Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2012.02.28

Gabriella Vanotti (ed.), Il lessico Suda e gli storici greci in frammenti. Atti dell’incontro internazionale, Vercelli, 6-7 novembre 2008. Themata 6.   Tivoli:  Edizioni Tored, 2010.  Pp. xiv, 498.  ISBN 9788888617350.  €150.00.  

Reviewed by Philip Rance, Thessaloniki (

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

The Suda is familiar to classicists and ancient historians as a treasury of testimonia et fragmenta. For many, the vast lexical encyclopedia, compiled c.1000, is merely the dull medieval packaging of antique gems, but for a few this monument of Byzantine encyclopedism has become an object of study in its own right. Our understanding of the evolution, structure and sources of the Suda remains deeply indebted to foundational analyses by Carl de Boor and Ada Adler. To Adler also we owe a magnificent critical edition (1928- 38). While the editing of certain ancient texts requires engagement with textual traditions embodied in the Suda, and investigation of individual entries periodically augments historical knowledge, subsequent study was largely the preserve of specialists in Byzantine lexicography and primarily concerned with lexicographical issues. Recent decades have seen increasing interest in the Suda among scholars of classical antiquity and the emergence of more comprehensive approaches to its compositional history. The text is both a ‘cut and paste’ patchwork of materials drawn from diverse genres and a highly stratified document, insofar as its direct sources were often compilations with long and/or complex pedigrees. Italian scholarship has been prominent in attempts to clarify how these horizontal and vertical dimensions determined the shape and character of embedded fragments and testimonia, notably the proceedings of a Milan conference in 1998, edited by Giuseppe Zecchini.1 A similar spirit motivates Suda On Line, a long- term (1998) collaborative enterprise to create a searchable database combining Adler’s text with annotated English translations. The Nachlaß of Felix Jacoby provides further stimuli. An international project to continue his uncompleted FGrHist (1923-58), coordinated by Guido Schepens, has generated valuable discussion of problems and methodologies.2 A parallel edition of FGrHist V is under the direction of Hans-Joachim Gehrke; while Brill’s New Jacoby, edited by Ian Worthington, is publishing online revised editions of FGrHist I-III with English translations and commentaries. A renewed interest in fragmentary historiography is also witnessed in Italian and Spanish research projects.3

This collection of 21 papers (17 Italian, 2 French, 2 Spanish) is the acta of an international gathering “I frammenti degli storici greci e il lessico Suda” at Vercelli in 2008, organised by the Università del Piedmonte Orientale. In her introduction, Vanotti envisages a ‘dialogo’ between the Suda and FGrHist, which (before continuations) contains 571 citations from the Suda, some of them unique witnesses to the life and/or writings of 856 historians in the volumes published during Jacoby’s lifetime. Alert to current scholarly fashions, Vanotti stresses the importance of studying not only the fragment/testimonium but also the ‘cover-text’ (‘texte-source’/‘fonte tralatrice’) in which it is conveyed. She signals the need for a critical re-evaluation of De Boor’s and Adler’s views on the sources of the Suda, which are in some respects open to nuance or adjustment, although she overstates the case and oversimplifies their conclusions.4 The unifying principle of the assembled papers is promising: a preliminary enquiry into the relationship between ancient content and its Byzantine container both in individual lemmata and case-studies of authors or themes, with a view to elucidating how different textual traditions, selective criteria and compositional methodologies created and transmitted each fragment or testimonium.

Brevity forbids detailed discussion of all 21 papers; rather I shall attempt to categorise approaches and issues.

Schepens’ thoughtful mise-en-scène sets some limits to the encounter between the Suda and FGrHist. Jacoby included only explicit citations, leaving numerous anonymous fragments to be recovered by subsequent research. He also omitted ‘historiens semi- fragmentaires’, of whose works substantial sections survive (e.g. Polybius, Diodorus, Cassius Dio). Schepens sharpens the distinction between fragment and testimonium, and shows how the modality of transmission can variously shape the form, content and/or reliability of historical and historiographic citations, especially in the case of the Suda, which was heir to diverse, multi-layered traditions, including historical excerpta, scholia, lexica, biographical dictionaries, onomastica and paroemiographic collections.

