Bryn Mawr Classical Review

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Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2016.03.11

Heike Bottler, Pseudo-Plutarch und Stobaios: Eine synoptische Untersuchung. Hypomnemata, Bd 198.   Göttingen; Bristol, CT​:  Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2014.  Pp. 552.  ISBN 9783525253052.  $150.00.  

Reviewed by Philip Schmitz, University of Leipzig (


A great part of our knowledge of Greek philosophy, especially of the Presocratics, derives from a doxographical textual tradition that has come down to us only in a very mutilated form. The reconstruction of the underlying text has been the subject of a long scholarly debate from the 16th century onwards. Shortly after the appearance of Diels' Doxographi Graeci in 1879,1 it became the standard work of reference and Diels' reconstruction of the textual transmission has received the approval of generations of historians of philosophy after him.

The two main sources for this tradition are Ps.Plutarch's Placita and the first book of Johannes Stobaeus. Since both texts share much material, they must derive from a common source. It was identified by Diels with the lost work of a certain Aëtius, whose name is mentioned only by Theodoretus. Ps.Plutarch and Stobaeus are printed in two columns by Diels, the other witnesses are quoted at the bottom of the page or follow. The additional doxographical material to be found in this part of Stobaeus, as argued by Diels, goes mainly back to another author, Arius Didymus, who can be distinguished from Aëtius by several criteria. In his Prolegomena Diels gives a detailed analysis of the transmission. Aëtius, according to Diels, used the so-called Vetusta Placita as a source, which, enriched by some later material, are based on a lost work by Theophrastus. This allows Diels to include in his reconstruction of the transmission authors who lived before the supposed date of Aëtius.

In the voluminous Aëtiana by Mansfeld and Runia2 the theses of Diels were examined again and, in the view of these authors, proven to be valid with modifications.3 Mansfeld and Runia also present a revised list of criteria for distinguishing Arius Didymus from Aëtius and in their second volume offer an edition of Aëtius' presumed second book, with the reconstructed text presented, as in Diels' Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, in a single column.

In her study, a revised University of Frankfurt dissertation, Bottler now re-opens the discussion by analysing the corresponding passages in Stobaeus and Ps.Plutarch and looking at the "Aëtius hypothesis" of Diels again. She succeeds in showing that a lot of points now taken for granted in this discussion are not as certain as generally assumed and perhaps have to be re-examined.

In the first chapter Bottler gives a concise overview of the scholarship up to the present date and describes the different sources, her method and aims. As she states (pp. 51–53), her analysis has three goals: 1) to aid the reader with the manuscript variants in those parts where Ps.Plutarch and Stobaeus transmit the common source; 2) to analyse the differences of Ps.Plutarch and Stobaeus in detail and thus to draw conclusions about their source and to make the difference between these "Aëtian" passages and the material from "Arius Didymus" clearer; 3) to re-examine the transmission of these "Aëtian" passages in all the witnesses, especially where it poses problems for the hypotheses of Diels and of Mansfeld and Runia.

The second chapter ("Untersuchung", pp. 56–492) is by far the largest part of the book. Here the texts of Ps.Plutarch and Stobaeus are printed in separate columns with German translations. The variant readings are marked with dashed underlining, while words that are found in one of these texts only are printed in bold. Bottler focuses on the texts which the first two books of Ps.Plutarch have in common with Stobaeus.4 The corresponding texts of the other witnesses are also given. An analysis of the contents and/or the structure of the "Aëtian" passages follows in some cases. Then the variant readings are discussed separately.

The second chapter contains much that is useful for the reader. It is an advantage to have the text of all sources together, including especially the Arab translation of the Placita by Qosṭā Ibn Lūqā, which was not available to Diels and which Bottler presents as rendered into German by Daiber. Furthermore, German translations of Ps.Plutarch and Stobaeus help to get a quick overview and the sigla preceding each variant reading in the discussion guide the reader through the often difficult transmission. In the discussions that follow text and translation Bottler provides much valuable information including an overview of the previous scholarship on each passage. I give just a few examples: She shows that it is often difficult and sometimes impossible to reconstruct the text of the presumed common source even in those passages where Stobaeus and Ps.Plutarch share common material. Bottler argues that different versions, either of the common source or of Ps.Plutarch, existed. There are also indications for contamination between Ps.Plutarch and Stobaeus. As Bottler states (p. 55), constituting a text of each of these authors alone is a difficult task. The relation of these texts to the other witnesses and the attribution of passages to "Arius Didymus" or "Aëtius" is also re-examined.

