Tragic fragments are not only tantalizingly few but also difficult to assess and use in the reconstruction of the plays they belonged to because of their brevity, frequent gnomic content, and lack of context. Valiant classicists have not been deterred by such inconveniences, and in several recent editions of fragments and individual fragmentary plays, put together with great diligence and industry, they have collected and studied all available evidence in order to extract as much information as possible.1
Mimidou’s book is a welcome addition to the exiguous bibliography on tragic fragments in Modern Greek.2 Based on the author’s doctoral dissertation, it is a commentary on the fragments of Euripides’ Aeolus, which dramatized the ill-starred, incestuous relationship of the siblings Canace and Macareus. Their father was the eponymous Aeolus, king of Mediterranean islands off Etruria and master of the winds. In the Odyssey (10.7) he is said to have married his six daughters to his six sons. Euripides apparently invented, or at least included, the attempt of Macareus, who had seduced and impregnated his sister Canace, to convince his father to marry his daughters to his sons. The initiative backfired because the father chose to have the couples determined by lot, and Macareus failed to draw Canace’s lot. The play is fairly extensively represented in paratragic quotations (in Aristophanes’ Clouds, Peace, Thesmophoriazusae) and comic adaptations (Aristophanes’ Aeolosicon, Aeolus by Antiphanes and Eriphus), presumably because of its racy subject-matter, incest between full siblings. Latin literature also used Euripides’ play extensively. Apart from Ovid’s Her. 11 (cf. Tr. 2.384), Virgil (Aen. 1.71) and Martial (91) allude to the story. Even Nero is reported by Dio Cassius to have impersonated Canace giving birth (63.10.2–3).
Following an introduction, in which she discusses the sources and reception of the play as well as its dating and setting, Mimidou edits and translates all the fragments, with extensive commentary, citing several parallels. She also includes a metrical analysis and commentary, although the meter of the vast majority of fragments is iambic trimeter. For the text she uses mainly the edition of Jouan-van Looy, except for fragments 12.4 and 33.2, both judicious choices. The translations are sensible and do not deviate from Jouan-van Looy, with the exception of fr. 6, part of a speech about the interdependence of rich and poor citizens. The text and meaning of the end of the fragment (ἃ δ’ οἱ πλουτοῦντες οὐ κεκτήμεθα,/ τοῖσιν πένησι χρώμενοι τιμώμεθα) are controversial, but Mimidou’s discussion is particularly speculative. If the text as cited is sound, and taking into account the tenor of the fragment, which is reminiscent of Sophocles’ Ajax 158–61, for instance, the end probably refers to the benefits the rich derive from the poor. These are most likely honors, both high esteem or prestige and perhaps high elected office, as the rich do not lack material resources. There is no indication that the moral probity of the poor is the benefit the rich derive from them, and Euripides’ Suppliant Women 176–79, which Mimidou cites as parallel, has nothing to do with the moral probity of the poor or donations to them by the rich: the poor should observe the rich in order to try and meliorate their financial situation, and the rich should look on the poor and their pitiable state in order to realize that fortune is unstable (cf. 269–70). Mimidou’s discussion of the beginning of the fragment (δοκεῖτ’ ἂν οἰκεῖν γαῖαν, εἰ πένης ἅπας/ λαὸς πολιτεύοιτο πλουσίων ἄτερ;) is also unconvincing. It is implausible to assume that the subject of the infinitive ἂν οἰκεῖν is the poor instead of the understood ὑμεῖς, the same as the subject of the verb, which may be the addressees or a generalized second person plural. Fragment 6 refers to the best constitution in a city in which rich and poor collaborate harmoniously with mutual benefit, and no hint at the moral superiority of the poor is to be detected.
The main defect of Mimidou’s book is its failure to update the bibliography. The most recent publications cited date from the last decade of the previous century. The abbreviation Kn. is said to be used by Jouan-van Looy to refer to the edition of Kannicht, for which reference is provided (10). Kannicht, though, had not yet published his edition when the edition of Jouan-van Looy came out but made his work available to his colleagues. Mimidou does not cite Kannicht for the rest of the fragments, nor does she mention Collard-Cropp. She also chose to cite the old OCT editions of Sophocles and Euripides by Pearson and Murray respectively, and Nauck for the fragments except for those of Aeolus, and omits even LIMC, which is cited in Jouan-van Looy (27). It is unlikely that consideration of all or any of those items would have altered the shape of the work or the conclusions reached, but it is a pity that a quite extensive work of the sort the author undertook would omit standard reference editions and works. It is hoped that a second edition will remedy this defect, as Mimidou herself indicates in the preface.
