Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2008.04.23

Bruno Gentili, Carmine Catenacci, Polinnia. Poesia greca arcaica. Terza edizione.   Firenze:  G. D'Anna Casa, 2007.  Pp. x, 405.  ISBN 978-88-8104-845-8.  €21.00 (pb).  



Reviewed by Lucia Athanassaki, University of Crete (athanassaki@phl.uoc.gr)
Word count: 1628 words

This is the third, revised and augmented, edition of an anthology that has enjoyed a central position in the study of archaic poetry since its first appearance in 1948. The first edition (1948) by G. Perrotta and B. Gentili was revised and significantly enriched by Gentili in the second edition (1965). B. Gentili and C. Catenacci have followed the same principle in the third edition: they have retained a great part of the second edition and they have revised and added much more. The third edition includes texts that papyri have meanwhile brought to light, integrates recent focus on the social function and the performance contexts of archaic poetry, and fully reflects Bruno Gentili's own pioneer work and immense contribution that has paved the way. As the authors state in the preface, the present edition does not aim to be solely a textbook but has broader cultural objectives. They have admirably succeeded in producing a book that offers simultaneously a microscopic and macroscopic analysis of archaic poetry and its cultural background and that will be an up-to-date inspiring guide for Italian students. The few criticisms that I voice are certainly not meant to diminish the great value of this book, they are simply suggestions for a future revised edition.

The book includes a Preface focusing mainly on issues of orality and literacy, music, and dance (pp. 1-12), a translation of selected poems by Gentili (pp. 367-86), and two Appendices, one on Lesbian and one on Laconian dialect (pp. 387-404). The main body of the book is divided into four parts according to genre and mode of performance: Elegy: Callinus, Tyrtaeus, Solon, Mimnermus, and Theognis (pp. 13-76); Iambus: Archilochus and Hipponax (pp. 77-118); Monodic Lyric: Sappho, Alcaeus, and Anacreon (pp. 119-230); and Choral Lyric: Alcman, Stesichorus, Ibycus, Simonides, Pindar, and Bacchylides, concluding with Euripides' epinician for Alcibiades (231-366). The metrical, linguistic, and interpretive commentary of the selected poems is prefaced by a general introduction to the life and repertoire of each poet. The inherent difficulties of such a classification are of course notorious. The decision of the authors to privilege genre/performance mode has led to inevitable contradictions: the poetry of Archilochus, for instance, is classified under 'Iambus' but the anthology of his poetry opens with the elegiac fragments 1, 4, 2, 5, and 11W. Similarly, Sappho's poetry is classified under 'Monody', but as the authors observe in their introduction (p. 124) she composed songs for both solo and choral performance. Likewise, Simonides' Plataea elegy forms part of the category of 'Choral Poetry'. This classificatory principle has certainly precedents, e.g. Douglas Gerber's Loeb edition of Elegiac and Iambic Poetry, and the authors certainly clarify matters in the prefaces of each category or author. Yet since the primary audience of the Gentili-Catenacci anthology are beginners, classification by author, as in Campbell's (1967, rev. 1982) or Hutchinson's (2001) anthologies, for instance, would have been paedagogically much more effective.

There is both much that is familiar from the second edition of Polinnia and much that is new. The 3rd edition includes a great number of illustrations, mainly maps and vases, and as mentioned above, a general introduction to each author. The first three parts, i.e. 'Elegy', 'Iambus', and 'Monody' are partially revised with some very important additions: (a) a chapter on the Symposium as locus of performance and bibliographical references for further reading (pp. 62-64), which forms the bridge in the transition from Theognis to Xenophanes (pp. 65-76) which is also a new section; (b) the Cologne Archilochus (pp. 105-111); (c) the New Sappho (Gronewald-Daniel, ZPE 2004) with references to the ongoing scholarly discussion up to 2005 ( pp. 165-168).