In the two final chapters the results of the detailed discussion in the previous chapter are summarized, which makes them easily accessible for the reader. An appendix with a table of varying opinions of Mansfeld and Runia in the different stages of their work and with stemmata, a bibliography and indices of names and subjects conclude the book.

Some points, however, can be criticized. I focus now on the second chapter. While Bottler declares in the first chapter (p. 55 with n. 207) that she has taken the readings of the manuscripts as a basis when the editors print a text differing from the manuscripts,5 this is not the basis of her printed texts.

Only a selection of variant readings in Ps.Plutarch and Stobaeus is presented, printed in brackets in the main text or in the footnotes. An apparatus criticus would have been desirable in a study of textual transmission. For the other texts no variant readings are given. Hence the reader must have critical editions at hand for an exact overview of the tradition.

Since Stobaeus has re-arranged the material, Bottler like Diels follows the order in Ps.Plutarch. It would have been helpful to find at least the chapter numbers of Stobaeus with the page- and line-numbers of Wachsmuth. The traditional numbering of Plutarch or references to the Fragmente der Vorsokratiker are not printed either, which makes it rather difficult to look these passages up.

Apart from these defects in the general structure of the chapter, the main point to be criticized is that the number of inaccuracies seems to be so high that readers must be warned not to trust the information presented here without checking it themselves. Bottler's treatment (pp. 94–95) of just two sentences (Σπεύδει–μονάδα) in the lemma 1,3,8 about Pythagoras (Ps.Plutarch 876 F, Stobaeus 1,10,12 p. 125,4–9 W.) may serve as an example:

