Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2004.12.28

Martin Ferguson Smith, Supplement to Diogenes of Oinoanda The Epicurean Inscription. Istituto Italiano per gli Studi Filosofici. La Scuola di Epicuro.   Napoli:  Bibliopolis, 2003.  Pp. 156; figs. 6.  ISBN 88-7088-441-4.  €40.00.  

Reviewed by Diskin Clay, Duke University (
Word count: 1671 words

This welcome publication is a supplement to a supplement, or, in the language of Altertumswissenschaft, a supplementum supplemento. It gives us hope that one day in the not too distant future a supplementum supplementis will become necessary and that the greatest modern citizen of Oinoanda, Martin Ferguson Smith, will be the one to publish it. Clearly, this will depend on the possibility of new excavations of the site. Smith's cryptic comment on the difficulties he has faced in obtaining an excavation permit and the reasons for its denial ("which it is not appropriate or politic to describe," 45) prompts some pessimism, but Smith has never been defeated by pessimism.

What justifies this supplement to Smith's Diogenes of Oinoanda: The Epicurean Inscription (La Scuola di Epicuro, Supplement 1, Bibliopolis: Naples 1993) is the discovery of ten blocks from the stoa wall on which Diogenes displayed his inscription during an abbreviated season of excavations in 1997. Unlike many epigraphers and papyrologists, Smith has the courage to make available in timely and, as he would be the first to admit, provisional publications the discoveries he, working alone from 1968 to 1973 and collaborating with the British Institute of Archaeology in Ankara 1974-1983, has made on the mountain site of ancient Oinoanda. He published the texts of the ten blocks revealed by the excavations of 31 October - 9 November in Anatolian Studies 48 (1998) 125-170. He republishes them now in this supplement, which is in some sense uniform with the edition of the 181 "fragments" of Diogenes he published in 1993. But this supplement is unusual for the Neapolitan series in that Smith prints excerpts from the praise accorded to his 1993 edition of Diogenes (on the inside front cover), lists the reviews of his edition, and answers some reviewers' criticisms (35-41). He adds a Bibliography of work on the inscription since 1993 and conducts a review of the new scholarship, including his own (46-56). He also prints a set of additions and corrections to his edition of 1993 and to his publication of the ten new "fragments" in 1997 (57-140). At the back of the book there is a plan of the "Esplanade" with the location of the three trenches excavated in 1997 and photographs of some of the new Diogenes blocks.

The reader of this supplement will find much of compelling interest in Smith's reflections, retractions, and new readings, but the essential part of this volume are the discoveries of 1997. The new "fragments" unearthed during the only legal excavation of the site of Oinoanda are now integrated into the old, so that a reader eager to review the important new texts uncovered in Trench 1 on the "Esplanade" in the north of the city (NF 126 - 127 + fr, 39) and elsewhere will find the new attached to the old in Smith's treatment of the Physics Treatise (74-84) The Ethics Treatise (90-98, 100-103), Maxims (119-123), and Old Age Treatise (133-135).

I am reluctant to speak of the "fragments" of Diogenes of Oinoanda. Diogenis Oenoandensis Fragmenta is, of course, a familiar title. It is the title of William and Chilton in their Teubner editions and (in Italian) that of Angelo Casanova in his. But not every "fragment" is a fragment, and not every uninscribed block from the stoa wall is without interest in the arduous task of reconstructing his stoa. To date, the inscribed "headers" and "stretchers" of the upper courses of the wall have been recorded as components of the wall, but only a single rejected and uninscribed block1 from the upper courses of the wall has been published, and none of its orthostate blocks have been identified. Once, the "fragments" of Diogenes of Oinoanda all occupied their place on the wall of Diogenes' stoa. Each editor of the inscription has held his own view of how Diogenes' inscription was displayed on the wall. Smith has his view; I have mine. In the extraordinary case of the Diogenes inscription it can be said: quot editores, tot parietes.2

