Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2009.06.14

Cashman Kerr Prince, Chariton, Callirhoe. Book I.   Bryn Mawr:  Bryn Mawr Commentaries, 2009.  Pp. 57.  ISBN 9781931019057.  $9.50 (pb).  

Reviewed by Stephen M. Trzaskoma, University of New Hampshire (
Word count: 1316 words

Greek prose fiction of the imperial period offers instructors a delightful selection of texts for intermediate and advanced undergraduates, but only a few works of the age, such as Lucian's True History, have had any great presence in the classroom. The Greek romances have suffered from this neglect, a situation only exacerbated by a lack of commentaries. Longus has perhaps fared best of all, but until recently this was a slight distinction--we had only Lowe's brutally bowdlerized school commentary. Even that was better than the complete lack of commentaries on Chariton, Xenophon Ephesius, Achilles Tatius, or Heliodorus. For Longus we thankfully now have Morgan's excellent Aris and Phillips (though like all its series companions it is not geared toward providing consistent help for reading the Greek) and Byrne and Cueva's student edition (non vidi), both from 2004. It is a shame that we have had to wait until 2009 for anything at all on Chariton, "an undeservedly neglected novelist, and a writer of good Greek," in the words of Simon Slings. Now with the publication of Prince's new Bryn Mawr Commentary on the first book of Callirhoe instructors will have all the more reason to think of choosing a romance as reading for their students. Even if the commentary has deficiencies, some of them serious, it is an inexpensive and handy way to get an engaging text into an intermediate class with notes geared toward students who will often grope their way through what more experienced readers of Greek find straightforward.

After a short but enthusiastically appreciative introduction, Prince gives us a clean, modern text of Book 1. It is based on Reardon's fine recent Teubner edition, though he sensibly follows Goold's Loeb text here and there to avoid most of the lacunae and irremediably corrupt passages marked in the former.1 Very occasionally he chooses a reading or emendation favored by neither Reardon nor Goold (e.g., Beck's ἐτάκημεν at 1.2.3), but this is a volume intended for undergraduates, not a critical scholarly edition, so we need not overly concern ourselves with these instances.2 Misprints disproportionately torment beginners, and the text here is mercifully free of them.3

Elementary commentaries of this nature have in my mind one overarching goal: to increase significantly the speed at which relatively inexperienced undergraduates can make their way through a Greek text with confidence. They do so mostly by providing vocabulary, parsing unusual forms, and explaining idiomatic or particularly difficult passages, and the volume under review is no exception. I will confess up front that such commentaries often make me wonder whether there is a method to their madness. Is there some reason, for instance, that in 1.13.5 ἔπαυλις is glossed but just below in 1.13.7 προκαταλαμβάνω, the appropriate meaning of which is not to be found in any lexicon to which students have regular access, is passed over in silence even though it will come again shortly in 1.14.4 in a slightly different construction (cf. Lessico dei Romanzieri Greci s.v., where these instances of the verb are defined as "assicurarsi la prelazione" and "impegnare in un contratto" respectively)? In terms of annotation, is there a pedagogical purpose behind telling students that ὀφθῇ is "aor. pass. subj." without person or number and that ἀπῄει is "3rd sing. impf." without voice or mood but that δός is "2nd sing. aor. imper. act."?

This sort of thing, however, is a problem common to the format, and it may not be as troublesome to students as it is to a reviewer. The real key is accuracy, and unfortunately there is inconsistency in this regard. The vast majority of the information is correct and on the whole students with this commentary at hand will make their way through the text more quickly than they would without it. Helpful hints about forms and lexical information abound. 4 With enough frequency to be bothersome, however, Prince sometimes fails to give a properly contextualized gloss or identifying information. The ἔπαυλις I mentioned in the preceding paragraph, for instance, is not merely "quarters, lodgings" in Chariton but, as frequently in later Greek, specifically a country house or villa. This is hardly an isolated instance.5 So yes, all of the glosses and identifications will cut down on the brutally slow business of students' having to look absolutely everything up for themselves, but some of that time is stolen back by every inaccuracy and, what may be more problematic, student confidence is undermined. On p. 36 when we read that ἄξιοί εἰσι is an impersonal construction, we disagree and move on. We instantly recognize a simple typographical slip further down on the same page when we are told κατανεύσαντος comes from κατανοέω. And later, still on the same page, we pass over the gloss of εἰδυῖα as a present participle, knowing what Prince meant. We have these reactions, but the most careful of our students are not likely to. And even the most easygoing instructors are probably going to balk at the bottom of that same page when they find that adverbial αὐτοῦ in a citation of Homer is supposed to be an emphatic adjective in agreement with a feminine singular pronoun or that students are given no more help with epic λύτο than the note that it comes from ἔλυτο, which, even if it were an attested form, is of no help at all. Most pages do not have quite so many problems, but some others do.

Similar difficulties extend to syntax. On p. 35 we are told that μὴ ὑβρισθῶμεν is a prohibitory subjunctive and the reference to the appropriate section in Smyth is given, but it is hard to see how this can be anything but a negative purpose clause. Throughout, several of the explanations given for the use of μή in place of οὐ fail to account for Chariton's first-century usage, upon which Smyth was not based.6 Students will in my experience rarely stumble in their translations in such places, much less even notice that Chariton "ought" to have used οὐ in a given place, but I think it is worth pointing out and explaining such an occurrence as correctly and unobtrusively as possible. On a related note, other features which are not unusual for late Greek are passed over without comment (e.g., ἵνα introducing a result clause, the third-person reflexive standing for the first-person, or the active of λέγω taking an infinitive in indirect statement). These will not necessarily cause difficulties (it is a rare student in second or third year Greek who remembers all the rules for indirect statement), but one should have a policy in a commentary about when and how to broach such subjects. Perhaps a short description of some of the major features of Chariton's language could have been included in the introduction.

