Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2002.04.11

William W. Fortenbaugh, Eckart Schütrumpf, Demetrius of Phalerum: Text Translation and Discussion.   New Brunswick and London:  Transaction Publishers, 1999.  Pp. viii + 464.  ISBN 0-7658-0017-9.  

Contributors: Tiziano Dorandi, Michael Gagarin, Hans B. Gottschalk, Elisabetta Matelli, Franco Montanari, Jan Max van Ophuijsen, Michael J. Sollenberger, Peter Stork and Stephen V. Tracy

Reviewed by D. Thomas Benediktson, University of Tulsa (
Word count: 1613 words

One of the contributors, Michael Gagarin, instructed me many years ago in Plato, Herodotus and Greek lyric poetry. I will refrain from critical comments on his essay.

Fortenbaugh, Schütrumpf, and a host of contributors present us with a new edition of the testimonia and fragments of Demetrius of Phalerum with extensive apparatus, notes and appended essays. Greek and Latin texts are the collaborative work of Stork, van Ophuijsen and Dorandi; on p. 8 Fortenbaugh and Schütrumpf suggest that they as well as Stork, van Ophuijsen and Dorandi are responsible for the translations.Translation is facing the Greek and Latin texts. The collection is abbreviated SOD. A full set of concordances key the fragments to Wehrli, FGrH, FHG, and Ostermann.1 Notes appear either at the end of the passages or at the bottom of the page (there is some mildly distracting discrepancy here) and offer useful textual or contextual information. Complete indexing of Demetrius' fragments by ancient authors and a list of names follow the texts and concordances. The essays follow the same order as the texts: Life (Sollenberger, Tracy and Gagarin); writings on politics (Gottschalk), rhetoric (Dorandi), and literature (Montanari and Matelli). Five of the seven essays are in English. Dorandi and Matelli are in Italian; Montanari has been translated into English. An "Index of Ancient Sources" follows the essays but no index nominum or rerum.

The Greek and Latin texts of the fragments are based on standard editions, with the exception of those listed on p. 7. Departures from those sources are noted in the app. crit. Texts tend toward the conservative, with obeli preferred over emendation but with standard emendations accepted. Dorandi has thoroughly reworked the papyri and the passages of Diogenes Laertius. One apparatus gives references to modern editions and collections such as FGrH, to "parallel texts," and to other fragments of Demetrius. A second gives manuscript variants. Translation is relatively literal, with large Greek constructions broken up into smaller English units for readability. Translations occasionally blur into interpretation, but where controversy exists the translators add notes. Legal technical terms in particular are translated with virtual glosses, for example ἀντιλαγχάνοντας τὴν μὴ οὖσαν as "by moving to get the judgment by default declared null and void and thus obtain a rehearing of the case" (pp. 182-83). Few non-specialists would be able to make sense of the passage without this help. Translations of some of the more fragmentary papyri (e.g. fr. 141 SOD) are not of much help to the Greekless. One would never guess that, as is noted in the Introduction, "among the five scholars who worked on the translation, there is only one native speaker of (American) English" (p. 8).

Perhaps one example will show their textual methods at its best. In fr. 31 SOD five emendations are at issue in seven lines of Dionysius of Halicarnassus quoting or paraphrasing Philochorus. Building on Aujac's Budé text, the editors accept three of them, the first being necessary for sense and the next two minor improvements of style involving the article. The last two are rejected although Aujac had admitted them. Jacoby is quoted in support in the notes. All of this information is economically and concisely printed and further bibliography is offered. Most readers will have no need to seek out more information than is presented, and those who have the need will be well directed.

Fr. 159 SOD among the "Spuria" is devoted to De Interpretatione, ascribed to Demetrius until the Renaissance. Spuriousness is taken for granted, and bibliography is only to Radermacher's edition and ancient or medieval references. Probably no one today will argue, but a bibliography of the arguments might have been desirable.

