Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2010.02.02

Denis M. Searby, The Corpus Parisinum. A Critical Edition of the Greek Text with Commentary and English Translation. A Medieval Anthology of Greek Texts from the Pre-Socratics to the Church Fathers, 600 B.C. - 700 A.D. 2 vols.   Lewiston, NY:  The Edwin Mellen Press, 2007.  Pp. xiii, 1000.  ISBN 978-0-7734-5300-5.  $189.95.  

Reviewed by Stefano Martinelli Tempesta, Università degli Studi di Milano (
Word count: 2300 words

After having been on the wane during the first half of the 20th century, the transmission of Greek gnomological literature has become a topic to which scholarship has devoted renewed and careful attention, especially in the last decade. This is confirmed by a number of studies1 and critical editions,2 which have increased our knowledge and understanding both of the compilation techniques and of the different lines of transmission.

In this context, Denis Searby's edition of the well known Corpus Parisinum (hereafter CP) will certainly be warmly welcomed by scholars who deal with both textual transmission and textual criticism in the field of classical and patristic Greek literature as well as of the Greek gnomological tradition. This edition was a desideratum since Anton Elter's times. Although Searby's humorous introductory statement ("Anton Elter is probably spinning in his grave, saying: 'That's not what I meant by an edition of the Corpus Parisinum'", p. xi) is probably right, we must be grateful to the author for the completion of such a difficult task.

A commendatory foreword by Dimitri Gutas opens the book, which consists of three parts. The first one (pp. 1-112) is a wide and thorough introduction, in which Searby discusses a number of issues, ranging from technical terminology (pp. 1-8), to the problem of the sources (pp. 9-47), the history of the Greek gnomological tradition from the perspective of CP (pp. 50-59 draw an interesting and up-to-date picture: see in particular the diagram at p. 59) and the scholarly discovery of CP (pp. 60-69). In the last pages, Searby addresses three main problems: the relationships between the manuscripts of CP, those between CP and the other relevant indirect witnesses (in particular Pseudo-Maximus), and finally those between CP and its sources (Sacra Parallela, Stobaeus, DIE, the GV-tradition: pp. 71-86). In his conclusion, Searby expounds the aims and principles of his edition (pp. 87-106), with some concluding remarks and recommendations (pp. 107-112).

Part II (pp. 115-413) contains the critical edition of the eight sections of CP as they actually appear in the only two complete witnesses (P = Parisinus Graecus 1168; D = Oxoniensis Digby 6): CP1, an anthology arranged by author's name containing quotations taken from the Christian Fathers, the Old Testament (in a few cases from the New Testament, as well), as well as from Philo; CP2, a selection of 14 theosophic Christian oracles attributed to Greek pagan authors; CP3, a florilegium profanum arranged by author; CP4, excerpta from the florilegium of John Stobaeus arranged thematically; CP5, a short version of the collection called DIE (Democritus, Isocrates, Epictetus); CP4B, a brief series of maxims and apophthegms taken from John Stobaeus (to be sure, these belong to CP4, but are now dislocated both in P and D); CP6, an alphabetically arranged apophthegmatic collection related to the tradition of the so-called Gnomologium Vaticanum; CP7, an alphabetically arranged collection of Menandri sententiae. Searby offers a continuous text with a continuous series of four apparatuses: a critical apparatus (A), a parallel apparatus containing references to Sybille Ihm's edition of Ps.-Maximus (B), another parallel apparatus devoted to other collections variously related to CP (C), and finally a fourth apparatus (D) listing the original sources, when identifiable, or other important sources that could not be suitably placed in the preceding apparatuses.

Part III (pp. 417-856) consists of notes to and translation of the whole CP. Each section is preceded by an introduction and the selections are followed by supplementary gnomological parallels (p. 417: "merely less important additions to the main parallels cited in Apparatus B, C or D") and occasionally by other references (p. 417: "in general, only recent collections of fragments are cited, though important and still unreplaced collections such as SVF and D-K are also included"). In this section -- rather than in apparatus B of part II, as we should expect -- we find the references to Sargologos' edition of Ps.-Maximus. As the author says (p. 418), these notes are not exhaustive and "generally only aspects of transmission, attribution and textual problems are touched upon".