– In Stob. p. 125,5 W. Bottler prints "εἰδικόν (ἴδιον FP, ἀίδιον D)". εἰδικόν is the reading of Ps.Plutarch, ἀίδιον is printed by Diels (D), but is a conjecture by Heeren, as indicated by Diels, but not by Bottler. She should have, according to her own editorial method, printed ἴδιον of mss. F and P with a dashed underline.
– Similarly in Stob. p. 125,6 W. Bottler prints ὑλικόν and translates it as "stoffliche (Ursache)". But this is the reading of Ps.Plutarch, whereas the Stobaean mss. F and P have ἴδιον. As before ἴδιον with dashed underline should have been printed, but ἴδιον is not even mentioned.
– In Ps.Plutarch the codex Marcianus 521 has ὅπερ ἐστὶ νοῦς καὶ θεός instead of ὅπερ ἐστὶ νοῦς θεός of the other manuscripts (not mentioned). Daiber's German rendering of Qosṭā Ibn Lūqā's translation of the whole sentence runs: "Und er glaubte, daß das eine dieser Prinzipien die wirkende, spezielle Ursache ist, nämlich Gott—mächtig und erhaben ist er—und der Verstand." Here the last "und" might represent a Greek καί and support the reading of the Marcianus. The parenthesis "mächtig und erhaben ist er" is an addition, added here and in other cases probably by Arab scribes and should have been marked as an interpolation, see H. Daiber, Aetius Arabus, Wiesbaden 1980, p. 26 with n. 207. Qosṭā Ibn Lūqā himself was a Syrian Christian of Greek origin, see Daiber, pp. 3–4 with footnotes.
– τοῦ ἀριθμοῦ is not transmitted in Stobaeus (p. 125,7 W.), but Bottler prints <τοῦ ἀριθμοῦ>. Indeed this is needed, but violates Bottler’s editorial principles.
– In Stob. p. 125,7–8 W. ms. P's omission of μέχρι γὰρ τῶν δέκα is not mentioned.
– In the next sentence Bottler prints, in spite of her own note 118 on p. 95, in Ps.Plutarch "ἀναποδίζουσιν (ἀναποδοῦσιν Hss)" and in Stob. p. 125,9 W. "ἀναποδίζουσιν (ἀναποδοῦσιν FP)". Here according to her own principles both in Ps.Plutarch and in Stobaeus ἀναποδοῦσιν of the mss. should be printed. In the discussion of the readings, however, the lemma is "ἀναποδοῦσιν]", and there she writes: "ἀναποδοῦσιν] P=S ↔ DG=L=Mau (ἀναποδίζουσιν)". The sigla mean that Ps.Plutarch (P) and Stobaeus (S) have ἀναποδοῦσιν, but Diels in the Doxographi Graeci (DG), Lachenaud (L) and Mau print ἀναποδίζουσιν. Diels, however, prints ἀναποδοῦσιν. Ηer commentary on the passage does not make the facts clearer: "Die Ps.Plut. und Stobäischen Hss weisen ἀναποδοῦσιν auf. Heeren druckt ἀναποδίζουσιν ab und verweist dabei fälschlicherweise auf Ps.Plutarch. Diels favorisiert ἀναποδίζουσιν als Lesart der PS-Vorlage. In den DK druckt Diels die Hss-Lage ab und schlägt ἀναπολοῦσιν vor." ἀναποδίζουσιν was conjectured by Beck in his edition of Ps.Plutarch of 1787 before Heeren's 1792 Stobaeus-edition. Heeren seems to take the reading from Beck without mentioning him. Diels in the Prolegomena to the Doxographi Graeci p. 52 argues that the Pseudo-Pythagorean author from whom Aëtius derived the passage had written ἀναποδέοντι for ἀναποδίζουσιν to give the impression of antiquity and that this was rendered falsely as ἀναποδοῦσιν by Aëtius. Diels does not favour the reading ἀναποδίζουσιν as the reading of the common source (the "PS-Vorlage"), but on the contrary he says on pp. 51–52 that it is a very improbable reading ("quod parum habet veri similitudinis"). Hence in the Doxographi Graeci and in the Fragmente der Vorsokratiker (quoted both as "DK" and as "VS" by Bottler apparently without difference) in 58 B 15 (vol. I p. 454,42 61951) ἀναποδοῦσιν is printed. I could not find the proposal of ἀναπολοῦσιν in the Fragmente der Vorsokratiker. It seems improbable, since in a letter by Diels to Usener quoted by Bottler p. 95, n. 120 (the editor of the letters is Ehlers, not Ehler; the letter dates from the 19th, not the 18th May 1878) and in the Doxographi Graeci p. 52 he argues against this conjecture and says it was proposed by Reiske. In the edition of the Placita of 1778 (mentioned neither here nor in the bibliography) ἀναποδοῦσιν is printed and ἀναπολῶν as a proposal by Reiske for ἀναποδῶν a few lines later. Beck in his edition of 1787 quotes this conjecture by Reiske on p. 136 in a list of variants and emendations. He states that in consequence also ἀναπολοῦσιν should be conjectured in the earlier place: "Pro ἀναποδῶν, Reisk. coniecit ἀναπολῶν. Sic et antea ἀναπολοῦσιν scrib. foret". Perhaps this is the source of Diels' attribution of ἀναπολοῦσιν to Reiske.

In spite of these monenda Bottler has shown in many cases that the question about Aëtius, his sources and his transmission is not yet settled and that there is still work to be done. This makes her book a valuable contribution. Often, however, the accuracy that is needed for completing such a laborious task is lacking.


1.   H. Diels, Doxographi Graeci, Berlin 1879. This book is the basis of Diels' famous Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, Berlin 11903, 21906, 31912, 41922; H. Diels/W. Kranz, Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, Berlin 51934–37, 61951–1952.
2.   J. Mansfeld/D.T. Runia Aëtiana, Leiden/New York/Köln 1997 (vol. 1), Leiden/Boston 2009 (vol. 2, 2 parts; vol. 3). See vol. 1, pp. 1–63 for the scholarship before Diels, pp. 64–120 with the table on p. 81 for Diels' theory and pp. 238–266 for Arius Didymus.
3.   See the table in Mansfeld/Runia 1997, p. 328.
4.   One of Bottler's reasons for this, namely that books three and four offer corresponding material only "im geringen Maße" and that book five does not have any (p. 54, n. 203), is not correct.
5.   Bottler uses the editions of Mau and Lachenaud for Ps.Plutarch (though Diels is much more reliable, cf. St. Schröder's review of Lachenaud's edition, Gnomon 73 [2001], pp. 389-398) and of Wachsmuth for Stobaeus.

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