Several contributors address what has long been a quaestio vexatissima in the Quellenforschung: the origin(s) of the many biographical (or ‘bio-bibliographical’) entries, and specifically their relationship to the lost early sixth-century Onomatologus of Hesychius of Miletus, or an epitome thereof, apparently cited in Suda Η 611. Adler’s conviction that all this material necessarily derives from Hesychius rests on thin foundations and cannot accommodate all the evidence. Costa rehearses the arguments, with a historiographic excursus on the original nineteenth-century scholarship, focusing on the excesses of Johannes Flach c.1880-85, although Flach’s views (and reputation) were quickly discredited. Costa rightly stresses the intricacy of the Suda’s biographical source- materials. Other contributions, varying in scope and ambition, treat individual ‘bio-bibliographical’ lemmata: Ambaglio on Hellanicus 739); Bearzot on Androtion 2191); Ottone on Theopompus 172); Lanzillotta on Acusilaus 942); Bianchetti on Eratosthenes 2898). In most cases the Suda is the point of departure for a more general discussion on the basis of external evidence. Similarly, a reference to Stesimbrotus in a lemma on Antimachus of Colophon 2681) prompts Vanotti’s erudite reappraisal of the Thasian’s life, works and cultural milieu. Foderà’s analysis of three representative lemmata on archaic historical writers -- Hecataeus 360), Damastes of Sigeum 41) and again Hellanicus -- offers greater scope for examining similarities of arrangement, approach and content, which she plausibly traces to Alexandrian scholarship originating with Callimachus’ Pinakes. As far as general lessons can be drawn, these papers illustrate how the intermediary tradition(s) might variously slant the form and content of ‘bio-bibliographical’ entries. The role of Hesychius’ Onomatologus is occasionally doubted, if not denied, but in any case becomes less crucial in the case of lemmata on classical authors if the Onomatologus was itself a vehicle for a Hellenistic ‘pinacographic’ tradition. In addition, Bianchetti’s study elucidates the usage of genre labels (e.g. ἱστορία) in the Suda (similarly Cuniberti below).

Other papers collect and analyse fragments and testimonia relating to a single ancient historian, which entered the Suda through diverse indirect traditions, whereby questions hang over the extent to which citations are true ‘fragments’. Chávez Reino’s examination of Theopompus-derived material, the longest and most comprehensive paper, exhibits a thorough knowledge of the arguments and bibliography, old and new, relating to the sources of the Suda and their often complex ancestry. Even if, as Chávez Reino concedes, the nature and process of identification mean that the Suda supplies few fragments not attested by more direct witnesses, his enquiry provides a model for such single-author studies. Papers by Galvagno and Candau Morón treat different aspects of fourteen citations from Timaeus, in which the unconcealed hostility of intermediary sources (especially Polybius) poses difficulties in assessing the nature and impact of his work. Franco examines eight (or nine) lemmata on Sicilian place-names, for which the source, explicit or anonymous, is Philistus (via Stephanus of Byzantium’s Ethnica), indicative of the Syracusan’s value as an authority on local toponomy.

Another group of papers concern ‘semi-fragmentary’ historians, where the main issue is the dependence of the Suda on the Excerpta Constantiniana, and our knowledge of the authorial canon selected for excerption provides a basis for identifying anonymous citations in the Suda or at least permits a narrowing of the field.5 Fromentin outlines the status quaestionis with regard to Dionysius of Halicarnassus and skilfully demonstrates that the Suda compiler(s) accessed his Antiquitates Romanae via the Excerpta, as long assumed by comparison to other historians but not hitherto proven. She assesses the consequent value of the Suda for editors of Dionysius and also the possibilities of using Dionysius-derived citations (identifiable from other witnesses) to reconstruct lost sections or volumes of the Excerpta (similarly Chávez Reino: 258-9). Fromentin’s conclusions have implications for the study of other historians in this category. Cordiano’s paper on Diodorus offers a more general survey of the structure and objectives of the Bibliotheca, and its direct and indirect transmission.6 While interesting in itself, this says little about Diodorus and/in the Suda. Visconti’s study of Arrian treats a special case, in that the Suda contains citations from his extant Anabasis and Indica (via the Excerpta Constantiniana) and from his lost Parthica and Τὰ μετὰ Ἀλέξανδρον (via uncertain but apparently lexical intermediaries). After a lengthy preamble on Arrian’s life and writings, and the late antique/Byzantine reception of selected works,7 Visconti delineates the general characteristics of Arrian-derived material in the Suda. He categorises lemmata and the different traditions on which they depend, and emphasises the difficulties of identifying and/or localising citations from the lost works.

