Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2002.06.22

Roberto Campagner, Lessico agonistico di Aristofane. Lessici 3.   Roma:  Edizioni dell'Ateneo, 2001.  Pp. 342.  ISBN 88-8476-096-8.  EUR 69.00.  

Reviewed by Victoria Jennings and Andrea Katsaros, University of Adelaide, South Australia ( and
Word count: 1233 words

This book inaugurates a series of lexica on technical terminology from the ancient world. Aristophanes [Ar.] is the source of Campagner's [C.'s] research into the agonistic ambit: sporting events, equipment, the typology of training, buildings associated with athletic activity, the involvement of spectators, and the athletes themselves.

In the introduction, C. offers statistical breakdowns of the 380 terms that comprise the lexicon: according to parts of speech (verbs, nouns, adjectives and adverbs -- in descending order of frequency); in terms of the frequency of distribution in the plays (by this criterion, Clouds, Knights, Frogs, Wasps, Lysistrata and Peace, Acharnians, Birds, Wealth, Ecclesiazusae, and Thesmophoriazusae). C. discusses vocabulary relevant to the agonistic spaces and contemporary characterization of athletes and their non-athletic counterparts (notably, in Clouds) before elaborating on the agonistic activities themselves. 42% of references are to the "heavy events" -- wrestling, boxing, pankration (and related voces palaestricae); 20% relate to equestrian sports (according to C., "Ar. fu un convinto ammiratore dell'equitazione", p.11); 13% relate to foot-races; the remaining terms refer to the other pentathlon events (discus, long jump and javelin), archery, ball-games, and water-sports. C. enumerates vocabulary associated with competition, victory and its attendant paraphernalia. Turning to the audience, C. draws the interesting, if superficial, contrast between the characterization of "nice" audiences (in Lucian's Anacharsis) and Ar.'s superior realism -- his "spettatori molto simili ai moderni hooligans" (p.12). C. alludes, briefly (p.12), to the cross-pollination generated by the sharing of "agonal space" (Larmour, p.135), although he does not comment on the metatheatrical implications of this in his analyses.1

C. provides some guidance as to his criteria for selection and omission, and he admits a degree of subjectivity (p.8) grounded, predominantly, in his understanding of the sociological issues underlying Ar.'s choices (p.12). His selections reinforce his hypothesis that sporting vocabulary is particularly significant for Aristophanes and his audience because of the times in which they lived: sporting vocabulary shared much with martial terminology and permeated "nella realtà quotidiana" (p.12), so that Ar. could deploy this shared vocabulary in order to make ideological observations on, for example, the violence of war or the (need for) reconciliation between townsfolk, and to evoke a consciousness of a shared stake in the glorious (sporting) past.

One obvious ramification of C.'s approach is that this seemingly "technical" lexicon -- containing "linguaggi tecnici o settoriali" (p.7) -- contains a selection of terms of far broader signification than the strictly "technical". C.'s inclusions range from the precise -- specific technical language -- to the looser, for example, metaphorical application of words which take their (sporting) colour from their immediate context ("... i termini caratterizzati da uno spettro semantico variegato, all'interno del quale possono assumere anche una valenza tecnico-agonale", p.8).

A typical entry in the lexicon includes the lemma under discussion, its locus in Ar., an Italian translation of the lemma, citation of the relevant lines in which the word occurs, and any scholium or contemporary. C. then adds his own commentary, divided into two sections: "A" -- general interpretation of the lemma in the scholia and other (ancient and modern) sources; and "B" -- C.'s interpretation of the lemma contextualized specifically in terms of the cited Aristophanic passage. In addition, C. provides other sigla to guide the reader as to the precise level of technical reference of an included lemma (p.14): (*) indicates a lemma of generic technical value, e.g., ἀγυμνασία, Frogs 1088; (**), a lemma in which it is possible to find a technical value, e.g., ξυστίς, Clouds 70; (***), a lemma which, in itself, is not technical in value, but which "grazie al contesto, ad una associazione semantica particolare, all'inserimento in espressioni proverbiali o a qualche procedimento retorico (accumulazione, metafora, paronimia, adynaton, etc.)", e.g., πλατεῖα, Frogs 1096 and fr. 459; in these cases, the translation into Italian is generally followed by "(trasl.)" to indicate metaphorical weight (e.g., ὑπερβάλλομαι (**): Knights 409, 413, 758, 890; Clouds 1035; Plutus 109). "(?)" indicates, "nel contesto aristofaneo, un probabile aggancio con la terminologia sportiva": e.g., ἐπινίκια in fr. 448. No siglum following the lemma indicates an indisputably -- for C. -- concrete agonistic term (e.g., στλεγγίς, Thesmophoriazusae 556; fr. 145; fr. 214); "(h)", a hapax. (in the strict sense); and "(u)", a vox unica in Ar. In addition, C. includes some disputed terms, dependent on conjecture, preceded by O: e.g., ἐκτρέπω, Clouds 88.