At pp. 857-898 the reader will find seven useful Appendices. Appendix I (p. 857) reproduces the table in which Anton Elter in Gnomica Homoeomata, col 8, compares Plutarch's sayings in ms. P (= A), similes in ms. Vaticanus Graecus 1144, f. 223 (= R), similes in ms. Vaticanus Graecus 743, f. 46v (= Plut.) and Demophili sententiae (= Dem.). In Appendix II (pp. 858-860) we find a comparison between CP and the contents of mss. S (Parisinus Suppl. Gr. 690) and V (Vaticanus Graecus 1357). In Appendix III (pp. 861-862) Searby gives an account of minor collections related to CP, in particular of mss. Parisinus Graecus 1630 (Sa) and Parisinus Coislinianus Graecus 249 (Pa). Appendix IV (pp. 863-886) offers a full comparison between Ps.-Maximus and CP. The table of Appendix V allows easy comparison between the contents of Sacra Parallela, S, V and CP1. Appendix VI consists of a comparison between Basil's excerpts in CP1 and other sources. Finally, Appendix VII lists minor orthographical deviations in mss. P and D not reported in the critical apparatus.

A nearly comprehensive bibliography (pp. 899-926),3 three indices (an index locorum, a select index of personal names and a select index of Greek words) and a full synopsis of CP with references to Sternbach's Excerpta Parisina, pp. 58-59 (= CP1), 53-58 (= CP3) complete the two volumes. An index of manuscripts would have been very useful.

It is impossible either to give a detailed account or to discuss every questionable point of such a complex book, so I will confine myself to few critical remarks about Searby's editorial technique and textual choices.4 When dealing with gnomological traditions, we should adopt either of two different perspectives: (a) we can use our witnesses in order to reconstruct the original form of each selection as far as possible;5 this is, in my opinion, the best way, if our aim is to collect the maxims of a single author.6 (b) On the other hand, if we decide to edit a gnomological collection as a whole, we should remember that, in this particular kind of 'open' textual tradition, a single manuscript may represent not only a different redaction, but even an altogether new work within one and the same gnomological tradition. In the case of CP,7 we have a lost Urfassung, containing CP1, CP2 and CP3 (Gerlach's 'Redaktion A'), from which two different redactions stem. On the one side, we have an augmented collection, now preserved in two twin manuscripts (P, Parisinus Graecus 1168, of the 14th cent., and D, Oxoniensis Digby 6, of the 15th or 16th cent.:8 Gerlach's 'Redaktion B' = CP1-6) and reflected by one indirect witness (Ps.-Maximus), thanks to which we know that Menandri sententiae (CP 7) were added to the common ancestor of P and D (Ps.-Maximus ignores them); on the other side, we have a reduced collection (Gerlach's 'Redaktion A2'), now partially reproduced in S (Parisinus Suppl. Gr. 690, of the end of the 11th cent.9) and V (Vaticanus Graecus 1357, of the 14th cent.).10 Such a complicated situation has an important consequence: if our aim is to account for the largest version of the collection (i.e. the last stage in the evolution of the text), we should confine ourselves to publishing a text which represents the common ancestor of P and D (i.e what Searby refers to as CP, including Menandri sententiae11), given that the reconstruction of what Searby calls 'Proto-CP' (the ancestor of CP which is the direct source of Ps.-Maximus) often remains a problematic task (Ps.-Maximus must be considered an indirect witness). On editing the ancestor of PD, we should resist the temptation of printing a text which offers, wherever possible, the wording common to Ps.-Maximus, V and S. This choice could possibly provide a solution to the (alleged) textual problems in the ancestor of PD, but this would result in an editorial paradox: we would end up editing the external shape of a later container (the ancestor of PD), whose contents are consistent with an earlier one. Needless to say, the reader should be in a position to know the status of the text in each phase of its earlier transmission (or in the different recensions of the same gnomological tradition), but such information should find its natural place in an apparatus.

Searby is an expert on gnomological transmission and is well acquainted with the difficulties in editing anthologies and gnomologies (see, e. g., pp. 87-89). Not surprisingly, then, he maintains that "the first aim of the present edition is, simply, to provide thorough information on the contents of mss. P and D and, thus, of their hyparchetype CP" (p. 93). This is, in my opinion, quite a cautious editorial decision. Yet, if we look at the text and the critical apparatus, we note that in a number of cases Searby's textual choices are not consistent with his editorial principles. In particular, he often uses Ps.-Maximus, S, V or at times even other parallel sources to 'emend' 'mistakes' of the ancestor of P and D. This is not, of course, a wrong criterion in itself; yet, we should not forget two important typical features of such an 'open' text as a gnomology: a tendency to change the wording, on the one side, and linguistic stratification, on the other. Searby is well aware of the problem in the case of sources other than S, V and Ps.-Maximus (see p. 100), but in order to reconstruct the ancestor of P and D (CP) he accords S and V "a nearly equal status for the constitution of the text for the relatively small number of excerpts contained in them ... more importance being given to the reading in S as the older ms." (p. 95). Leaving aside the doubtful criterion testis antiquior potior, this statement is inconsistent with the diagram proposed by Searby at p. 75, and with his principal aim "to provide thorough information on the contents of mss. P and D and, thus, of their hyparchetype CP".

