Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2012.10.11

Antonio Aloni, Massimiliano Ornaghi (ed.), Tra panellenismo e tradizioni locali: nuovi contributi. Orione, 4.   Messina:  Dipartimento di scienze dell'antichità, 2011.  Pp. xi, 448.  ISBN 9788882680299.  €60.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Cecilia Nobili, Università degli Studi di Milano (


This volume represents the continuation of the collections of essays previously edited by Bernardini and Cingano on local traditions in archaic and classical Greek literature (as well as offering glimpses into later epochs and genres, such as historiography). 1 The contributions, which partly derive from a conference held in Turin in 2009, focus on the interplay between Panhellenic and local traditions in different literary texts: some of them aim to verify the extent to which recognizable peculiarities are due to the expectations of a local and restricted audience (this is the case, for example, of the Aithiopis in Sbardella’s paper, or of Bacchylides’ eleventh ode examined by Pitotto); others, by contrast, investigate how local traditions tend to conform to a more Panhellenic context (as Brunori and Dolcetti show for Athens or Olivieri for Pindar’s poetry). The epichoric aspects are not evident in every paper, but continuity is assured by the common interest in minor traditions or fragmentary texts.

The papers by Cingano and Sbardella are both devoted, albeit with different approaches, to the epic cycle: in both cases the starting point is represented by Burgess’s valuable book,2 which is now re-examined with fresh material. Cingano (‘Aporie, parallelismi, riprese e convergenze: la costruzione del ciclo epico’) examines some divergences between the Homeric and the cyclic tradition, which can be explained either in chronological or in thematic terms: the erotic element in the Telegony, which ascribes to Odysseus a large and promiscuous offspring with grotesque traits different from the epic style, must be considered a sign of its more recent composition. On the other side, the absence of the Dioscuri from the Iliad can be explained if we consider that in the previous tradition they appeared as Helen’s defenders from the attacks of strangers. In the Iliad this role is taken by another couple of brothers, the Atreidai.

Sbardella (‘Le ossa di Antiloco: Etiopide e Odissea tra localismo e panellenismo’) considers the prominent figure of Antilochus in the Aithiopis as a sign of the poem’s close connection to Miletus, the foundation of which was attributed to the Neleidai. The different treatment of this hero in the Odyssey, where his role as Achilles’ best friend is assumed by Patroclus, is a sign of the more Panhellenic orientation of this poem. This paper gives further confirmation of the importance of the Pylian saga as a source both for the epic cycle and the Homeric poems.3

From the papers of Brunori and Dolcetti emerges the role of Athens as a place of reinterpretation of themes from the epic repertoire, especially concerning the figure of Ajax, a favorite Athenian hero. On the one hand, Brunori (‘Aiace, Achille e le armi tra epica arcaica e iconografia vascolare’) notes that between 540 and 500 BC Ajax becomes the subject of several black-figure paintings which show him in association with Achilles: both in the dice game scenes and in those showing the rescue of Achilles’ corpse, the presence of the arms is intended to characterize Ajax as the ‘second best of the Achaeans’ after Achilles. On the other hand, Dolcetti (‘Fileo ed Eurisace: i figli di Aiace tra Salamina e Atene’) examines the complex tradition concerning Ajax’s sons, Philaios and Eurysaces: they are seldom mentioned together by the sources, but in Herodotus and Pherecydes Philaios is considered the progenitor of the Philaids, whereas Sophocles mentions Eurysaces omitting any reference to actuality.

Carrara and Romani examine the Homeric Hymns from different perspectives. Nonetheless, they both deal with the theme of the distribution of the timai, which has been, from Clay onwards, crucial for the interpretation of the Homeric Hymns.4 Carrara (‘«The very worst that could have been chosen»: la funzione dell’exemplum di Titono nell’Inno omerico ad Afrodite’) gives a convincing explanation to the much questioned example of Tithonus in the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite: this apparently negative myth (Tithonus is condemned to an everlasting old age) is introduced in order to explain Zeus’ overwhelming power over other deities, such as, in this case, Eos and Aphrodite, and limit their field of action. Romani (‘Riscrivere la storia. Tecniche di autopromozione nell’Inno omerico a Ermes’) treats Hermes’ two performances as a way to claim his own prerogatives in the Olympic pantheon: in his second theogonic song the newborn baby depicts the image of a primeval universe, where the timai had not been distributed yet, thus vindicating his right to be part of it.

