Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2008.01.48

Valentina Garulli, Il Peri poiêtôn di Lobone di Argo.   Bologna:  Pàtron Editore, 2004.  Pp. 224.  ISBN 978-88-555-2793-4.  €16.00.  

Reviewed by Kathryn Gutzwiller, University of Cincinnati (
Word count: 2288 words

Lobo of Argos? Not a name familiar to most modern classicists, and probably not to most ancient scholars either. Lobo is known from only two references in the first book of Diogenes Laertius' Lives of Eminent Philosophers, where he is cited as a source of biographical or literary information on two of the Seven Sages, Thales and Epimenides (1.34-35, 112). The second citation gives the title of his work as Περὶ ποιητῶν. Nineteenth-century scholars assumed Lobo's authorship of scolia (the brief metrical sayings recited at symposia) quoted by Diogenes as the compositions of the Seven Sages and of epigrammatic couplets about early wisdom figures found in both Diogenes and other sources. There was considerable disagreement, however, about which poems could be confidently attributed to Lobo. In this revision of her tesi di laurea, Garulli reexamines what she calls the quaestio Loboniana in light of current scholarship on the ancient biographical tradition and recent concerns raised about the earlier reconstructions of On Poets.

The story of how two brief references in Diogenes Laertius led to the inclusion of seventeen couplets and six sets of scolia by "Lobo Argivus" in Lloyd-Jones and Parsons's Supplementum Hellenisticum (1983; retained in Lloyd-Jones' 2005 update) is a fascinating chapter in the excesses of Quellenforschung and its continuing effect upon our perception of what we know about antiquity. Garulli carefully leads us through this story, from Casaubon's suggestion that Lobo had composed the scolia attributed to the sages to Schneidewin's 1844 addition of the epigrams (as well as forged letters in Diogenes), to Hiller's 1878 influential condemnation of Lobo as a Schwindler for making up biographical and literary information and faking compositions. This process culminated in Crönert's 1911 edition of the testimonia and poetic texts, which was accepted as authoritative and formed the basis for Lloyd-Jones and Parsons's edition, which assigned the poetry to the third century B.C. In the context of recent suggestions that the assumptions on which Crönert's edition was based were too rigid or even wrong-headed,1 Garulli has reexamined the textual material in great detail, made careful judgments about what should be attributed to Lobo, and produced a new critical edition, based on her own examination of the manuscripts, that excludes all the scolia and admits fewer epigrams. She prints Crönert's edition at the beginning of the monograph and then at the end her own edition of the testimonia and poetic texts, divided into those considered securely Lobonian and those only possibly so.

Garulli works with the nineteenth-century idea of sigilla Lobonis, a set of textual similarities between passages in Diogenes' Lives (and even other texts) that, when taken as a group, were thought to signal Lobo as the source and the true author of the poetry quoted therein. These sigilla are: (1) bibliographic information that includes stichometric references in round numbers, (2) scolia, and (3) epigrammatic couplets said to have been inscribed on tombs or statues. These three indicators are present sequentially in Diogenes' life of Thales, where he attributes to Lobo of Argos the information that Thales' writings extend to about two hundred lines, the quotation of a couplet from a statue of Thales at Miletus, and the quotation of a set of Thales' "songs," or scolia. Although Garulli accepts rounded stichometric references as a legitimate sigillum, she is doubtful about the related view that Lobo was a complete fabricator of bibliography. She points out that some of the prose works mentioned in other supposedly Lobonian passages are cited elsewhere and that round stichometric references are not unique. She also accepts the scolia quoted by Diogenes for six of his sages as the second sign of descent from Lobo, based on a linguistic similarity in the introductory phrases. Even so, she excludes them from the material she considers composed by Lobo, following metrical evidence2 that the scolia came into the Περὶ ποιητῶν from a classical source, such as a Volksbuch or a prose Symposium recounting a banquet attended by the Sages. The third sigillum, the purported inscriptions, forms the heart of her study. She sets out to evaluate the couplets accepted by Crönert as Lobonian on the basis of criteria that, she argues, can establish which were certainly composed by the Argive.