The upshot is that there are problems throughout the 24 pages of notes, though they are not evenly distributed or uniformly serious. I have detailed many of them in the notes below. They are not overwhelming, but they are unfortunate and too numerous. As Tyche would have it, I have been teaching Callirhoe to a group of third- and fourth-year students this term. In the end, if this commentary had been available to me I would likely have assigned it, warts and all. The errors and slips cannot entirely efface the good aspects of the work Prince has done. I am certainly pleased to see Chariton get a little attention and pleased to see that it will now be easier to teach him in Greek. However, instructors will want to look this commentary over carefully before deciding whether in its current form it will suit their needs and the needs of their students. I also hope that an improved edition will be possible down the road. We have a nice basis for a good student commentary here, and it would not take so very much to bring it to fruition.


1.   Prince does, however, leave Reardon's <...>γενει at 1.1.6 instead of adopting Cobet's [τῇ εὐ]γενεί[ᾳ] with Goold and others, leaving his assurance in the commentary that the genitive absolute "makes sense in its own right" at odds with the text students have in front of them.
2.   The one exception is 1.11.5, where, following Reiske, we either need ὅπου...ὁρμίσαι or ὅποι...ὁρμῆσαι, but not Prince's mixed ὅποι...ὁρμίσαι. One curiosity: Prince adopts Blake's δεινοτέραν at 1.8.1 but then goes ahead and brackets it for deletion anyway.
3.   I noted a few stray accents and a missing period after θαλάσσης at 1.14.7 (Prince's line 47), only the latter being likely to cause any trouble. There is a slightly higher rate of typographical errors in the notes.
4.   Forms are very occasionally misidentified: p. 45 "indicative" has slipped into the identification of ῥηθείσης; p. 48 ἀνερρίφθω is a perfect mid./pass. imperative not aorist passive and ἑωράκατε is plural, not singular.
5.   Examples: on p. 34 there is no hint given as to the existence of the idiom φέρεσθαι τὰ δεύτερα when τὰ δεύτερα is glossed, τέως cannot mean "meanwhile" here, and no explanation for the middle of πολιτεύω is offered; p. 35 τυγχάνω here means "obtain, succeed in getting," not "happen upon"; p. 36 the specific connection of μνηστεύω to marriage could be mentioned and ἑρμηνεύω means "describe, put into words," here not "interpret, explain"; p. 37 ἐκπνέω often implies "breathe one's last, expire" and is usually so taken here; p. 41 (where we have more than the usual number of these sorts of problems) ἅπτω means "undertake" here, not "fasten, fix upon" and we probably need λοιπόν in the sense "next, now" and στωμύλος in its positive sense of "suave." The noun ἅβρα is not the adjective ἁβρός. It would help to have some mention of the force of the middle in ἀπάγξεσθαι. ἀλύω means "hang out," not "wander, roam" here. These sorts of problems occur throughout the commentary, not on that page alone. On p. 46 ἐνταφίων refers not to generic "funerary honors" but to physical grave goods. On p. 47 πειρατήριον is a pirate crew, not a pirate's nest. On p. 50 ἐπιτάσσω can mean "place behind," but here it means "give orders," its usual meaning. On p. 53 ἀξιόω means "demand, ask" not merely "consider worthy, right" and μεγάλη Ἀσία is not "modern Asia Minor" but the Asian continent proper. Almost all of these are to be found in LSJ.
6.   There are several examples of syntactical misdirection, hardly limited to late usage or the unusual. On p. 39 ἀνδρὶ...ἱκανῷ is not a dative of association, but dative after ἐγχειρίζω; on p. 41 ἀκούσῃ is indeed "middle in form but active in meaning," but sending students to Smyth 540, which discusses contracted "Doric futures," seems a cruel way to repay their diligence when they will want 805-806; p. 46 the romantic interpretation of ἀδύνατον ἑαυτῷ τὴν σωτηρίαν as "it was impossible for him to save himself" based on Polycharmus' thinking of Chaireas "as an extension of himself" goes too far--it means nothing more than that it was impossible for him to save Chaireas; p. 46 νυμφικὴν ἐσθῆτα is not an accusative of respect, especially not of the kind in Smyth 1601.b; see instead 1604: "Not to be confused with the accusative of respect is the accusative after...the passives of 1632"; in 1632, one will find the passive of verbs of clothing with the accusative; p. 47 τὸ...γεγονέναι is identified as an articular infinitive, but it is translated as if it were τὸ γεγονός; the subject is, rather, the substantive τὸ δοκοῦν and the infinitive follows that participle; p. 49 ἀναμιμνήσκω is not a middle deponent, ἀναπνοαῖς is not a dative of respect, but dative after the prefix of ἐγγενομένης, and I do not believe that ἐγειρομένης is a genitive absolute but a genitive limiting αἴσθησιν; p. 52-3 the use of μή is said to belong to the category of "emphatic declaration" described at Smyth 2723, but Smyth there makes it clear that such constructions implicitly "involve a wish that the utterance may hold good" and this example does not pass that test (nor that of preceding the main verb).

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