Aloni (‘Il dono e i doni degli dei. Sull’identità poetica di Archiloco’) advances a new interpretation of Archilochus’ fr. 1 W: he compares the fragment with the tale about Archilochus’ poetical initiation contained in Mnesiepes’ inscription (Test. 4 Tarditi) and assumes that δῶρον is used in the singular form because it refers to a concrete and material gift, namely the lyre. The mention of Ares in l. 1 must be read as an allusion to the contents of Archilochus’ poetry, which draw on personal experience.

Bernardini (‘Eracle e le Esperidi. Geografia del mito nelle fonti poetiche e mitografiche arcaiche e tardoarcaiche’) analyses the complex tradition of writings on Heracles’ eleventh labour which is contained in both poetical and historical works. The episode of the theft of the apples from the Hesperides’ garden shares many features with Geryon’s adventure, such as its collocation in the remote West and the golden cup given by the Sun.

Pindar’s poetry is the subject of the articles by Olivieri, Cannatà Fera and Ucciardello. Olivieri (‘Dioniso e sua madre Semele nelle tradizioni tebane e nella poesia di Pindaro’) examines Dionysus’ presence in Pindar’s odes (especially the dithyrambs) and notes that the god is characterized by Theban features. In fact, he had a cult-place on the Kadmeia where he was venerated with his mother Semele.

Cannatà Fera (‘Anteo, da Pindaro a Filostrato’) interprets Pindar’s fr. 111 Maehler (an hyporchema) with the aid of later texts such as, in the first instance, Philostratus’ Imagines (II 21). The fragment refers to the struggle between Heracles and Antaios, which appears also in Isthm. VI (ll. 49-55) and Pyth. IX (ll. 105-120).

Ucciardello (‘Poesia lirica adespota: rilettura di P.Oxy. 2621 [Pindaro?]’) gives a full edition of the fragments contained in P.Oxy. 2621, which Lobel doubtfully ascribed to Pindar or Bacchylides. The careful analysis of the text underlines many points of contact with Pindaric language and style, and suggests a collocation of the fragments in Pindar’s book of encomia (though an attribution to other lyrical poets cannot be definitively excluded). The name Ἀλ]εξάνδρω‹ι› in fr. 1.23 implies a reference either to Alexander I of Macedonia, son of Amyntas, or to Paris the Trojan.

The section on archaic and classical poetry ends with Pitotto’s contribution on Bacchylides’ eleventh epinician ode (‘Varianti mitologiche e racconti di fondazione in una performance arena coloniale. Il caso di Bacchilide, Epinicio XI’). It offers some new evidence to shed light on an ode which has received great attention in the past few years.5 Pitotto detects some elements that can be explained on the basis of Metapontum’s politics and traditions in the fifth century (the events examined by the author concern both the first and the second half of the century, but such an oscillation is somehow allowed by the ode’s uncertain date). In particular, the mention of Apollo Δαλογενής must be intended as an allusion to the close relationship which Metapontum was trying to establish with Ionia, whereas the myth of the foundation of Tiryns may be connected to a pressing problem for Metapontum: the youngest sons, prevented from inheriting the estates of their fathers, were forced to seek new properties elsewhere. Vanotti (‘Egesta ed Esione da Ellanico di Lesbo a Dionisio di Alicarnasso’) examines the intricate net of traditions implied by the passage of Dionysius of Halicarnassus (Ant. Rom. 1.52) concerning the arrival in Sicily of the Trojan exiles Aegestus and Elymus. Hellanicus treated the same myth in two of his works, but gave different versions of it, because of the changeable relationships between Athens and Segesta at the time of the Sicilian expedition.

