a desperate attempt to avoid an obvious correction, E)N SOI\ (Hartung) for E)S SE/. 169: The discussion of this justly daggered line does not go far enough. W. points to the overabundance of qualifiers (TO\ LW=ISTON and MO/NON). He gives one possible and one impossible translation (his second version presupposes the subaudition of EI)=NAI, which does not happen). Like Diggle, he is attracted by a lacuna after 169 in which the substance of the hope in question would be stated, but he does not give an exempli gratia supplement, which anyone who proposes a lacuna is in duty bound to do, and either the position of MO/NON or its gender or both would seem to frustrate the attempt to write one. 198: As parallels for OU)K OI)=D' here W. cites Hec. 397 and Su. 518, but the irony that works so well in those passages is missing here. Kirchhoff's OU)/ FHM' is attractive, and the corruption (influence of OI)=DA in 199) plausible. 307-8: note on the significance of shaking hands in tragedy and Greek art. 321: discusses the usage and tone of W)= TA=N. 358-60: on MH/PW as a strong "never" with no suggestion of "yet." 374: note needed on OU(/TWS, "without further ado, simply": see LSJ s.v. IV. 376: on shields as wooden frames covered with bronze. 379: "Since metre does not demand E)RASTA/S we should probably read E)RASTA/ (Musgrave)." But J. A. J. M. Buijs, Mnemosyne 38 (1985), 74-92, has shown that anaclasis in the aeolic base of a glyconic or wilamowitzianus is very rare where there is word overlap from the preceding line. 381-607: discussion of entrance conventions, according to which the new arrival usually speaks first. 396: W. discusses numerous suggestions for the daggered TA\ NU=N DORO\S, but most of them fail an important test, ability to account for the construction of TH=SDE ... XQONO/S. We need consider only suggestions like Diggle's TOU)NQE/ND' O(/ROIS. 399-409 and 400: good discussions of sacrifices, including human, taking place before battle. 529: the suggestion of both a lacuna and the alteration of KATA/RXESQ' EI) DOKEI= to KATA/RXESQAI DO/TE is too expensive to be plausible. 646ff.: on the convention by which off-stage characters hear or fail to hear on-stage shouting to suit the convenience of the dramatist. 665: a reference to Dawe's discussion of OU)KE/TI as "not the further expected point" at OT 115 would have been welcome here. 751: references on infinitive for imperative. 788: W. attractively suggests following DIH/LASEN by a lacuna. 836 discussion of partitive apposition. 863-6 discussion of sententious reflection at the end of messenger speeches. 868: W. cites Iliad 6.455 and 463 on the meaning of E)LEU/QERON H)=MAR, but these (and others like them) show that this phrase means "freedom." The Chorus cannot mean that they can now look on a life of freedom, for they have never been slaves. We must construe E)LEU/QERON with DEINOU= FO/BOU, a day set free from dreadful fear, and there is something to be said for Dobree's E)LEUQE/RWI. 968: "A connective particle is not required with OI)=MAI: cf. 511, 670." What all three of these passages show is that asyndeton is normal at the beginning of a speech or in answer to one's own question. Parenthetic OI)=MAI in tragedy does not cause asyndeton by itself. 1023: I do not see how TOI=S METELQOU=SIN FI/LWN can refer to Athenians rather than to Eurystheus' own Argive kin.

The treatment of the end of the play is the least satisfactory. W., like Diggle, assumes a lacuna after 1052. Credit for this is given in the app. crit. to Hermann, whose auctoritas rates high with all students of Greek tragedy. But Hermann never published this suggestion, and we owe our knowledge of it to a report in Matthiae's 1824 edition (Volume VIII, p. 257) of a note in Hermann's hand at the play's end. It reads "Fabulae extrema pars videtur intercidisse, in qua fieri non poterat, quin de Macaria referretur, eaque res solitis celebraretur lamentis. Potuerunt in ea fabulae parte locum habere duo isti trimetri, quos Stobaeus . . . ex Heraclidis affert." In others words, Hermann does not say where he proposes to put the lacuna, and the only grounds he gives are ones that led to the conclusion, rejected by recent scholars, that there was originally another scene following 629. With auctoritas now removed, what says ratio? "It is unbelievable that the chorus should acquiesce so readily in the death, let alone the non-burial of a prospective hero (cf. 1050-1 n.: PURI\ (Elmsley) or KO/NEI (Housman) only partially meet this problem)." I agree that the idea of throwing Eurystheus' body to the dogs could not have gone unchallenged. But Eurystheus himself has acquiesced in his own death, claiming that he will not think any the worse of the Athenians for it, and unless he dies and is buried in Attica, as the oracle says he must be, the Athenians will not get the benefit of his talismanic presence. The Athenians have everything to gain from his death and nothing to lose. If we dagger KUSI\N, the text makes perfect sense, with 1053 echoing 1050 and 1054-5 spelling out what Eurystheus has made clear, that the Athenians will not be held to blame for his death. I hope to discuss this passage at greater length elsewhere.

The index is fine as far as it goes, but an index locorum would have made the work more useful to scholars working on other plays than Hcld or on completely different topics. The book was carefully proofread. I noticed only the following corrections: p. 50, l. 15fb EI)/POIM'; p. 55, l. 13fb, font changes in middle of MI=SOS; p. 58, l. 9fb "c. 150 B. C."; p. 63, l. 13fb PATRW=IOS; p. 140, l. 17 O(/PLA and E)XRH=TO; p. 157, l. 3 STERH/SAS; p. 165, l. 14 DE/; p. 188, 1. 20fb BOULO/MESQA and l. 2fb TH/NDE.