In the conclusions Mimidou suggests that the fragmentary state of the evidence prohibits critical confidence but ventures to suggest that the play featured masterly drawn characters and clashes that arose from the fundamental forces of human passion. Although this is a plausible assumption for any Euripidean play, it is hard to find any evidence to that effect in the fragments. Similarly, the passing reference to the sophistic worldview of Euripides, which, mildly put, is difficult to define and needs to be argued for, contributes little to the discussion of the play.
The volume is nicely produced, with few typos (frs. 7, 33), none very serious. The translations are placed at the end of the discussion of each fragment, which is not very helpful. There are no indices, a lack which hopefully will also be remedied in a revised edition.
1. Selected fragmentary plays have been edited by J. Diggle, Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta Selecta (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), C. Collard, M. J. Cropp and K. H. Lee, Euripides: Selected Fragmentary Plays, Volume I (Warminster: Aris and Phillips, 1995), C. Collard, M. J. Cropp and J. Gibert, Euripides: Selected Fragmentary Plays, Volume II (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2004), and A. H. Sommerstein, D. Fitzpatrick and T. Talboy, Sophocles: Selected Fragmentary Plays, Volume I (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2006), A. H. Sommerstein and T. Talboy, Sophocles: Selected Fragmentary Plays, Volume II (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2011). The main comprehensive edition of tragic fragments is B. Snell, R. Kannicht, S. Radt (eds.), Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta, 5 vols. (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1971–2004. For the fragments of Aeschylus see also A. H. Sommerstein, Aeschylus: Fragments (Cambridge, Mass./London: Harvard University Press, 2008), and for those of Sophocles H. Lloyd-Jones, Sophocles: Fragments (Cambridge, Mass./London: Harvard University Press, 1996). Euripides’ fragments have been collected also by F. Jouan and H. van Looy, Euripide, Tome VIII: Fragments, 4 vols. (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1998–2003), and C. Collard and M. Cropp, Euripides: Fragments, 2 vols. (Cambridge, Mass./London: Harvard University Press, 2008). Editions of individual fragmentary plays in the last thirty years include A. Harder, Euripides’ Kresphontes and Archelaos (Leiden: Brill, 1985), W. E. H. Cockle, Euripides: Hypsipyle (Rome: Edizioni dell'Ateneo, 1987), F. Bubel, Euripides: Andromeda (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 1991), R. Klimek-Winter, Andromedatragödien: Sophokles, Euripides, Livius Andronicus, Ennius, Accius, (Stuttgart: B. G. Teubner, 1993), C. Preiser, Euripides: Telephos (Hildesheim: Olms, 2000), C. W. Müller, Euripides: Philoktet (Berlin/New York: W. de Gruyter, 2000), A. T. Cozzoli, Euripide: Cretesi (Pisa/Rome: Istituti editoriali e poligrafici internazionali, 2001), R. Falcetto, Il Palamede di Euripide (Alessandria : Edizioni dell'Orso, 2002), M. Curnis, Il Bellerofonte di Euripide (Alessandria : Edizioni dell'Orso, 2003), I. Karamanou, Euripides: Danae and Dictys (Munich/Leipzig: K. G. Saur, 2006), M. Sonnino, Euripidis Erechthei Quae Exstant (Florence: F. Le Monnier, 2010), V. Pagano, Euripide: Andromeda (Torino: Edizioni dell’Orso, 2011), L. di Giuseppe, Euripide: Alessandro (Lecce: Pensa MultiMedia, 2012).
2. E. G. Malandris, Αισχύλου Αχιλληίς (Athens: Περίπλους, 2003), G. Sabatakakis, Ευριπίδης: Κρήτες (Athens: Σμίλη, 2007), S. Nikolaidou-Arabatzi, Η Λυκούργεια Τετραλογία του Αισχύλου (Athens: Παπαδήμας, 2010).