Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2004.04.35

Martin L. West (ed.), Greek Epic Fragments from the Seventh to the Fifth Centuries BC.   Cambridge, MA:  Harvard University Press, 2003.  Pp. x, 316.  ISBN 0-674-99605-4.  $21.50.  

Reviewed by Michael J. Anderson, Yale University (
Word count: 3185 words

Martin L. West has produced an informative and dependable Loeb edition of Greek epic fragments, replacing H. G. Evelyn-White's brief treatment of fragments in the old Loeb edition of Hesiod and the Homeric Hymns (1914). West organizes the material into four main categories: the Theban cycle, the Trojan cycle, poems on Heracles and Theseus, and genealogical and antiquarian epics, including the Carmen Naupactium and poems ascribed in antiquity to Eumelus. Not included in this volume are Hesiodic fragments; the Meropis, which West presumably regards as Hellenistic; or fragments of poems that are historical, technical, or not strictly mythological (Choerilus, Cleostratus, and Aristeas). For each poem or author, West provides introductory discussion of authorship, contents, and dating; the principal testimonia with English translations; and texts and translations of all the fragments that he attributes to the poems. A short bibliography follows the introduction, and the collection concludes with comparative numeration tables and an index of personal names and places. While A. Bernabé's 1987 Teubner edition of the fragments remains an indispensable research tool because of its detailed critical apparatus and extensive bibliography, most students will find West's texts and translations more accessible, and scholars will discover here a handful of new fragments and many appealing editorial innovations from a leading expert in the field.

The following list includes most of the major deviations and some minor deviations from other standard editions, particularly Bernabé, and provides an overview of West's editorial ingenuity. West's insertion of Apollodorus passages into Proclus' summaries and his arrangement of the Eumelus material are discussed separately below. An asterisk following a fragment number in West's edition indicates that an attribution is uncertain, not doubtful. Not included in this list are fragments designated as doubtful by Bernabé and omitted entirely by West (e.g., Alcmeonis frr. dubia 8-11 in Bernabé).

1. West omits from the Oedipodea section the summary of the myth preserved in the scholium on Euripides' Phoenissae 1760 and ascribed to one Pisander (FGrHist 16, fr. 10), although several scholars have viewed the epic Oedipodea as at least one of the sources behind this summary (see Bernabé pp. 17-19).

2. West includes the version of the Sphinx's riddle transmitted by Asclepiades of Tragilus (FGrHist 12, fr. 7a) as Oedipodea fr. 2* (p. 40) and states in a footnote that "There is a good chance that he [Asclepiades] took it from the Oedipodea" (p. 41). Apart from the hexameter form of the riddle, nothing connects it directly with the epic, and other editors refrain from making this attribution. But fr. 3 attests mention of the Sphinx in the poem, and Oedipus' solution of the riddle must have occasioned his marriage with his mother, which is mentioned in fr. 1.

3. West includes Plato's reference to "Adrastus the honey-voiced" at Phaedrus 269a as Thebaid fr. 4* (p. 46, / fr. dubium 11 in Bernabé; cf. Tyrtaeus fr. 12.8). In situating the fragment here, West perhaps suggests as a narrative context the dispute between Polynices and Tydeus, with Adrastus serving as a successful mediator (Cf. Nestor at Iliad 1.247-49).

4. West includes a scholium on Pindar's Nemean 9.30 as Thebaid fr. 7* (p. 48). This concerns the circumstances of Amphiaraus' marriage to Eriphyle, Adrastus' sister, and includes a portion of a hexameter verse. Other editors have presumably either overlooked this scholium or, accepting the quoted verse simply as part of Iliad 4.38, have chosen not to attribute it to the Thebaid.

5. In Thebaid fr. 8 (p. 50, Athenaeus 317a etc., fr. 4 in Bernabé) other editors have emended the manuscripts' χώρα to χώραι, χώρηι, and χώρωι. West now cleverly restores χροιῆι, thus making the octopus adapt to color rather than place.

6. West is now able to include among the testimonia for the Cypria (p. 64) and for Panyassis (p. 190) an epigrammatic inscription of the 2nd c. BC claiming Halicarnassian birth for Cyprias and Panyassis (Merkelbach-Stauber, Steinepigramme aus dem griechischen Osten 01/12/02). This strengthens Severyns' emendation of Cyprios to Cyprias in Athenaeus 334b (fr. 10) and for Panyassis provides an interesting complement to Merkelbach-Stauber 01/12/01 = IG 12(1).145 (Panyassis test. 5 Bernabé and pp. 188-91 in West). On Cyprias as the author of the Cypria see also Lloyd-Jones' comments in ZPE 124 (1999), p. 11.