The choral poetry section is clearly the most thoroughly rethought and revised part in the 3rd edition. The General Introduction is a concise and informative treatment of central aspects of choreia, i.e. chorus identity, the problem of the speaking 'I', the artificiality of the distinction of choral vs. monodic poets, the festivals that provided the context of choral performances, and the various genres. Not everybody of course will agree with the view, based (I assume) on its length, that Pindar's Pythian 4 was composed for solo performance -- think of the parodos of the Agamemnon, and the same applies to the idea of a non-singing Stesichorean chorus. In any event, a reference to Anne Burnett's important treatment of the issue, 'Jocasta in the West. The Lille Stesichorus' CA 7 (1988), should have been given in the Bibliography on p. 237. Stesichorus is a welcome new addition. The authors select one fragment of the Geryonis (S15, col. II, 5-17 Davies) and one of the Palinode(s) (192 Davies). Without underestimating problems of space I think that the best preserved part of the Lille Stesichorus (222b, 201-34 Davies), which the authors discuss briefly in the general introduction (p. 252), deserves a place in an anthology in which great effort has been made to include new finds. The same is true for the Louvre partheneion. The authors summarize Gentili's own views (Poetry and Its Public 1988, pp. 72-77) in the Introduction to Alcman (pp. 239-40), but students should have direct access to this unique text, which is far more important for the study of choreia than the many inconclusive one-line fragments that the authors have chosen to retain in this edition. The section on Ibycus is enriched with the encomium to Polycrates (S151 Davies) and that on Simonides with a number of poems (520, 579, 581, 507, 515 and 531 Page) and the Plataea Elegy (with a useful general discussion and bibliographical references to the growing body of scholarship in addition to a detailed commentary). The Simonidean selection like the Pindaric and Bacchylidean ones that immediately follow is classified under 'Epinician' and framed by a concise opening discussion of the genre and its performance (p. 273) and a concluding section on ancient athletics with bibliographical references for further reading (p.358-363). The authors draw attention to the versatility of the three poets and mention briefly the various genres in which they tried their hand (in each of the three introductions, pp. 275-76, 312 and 340 respectively, and in the discussions of individual non-epinician poems).

In the second edition of Polinnia the poetry of Pindar and Bacchylides seemed an afterthought: Pindar was represented only by the charming Olympian 14 (for Asopichos of Orchomenos) and Bacchylides by c. 6 (for Lachon of Ceos). The picture is completely different in this edition. The authors have omitted Olympian 14 and opted instead for Olympian 12 (for Ergoteles of Himera), Pythian 3 (for Hieron), and frs. 33c-d (for Delos), 43, and 127 Maehler. In the Bacchylidean section the ode of Lachon is retained and c. 3 (for Hieron) is added. The choice of two odes by different poets for the same addressee has the obvious advantage of inviting stylistic and other comparisons. The detailed introductions and commentaries on the epinicians are complemented by a number of vase illustrations of athletic scenes and Myson's representation of Croesus on the pyre.

I will discuss in somewhat greater detail the short Olympian 12, because it exemplifies the many strengths and merits of this book. This ode, classified by the Alexandrians as an Olympian, was actually composed to celebrate a Pythian victory. The date of the ode has been disputed; the authors opt for 470, but include a reference to Barrett, who in JHS 1973 argued in favor of 466. Personally, I find Barrett's arguments more convincing, but aside from this difference of opinion, the presentation of the historical background in the Introduction and in individual notes is exemplary and a number of interpretive suggestions very attractive. The historical background, based mainly on Diodorus Siculus, will offer the students of the ode immediate answers concerning the chronology and rationale for Ergoteles' migration to Himera. In addition, the authors adduce two coins: a late sixth-century drachma showing that the emblem of Himera was the cock and a fifth-century tetradrachm (470-450) representing the nymph Himera offering a libation at an altar. On the basis of the late sixth-century drachma the authors draw attention to the pragmatic dimension of the choice of cock-fight simile in the epode (13-15), which at once stresses the competitive nature of Ergoteles and brings out his close ties to Himera by alluding to the emblem of the city. Moreover, following Thomas Gelzer's influential classification of this and a number of other epinicians as odes composed for performance right after the victory ('Mousa authigenes', MH 1985) the authors make the attractive suggestion that Olympian 12 was composed for a first performance at Delphi to be followed by a second performance at home upon Ergoteles' return. On their interpretation the conclusion of the ode offers us a clue as to the locus of performance at home: the extra-urban sanctuary of the Nymphs in Termi Imeresi. This is a very attractive suggestion that explains the concluding image and gains strength from the preceding allusion to the emblem of Himera by means of the cock-fight simile.

I have singled out Olympian 12 for mention partly because it is a new addition to the 3rd edition, but also because it exemplifies the clear and thorough presentation of the evidence, the judicious and detailed discussions of individual passages and general issues, and the fresh ideas in the new sections that characterize the book as a whole. The wealth of illustrated artifacts from beginning to end serve as a constant reminder of the interaction between poetry and art. Bruno Gentili and Carmine Catenacci have produced a very rich, scholarly, and inspiring anthology that, as the collaborative work of three generations of scholars, ties the past with the present and the future. It will undoubtedly do as much for the study of Greek lyric in Italy and elsewhere as the two previous editions.

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