Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 1999.05.10

Daniela G. Battisti, Dionigi d'Alicarnasso, Sull'Imitazione. Edizione critica, traduzione e commento.   Pisa-Roma:  Istituti Editoriali e Poligrafici Internazionali, 1997.  Pp. 167.  ISBN 88-8147-037-3 (pb).  

Reviewed by Dirk M. Schenkeveld (
Word count: 1342 words

About the beginning of the CE the rhetorician and historian Dionysius of Halicarnassus wrote his Περὶ Μιμέσεως, On Imitation. The work contained three books and we have fragments only, six consisting of small passages quoted by Syrianus in his commentaries on Hermogenes, and a larger one (16 Teubner pages). It comes from Dionysius himself: In his Letter to Pompey, in which he clarifies some ideas he had put forward in other works, he has to deal with historians also and thinks the best way to do so is by quoting the relevant part from the second book of On Imitation. In this part he discusses the merits and demerits of Herodotus vs. Thucydides, Xenophon vs Philistus, and Theopompus. Apart from these seven fragments, we have a long epitome of an uncertain date of the second book, in which Dionysius discusses poets, tragedians, comedians, historians and philosophers.

The text has been edited by H. Usener and L. Radermacher in volume VI (= Opuscula ii) of the Teubner edition of the Dionysian corpus.1 The text of On Imitation in this edition is almost the same as that edited separately by Hermann Usener in 1889. In 1992 Germaine Aujac edited the text in the fifth volume of her large edition.2 Apart from these the large fragment from Letter to Pompey can be consulted in editions of this Letter, such as Usener-Radermacher, Rhys Roberts, The Three Literary Letters (1901), Aujac, Stephen Usher (Loeb 1985), and for a commentary see now Sotera Fornaro, Dionisio di Alicarnasso, Epistola a Pompeio Gemino.3

To these editions comes a new one edited by Daniela Battisti. Originally, she defended it as a "tesi di Laurea" (more or less MA thesis) and then revised and enlarged it for publication. The end result has some merits but more demerits. It is a pity that proof reading was done in an irritatingly sloppy way: in the Greek text many accents and breathings are wrong, words have been left out or put twice.4 We are not told why the long fragment, which is Dionysius' self-quote, and the small ones from Syrianus are given without apparatus criticus and without commentary whereas the epitome has both. I do not know in which year Battisti defended or when she revised her thesis, but when speaking about Dionysius' view of the role of rhetoric in public life she does not mention the study of Emilio Gabba, a book published in 1991.5 She might have consulted with much profit the Ph.D. thesis of Koen Goudriaan, copies of which are present in a few U.S libraries.6

The volume consists of an Introduction, a chapter on the transmission of the epitome and a justification of the choice of fragments; text and translation of the fragments; text, apparatus, translation and commentary of the epitome, and at the end there are a bibliography and indexes of passages and names.

In her Introduction Battisti discusses Dionysius' ideas on literary imitation in the framework of his theory of rhetoric. This is an interesting chapter but I missed a discussion of possible Platonic influences on Dionysius' ideas, for which see Goudriaan 2.4, who also has sound observations on Dionysius' use of kalon and hêdy (2.3) and his distance from the kritikoi.7 Moreover, nothing is said about the time of publication in relation to Dionysius' other works (see Aujac 11-2). For the text of the Epitome Battisti has used more mss. than e.g. Usener and Aujac, but as we have the manuscript (P) on which the other mss. depend, this addition does not help much; it only makes the apparatus less easy to read. As to the other fragments, in agreement with Aujac, Battisti does not think that Usener's frs. I, IV and VIa belong to De Imitatione, but her numbering is somewhat different from Aujac's, mainly because Aujac has as fragments 6a and 6b what B. puts together under #7 (and Usener under #X).

Because of her choice to publish the epitome only in full (with app. crit. and commentary), I shall focus my review on this work. The first question any epitome raises concerns the way the epitomising has been done. We are in an excellent position to do so in this case for a long part of the epitome overlaps with the long quotation from Dionysius' Letter to Pompey. Moreover, we may compare this abstract with another one, that of On the Composition of Words (U.-R. II.145-94) and observe the great differences between these. These cases are the more interesting for in her lemma "Epitome" (RAC V (1962), 944-73) Ilona Opelt neglects these and other rhetorical epitomes and so there is enough room for a discussion of this kind of abstract in antiquity.8 Aujac has some pages on this matter and restricts herself to a very short comparison with the abstract of CV, but Battisti (p. 35) simply states: "Lo stile dell' epitomatore è povero e nei limiti della "purezza atticia" [What is meant? DMS], di Dionogi rimane solo il metodo comparativo ed molto del suo richissima vocabolarion di termini technici". Curiously enough, Aujac (pp. 14-5) says that many technical terms of the epitome do not recur in Dionysius' other works. In her notes Battisti sometimes comes back to the matter of abbreviating but a general discussion is lacking. From Opelt's article we get the impression that abstracts keep to the original rather precisely, and this is indeed the case for the epitome of CV but our epitome falls out of the scheme.