The seven epigrams that Garulli considers indisputably by Lobo are those found in Diogenes' lives of Sages where all three sigilla are present (though not necessarily sequentially, without intervening material). From the common characteristics of this group, she establishes a set of criteria involving stylistic-compositional features and metrical-prosodic usage. In analyzing the relationship of the three consistent elements of SUBJECT-VERB-OBJECT, Garulli argues that one mark of Lobo's authorship is a compositional pattern in which the verb occupies the center position while the subjective and objective nouns and their modifiers occur in an intertwined order that lends tension and complexity to the couplet. In studying the metrics, she determines that the proportion of dactyls to spondees and the preference for masculine over feminine penthemimeral caesurae correspond to the uses of late classical or very early Hellenistic poets (e.g., Asclepiades and Posidippus) more closely than to the Callimachean refinements that dominated in many later Hellenistic epigrams. In prosody, correptio Attica is practiced, without exception. This also fails to accord with Callimachean usage, where correptio Attica is absent from his hexameter works, though sometimes admitted in epigram.

Based on these internal criteria, Garulli divides the testimonia and couplets edited by Crönert into four groups: (1) those passages containing information certainly by Lobo (including epigrams on statues for Thales, Solon, and Chilon, and epitaphs for Pittacus, Bias, Cleobulus, and Periander); (2) epigrams not by Lobo (an epitaph for Thales, a couplet on Arion [from Aelian], an epitaph for Sophocles [from the Sophoclean Vita);3 (3) epitaphs composed Lobonis more (on Linus [from Homeric scholia], Timotheus of Miletus [from Stephanus of Byzantium], and the tragedian Theodectes [also from Stephanus]); (4) epigrams in Diogenes' first book doubtfully by Lobo (on Musaeus and Linus). She discusses separately the problem of the Orpheus epitaph that occurs in Diogenes' life of that poet, just after Musaeus and Linus. The example of the Orpheus epitaph is complicated because it shares two words from its hexameter and its entire pentameter with the first couplet of a quatrain that descends from a fourth-century text by Alcidamas and shares its opening two words with a couplet known from the Aristotelian Peplos. Garulli considers plausible Benndorf's suggestion that Lobo composed the couplet by contaminating elements from the earlier epitaphs, but she ultimately decides to suspend judgment on authorship.

The most generally useful part of the book is Garulli's final discussion of the literary and cultural setting for Lobo's Περὶ ποιητῶν. She points out that a number of other such titles are known, including lost works by Damastes of Sigeum, Glaucus of Rhegium (both late fifth or early fourth century), Aristotle, Praxiphanes, Heraclides Ponticus (all active in the fourth century), and the somewhat later Dionysius from Phaselis. Although Lobo's possible dates extend from the end of the fifth century B.C. to the second century A.D., Garulli sensibly thinks him a Peripatetic writer of the late fourth or third century B.C. She shows how his assumed subjects fit into the biographical and pinacographical tradition that, under Aristotelian influence, supplemented historically knowable information about authors with plausible inferences, which were often supported by the citation of texts, including supposed inscriptions. These cited texts served the purpose of confirming, with a note of historical authenticity, information about the author's life, literary characteristics, or stated beliefs. Many such epigrams circulated in antiquity, usually anonymously; they are often labeled Buchpoesie, but in origin they were likely derived from various sources, including portrait statues and prefaces to literary works. Famously, Varro wrote an Imagines on 700 individuals, which included epigrams for their images composed by various authors. Lobo's work may have served as a model for that collection, and is often compared to the Aristotelian Peplos, which contained information on heroes, including genealogies, epitaphic couplets, and cult honors. Just as the heroic status of those celebrated in the Peplos was supported by epitaphs that guaranteed their place of burial, so in Lobo's treatise the Seven Sages and other legendary figures were given "inscriptions" typically naming the cities that celebrated them.

Despite the careful work that underlies this book, issue can be taken with some of its methodology and conclusions.

Garulli's main contribution to the so-called quaestio Loboniana (only classicists could worry over such a topic!) is her new set of criteria for establishing Lobo's authorship of couplets. The discussion of stylistic and compositional elements found in her seven securely Lobonian poems convincingly suggests a common origin for these poems. My own quick survey of such couplets in the Palatine Anthology and in the Peplos uncovered no others with exactly the same approach to the basic SUBJECT-VERB-OBJECT core. It seems hazardous, however, to take this compositional style as an author's rigorous signature, to the exclusion of all others. A composer of couplets on similar subjects might well want to vary his style, and the 48 epitaphs that survive as a group from the Peplos show a number of different structural patterns. Of course, Garulli adds to this criterion her metrical and prosodic analysis, but this evidence is even more dubious. The central problem is the smallness of the sample. Since only seven couplets fall into Garulli's category of certainly Lobonian, her analysis of metrical patterns and the presence or absence of correptio epica and correptio Attica is based on only fourteen lines, seven hexameters and seven pentameters. This is hardly enough to give any reliable statistical pattern.