7. Immediately after Proclus' summary of the Cypria, West prints P.Oxy. 3829, a prose narrative about the intervention of Strife at the wedding of Thetis and Peleus (p. 80). Strife's appearance and the consequent dispute are paralleled in Proclus' summary, and the mention of Chiron is paralleled in frr. 3* and 4.

8. West includes a scholium on Iliad 18.434(a) as Cypria fr. 3* (p. 84). This records mention among the neoteroi of Thetis' ability to change her shape, and West supplements this with Apollodorus 3.13.5, Chiron's advice to Peleus on how to capture Thetis. Bethe identified the scholium as a citation of unlikely relation to the cycle (Homer. Dichtung und Sage, vol. 2, 1922, p. 193), and other modern editors ignore it, but it fits well after fr. 2, Zeus' determination to make Thetis marry a mortal.

9. West includes as Cypria fr. 8 (p. 88) a scholium on Iliad 3.443, recording identification among the neoteroi of Phereclus as the builder of Paris' ships (= Bernabé fr. dubium 37). West also inserts mention of Phereclus in Apollodorus into Proclus' summary. If we assume that this identification of Phereclus instead of his father Harmonides as the builder is due to the ambiguity of Iliad 5.59-64, then both the attribution of the fragment and the insertion in the summary reflect West's inclination to find post-Iliadic material in the Cypria.

10. West assigns the verses in Diomedes' Art of Grammar 1.477.9 to the Aethiopis (fr. 5, p. 116) instead of to the Sack of Ilion (Bernabé fr. 7). As West notes, the quotation seems to describe "not a man throwing a spear but one getting set for a foot race, or perhaps for wrestling" (p. 117, note 24). The funeral games for Achilles are therefore a likely context.

11. West implicitly rejects Bernabé's identification of the verses quoted in Plutarch's Banquet of the Seven Sages 10 as the opening lines of the Little Iliad (Bernabé fr. 1), together with Bernabé's distinction of more than one Little Iliad. West instead follows Davies (Epicorum Graecorum Fragmenta, 1988) and earlier editors in identifying the verses in the Herodotean Life of Homer 16 as the opening of the poem. For the intrusion of the name Lesches in Plutarch's text see West's discussion in CQ N.S. 17 (1967), pp. 438-40.

12. West relegates a scholium on Odyssey 8.517 (Little Iliad fr. 4 in Bernabé), on Helen's marriage to Deiphobus, to a footnote to Proclus' summary (pp. 122-23), presumably because the scholiast merely restates information already provided by the summary.

13. West prints a scholium on Odyssey 4.258 as Little Iliad fr. 10 (p. 130) and perceives here a reference to Odysseus' spying expedition into Troy (p. 131, note 39).

14. West omits from the fragments of the Sack of Ilion the several texts, mostly connected with Lycophron, that name the serpents that attacked Laocoon and his son(s) Porkis and Chariboia (= Bernabé fr. 3). Significantly, none of the texts mentions the Sack of Ilion or the Cyclic poets.

15. West is now able to include as Returns fr. 9 (p. 160) a reference in Philodemus' On Piety (B 4901 Obbink) to the poem's identification of Zeus as the killer of Asclepius. It appears, although it is not certain, that West considers the context of this fragment the underworld episode attested in fr. 1 and connected with frr. 2-8 (see West's introduction, p. 18).

16. West follows E. Livrea, ZPE 122 (1998), in ascribing to the Telegony (fr. 2*, p. 168) a verse quoted in Synesius' Epistle 148.

17. West follows Bethe and Davies in identifying the poem Thesprotis mentioned at Pausanias 8.12.5 as the Telegony and includes this passage as fr. 3 (p. 168-70).

18. West's grouping of Panyassis frr. 3-5 (p. 194) is clever but debatable. Fr. 3, from Clement's Protreptic 2.35.3, was previously recognized as part of a speech consoling Heracles, presumably for his servitude to Eurystheus, by "recalling various mythical episodes of gods who submitted to servitude under mortal masters" (p. 195, note 10). West now associates with this speech the mention of Demeter's visit to King Eleusis at Apollodorus 1.5.2 (fr. 4, Bernabé fr. 13). The fragment has previously been connected with Heracles' initiation into the mysteries at Eleusis (see Bernabé p. 179 for bibliography). West also neatly connects with this speech the mention of Asclepius' death at Sextus Empiricus, Against the Professors 1.260 (fr. 5 West, fr. 26 Bernabé) by noting that Apollo in turn killed the Cyclopes and was then forced to serve Admetus. Others have less convincingly connected this fragment with Heracles' rescue of Alcestis or, because it specifically mentions Asclepius' raising of Tyndareus from the dead, with Heracles' battle with the Hippocoontids and subsequent restoration of Tyndareus to the throne (see Bernabé p. 184 for bibliography).

