Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2005.10.22

L. A. Guichard Romero, Asclepíades de Samos. Epigramas y fragmentos. Estudio introductorio, revisión del texto, traducción y comentario. Sapheneia 10.   Bern:  Peter Lang, 2004.  Pp. xxiv, 559.  ISBN 3-03910-395-4.  SFR 107.00 / €69.00.  

Reviewed by Guillermo Galán Vioque, University of Huelva (
Word count: 2258 words

The work of Asclepiades has not previously been the subject of an independent commentary following modern philological criteria. Up until now we have had the virtually inaccessible thesis of O. I. Peters, the by-no-means easily consultable work of O. Knauer, and the indispensable magna opera of A. S. F. Gow and D. L. Page, whose very breadth of vision precluded exhaustive treatment of all the epigrammatists contained therein.1 This monograph by Guichard (hereinafter, G.) fills this gap, as it constitutes an excellent aid for our understanding of the work of Asclepiades and is a useful tool for any research in the field of Hellenistic epigram. Nevertheless, it does not go so far as to replace its predecessors, since it is frequently necessary to fall back on Gow-Page to obtain more information than is provided by G. This occurs in particular, by a deliberate decision on the part of G., in the epigrams doubly ascribed to Asclepiades and Posidippus, for which, in addition to Gow-Page, it is essential to have at hand the work of E. Fernández-Galiano.2

The author incorporates into his study not only the epigrams which are ascribed with certainty to Asclepiades but also those whose authorship is debated and all the fragments that have survived of his work, epigrammatic or otherwise, even the extremely dubious ones.3

The study follows a traditional scheme: introduction followed by detailed commentary on each of the epigrams. The introduction deals with the usual topics: the author's life (pp. 3-30), his works (pp. 31-71), the transmission of the text (pp. 73-102), its language (pp. 103-12) and prosody and metrics (pp. 113-33). In examining the life of the author G. brings together the evidence preserved from outside his work,4 and studies his relationship with, on the one hand, Theocritus, Posidippus and Hedylus (pp. 7-19), and, on the other, Callimachus and the Telchines (pp. 19-30). In the section devoted to his works, G. analyses in detail the situation of epigram at the author's time and its significance in the evolution of the genre from stone to paper, highlighting its relationship with other literary traditions such as elegy, monody and comedy. He devotes a special section to the symposium and discusses the contribution to our knowledge of Hellenistic epigram represented by the discovery and publication of the Milan Papyrus. One of the most valuable contributions of this work is the use which G. makes of the new papyrus documents to determine the authorship of those epigrams doubly ascribed to Asclepiades and Posidippus. As regards the transmission of the text, G. offers a detailed study of the manuscripts, the papyri, the indirect tradition and the different editions,5 his description of the apographa being particularly useful. Among the manuscripts consulted he might have included ms. 4562 of the Biblioteca Nacional de España, Constantino Lascaris' autograph, even if it contains only two epigrams by Asclepiades, number XXVIII, on f. 106v., and XXIX, on f. 126r., and contributes little to the text: it differs from the readings of the Planudean manuscript only in XXVIII 2, where the Matritensis anticipates the Atticising reading of the 1566 edition by H. Estienne (not so in l. 4).

Although he expresses doubts regarding the advisability of doing so, G. opts for maintaining the traditional ordering of Gow-Page, except in those cases where these editors deal with the doubly ascribed epigrams under another author. This is not the criterion followed by D. Sider, or by L. Rossi, who follows C. Gallavotti3, or recently by L. Argentieri or the present reviewer.6

The study of each epigram is preceded by the revised text with a critical apparatus, its translation into Spanish, and the relevant bibliography. The line-by-line commentary is a solid and well-documented endeavour. G. pays particular attention to textual debates, leaving his position in each clear, and offers a detailed commentary on aspects as diverse as lychnomancy, the use of myth in erotic contexts, the game of anklebone jacks and Greek clothing.