The essays follow the same order as the texts: Life (Sollenberger, Tracey and Gagarin); writings on politics (Gottschalk), rhetoric (Dorandi), and literature (Montanari and Matelli). Five of the seven essays are in English. Dorandi and Matelli are in Italian; Montanari has been translated into English. An "Index of Ancient Sources" follows the essays but no index nominum or rerum.

Sollenburger, "Diogenes Laertius' Life of Demetrius of Phalerum," asks why the biography by Diogenes has so many problems. Sollenberger builds on his own study of Diogenes' composition by "regular and recurring standard topoi or rubrics" (p. 313)2 concluding that we can recover a core of knowledge from the life in combination with the other sources. Sollenberger does not attempt to pin down the primary source, and while the essay leaves much unanswered we are given a valuable understanding of how Diogenes' material can be evaluated, especially when speculating on Demetrius' role in developing the Library and in editing Aristotle.

Tracy, "Demetrius of Phalerum: Who was He and Who was He Not?," tries to rehabilitate Demetrius as politician (neither an oligarchic tool of Macedon nor to be mistaken for his grandson) and to give reasons for his poor image. Tracy successfully demolishes the evidence for Demetrius' statues (one certainly and one probably refers to the grandson) and for his military service, and tries to place Demetrius' government as well as his literary and philosophical work in a favorable light. The essay is provocative but also more speculative than the others; for some reason his references to the fragments are not keyed to the numbers used in the book (SOD); his references can of course be pursued by using the concordances.

For reasons stated above I will not comment on Gagarin's essay, "The Legislation of Demetrius of Phalerum and the Transformation of Athenian Law." Gagarin argues that Demetrius "seems to have set the course for Athenian law for the next century and more." (p. 348), and "that...the system would no longer have served its earlier role as an important public forum for aristocratic competition, and that overall use of the legal process thus probably declined substantially....Demetrius' reforms were consistent with these larger changes in the world and helped the legal system adjust to them. His reforms also may have served the general philosophical desire for greater order and precision....Demetrius' legal reforms had essentially solidified the new spirit of law that the changed world required" (p. 365).

Gottschalk, "Demetrius of Phalerum: A Politician among Philosophers and a Philosopher among Politicians," tries to establish connections between Demetrius' political activity, his extant works on politics, and the Peripatos. His career is traced from Athens (Gottschalk is undecided on the oligarch/democrat issue and characterizes his governance as reformist) to Thebes and then to Alexandria, where he influenced Ptolemy but erred politically. Gottschalk tries to date some of the political works to these periods of his career, e.g. to Athens the Catalogue of Archons, to Thebes "his collection of his speeches...and a series of short pamphlets...whose purpose seems to have been to defend Demetrius' rule of the city" (p. 374), and to Alexandria works with Egyptian themes. Both Plato and Aristotle influenced his political thought but ultimately his approach might be characterized as Peripatetic.

Dorandi, "Il Contributo dei Papiri alla Ricostruzione della Biografia e delle Idee sulla Retorica di Demetrio del Falero," discusses the rhetorical texts, especially in the light of research since Wehrli. A revised text of fr. 130 SOD shows Demetrius' ideal orator as practicing the three rhetorical genres and also giving speeches in public and ambassadorial settings. Frr. 131 A-C SOD further show Demetrius arguing that Xenocrates lacked this additional ability. Fr. 37 SOD does not support Diogenes Laertius on the bad relationship of Demetrius and Xenocrates, while fr. 41 SOD is interpreted by Dorandi as referring to Ptolemy II, supporting Diogenes (fr. 1 SOD). Dorandi also describes a new discovery to be published by M. Manfredi, perhaps from Ὑπὲρ ἐΛέου, and argues that fr. 135 C SOD reflects Demetrius as intermediary between comedy and Eratosthenes' treatment of Demosthenes. Dorandi develops rather enticing arguments from rather slender material.