As comedy was rich in double entendre, its lexicographers will always be faced with difficult choices, as the following examples demonstrate. The verb γελάω (***) is cited from Frogs 1090, denoting Dionysus' reaction to a slow runner in a Panathenaic foot-race: ὥστε γ' ἀφαυάνθην Παναθηναίοισι γελῶν. Its inclusion in C.'s lexicon is circumstantial: it is an example of "il comportamento del pubblico durante una manifestazione sportiva" (p.106). For comparison ("A"), C. cites the scholiast's gloss on Frogs 1089: ἀπεφαυάνθην = ἐχηράνθην; Ar. fr. 660: ὥστ' ἔγωγ' ηὐαινόμην ́ θεώμενος; Od. 18.38-40: ... ξερσὶν μαξέσσασθαι ... πάντες ἀνήϊχαν γελόωντες. In Frogs and Od. the spectators mock the sight of competitors made absurd by their inabilities. While this is not to be disputed, we might comment that γελάω appears in many other contexts as well (cf. Frogs 2: γελῶσιν οἱ θεώμενοι), and the mocked competitor at Frogs 1090 might equally be read against Thersites [not noted by C.] at Il. 2.215 and 2.270 if we place the emphasis of our reading on the inappropriate nature of these attempts at participation. C. could have said more about the interesting ἀφαυάνθην -- an athletic complaint? -- particularly given its occurrence in the antipnigos of Frogs, that is, in the "stifler" passage, "meant to be sung without a pause for breath" (Ussher, p.8).2 Incidentally, the Panathenaia does not receive an entry in the lexicon.

C.'s decision to include μισθοφόρος (**), from Knights 555, in a lexicon of sporting terms requires considerable justification. C. translates the term as "che ha riportato il premio della vittoria" (p.227). Apart from Schol. Eq. 555a, the "supporting evidence" concentrates on evidence for boat-racing,3 rather than the lemma. The scholiast's comment scarcely confirms C.'s connection between μισθοφόροι and athletic prizes: αἱ ἐπὶ μισθῷ τοὺς στρατευομένους ἄγουσαι. As C. must admit, LSJ s.v. μισθός [etc.] support reading the lemma as "salary"/"pay" (for service; e.g., mercenary service). Reference to IG II2 2311 (prizes in the Panathenaia: νικητήρια) might have bolstered the facts of C.'s case (i.e., that there was a "premio di vittoria in denaro" for the boat race), though we note that the race in question is tribal.4 C.'s semantic connection between μισθοφόροι and victory prizes (ἆθλα? cf. Ath. Pol. 60.3) is rather tenuous, based on a random selection of extant "evidence" and his association of μισθοφόρος with ἀθλοφόρος and νικηφόρος. By the very nature of a lexicon, this entry can only deal with a bare outline of a complex and elusive question -- a question made all the more problematic due to its comic context; it would be an interesting idea to pursue, but in a work of this kind, C.'s conclusions are more confusing than helpful.

In spite of these criticisms, the lexicon is generally solid and has much to offer the scholar. It is remarkably free from typographical errors and is preceded by a comprehensive bibliography. Cross-referencing is perhaps not as compact as it could have been, but nevertheless, this is a valuable reference tool for anyone interested in Aristophanes, sport, and the permeation of agonistic terms in literature.


1.   See the sensitive analysis of "stage and stadium" by Larmour, D.H.J. (1999) Stage and Stadium. Nikephoros Beihefte, 4. Hildesheim: Weidmann.
2.   Ussher, R.G. (1979) Aristophanes Greece & Rome New Surveys in the Classics, 13. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Note the apt use of ἀγυμνασία (C., p.48) in a similar context at Frogs 1088.
3.   Pind. Isthm. 5.4-7; Plut. Themist. 32 = Plat. Com. fr. 199 K-A.; Lysias 21.5. C. also deals with some of these sources, from the same passage in Knights, under ἅμιλλα).
4.   For example, see pp. 36ff. and 193-194 in Kyle, D.G. (1987) Athletics in Ancient Athens. Mnemosyne Supplement 95; Leiden: E.J.Brill.

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