Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2015.01.12 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2015.01.12

Alexia Zotou, Carmina anacreontea 1-34. Ein Kommentar. Beiträge zur Altertumskunde, Bd 332.   Berlin; Boston:  de Gruyter, 2014.  Pp. viii, 206.  ISBN 9783110364989.  €79.95.  

Reviewed by Martin West, Oxford (

The Carmina Anacreontea come to us, under the title Ἀνακρέοντος Τηΐου συμποσιακὰ ἡμιάμβια, from the same tenth-century manuscript as the so-called Palatine Anthology. Just as the Anthology is a compilation from various collections of poems made at different times – principally the anthologies of Meleager, Philip, and Agathias – so the Anacreontea have been put together from what appear to be four distinct ancient collections of different dates. 1 The first two, comprising poems 1–20 and 21–34, are clearly earlier than the others. They contain poems from the late Hellenistic or early Roman period, whereas poems 35–60 are of later date, from collections made probably in the fifth or sixth century. So it makes sense for a commentator who is not undertaking to deal with the whole corpus to focus on poems 1–34. In the absence of any other modern commentary, Zotou’s work partially fills a gap. Or rather, it partially fills part of a gap, as it falls short of being a definitive commentary on the poems which it treats.

The 20-page introduction consists of the following sections. (1) ‘Zum Titel der Sammlung.’ (2) ‘Datierung’: a survey of various scholars’ opinions, with no independent analysis. (3) ‘Aufbau der Sammlung’: apart from noting the programmatic character of poems 1, 2, and 60, this is more about recurrent themes in the collection than its structuring. (4) ‘Die Verfasser’: notes similarities between certain poems (9 and 12; 3, 16, and 17) that might suggest shared authorship. (5) ‘Die wichtigsten Aspekte der Geschichte der Erforschung des Corpus Anacreonticum’: a brief overview of editions since the Renaissance. (6) ‘Inhalte’: further remarks on some recurrent themes. (7) ‘Dichterische Technik’: use of iteration, apostrophe, dialogue, mythical exempla, etc. (8) ‘Literarische Traditionen in der anakreontischen Dichtung’: reference to Anacreon, distancing from Homer, allusion to other lyricists, relation to epigram. (9) ‘Metrik’. (10) ‘Zum vorliegenden Kommentar’.

Each poem is printed as it stands in my Teubner text, with a facing line-by-line translation but no critical apparatus, though textual questions are occasionally touched on in the notes. Through some technical oversight or mishap, vowels in synizesis, which I printed with an under-tie, appear between angle brackets as if conjectural supplements (4.11, 8.1). The translations are generally accurate, though at 2.4 the rendering of νόμους as ‘Melodien’ is questionable, since they are parallel with κύπελλα θεσμῶν; at 4.8, Ἀμάξας is not ‘den Wagen’ but ‘die Wagen’, i.e. the two Bears (cf. Arat. 27); at 4.9, στυγνὸν (Ὠρίωνα) is ‘grim’ rather than ‘den verhassten’; at 16.21, ὑγρόν (of Aphrodite’s βλέμμα) is ‘melting, sexy’ rather than just ‘feucht’; at 17.42, ὅσσον εἴπηις is ‘as much as you (care to) specify’, not ‘soviel du genannt hast’; at 33.1–5 the tenses should be present, not past.

Before the detailed notes on each poem we are given a paraphrase of it, which is superfluous beside the translations. The notes are generally acceptable as far as they go, but they lack incisiveness. Again and again Zotou resorts to quoting extended passages from recent critics, especially Patricia Rosenmeyer and Alexander Müller,2 and appending a brief expression of agreement or dissent. She does this on most of the poems (three times with Müller on poem 26), and it is typical of her tendency to report other scholars’ results rather than conduct any searching inquiries of her own. I would have liked to see, for example, some attempt to suggest approximate datings for individual poems on the basis of affinities with other texts. As it is, we find only an isolated citation, with no discussion, of Dihle’s opinion on the dating of poem 34.

Some points of detail. There should have been some textual and exegetical discussion of 3.4 ἑτεροπνόους ἐναύλους. – At 4.6 the variant version ὅσον δύνηι βαθύνας is explained correctly as modifying the main verb ποίησον, but then comes the perplexing directive ‘Für den Gebrauch des Verbes δύναμαι + Partizip: LSJ s.v. δύναμαι I, 3; Xen. Hell. 2, 2, 9’. This suggests some confusion. – At 4 (iii) 15–17 Zotou notes that there are two possible ways of construing, but makes no attempt to decide which is right.3 – At 5.8–11 the occurrence of the letter μ five times does not constitute a significant ‘Gleichklang’. Similar subjective claims about sound effects appear in the notes on 15.9 f. and 31.6. – At 6.5 the false quantity ἔπῑον should have been signalled, as should Γαδείρων with short final syllable at 14.25 (if the text is not corrupt). – On 8.10 τὸ δ᾽ αὔριον τίς οἶδεν Zotou refers only to poem 38.19, ignoring the loci similes cited in my edition from Euripides, Callimachus, Horace, and epigrams. Again on lines 14–15 she has nothing on the motif of illness imposing abstinence from wine. These are two of several places where she has not made full use of the material collected in my edition. – On 9.5 λευκόπους Ὀρέστης she explains that Orestes’ feet are white with dust because he goes barefoot. But what authority says he goes barefoot, and why should he? Perhaps he was so represented in some late production of Euripides. – 14.18, a disproportionately long discussion of text and interpretation, yet Zotou fails to make the obvious point that κηρωθείς, defended by Brioso Sánchez, is unmetrical. – 16.33 ἀπέχει cannot be explained as = ἀπέχηι and a jussive subjunctive (‘nimm Abstand’). – 18.12 ἔσεισε χαίτας, note Anacr. PMG 422 Θρηικίην σίοντα [sic] χαίτην. – 19.1, note the similarities with Bion fr. 9.1 and A.P. 14.3.1. – On 20.1–2, the pairing of Anacreon with Sappho should be illustrated more fully. – Οn 26.1–2 σὺ μὲν λέγεις τὰ Θήβης, δ᾽ αὖ Φρυγῶν ἀϋτάς, it betrays a certain literal-mindedness to write ‘Es lässt sich vermuten, dass die angesprochenen Personen dem Kreis des Dichters zugehörig sind’.

It is better to have this commentary than nothing, but it is unfortunate that the author did not have the benefit of firmer guidance. She has read the more recent scholarship with attention (there is very little reference to older literature) and excerpted from it what seemed useful. But too often she reproduces it undigested with minimal comment. She does not always identify the issues that need discussion, and while she does collect some interesting material, there is little sense of penetration. A commentator needs a more commanding presence, the assurance to take decisions and the drive to find things out.


1.   See the Praefatio of my Teubner edition, Carmina Anacreontea (1984, corrected ed. 1993), pp. xvi–xviii, summarized in my Hellenica II (Oxford 2013), 385–7.
2.   P. A. Rosenmeyer, The Poetics of Imitation. Anacreon and the Anacreontic Tradition (Cambridge, 1992); A. Müller, Die Carmina Anacreontea und Anakreon. Ein literarisches Generationenverhältnis (Tübingen, 2010).
3.   Actually there is a third and better way: to take ληνόν as the object of πατοῦντας and ληνοβάτας predicatively with τοὺς Σατύρους. ‘And represent a wine-vat being trodden by vat-treaders in the form of the satyrs, who are laughing.’

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