Montanari, "Demetrius of Phalerum on Literature," considers the paucity of evidence on literary matters, especially given confusion between the various Demetrii. (Anyone doubting the need for the SOD collection should read pages 392-97.) He makes an interesting argument (described as "a very hazardous suggestion, not to be taken seriously," p. 392 n. 5) that the Bios of the Demosthenes fragments comes from Περὶ Ἀντιφάνους. Demetrius' treatment of Plato (fr. 133 SOD) was rhetorical. Demetrius' criticism of Homer was extensive (6 volumes), his criticism of the Iliad (2.409, fr. 143 SOD) may be an indication of the work at the opening of the Library, and his praise of the Odyssey (23.296, fr. 145 SOD) and his discussion of epic poets (frr. 144 and 146 SOD) seem to indicate continuance of Aristotelian criticism.

Matelli, "Gli Aesopica di Demetrio Falereo," examines pre-and post-Demetrian information to assess Demetrius as first gatherer of Aesopica, in the Peripatetic style. She dates the treatise to his residence in Egypt, and finds hints of the content of the work in Callimachus, Phaedrus and Babrius. Fables would have appeared with contextual material and a biography of Aesop. The essay shows what reconstruction can be done from examining fragments in the context of predecessors and successors.

Most of the typographical mistakes appear to have occurred in typesetting (or more probably conversion from disk to type) and are easily corrected by the reader. Noteworthy is the omission of the line of the Latin text at the top of page 108.3

For the first time it is really possible for the scholar to pick up a book containing most of what one needs in order to consult or interpret a reference to Demetrius of Phalerum. In addition there are expansions of our knowledge of the content of his works, albeit sometimes on the speculative side. The book is useful and should be in the library of most anyone who has read through this review.


1.   F. Wehrli, Die Schule des Aristoteles, 2nd ed. (Basel and Stuttgart 1968) vol. 4; C. Ostermann, Commentationeis de Demetrii Phalerei Vita, Rebus Gestis et Scriptorum Reliquiis, volumes 1 (Hersfeld 1847) and 2 (Fulda 1857).
2.   M. J. Sollenberger, "The Lives of the Peripatetics: An Analysis of the Contents and Structure of Diogenes Laertius' 'Vitae Philosophorum,'" ANRW 36.6 (1992) 3800-3804.
3.   Hyphens are extra (p. 40, l. 14; p. 54, l. 9; p. 114, l. 32; p. 118, l. 23; p. 154, ll. 13 and 14; p. 172, l. 21; p. 228, l. 20; p. 232, l. 28, p. 429, l. 6) or missing (pp. 232 at end of apparatus); p. 20, l. 36 Wegehaupt's initial (I.) is missing; p. 21, l. 24 for "989" read "1989"; at the top of page 108 one line of Latin text is omitted; p. 146-47 for "82A-B" in the title of the selection read "82-83" as in table of contents (also to be corrected in index, p. 305, col. 2, l. 12); p. 169 l. 17 read "Eudocia" for "Eudociae"; pp. 178-79, lines 9 and 10 respectively, for "98-9" read "96-99"; p. 202, l. 11, Emperius' emendation is to line 10 of the Greek text, not line 7; p. 251 (I believe) for "Homer'" read "Homer's" in the title of fr. 144; pp. 252, ll. 20 and 31 and p. 53, ll. 8 and 18, neither the Hense nor the Tzetzes citations match; p. 291, l. 15 for "an" read "and," l. 35 col. 2 read "Progymnasmata"; p. 294, l. 22, col. 2 read "2 aCn" (and for consistency p. 301, col. 2, l. 15 read "pCn"); p. 318, last line of text should read "Halicarnassus"; p. 349, n. 6, last word of line 3, "t" should be upper case (vice versa "N" at p. 374, l. 14); p. 357 n. 25 an extra period lingers; 370, n. 9, the Greek word should have acute on first omicron and not omega with circumflex and aspiration; p. 374, n. 18a bis there should be an upsilon under the accents; p. 375 l. 6 the Greek words should be split between eta and pi; p. 378 n. 31 read Schütrumpf; p. 398, l. 3, the second word has an extra omega, while p. 451, col. 2, l. 14, the third word is missing one.

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