Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2013.06.04
W. R. Paton, F. W. Walbank, Christian Habicht, S. Douglas Olson, Polybius: The Histories. Volume VI, Books 28-39 (revised edition), Unattributed fragments. Loeb Classical Library, 161. Cambridge, MA; London: Harvard University Press, 2012. Pp. vii, 619. ISBN 9780674996618. $24.00.
Reviewed by Duncan B. Campbell, Glasgow (email@example.com)
This volume brings the revision of the six-part Loeb Polybius to completion. As in the preceding volumes, Christian Habicht has annotated the late Frank Walbank’s revised version of W.R. Paton’s 1927 English translation. However, we have an added bonus in the form of the 236 ‘fragments of Polybius from unidentified books of the Histories’, which were not included in the previous edition. Like Paton’s original volume, there is no front matter, and we launch straight into the text with facing translation. There is an index. 1
The volume contains the remnants of Books 28-39 of Polybius’ Histories, spanning the years 170/169 to 146/145 BC. None of the books survives intact, but each has been pieced together (most recently by Theodor Büttner- Wobst for the standard Teubner text) from fragments of varying length, most of which were preserved in the tenth- century Excerpta Constantiniana. These are the books in which readers will find such iconic episodes as the Romans’ ingenious use of the testudo at Heracleum (28.11.1-2, where Paton’s “the Romans employed three picked maniples”, with its overtones of elite troops, might have been replaced with the strictly literal translation, “the Romans mobilized three maniples”, and the expression ὅπλων does not denote “bucklers” but the long, curved legionary shields); or the ‘line in the sand’ drawn by Gaius Popillius around Antiochus IV (29.27.1-13, where Paton’s spelling of “Caius Popilius Laenas” might have been corrected); or Antiochus’ parade at Daphne (30.25.1-19, where Kaibel’s interpolation of Macedonian “golden shields”, accepted by Paton but wisely questioned in Walbank’s Commentary, has been retained on doubtful grounds). 2
The survival of Livy’s version of events down to 167 BC, and the existence of the accounts of Diodorus Siculus and Appian thereafter, allow the fragments to be assembled into a coherent sequence. Nevertheless, entire episodes have almost disappeared, and Book 37, which originally covered 148/7 BC, is entirely unrecoverable (but for a single sentence assigned here by Büttner-Wobst, omitted by Paton, and now included by Walbank). Curiously, the suggestions for improving B-W’s scheme made by Walbank in his Commentary have not been implemented here, such as the reordering of the fragments of Book 29 concerning the Battle of Pydna. Perhaps such major alterations to Paton’s text were thought too extreme. 3
The inclusion of the ‘unattributed’ fragments (the work of S. Douglas Olson) is indeed a welcome development, even though (as the series editor acknowledges) “the fragments are offered as is”, so that many readers will find them baffling without (at the very least) the guidance of Walbank’s still essential Commentary. Olson’s decision to give Büttner-Wobst’s fragment 1a the number ‘1’ results in the renumbering of many subsequent fragments; furthermore, the omission of B-W’s 24, 123, 130, 200 and 224, along with the insertion of the two fragments identified by Martin West (as the new 122 and 233), and the amalgamation of 110 and 178 (as the new 111), results in further dislocation. However, the original B-W numbers are given, so that readers can still cross-refer to existing literature. 4
As in previous volumes, Paton’s 90-year-old translation remains fundamentally sound. Only rarely did he go badly astray, and then in places already familiar to readers of Walbank’s Commentary (for example, at 34.3.2, where “Paton’s translation seems to abandon the text”). More common are minor misconceptions. For example, at 29.11.3, Paton glossed Polybius’ λέμβοι as “Illyrian galleys”, whereas Walbank realized that these are actually Macedonian vessels. Similarly, at 28.17.4, where τὸν ἐνεστῶτα πόλεμον was glossed by Paton as “the present war between Antiochus and Ptolemy” (assuming that Polybius meant the so-called Sixth Syrian War), Walbank inclined towards the Third Macedonian War (now tentatively doubted by Habicht, p. 39 n. 63). These and other minor errors (such as the translation of στρατηγοῖς as “senate” at 30.13.1, or τετταράκοντα as “fifty” at 30.25.5, clearly oversights) have been corrected.
Certain of Paton’s phrases now sound quaint, as (I think) this selection from Book 28 demonstrates: at 28.2.4, where accusations are “vamped up” against Rhodes, a modern translator might have rendered λογοποιεῖν as “fabricated”; at 28.4.7, where τοὺς συναγωνιστὰς καὶ τοὺς παραστάτας are “supporters and abettors”, a more natural translation might be “accomplices and supporters”; at 28.4.12, where the people are incited to “hoot down” Thoas, θορυβεῖν is surely to “boo”, in modern parlance; at 28.6.5, where the Achaeans had “braved” many of the Romans, ἀντωφθαλμηκέναι is more naturally (and literally) rendered as “met face to face”. Readers may also be confused by the “cavalry vedettes” at 29.17.3, where the προόπται are surely just “scouts”, and “held in hostage” (p. 183) is now an obsolete usage. It might have been opportune to update these, in the same way that “dilated on” for διεξιόντας (at 29.1.1) has been changed to “expanding on”, for the benefit of modern readers. 5
Habicht’s diligence in supplying explanatory notes, particularly in identifying the multitude of characters in Polybius’ narrative, deserves high commendation, although coverage is sometimes uneven. For example, readers may need to be reminded that “Marcius” at 28.13.3 (p. 31) is the “Quintus Marcius” last mentioned at 28.1.9 (p. 5), where Habicht helpfully identifies him as Q. Marcius Philippus, consul of 169 BC; and also at 29.23.11 (p. 93), when he pops up again, after a lengthy absence, as “Quintus Philippus”. Similarly, it might have been more useful to introduce Menalcidas of Lacedaemon on p. 141, at his first appearance (30.16.2), rather than waiting until his second (38.18.6), on p. 483. And on p. 71, “prytaneis” (29.10.4) surely needs at least a reference to Volume IV, p. 465 n. 8 (ad 13.5.5), where the term is explained. Elsewhere, Habicht’s notes are a useful adjunct to Walbank’s Commentary; for example, at 31.1.1, where Polybius’ Cammani can now be identified with confidence (p. 180 n. 1).