Just a few instances: at CP3 75 Searby adds suo marte μᾶλλον before . Although classical Greek does not allow instead of μᾶλλον , the construction is not unusual in later Greek.12 At CP3 392 (a section of CP3 preserved in D, not in P) Searby adds the name Diogenes at the beginning of the apophthegm, drawing it from an alleged lemma in S (see also p. 642). I have not at hand a microfilm of S, so I cannot confirm if 'Diogenes' is indeed a lemma in this ms. (yet the absence of δὲ after ἰδὼν leaves me skeptical), and, if this is the case, we should add a dot (which is actually missing in Searby's text) after 'Diogenes', so as to avoid such an odd sequence as Διογένης ἰδὼν δὲ. Yet I wonder if it is necessary to introduce a disturbing lemma in one branch of the tradition (Gerlach's 'Redaktion A'), drawing it from the other one (Gerlach's 'Redaktion B'). At CP 6 18 Searby (see the discussion at p. 774) prints τί μέγιστον according to GV (Gnomologium Vaticanum in Vaticanus Graecus 743) and WA (Der Wiener Apophthegmen-Sammlung in Vindobonensis Theol. Gr. 149) instead of τί μερὶς according to P, D and K (Mosquensis S. Synod. 439, a ms. of the GV-tradition contaminated with the so-called απμ).13 I think we should accept the reading of PD (K), which is certainly bad but not intolerable Greek (of course we are not dealing with classical Greek). The meaning would be: 'what is the part belonging to men by right as a reward for their good actions' (for μερίς = 'fate, lot' in Christian Fathers see Lampe's Dictionary s.v. A.2.a). Probably (but I am less sure about this) we need not print τίς μερίς, if we understand 'What we should expect as'. To be sure, this is a bit far-fetched for standard Greek, but still possible, especially when dealing with such a 'literary' product. I agree with Searby that μέγιστον is probably the original reading of the apophthegm, but we are editing the ancestor of PC, and such a reading was not found there. We can detect a similar problem, e. g., in the text printed at CP 6 23: following Ps.-Maximus and Diongenes Laertius (μετρεῖν ὡς), Searby emends the text of PD (μετρίως D, μετριῶς P), but I think that we should print the text of D(P) and simply put commas instead of ano stigmai after βιωσομένους and after κακούς ('he used to say that men who are going to live with such a moderation both for a long and for short while should either ... or ...').

Searby's choice of reference editions is sometimes questionable, as in the case of Isocrates. Mathieu-Brémond's edition is no more than a second best (after Benseler-Blass') for the two passages De pace 93 and Panath. 30-32, which are not included in the incomplete but still unsurpassed edition of Engelbert Drerup (I, Lipsiae 1906, now reprinted by Olms, Hildesheim 2004). Drerup's edition offers the best critical apparatus so far for Ad Dem., Ad Nic.14 and Nic. and contains plenty of textual information about the presence of Isocrates (or Ps.-Isocrates) in the main gnomologies (in CP, as well). I would have appreciated a comparison between the Isocratean selections in CP and the so-called Excerpta Parisina (fully reported by Drerup, a well as by Seck) the earliest witness of which is an important manuscript of the CP tradition, namely S.15

Notwithstanding my critical remarks, Searby's edition of CP is an important book, which will certainly improve our knowledge of Greek gnomological tradition. Thanks to Searby's edition, scholars will eventually have access to the whole CP and to a mass of information not only about various stages of CP's transmission, but about related gnomological traditions as well.