A handful of papers explore particular themes. Two contributions concern res Lydiae. Gazzano surveys the character of Lydian- related material, which privileges the Mermnad dynasty, especially Croesus. Her careful deconstruction of the composite lemma on Xanthus 9) reinforces the enduring obscurity of his lost Lydiaca. Cataudella examines two lemmata reporting an incestuous union by Alyattes, in light of conflicting historical traditions. She contends that the ultimate source may be Hecataeus, though this reviewer found aspects of the argumentation hard to follow.8 Savo subjects some twenty lemmata relating to Dacia to ‘una prima analisi’, with implications for the historiography of Trajan’s campaigns. While aspects of the transmission of this material into the Suda remain to be clarified,9 the study raises intriguing questions, particularly with regard to Crito’s lost Getica.

In light of Jacoby’s generic application of hypomnemata to autobiographical works and mémoires (FGrHist C), Cuniberti selectively examines the usage of hypomnema/hypomnemata as a title or description in the Suda, with a view to discerning whether this designation signifies a distinct literary genre. As Cuniberti concedes, this is a larger question than these parameters afford (and no one would doubt the broader semantic spectrum of hypomnemata), but her analysis explores terminological nuances and identifies inconsistencies and omissions in Jacoby’s classification. More generally, Cuniberti’s investigation reinforces the need for philological studies of other titles/generic labels found in the Suda (e.g. ἱστορία, τακτικά, ἀστρονομία, φυσικά).

In a concluding piece, Ferrari cursorily surveys the salient features and motivations of lexicography in selected cultures, ancient and modern, as a prelude to considering the evolution of electronic dictionaries, concordances and textual corpora, and how their capabilities and limitations might determine access to information and research strategies.

Aside from a handful of trivial misprints,10 the editing and production quality are excellent. While the individual interests of the contributions mean that this volume is likely to be read selectively, their collective engagement with the Suda and, more generally, fragmentary historiography signals some potential lines of enquiry for research in this field.

Authors and Titles

Gabriella Vanotti, Introduzione, vii-xiv
Guido Schepens, L’incontournable Souda, 1-42
Virgilo Costa, Esichio di Mileto, Johannes Flach e le fonti biografiche della Suda, 43-55
Eugenio Lanzillotta, Gli archaioi sungrapheis nella Suda. Acusilao, 57-63
Valeria Foderà, Gli archaioi sungrapheis nella Suda. Riconsiderazioni, 65-78
Michele R. Cataudella, Frammenti di storia del regno di Lidia nella Suda, 79-96
Francesco Gazzano, Xanto di Lidia nel Lessico Suda, 97-127
Gabriella Vanotti, A proposito di Stesimbroto di Taso in Suda [A 2681 Adler], 129-162
Delfino Ambaglio, Ellanico di Lesbo nella Suda, 163-172
Cinzia Bearzot, Androzione rhetor kai demagogos, 173-189
Antonio Franco, Filisto e la mesogheia di Sicilia nella Suda, 191-205
Antonio Luis Chávez Reino, Ecos de Theopompo en la Suda, 207-266
Gabriella Ottone, Suda, s.v. Θεόπομπος 172 Adler]: vexatae quaestiones, 267-293
José Maria Candau Morón, Timeo en el léxico Suda, 295-305
Emilio Galvagno, Il Lexicon Suda e l’ἐπιτίμησις di Timeo, 307-329
Serena Bianchetti, Eratostene autore di Historiai nel lemma della Suda, 331-345
Gianluca Cuniberti, Hypomnemata in Suda: genere letterario, fonte lessicografica, FGrHist 227-238, 347- 369
Giuseppe Cordiano, La Suda e i libri perduti delle koinai historiai di Diodoro Siculo: conoscenza e sorte della Biblioteca Storica nel X secolo, 371-391
Amedeo Visconti, La Suda e i frammenti di Arriano, 393-428
Valérie Fromentin, Les fragments de Denys d’Halicarnasse dans la Souda: pour une restitution des Excerpta Constantiniana perdus, 429-452
Maria Barbara Savo, I Geti nella Suda. Una prima analisi, 453-475
Giacomo Ferrari, Considerazioni sulla lessicografia antica e moderna, 477-93