Perale and Meliadò face different problems of Hellenistic poetry, in both cases connected to Apollonius Rhodius’ Argonautica. Perale (‘Il catalogo geografico di Esiodo: due diversi casi di ricezione nella prima età ellenistica’) investigates the relationship between poetry and geography in Hellenistic times. The Γῆς περίοδος contained in the third book of the Hesiodic Catalogue of women (fr. 150 M.-W.) describes the flight of the Harpies and represents a favourite model for the Hellenistic catalogues, as the cases of Simias and Apollonius Rhodius show. Clinis’ journey in the Apollo of Simias clearly recalls the Hesiodic passage, as does Phineus’ monologue in the Argonautica (II 317-407). By contrast, a geographical catalogue is intentionally omitted in Apollonius’ description of the pursuit of the Harpies (II 273-300).

Meliadò (‘Una scena argonautica in P.Oxy. 422’) reconstructs the hexametric lines preserved by P.Oxy. 422 as a narrative of the fight of the Argonauts (in first place Heracles) against Telekles and the Dolions. The myth is narrated by Apollonius Rhodius (I 936-1077) and the relationship between the two poems is carefully investigated; Meliadò doubtfully ascribes the fragment either to the Argonautica of Cleon Curiensis or to Euphorion’s Apollodorus.

Camerotto (‘Il nome e il sangue secondo Quinto Smirneo. Riprese e trasformazioni di un motivo del duello eroico’) ends the book with a contribution on Quintus Smyrnaeus and his relationship to the epic cycle, which clearly echoes the first papers of the volume. He examines the theme of the duel in the Posthomerica and in the previous epic tradition, particularly the Aithiopis, in order to detect the importance of the genos in the aristeiai of the heroes. «Il genos fa grandi gli eroi» as the author declares at p. 425: behind this assumption lies the custom, typical of the Iliadic duels, of asking the adversary’s name and ancestry. In Quintus Smyrnaeus the direct answer is omitted but allusions to lineage are recurrent and demonstrate the long life of this pattern in post-Homeric epic. This book represents an important step in the study of local traditions and gives a clear view of how lively and promising this sort of research has become in recent years.6 The papers are of different length, but show homogeneity in their motivation and make use of similar approaches to the ancient texts. The reconstruction of the contexts and the interplay between history and literature, in particular, characterizes almost every contribution. The presence of an index of the passages at the end of the book facilitates consultation and cross-referencing between the papers.


1.   P. Angeli Bernardini (ed.), L’epos minore, le tradizioni locali e la poesia arcaica. Atti dell’incontro di studio, Urbino, 7 giugno 2005, Pisa/Roma 2007; E. Cingano (ed.), Tra panellenismo e tradizioni locali: generi poetici e storiografia, Alessandria 2010 (BMCR 2011.11.62).
2.   J.S. Burgess, The Tradition of the Trojan War in Homer and the Epic Cycle, Baltimore 2001 (BMCR 2002.09.04).
3.   As A. Aloni (Da Pilo a Sigeo. Poemi cantori e scrivani al tempo dei Tiranni, Alessandria 2006, BMCR 2008.01.45) has now clarified.
4.   J.S. Clay, The Politics of Olympus, Princeton 1989.
5.   See D.L. Cairns, Myth and the polis in Bacchylides’ eleventh Ode, «JHS» 125 (2005), pp. 35-50; B. Kowalzig, Singing for the Gods. Performances of Myth and Ritual in Archaic and Classical Greece, Oxford 2007, pp. 267-327 (BMCR 2008.09.25); B. Currie, L’Ode 11 di Bacchilide: il mito delle Pretidi nella lirica corale, nell’epica e nella storiografia, in Cingano, cit. n. 1, pp. 211-253.
6.   A clear example in the Anglo-Saxon world is constituted by Kowalzig, cit. n. 5.

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