What every student of the inscription can now agree on (thanks to Diogenes' language locating the treatises of his inscription on upper and lower registers) is that the inscription occupied at least three registers. It was supported by an orthostate course. If only one of the orthostate blocks could be recovered and identified, we would have the foundation for a reconstruction of the stoa wall. Above, extending over three (in my view) or four (in Smith's view) registers are displayed a series of texts. They give the impression of a papyrus unrolled along the stoa wall. Along the lowest inscribed course we find the Ethics Treatise. Above it is the Physics Treatise; and topmost, inscribed over three courses, is the Old Age Treatise (written in larger letters and surely made more legible by rubrication). Not all of the blocks that fit into this vast architectural jigsaw puzzle count as "fragments". We have some "stretchers" whose texts are nearly perfectly preserved; and we have "headers," such as NF 132 (fr. 131 = YF 189), which contain entire maxims.3 This is the narrowest of Diogenes' maxims (written by Diogenes, as Smith and I agree, in imitation of Epicurus). The width is only 0.225m, so it is the narrowest of Diogenes' Maxims.4 Another "header" with a very similar and equally well preserved message is fr. 122. These can be described as Diogenes' "monolithic maxims."

The most significant of the texts discovered in the fall of 1997 are the two new blocks from the Physics Treatise that join with and introduce fr. 20 (giving the sequence NF 126 + 127 + fr. 20 [NF 39]). Diogenes' polemic is directed against the belief that a salutary belief in the gods compels humans to behave justly to one another. It gives us as more consecutive argument than we find in Diogenes' treatment of dreams in his Ethics and Physics Treatises. And, as in the case of Diogenes' account of dream visions, we have Diogenes taking an Epicurean stand against a very debile philosophical opposition.5 Diogenes is, as Smith sees clearly, involved in the theme of the gods of traditional religion and the unsettling human fear of them. Here the Stoics enter Diogenes' polemic; they are named in NF 127 II 11 (and are restored in NF 126 VI 5).

In the new blocks from the Esplanade we discover two arguments. In the first, Diogenes addresses the mistaken notion that the fear is a deterrent to injustice. His counter-examples are the Jews and the Egyptians, both races devoted to superstition ("who, as well as being the most superstitious of all peoples, are the vilest of all peoples," in Smith's translation, 81). Diogenes then moves, in a fashion of polemic familiar from Lucretius, to attack the Stoic conception of god as the creator of this world and the maker of humans to serve as his "fellow citizens." (This polemic would have greatly vexed the emperor who was, I think, his contemporary, Marcus Aurelius.) Smith's commentary on these passages (most elaborately set out in Anatolian Studies 48 [1998] 137-146) is an essential guide to our interpretation of them. I would suggest only that Diogenes' attack on the conception of the gods as deterrents to acts of injustice might be directed against the speech of the Sisyphos in a satyr play we now know from Sextus Empiricus. The speech was not as notorious in antiquity as it is now, but its argument is simply that some wise legislator invented observant and avenging gods to strike fear into humans and render them obedient to positive law.6

There are, of course, gaps in the text of this important section of Diogenes' Physics Treatise, and Smith, with his divine gift of Epicurean divination, suggests how they are to be filled (very attractively in NF 126 I and its continuation in NF 127 II 1-5). In answer to the criticisms of his first full edition of the "fragments" of Diogenes of Oinoanda, Smith is spirited in the defense of his decision to produce a single text with supplements rather than a diplomatic text first and then a text in which he has intervened as editor (39-41). His protocol is that of Marcello Gigante's La Scuola di Epicuro.7 But the reader should be warned that there are gaps in the texts Smith publishes and has attempted to restore. I offer a single example of the hazards of restoring the gaps in the philosophical inscription of Diogenes of Oinoanda. It comes from the Old Age Treatise (represented in the new finds NF 133 and 134, which mention loss of hearing and episodes of madness, in Angelo Casanova's original reconstruction of HK fr. 7 and 19).