More than Usener and, certainly, Aujac, Battisti is inclined to introduce cruces at evidently corrupt passages and not to try to emend them. This is the case for pp. 207.9-10; 207.21 and 211.16 U.-R., where light changes would help the reader to understand the text. This conservative position brings her to let stand the text at p. 203.19: (In order to make a perfect picture of Helen Zeuxis selects the most beautiful parts of the girls of Croton) κἀκ πολλῶν μερῶν συλλογῆς ἕν τι συνέθηκεν τέχνη τέλειον καλόν ἰδού, τοιγαροῦν κτλ. She rejects the changes suggested by other scholars, e.g. κἀκ πολλῶ ... τέχνη τέλειον [καλὸν] εἶδος. τοιγαροῦν κτλ,9 because these do not take into account the visible strong stop after καλόν of the MSS., and she defends the use of τοιγαροῦν at the second place of the phrase by a reference to Lucian, Tim. 37c. Of course, the Greek as it stands is indefensible, the use of ἰδού here inexplicable, and correction is necessary, either along the lines of Usener's or Aujac's edition or in some other way.

Battisti sometimes strays from her conservative point of view and introduces very slight changes. Thus at p. 206.22-3 her text reads: δὲ ... κεκραμένῃ μεσότητι τῆς λέξεως κέχρηται. The insertion of the article is wrong and suggests that one can use the middle style in a mixed way (or in a pure way), but the middle style is in itself already a mixture (cp. Battisti p. 114). At p. 209.13-5, where we are told what is praiseworthy in Theopompus' style, we now read Θεόπομπος [...] πρῶτον μὲν ἐν τῷ προέλεσθαι τοιαύτας ἱστορίας ὑποθέσεις ἄξιος ζήλου, μετὰ δὲ οἰκονομίας ... [...], ἔτι δὲ καὶ τῆς ποικιλίας τῆς ἐν τοῖς πράγμασιν.10 This is the epitomator's rendering of Dionysius' Θεόπομπος [...] ἄξιος ἐπαινεῖσθαι πρῶτον μὲν τῆς ὑποθέσεως τῶν ἱστοριῶν [follow two examples], ἔπειτα τῆς οἰκονομίας [...], μάλιστα δὲ τῆς ἐπιμελείας κτλ. The epitomator substitutes ἄξιος ζήλου for Dionysius' ἄξιος ἐπαινεῖσθαι (+ genet. causae) and is consequently forced to say ἐν τῷ προέλεσθαι with an accusative of object, but keeps to Dionysius' text when he comes to οἰκονομίας (or should one with Aujac accept Bompaire's insertion οἰκονομίας <ἕνεκεν>, not mentioned by Battisti?). At any rate, the insertion of the article changes the plural accusative οἰκονομίας into a singular genitive, but is not necessary, or rather, wrong for ἱστορία without qualifying adjective is, as far as I know, not used for the general concept of history.

The editors of the Series Testi e Commenti ought to have been more alert when receiving Battisti's manuscript for publication.


1.   Opuscula 1895-1904; in 1929 Indices nominum, locorum, testimoniorum were compiled by L. Bieler; the two volumes with the indexes were reprinted in 1965.
2.   Denys d'Halicarnasse. Opuscules rhétoriques (Paris: CUF 1981-1992).
3.   Beiträge z. Altertumskunde 95, Stuttgart und Leipzig: B.G. Teubner 1997).
4.   E.g. in her fr. 3 ἔστιν should be supplied and ἥν has the wrong breathing ; p. 49, line 14 τὰς δ' ὑπὸ βαρβάρων should be deleted, but insert at p.56, line 29 λόγον after πολιτικόν, etc.
5.   Dionysius and the History of Archaic Rome (Sather Lectures 56), Berkley-L.A.-Oxford: Univ. of Cal. Press.
6.   Over Classicisme. Dionysius van Halicarnassus en zijn program van welsprekendheid, cultuur en politiek. 2 vols, Amsterdam 1989. A large English summary facilitates the use of this book written in Dutch.
7.   See also Thomas Hidber, Das klassizistische Manifest des Dionys von Halikarnass, Stuttgart und Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1996, 56-75 (rev. by Jakob Wisse BMCR 98.8.6).
8.   See also H. Rahn, art. Epitome in Hist. Wörterbuch der Rhetorik, Tübingen: Niemeyer, Bd 2 (1994), 1316-9.
9.   Aujac translates: "de la réunion de beaucoup d'éléments, l'art a composé une seule image, parfaite. Aussi etc."
10.   Aujac translates: "Théopompe de Chios mérite de susciter l'émulation d'abord pour avoir choisi de très beaux sujets historiques, ensuite pour l'économie de la matière (....), également pour la variété des évènements."

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