1.   See, e.g., M. S. Funghi (a cura di), Aspetti di letteratura gnomica nel mondo antico, I, Firenze 2003; R. M. Piccione - M. Perkams (hrsg.), Selecta colligere, I, Akten del Kolloquiums "Sammeln, Neuorden, Neues Schaffen. Methoden der Überlieferung von Texten in der Spätantike und in Byzanz" (Jena, 21.-23. Novembre 2002) , Alessandria, 2003; M. S. Funghi (a cura di), Aspetti di letteratura gnomica nel mondo antico, II, Firenze 2004; R. M. Piccione -M. Perkams (hrsg.), Selecta colligere, II, Beiträge zur Technik des Sammelns und Kompilierens griechischer Texte von Antike bis zum Humanismus, Alessandria, 2005. An excellent study on CP is now available: J. Gerlach, Gnomica Democritea in Studien zur gnomologischen Überlieferung der Ethik Demokrits und zum Corpus Parisinum, Wiesbaden 2008 (Serta Graeca, 26), pp. 207-408.
2.   A full and up to date list of the editions of gnomological texts is available in Gerlach, Gnomica Democritea (see n. 1), pp. XXIII-XXVII. Let me just add the splendid edition of Menandri sententiae by Carlo Pernigotti: C. Pernigotti, Menandri Sententiae, Firenze 2008.
3.   However, there are some major omissions: e. g. the two miscellaneous volumes edited by M. S. Funghi (see n. 1), nearly all of Pernigotti's contributions to the Menandri sentientiae (see Pernigotti, n. 2], pp. 554-555) and a number of contributions by R. M. Piccione, which are fully listed in Gerlach, Gnomica Democritea (see n. 1), p. XXXI. See also Piccione's important review of S. Ihm, Ps.-Maximus Confessor. Erste kritische Edition einer Redaktion des sacro-profanen Florilegiums Loci communes, Stuttgart 2001 (Palingenesia, 73), in MEG 4 (2004), pp. 281-288. Other omissions and minor mistakes in Searby's bibliography are listed by T. Dorandi, rev. of Searby's CP, in Elenchos 28.2 (2007), pp. 482-487. Let me also add the old but important Sexti sententiarum recensiones Latinam Graecam Syriacam coniunctim adhibuit Io. Gildemeister, Bonnae ad Rhenum, 1873. An important contribution to the knowledge of ms. Baroccianus 50 (dating to the first half of the 10th cent. rather than, as Searby writes at p. 23, to the 11th [recte at p. 21]) has now appeared: F. Ronconi, I manoscritti greci miscellanei. Ricerche su esemplari dei secoli IX-XII, Spoleto 2007, pp. 91-131. Note also that an important study on Diogenes Laertius and the gnomological tradition is now available in T. Dorandi, Laerziana. Capitoli sulla tradizione manoscritta e sulla storia del testo delle Vite dei filosofi di Diogene Laerzio, Berlin - New York 2009, pp. 174-179.
4.   The reader interested in a thorough methodological discussion of Searby's edition should read J. Gerlach, "Die kompositorische Einheit des Corpus Parisinum. Eine methodologische Stellungnahme zu Searbys Gesamtedition", MEG 8 (2008), pp. 201-253.
5.   Of course I do not mean the original form of the identified source (either preserved or not), which should be recorded (if preserved) or restored (if lost) in an apparatus. I simply mean the oldest achievable text in that gnomological tradition.
6.   In the case of lost authors the task is very similar (though by no means identical) to that of editing a collection of fragments. An excellent example of this editorial technique is Gerlach's book (see n. 1).
7.   I follow the stemma codicum and the genetic diagram proposed by Gerlach in Gnomica Democritea (see n. 1), pp. 240, 260, which is a little different from Searby's (p. 75).
8.   The ms. is usually dated to the beginning or the middle of the 16th cent., but watermarks point to the second half of the 15th. I had a look at the two photographs published in Gerlach's book (see n. 1) and I think that the second half of the 15th century cannot be excluded. Searby has nothing to say about this problem (p. 14). See Gerlach, Gnomica Democritea (see n. 1), p. 218 and n. 50, and also Dorandi's review of Searby's CP (see. n. 3), p. 483.
9.   Not 12th, as we read in Searby's book (p. 18). Searby quotes Rochefort's article (see p. 920), in which the manuscript is assigned to the last quarter of the 11th cent. A date between the 11th and the 12th cent. is proposed by Pascale Derron in Pseudo-Phocylide, Sentences, texte établi, traduit et commenté par P. D., Paris, BL, 1986, p. LXXXVI.
10.   I leave out the following manuscripts: Parisinus Graecus 1630 (Sa), a copy of S; Vindobonensis Phil. Gr.216, a copy of V; and Parisinus Coislinianus 249, probably a copy of P. See Searby, pp. 19-20, and Gerlach, Gnomica Democritea (see n. 1), pp. 224-240. For the Monquensis S. Synod. 426 see Searby, p. 20 and Gerlach, p. 217 n. 41.
11.   CP 7 (Menandri Sententiae) is the weakest section of Searby's edition, because of the author's lack of information about most of Pernigotti's studies (see n. 3). See also Dorandi's review of Searby's CP (see n. 3), p. 485.
12.   See, e. g., E. Schwyzer, Griechische Grammatik, II, München 1950, p. 183 n. 6 and Pernigotti, Menandri Sentientiae (see n. 2), p. 19.
13.   See Searby, pp. 32-33, and Gerlach, Gnomica Democritea (see n. 1), pp. 321-327 423.
14.   For Ad Nic. the reader is referred to Seck's excellent edition (Diss. Hamburg 1965).
15.   See M. Menchelli, "Bibliologia dell'Ad Demonicum: osservazioni sulla tradizione manoscritta e sulla scansione in sentenze", in L'educazione al governo e alla vita. La tradizione delle 'norme di vita' dall'antichità al medioevo (Atti del convegno internazionale, Pisa 2005), Paris, EHESS (Dossier byzantines), in press.

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