However, especially since it is Asclepiades we are dealing with, we would have appreciated G.'s paying more attention on certain occasions to the use of amatory topoi and erotic lexis. Thus, for example, in the pointe of I 4 he does not mention the allusion to the mutual sexual pleasure of the lovers, the so-called Gleichzeitigkeit topos (by the way, Gow did not care about the gender of τοὺς φιλέοντας); and for the unparalleled euphemistic use of αἰνέω, cf. the obscene use of venerare in Hyg. Fab. 75.1 (see OLD 4). Besides, there is no mention of the chiastic interplay with the heat/cold contrast, heat representing what is pleasant or agreeable and cold signifying what is unpleasant or negative.7 The climax comes when the cold is sidelined and the image of the two lovers together under the blanket is recreated, which leads to the mutual joy of sexual pleasure (a similar image in Tib. 1.1.45-8). In II 4, for the erotic connotations of κεῖσθαι it would have been appropriate to point to the regular obscene use of requiescere. In IV 4, for the erotic use of ἔχειν, cf. LSJ A I 4, J. Henderson, The Maculate Muse, p. 156, Sider ad AP 5.308.3. There is a similar use of habeo in Latin (cf. ThlL 6.3.2409.37-40, J. N. Adams, The Latin Sexual Vocabulary, p. 187 [with numerous references from the AP itself]). VII 4 is not a proverb but a traditional amatory topos: no one can resist and fight against love. In his commentary on VIII 1, he does not relate it to the amatory topos of the uulnus amoris, mentioning a possible erotic connotation with which I cannot agree. Nor in VIII 3 is there any erotic content but rather one of the symptoms of love, or signa amoris, feeling faint. In XVI 4 he does not mention morbus amoris as a literary topos, and in XVI 5 he fails to comment on the relationship between wine and lovers who drink it unmixed in order to drown their sorrows. In XXV 11 it is preferable to assume a use of φιλεῖν for βινεῖν, not for πυγίζειν, as is pointed to by the parallels adduced by G. himself (cf., in addition, Hsch. s.v. βινεῖν). In XXXIV 3 G. fails to mention the topos of the diuina puella, present as early as Homer. In XXXVI 1-4 he does not comment on the fact that falling in love while observing the female (or male) lover bathing is a topos (cf. AP 9.566 [Zon.], Longus 1.13, Char. 2.2.2, Nonn. D. 7.256ff., 16.11-3 [see M.P. Pattoni, "Innamorarsi nella Lesbo di Longo", Eikasmos 15, 2004, 274-6]). In addition, for the instantaneous nature of love, see Kroll ad Catull. 64.86, Kost ad Musae. 86-95 and, recently, S. Goldhill, "The erotic experience of looking ...", in M. Nussbaum, J. Sihvola, eds., The Sleep of Reason, Chicago, 2002, 374-99. In XL it should be pointed out that the topos of the censorious old woman goes back at least as far as Archilochus (cf. fr. 196a 24-30 W.) and is frequent, for instance, in Aristophanes, who parodies the libidinous old woman in Eccl. 876ff. In XLI 4 πυρκαιή is said, metaphorically, "de ipso homine amato", in this case of an "extremely passionate or voluptuous woman", a unique usage. There is a similar use of ἀνθρακιή in AP 5.211.2 (Posidipp.) and of πῦρ in AP 5.6.5 (Call.) and 16.167.6 (Antip. Sid.) (for an equivalent use of ignis, see ThLL; and of flamma, see ThLL 6.867.70-3). And in XLII 1 it should be pointed out that the night is traditionally long not only in winter but also for those suffering from some kind of problem (cf. Apollod. fr. 3 K-A) and especially for the unrequited lover (cf. Hor. Od. 1.25.7-8 [with Nisbet-Hubbard 295], Prop. 1.12.13-4 [with Fedeli 295]).

Moreover, G. could perhaps have been more precise in a few aspects such as the following:

In I 2 it should have been explained why, of all the modern editors except Paton, who adopts the conjecture by Hecker without indicating so, G. is the only one to have στέφανον in lower case, when not only Stadtmüller, Waltz and Beckby, all three following Ludwich, but also Gow and Page opt for the capital.