More serious to my mind is Garulli's inability to distinguish between the plausibility that certain passages in Diogenes were derived from Lobo and the complete lack of proof that Lobo composed any poems. In his first citation, Diogenes does not say that Lobo composed the Thales epigram, only that he transmitted it as a genuine inscription, and in the second citation Diogenes does not mention any poetry at all, either transmitted or composed by Lobo. In fact, the Epimenides passage attributes to the Argive only the information that the sage established in Athens a shrine of the Semnai, or Eumenides. In other words, there is no statement, in Diogenes or in any other ancient source, that Lobo composed couplets (or scolia). The idea of Lobo as a fake author of inscriptions was surely influenced at its inception by Diogenes' inclusion of his own epigrams on philosophers, which he freely admits to have composed himself. Garulli accepts the arguments of other scholars that the scolia attributed to the Seven Sages were taken over by Lobo from an earlier source. Why could the couplets not also have been extracted from an earlier author? Garulli's stylistic similarities may support single authorship, but they do not prove the author was Lobo. In fact, her metrical-prosodic analysis, which shows usages typical of pre-Callimachean poetic practice, fits with composition in the classical age, and Garulli cites any number of phrases from classical inscriptions incorporated into "Lobo's" poetry, which she explains as attempts at imitating an earlier style. Why not assume that Lobo culled his couplets from some earlier prose author who had included epigrams in a discussion of σοφοί? Likely suspects can be found in the above list of those who wrote treatises on poets.

In addition, a parallel for the problem of the Lobonian couplets is found in the epitaphs surviving from the Peplos. Based on the studies of nineteenth-century scholars (including the same Schneidewin who studied Lobo), these poems have been assumed to be Hellenistic forgeries inserted into a Peripatetic prose text.4 In a forthcoming article, I show that an epitaph for Oedipus which is inscribed on a Lucanian vase securely dated to the first quarter of the fourth century B.C. replicates a Peplos epigram and that known classical inscriptions were apparently modeled on other of the epitaphs for heroes.5 We may therefore conclude that the Peplos epitaphs were, at least in basic form, pre-Hellenistic and even pre-Aristotelian. Both the Orpheus epitaph from the Peplos and the Orpheus epitaph in Diogenes Laertius (from Lobo?) resemble an epitaph in Alcidamas, as mentioned above, and epitaphs for Hesiod and Homer were, it seems, included in the fourth-century portion of the Certamen by Alcidamas. About the end of the fifth century, Damastes of Sigeum, who wrote an On Poets and Wise Men, also wrote a genealogical work on heroes. He may be the source for many of these anonymous couplets.

In conclusion, Garulli offers a careful survey of earlier scholarship on the minor figure of the Argive Lobo and a competent analysis of the evidence for his On Poets, resulting in a new edition of passages likely deriving from that work. The corpus of material thought to be from Lobo has been reduced, and the main point of interest that this figure held in the past -- his rather scandalous reputation as a forger of facts and verses -- has, hopefully, been put to rest. Though we still know little of the scope of Lobo's study of early poets (and the statement about Epimenides as the founder of an Athenian shrine, with its hint of an interest in cult practice, has been neglected as a guide to Lobo's biographical approach), Garulli has managed to place him in a largely Peripatetic tradition of constructing plausible, if not provable, biography. She has, however, been unable to escape the weight of nineteenth-century scholarship entirely, since she fails to question Lobonian authorship of the epigrams on the Sages in Diogenes. The concept of Hellenistic fakery still seduces. In truth, the complicated relationship between traditions inherited from the classical world and Hellenistic ways of shaping that inheritance does not lend itself to such an easy solution.


1.   Especially, C. F. Farinelli, "Lobone di Argo ovvero la psicosi moderna del falso antico," AION(filol) 22 (2000) 367-79.
2.   She relies especially on A. K. Kolár, "De quibusdam carminibus in Diogenis Laertii Vitis," Eunomia 3 (1959) 59-67.
3.   Some scholars have created a third reference to Lobo, independent of Diogenes, by emending λαβών to Λόβων in the Vita.
4.   A conclusion accepted by Alan Cameron, The Greek Anthology from Meleager to Planudes (Oxford, 1993) 388-93.
5.   K. Gutzwiller, "Heroic Epitaphs of the Classical Age: The Aristotelian Peplos and Beyond," Archaic and Classical Greek Epigram, ed. Andrej Petrovic, Ivana Petrovic, Manuel Baumbach (Cambridge, forthcoming).

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