The reader should not judge which supplement is the most plausible, given Diogenes' theme. He or she should only reflect on the Epicurean conception of τὰ ἄδηλα. To introduce a note of caution for the reader, I give two possibilities of supplementing one and the same fragment from the Old Age Treatise:

Fr. 151 (NF 97)


[ὅπως ἡδονή, μη]-
[κέτι τῶ]ν διαλειμμα[ά]-
[των παρ]όντων, αὐτο-
[μάτως] προφανῇ βλά-
[πτουσα μ]ηδὲν τὴν φύ-
σιν.ω τὰ] γὰρ ὑγρὰ τροφεῖα

... [in order that], when the interstices [are no longer there, pleasure] may appear of its of its own accord without doing any harm to the constitution. V For liquid [nourishment] ...


[......τ]ὰ διαλείμμα[α]-
[τα ὀδ]όντων αὐτό-
[θεν καίπερ] προφανῆ βλά-
[πτει μ]ηδὲν τὴν φύ-
σιν.ω τὰ] γὰρ ὑγρὰ τρο[φεῖα

... [Hence], gaps in the teeth, [even though they are] conspicuous, do no real harm to one's constitution. V For a liquid [diet] ...

I can only plead in defense of my restoration the color photograph on the cover of the Jetlag Travel Guide to Molvania: A Land untouched by modern Dentistry, New York 2003. Also, it seems that the Greek word for cabbage is now to be found in the latest discovery from The Old Age Treatise (announced in the Postscript, 157). We already knew that the aged Diogenes was interested in a diet of curds (from fr. 121 II 3 and 5).


1.   This is "NF" 105. See my report in ANRW II 36.4 (Berlin . New York 1990) 2464.
2.   Smith gives his reconstruction of the wall in his edition of 1993, Figure 6; I give mine in my ANRW report of 1990 Figure 7 (2477).
3.   The reader new to the history of the publication of Diogenes' inscription will be baffled by the system of numbering. Smith gives a consecutive numbering to the inscriptions he published in 1993 (1-181); he also gives the numbering of the 88 fragments published by Heberdey and Kalinka in 1887. The numbering of the new fragments that Smith and then Smith and the team from the British Institute of Archaeology have discovered since his second visit to the site in 1968 is given as NF (New Fragments); and the inventory numbers established by the Oinoanda Survey are given as YF (Yazi Felsefi, the Philosophical Inscription). [No dot over the is]
4.   Smith 1998: 160.
5.   In the case of Diogenes' explanation of the mechanism of dreaming he confronts Demokritos first and then the Stoics. I treat the evidence of NF 13 + 12 (now Smith frs. 9 and 10) in "An Epicurean Interpretation of Dreams," AJP 101 (1980) 342-365 (reprinted with revisions as Chapter 14 of Paradosis and Survival: Three Chapters in the History of Epicurean Philosophy, Ann Arbor 1998).
6.   Attributed to Kritias by Sextus Empiricus 9.54 (DK 88 B 25), but plausibly vindicated for Euripides by Albrecht Diehle, "Das Satyrspiel Sisyphos," Hermes 105 (1997) 28-41 and Charles Kahn, "Greek Religion and Philosophy in the Sisypus Fragment," Phronesis 42 (1997) 247-262. For the reflections of this view in Philodemus, see Philodemus, On Piety 519-541 and 1176 and 1217 Obbink. For the possibility that this argument is reflected in Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 5.1188 see now Gordon Campbell, Lucretius on Creation and Evolution: A Commentary on De Rerum Natura 5.772-1104, (Oxford 2003) 17.
7.   Smith's line drawings and photographs are published in The Philosophical Inscription of Diogenes of Oinoanda (with 217 Figures and 64 Plates) (Ergänzungsbände zu den Tituli Asiae Minoris 20, Vienna 1996), which provides the diplomatic text lacking in his two supplements to La Scuola di Epicuro.

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