19. West includes as Eumelus fr. 26 (p. 244) an overlooked passage in Philodemus' On Piety (B 7262 Obbink) referring to Europa's forced abduction in the Europia. For West's discovery of this fragment see JHS 122 (2002), pp. 126-27.

West gives prominence to several portions of Apollodorus by inserting them, within brackets, into the text of Proclus' summaries of the Trojan cyclic epics. I counted a total of forty-three insertions, nineteen in the Cypria summary and six or fewer in each of the other summaries. Some of the insertions are very brief, as for example the specification in the Cypria summary that Menelaus entertained Alexander "for nine days" (p. 69). Some, however, consist of several sentences. Many contribute significant details to episodes already related by Proclus. An addition to the Aethiopis summary, for example, specifies that Achilles was shot "in the ankle" and "at the Scaean Gates" (p. 113). And an insertion in the Little Iliad summary adds the fact that Sinon stayed behind with the wooden horse when the Greeks pretended to sail home (p. 123). Other insertions introduce entire episodes into the summaries, as for example the embassy to Cinyras (p. 73) and Achilles' confrontation with Tennes (pp. 75-77) in the Cypria. Taken as a group, the insertions constitute a substantial supplement to Proclus' summaries. Extensive similarities of contents and language between Proclus and Apollodorus grant us license to regard the latter as a source for the epic poems despite his frequent failure to refer to them explicitly. As West remarks in his introduction, "agreements with other mythographic sources, especially Apollodorus, show that Proclus was reproducing material of Hellenistic date" (p. 12). So, in supplementing Proclus' summaries West probably brings us closer to the lost Hellenistic material and the epic poems. In discussing his use of Apollodorus, West calls it "probably legitimate", and he notes that "Caution is needed, as Apollodorus has sometimes incorporated material from other sources such as tragedy" (p. 13). We can therefore assume that West has made every effort to avoid the introduction of late details. While I support West's use of Apollodorus generally, I would suggest that he might have selected a more formal, if less convenient, method of presenting this relevant material. The insertions sometimes fit awkwardly into the summaries, interrupting the progression of the narrative with restatement and expansion of details already given (e.g., the mention of Hermione on p. 68). If, as seems likely, West views most of these insertions as firm evidence for the poems, then they could instead have been added among the numbered fragments or under a separate heading to avoid distortion of Proclus' summaries. Any insertions that West views as less secure could instead have been given in footnotes, just as Bernabé includes some of this material in an apparatus.

Another noticeable departure from other editors is the placement of the Titanomachy fragments together with those of the Corinthiaca and the Europia, numbered continuously, under the heading Eumelus. Bernabé and Davies instead place the fragments before the Theban poems as part of the "epic cycle". West published his ideas on the relationship of these works in "'Eumelos': a Corinthian Epic Cycle?" JHS 122 (2002) 109-33. There he identified several links between the Titanomachy and the Corinthiaca, which he summarizes in the present volume (p. 27). These include the appearance in the Titanomachy of Helios (frr. 4*, 10, and 11), identified in the Corinthiaca as a principal patron of Corinth and an ancestor of its rulers (frr. 16* and 17); the appearance of Aigaion or Briareus in both works (frr. 3 and 16*); and the mention in the Titanomachy of the sons of Iapetos (frr. 5* and 7*), of whom Epimetheus is identified in the Corinthiaca as the husband of Ephyra, the Oceanid who first inhabited the area. According to West (JHS 122, p. 126), "These links may suggest that, whether or not the two poems were actually the work of one poet, they were intended to complement one another. The Titanomachy supplied the divine pre-history to the Corinthian dynastic history. They constituted a unity of the same sort as that formed by the Hesiodic Theogony and Catalogue of Women, that is, a sequence of genealogies that began with the gods and continued with mortal kings." While the perceived links are tantalizing, West's frr. 4*, 5*, and 7* neither explicitly mention the epic Titanomachy nor preserve epic verses, and can therefore be assigned to the poem only tentatively. Nevertheless, since this poem was sometimes attributed to Eumelus in antiquity and since its possible incorporation into the epic cycle would certainly have occurred after the 5th century B.C., it seems legitimate to print its fragments together with those of the other works assigned to Eumelus rather than anywhere else.