In the introduction to VII, with reference to the use of an ὄλισβος on the part of a woman adopting the masculine role, an opinion defended by Koch-Harnack, as G. himself states, but also by A. Rist, "That Herodean diptich again", CQ 43, 1993, 440-4 and J. F. Martos Montiel, Desde Lesbos con amor: homosexualidad femenina en la Antigüedad, Madrid, 1996, p. 93 and "Homosexualidad femenina en Grecia y Roma", Orientaciones 2, 2001, 47. It should also be added that it is insinuated in Herod. 6.67-72 and later made very clear in Mart. 7.67.1-3 (with Galán Vioque 392-5). For lines 3-4 it is interesting to recall the words of Aphrodite in E. Hipp. 3-6.

In XXIX there is reference to the rhetorical dispute between Odysseus and Ajax over the arms of Achilles which became a topos for the pre-eminence of rhetorical skill over true virtue (cf. Hom. Il. 23.708-34, Ov. Met. 13.1-383, Q.S. 5.123-332). In this epigram, as in most of the literary testimonies, the fate of Ajax is considered unjust (cf. P. I. 4.35-9, Pl. Apol. 41b.; see RE I 1, 1893, 932-934 [Rossbach]). In l. 2 G. does not comment on the fact that shorn hair had been a sign of grief since Homer (cf. Od. 4.198, 24.46, Il. 23.46, E. Tr. 1183).

In XXXIV 2 there is a direct reference to Aphrodite's having fashioned the beauty of Irenion if we accept the conjecture by J. Martorelli, which improves the text.8 The deified maid (cf. l. 3) issues from Aphrodite's chambers, where she has been bedecked with all possible charms. Aphrodite is directly responsible for her charms, as she is in the case of Pandora, according to Hesiod's account (Op. 65-6), and even that of Hera in the famous scene of the hieros gamos (Il. 14.187-92). We can assume that Irenion's scenario is similar to that described in h.Ven. 60-7, where Aphrodite bedecks herself with the help of the Graces.

In the commentary to XXXVI 1 G. defends an interpretation already rejected by Jacobs 1799, II 1, 137; 1817, III 99, and Gow-Page (pp. 397-8). In ll. 5-8 there is play with the the double advocation of Aphrodite as goddess of love and goddess of seafarers, since she answers the prayers offered by the lover on land, first by making the coast mercifully welcome the beloved and secondly by making her return his love.

In XXXVIII 3 the invocation to Hermes, a problem not considered by G., although it is by Gow-Page and Fernández-Galiano, is explained by his status as god of deceit in an epigram in which the beauty of the youth described is such that, if he were to disguise himself with the attributes of Eros, he would fool Aphrodite herself (cf. Austin-Olson ad Ar. Th. 1202).

In XLIII 4 it is striking that it is the statue of Alexander that carries out the division of the realms, thus characterising the arrogance of Alexander, who moreover looks Zeus straight in the face, a further gesture of his lack of humility. There is also play with the encomiastic topos of the deification of sovereigns: Alexander is Zeus on earth, as opposed to the heavenly Zeus. For this topos, which ultimately derives from the belief that earthly power proceeds from the gods (Hom. Il. 9.98-9, Hes. Th. 96), see, with numerous parallels, Nisbet-Hubbard ad Hor. Od. 1.12.50.

Finally, in XLV 1 it should be stressed that in Hesiod the time of the encounter with the Muses is not specified (cf. Hunter ad Theoc. 7.21).