Nevertheless, I stand by the criticism mentioned in my review of Loeb volumes III and IV: again, readers are sent in search of reference materials that may lie beyond their reach (besides access to Paulys Realencyclopädie, they are expected to have a copy of Broughton’s Magistrates of the Roman Republic to hand); more seriously, they will encounter abbreviations that are nowhere explained (e.g. CID on p. 9 n. 15, for the Corpus des inscriptions de Delphes, or, more cryptically, I. Gonnoi on p. 43 n. 72, presumably for B. Helly, Gonnoi Vol. 2); and they are presumed to be multilingual. It is my understanding that the Loeb Classical Library is intended to attract a broad range of readers from many walks of life, and it would be a pity if it failed to cater for the majority.6
However, the general utility of the revised Loeb Polybius outweighs such minor complaints. Readers now have something approaching an authoritative Greek text with an accurate translation to match it and a set of notes that, used in conjunction with Walbank’s Commentary, can be considered to be comprehensive. The decision of Harvard University Press to go ahead with this project, begun in the 1960s, shelved in the 1970s, and thankfully revived in the new millennium, should be warmly applauded. 7
1. Volumes I and II were reviewed in BMCR 2011.05.40, volumes III and IV in BMCR 2012.03.53, and volume V in BMCR 2013.01.26. After my review of Volumes III and IV, Professor Habicht contacted me to clarify the extent of his involvement with the project. It seems that all textual emendations, both Greek and English, were done by Walbank (and subsequently Americanized, presumably by the Loeb general editor). I would like to apologize to Professor Habicht for attributing these elements to him.
2. F.W. Walbank, A Historical Commentary on Polybius, Volume III (Oxford, 1979), 450. Habicht’s note (p. 158 n. 77) informs us that Walbank, “in the handwritten notes for this edition, corrected himself”, but the additional evidence cited in support of Kaibel is weak indeed. Plutarch (Eumenes 14.5) and Onasander (1.20) both refer vaguely to “golden armour”, and only the former in the context of Macedonian troops, while it is not clear whether First Maccabees 6.34, mentioning “shields of gold and brass”, intends to differentiate between two bodies of Seleucid troops. For clarity, it might have been useful to flag Kaibel’s interpolated Greek text, and for balance, Droysen’s alternative version (which does far less violence to the text) might have been mentioned.
3. Walbank, op. cit. (note 2), 28-9 and 388-391, suggested that the order should be: 29.17.1, 17.3, 17.4, 18, 17.2, frg. 215 (now renumbered 217), 19.1-11, frg. 74. Similarly, Walbank’s belief (op. cit., 27 and 356-7) that 28.21.1-5 should precede 28.18 has not resulted in a reordered text, though, in this instance, Habicht at least notes the suggestion (p. 47 n. 79). In the current volume, I noticed only one emendation of the Greek text: 30.4.16, where διὰ πόρον (unsatisfactorily translated by Paton as “for money”) has been emended to διὰ πόνον (“from suffering”).
4. Walbank, op. cit. (note 2), commented on only a few of the fragments, acknowledging that “most … lack any context and little of historical relevance can be said about them” (p. 745). See also M.L. West, “Two unnoticed fragments of Polybius”, Classical Review 23 (1973), 9-10 (not cited by Walbank or Olson). Olson supplies copious footnotes, often including useful information and occasionally citing Walbank’s Commentary. He has missed the cross-reference between his fragment 111 and 35.2.2 (already noted by B-W).
5. Two alterations to Paton’s translation seem unjustified: 29.19.7 (ὅτε Περσεὺς τὴν τῶν Ἑλλήνων χώραν ἐπόρθει καὶ τὰς πόλεις), “when Perseus was devastating the land and cities of Greece” (Paton), now reads “when Perseus devastated the Greek land”; 30.4.11 (ἐξέβαλε γὰρ ἔγγραπτον μετὰ ταῦτα ποιήσας τὴν σύνταξιν τῆς δικαιολογίας), “for he afterwards wrote out and published his defence” (Paton), now reads “for he afterward wrote out and recalled his defense to their attention”.
6. Besides English, French and German publications, Habicht also cites Spanish and Italian work, and even a book written in modern Greek. I wonder if, on balance, these are more helpful to academic readers than they are daunting to non-specialist readers.
7. Again, misprints are vanishingly rare. On p. 45 n. 73, “Macedon” should presumably read Macedonian; on p. 49 (28.21.4-5, on φύσις), Paton capitalized the second mention of “Nature”, but the first still remains uncapitalized; on p. 141, Paton’s “Molotti” (30.15: Μολοττοί) should have been changed to “Molossians”, as at 30.7.2; and on pp. 329-37, not every instance of Paton’s “Ulysses” has been changed to “Odysseus”.