The volume might, I feel, have included a few more footnotes, especially on notoriously problematic fragments, which West has undoubtedly considered in detail. West does offer several insightful and illuminating notes, at times giving mythological background, identifying obscure characters, or explaining the ordering of fragments (e.g., the suggestion in note 66, p. 163, that Hermioneus in Returns fr. 12 was a son of Menelaus; cf. Hermione). But he does not draw attention to the discrepancy between Herodotus 2.116 (Cypria fr. 14) and Proclus' Cypria summary (pp. 68-71) over whether or not Paris went directly back to Troy after abducting Helen. Did Herodotus know a version of the Cypria different from that represented by Proclus? Was the Cypria (or a summary) later altered to make it consistent with the Iliad? (See Bernabé pp. 52-53 for bibliography.) A comment on the hexameter fragment embedded in Herodotus' text and here reconstructed by West would also make a useful addition (see Bernabé p. 52 for alternative reconstructions). Why does Apollodorus' account of Protesilaus, inserted by West into Proclus' summary, name his wife Laodamea (p. 76), while Cypria fr. 22 (Pausanias 4.2.7) specifically names her Polydora? And why does West accept as belonging to the Cypria her intercourse with an image of her dead husband and reject the story of her husband's temporary return from the dead (Apollodorus, Epitome 3.30)? From the absence of a footnote to Cypria fr. 19, reporting that Achilles seduced Deidamea when he was hiding on Scyros before the war, can we infer that West senses no discrepancy between this and the report of Proclus' summary that Achilles married Deidamea after the Greek forces mistakenly attacked Teuthrania (pp. 72-73)? Answers to these and similar questions are not included in the volume. Admittedly, however, such detailed commentary is typically beyond the scope of the Loeb format or any standard text. West has presented a wealth of information in a remarkably concise volume, and only a supplementary publication would allow him to collect and express fully his views on the many questions surrounding the epic fragments.

Absent from the introduction is discussion of oral poetry (mentioned in passing on p. 3) or of the circumstances of performance or composition. West does, however, identify the poems as "redactions of traditional material" (p. 2), and at times considers the relation between the lost Trojan epics and the Homeric poems. He points out cyclic material already familiar to "the Iliad poet" or "the Odyssey poet". In the case of the Little Iliad, West notes that several actions narrated there are mentioned also in the Odyssey and concludes that "The Odyssey poet ... must have known, if not that very poem, something quite similar" (p. 16). And in the case of the Aethiopis, which has long been recognized as having incorporated pre-Iliadic traditions, West outlines several stages in a process of development from pre-Iliadic to post-Iliadic narratives (p. 14). Perhaps the most controversial feature of West's scheme is the assertion that Memnon is a "post-Iliadic" creation (p. 15). In support of this, West groups Memnon together with other late-arriving and late-appearing allies: Rhesus, a character from the "interpolated tenth rhapsody of the Iliad" (p. 14), and the Amazon Penthesilea, who "first appears in artistic representations around 600 BC" (p. 15). But we might instead pair the Memnon of the Aethiopis with the Lycian Sarpedon of the Iliad. Inclusion of Philoctetes in the catalogue of ships suggests Iliadic awareness of late-arriving heroes. And the prominence of Antilochus in the funeral games of Iliad 23 also seems to anticipate the plot of the Aithiopis or antecedent traditions in which Memnon's slaying of Antilochus precipitated Achilles' slaying of Memnon. Discussion of oral traditions might give the reader a better sense of the relation of one poem to another. And where West attempts to distinguish discrete stages in the development of mythological traditions and speaks of the influence of one poem on another poem, I would favor a model of poetic traditions developing in conjunction and influencing one another mutually, a model allowing us to identify some features as early and others as late although we might not be able to determine the absolute chronological relations of all the elements.

The designation of the water of the river Styx as the "Water of Shuddering" (p. 205) is likely to perplex a Greekless reader (cf. Garner on West in BMCR 2003.07.36). And the translation of μῦθος in Aristotle's Poetics 1451a (p. 217) as "myth" instead of "plot" does not quite convey Aristotle's meaning (for which cf. the introduction, p. 24). But generally the translations accurately render the sense of the Greek in clear English prose. Errors of any kind are very few. The introduction to Pisander states that the fragments contain evidence for Heracles armed with a bow (p. 23), but as far as I can see, they indicate only that he is armed with a skin and a club. An accent is missing from μοιρίδιον in Cypria fr. 19 (p. 96). An asterisk indicating uncertainty of attribution is missing from the translation of Returns fr. 2* (p. 157). In Telemachy fr. 5 (p. 170) read τηλεγόνωι for τηλεμάχωι. The comparative numeration table for Eumelus' Titanomachy on p. 305 should include an indication that Bernabé fr. 18 is from the section of Eumelus fragments entitled "fragmenta incerti operis", not from Bernabé's Titanomachy fragments.

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