As regards the bibliography, G. has used practically all the works relating to Asclepiades and Greek epigram. We note only the absence of the articles by H. White, "Hesiod and the Muses", in New Essays in Hellenistic Poetry, Amsterdam, 1985, 87-91 (for XLV), J. Irigoin, "1974-1975. L' Anthologie grecque", in Tradition et critique des textes grecs, Paris, 1997, 89-103, K. Dover, "Two Women of Samos", in M. Nussbaum, J. Sihvola, eds., The Sleep of Reason, Chicago, 2002, 222-8, M. Di Marco, "Un amore perfetto (Asclep. 24 G.-P. = AP 12, 163)", in L. Belloni et al., edd., L'officina ellenistica. Poesia dotta e popolare in Grecia e a Roma, Trento, 2003, 145-67, and the unpublished thesis by M. Albrecht, The Epigrams of Posidippus of Pella, Dublin, 1996. The final result could certainly have been enriched by the commentaries of P. Fedeli on Propertius and the works of B. Lier, Ad topica carminum amatorium symbolae, Stettin, 1914 (included in S. L. Tarán, The Greek Anthology, New York, 1987), J. N. Adams, The Latin Sexual Vocabulary, London, 1982, E. Montero Cartelle, El latín erótico, Sevilla, 1991, A. Otto, Die Sprichwörter und sprichwortlichen Redensarten der Römer, Hildesheim, 1971 (= Leipzig, 1890), J. F. Martos Montiel, Desde Lesbos con amor: homosexualidad femenina en la Antigüedad, Madrid, 1996, and R. Tosi, Dizionario delle sentenze latine e greche, Milano, 20022 (= 1991).9

Still, this work is undoubtedly a valuable and highly recommendable aid for the understanding of the epigrams of Asclepiades, in addition to broadening our knowledge of Greek epigram of the Hellenistic period.

[*] This study was carried out during a research stay at the University of Cambridge, thanks to a mobility grant awarded by the Spanish Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia. I would like to thank J.F. Martos Montiel and Miryam Librán for their suggestions and J.J. Zoltowski for the English translation.


1.   O. I. Peters, Asklepiades von Samos, Diss. Leipzig, 1923, O. Knauer, Die Epigramme des Asklepiades von Samos, Diss. Würzburg, 1935 (included in S. L. Tarán, ed., The Greek Anthology, New York, 1987, a collection of studies not cited by G.) and A. S. F. Gow, D. L. Page, The Greek Anthology: Hellenistic Epigrams, Cambridge, 1965, I, 44-56; II, 114-51 (hereinafter, Gow-Page). The present year has witnessed the publication of another commentary which we have been unable to consult: I. Nastos, Asclepiades of Samos, Heraclion, 2005. The commentary by A. Sens announced by Oxford University Press has not yet appeared.
2.   These epigrams are also included in the recent edition of the opera omnia of Posidippus by C. Austin and G. Bastianini, Milano, 2002, a fact not mentioned by G.
3.   In addition to Asclepiades XLVII (apud P.Teb. 3.26-31), he includes SH 215, 216-7, 219, and 221.
4.   To the testimonies presented by Gow-Page G. adds Syll.3 492 (IG XII 9.1187) 1-17.
5.   Curiously, since they are not, strictly speaking, editions of P or of Pl, he does not mention the two most usual ones, those of Gow-Page and D. L. Page.
6.   D. Sider, The Epigrams of Philodemus, New York, 1997, L. Rossi, The Epigrams ascribed to Theocritus, Leeuven, 2001, L. Argentieri, Gli epigrammi degli Antipatri, Bari, 2003, G. Galán Vioque, Dioscórides, Huelva, 2001.
7.   The same interplay is found in XXXVI and in XLII.
8.   G. assigns it to Jacobs, but see Fernández-Galiano, Posidipo, p. 13, and C. Austin, G. Bastianini, Posidippi Pellaei ..., p. 162. G. does not mention the interesting conjecture proposed by Dilthey to l. 2, and defended by W. Ludwig in "Die Kunst der Variation im hellenistischen Liebesepigramm", L'épigramme grecque, Génève, 1968, p. 324, n. 2.
9.   G. does not list the commentaries of Nisbet-Hubbard on the Odes of Horace, or those of McKeown on Ovid's Amores, although he does mention them in the study.

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