1.   G. Zecchini (ed.), Il Lessico Suda e la memoria del passato a Bisanzio. Atti della giornata di studio (Milano 29 aprile 1998) (Bari 1999), with review article by U. Roberto, ‘Note sulla memoria e sull’uso della storia antica nel Lessico della Suda’, MedAnt 4.1 (2001) 249-70.
2.   G. Schepens, ‘Jacoby’s FGrHist: Problems, Methods, Prospects’ in G.W. Most (ed.), Collecting Fragments. Fragmente Sammeln (Göttingen 1997) 144-72; idem, Prolegomena in FGrHist Cont. IVA/1 (1998) vii-xvii.
3.   Gli storici greci frammentari; Historiarum reliquiae.
4.   See xii-xiii. De Boor (especially BZ 1912; 1914-20) demonstrated that the compilator(s) of the Suda derived a distinctive class of historical citation (but not all its historical content) from the recently compiled Excerpta Constantiniana rather than first-hand acquaintance with original works (in fact, the textual affinity was first observed by Henri Valois as early as 1634). Adler endorsed and expanded this view. In any case, none of the 21 papers refutes or challenges De Boor’s analysis; on the contrary, some (e.g. Chávez Reino, Fromentin) provide additional corroboration.
5.   E.g. T.M. Banchich, ‘An Identification in the Suda: Eunapius on the Huns’, CPh 83 (1988) 53; P. Rance, ‘Hannibal, Elephants and Turrets in Suda Θ 438 [Polybius Fr. 162B] – An Unidentified Fragment of Diodorus’, CQ 59.1 (2009) 76-96.
6.   The post-tenth-century witnesses to the direct tradition of Diodorus should be supplemented by George Gemistus Pletho, Opuscula de historia Graeca, ed. E.V. Maltese (Leipzig 1989).
7.   Visconti (417) omits the excerpta in Parisinus suppl. gr. 607 owing to their eleventh-century date, for which he cites Bravi, who follows Wescher (1867). The relevant quarternions have long since been redated to the tenth century, almost certainly predating the Excerpta Constantiniana.
8.   A central premise of Cataudella’s argument (e.g. 80, 90, 96) is the significance of Ionic genitive Ἀλυάττεω, but this form is not in fact found in either entry 441, 1423).
9.   E.g. the long note (460 n.26) on Suda Δ 23 seems unaware that the excerpt has been identified as John of Antioch (fr. 237 Roberto = fr. 182 Mariev), here following a Greek translation of Eutropius’ Breviarium (9.15.1-2).
10.   See 29 n.60: lä[ß]t; 50: anni {in} compaiono; 52: Wachsmut[h], -Karl[s]; 104 n.30: Sard{e}is, n.31: Neighbo[u]rs; 105 n.40: K 1047 > K 1407; 114 n.78: Roi set > Rois et; 199: Συρακοῦσιος > Συρακούσιος; 272: Pflungk > Pflugk; 275: Pflunk > Pflugk; 291: e{pontai > ἕπονται; 316 fatto[ ]con; 317- 18: mid-sentence paragraph breaks; 319: ᾧι > ᾧ; 334: la {la}; 338 n.19: Maas[s], Gryphis[w]aldiae; 386: d[i]odoreo; 386 n.61: Ko[n]stantin; 388: quinquaginta > quadraginta; 390 n.77: [s]tudiosi; 463 n.33: Strat., 9, 2 perhaps 11, 2?; 467 n.56: Στ[ρ]ατιῶται; 479 n.2: Fors[c]hung.

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