Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2016.07.38 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2016.07.38

Jürgen Hammerstaedt, Martin Ferguson Smith, The Epicurean Inscription of Diogenes of Oinoanda: Ten Years of New Discoveries and Research.   Bonn:  Verlag Dr. Rudolf Habelt, 2014.  Pp. 288.  ISBN 9783774939271.  €69.00.  

Reviewed by Pamela Gordon, University of Kansas (

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

That Epicurus was such a prolific writer irked his ancient detractors. Epictetus thought that Epicurus’ efforts to compose and broadcast his texts contradicted his stance on friendship (Discourses 2.20.20), and Plutarch claimed that Epicurus’ energetic communications with an array of readers violated the “live unnoticed” precept attributed to him (Moralia 1128). Diogenes of Oinoanda would have caused similar consternation. Faced with human suffering, Diogenes considers it the responsibility of “any good man” (χρηστὸς τις ἀνήρ, fragment 2 II 11-12) to run to the aid of his contemporaries (an intervention he expresses with the pun ἐπικουρεῖν fragment 2 V 7).1 This philosophical rescue effort took place not just among small circles of like-minded friends, but on the walls of a stoa in the thick of things in urban Oinoanda (in southwest Asia Minor, now Turkey). Of all known inscriptions from Greek and Roman antiquity, Diogenes’ is the longest. According to the preface by Hammerstaedt and Smith, this limestone inscription of Roman imperial date (“probably the first half of the second century AD”) “may have occupied about 260 square metres of wall-space and contained about 25,000 words” (p. 1). Oenoanda had a rich epigraphic culture, and it seems highly relevant that Diogenes chose the medium favored by other wealthy elites and public benefactors, particularly in the Greek East.

It is fitting that such a generous, affable, and industrious Epicurean should have the expert support of Hammerstaedt and Smith, who have not only devoted considerable effort to the discovery and preservation of the fragments of Diogenes’ dismantled inscription, but who have also published the new fragments and new readings of rediscovered stones within months of their discovery (along with indispensable commentaries and translations). Smith has been the international leader of work on Diogenes of Oinoanda since 1968, and most of this volume presents the fruitful results of his collaboration with Hammerstaedt, a relative newcomer.

In 2007, a new survey-project in Oinoanda began under the directorship of Martin Bachmann, of the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Istanbul. Between 2007 and 2012, 76 new fragments were discovered (some of them quite substantial). The editors are optimistic that more fragments will soon emerge, so this is not yet the time to produce a full, consolidated edition of the inscription. The present volume comprises seven previously published articles that present the Greek texts of these new fragments along with photographs, English translations and commentary, and abstracts in Turkish, all of which appeared in Anatolian Studies or Epigraphica Anatolica. In addition, there is a brief but informative preface, a crucial three-page section aptly titled “Finding and Citing the Latest Edition of a Diogenes Fragment,” a previously published article on the text (in German), and a new 25-page section that prints lists of corrections and additions, the “Theological Physics-sequence” as one continuous text (old and new fragments combined, with translation), and Greek indices of all of the fragments and new readings first published in 2003-2012. This new material will be essential to any scholarship on Diogenes, but even the (uncorrected) reprinted articles are valuable, as many university libraries do not subscribe to the journals. Moreover, Epigraphica Anatolica does not appear in the usual online databases and sometimes passes under the radar of Google Scholar. Here I will mention only a few of the new discoveries, and I will refer to the translations rather than to the Greek text.

New Fragment (henceforth NF) 157 and Hammerstaedt’s and Smith’s commentaries will be relevant to any discussion of Epicurean attitudes toward sexuality. In the new fragment, Diogenes seems to say that lovers (“those who are sick with the passion of love”) are not aware “that they derive pleasure to the highest degree from looking even without copulation” (p. 89). Here Hammerstaedt and Smith disagree about the significance of this text, which Smith takes as a statement of an orthodox position that both Epicurus and Lucretius would affirm. Hammerstaedt—rightly, in my opinion—finds Diogenes’ “positive attitude to the pleasure obtained from looking at an attractive person” (p. 90) at odds with Lucretius’ treatment of the connection between vision and erotic desire (Lucr. 4.1937- 1287). The inclusion of Hammerstaedt’s and Smith’s divergent views here will benefit future scholarly debate.

Refuting the notion of divine providence in NF 182, Diogenes refers to thunder, hail, violent winds, and other phenomena (including nighttime) that he pronounces “useless” or “even harmful” (p. 118). Hammerstaedt and Smith note incidentally that a violent storm that damaged the local apple crop coincided with the chance discovery of NF 182. Thus Diogenes’ interest in storms “would have seemed highly appropriate” to the inhabitants of his mountainous region (p. 118).

Also of particular importance is NF 186, which adds a small but significant piece of evidence for the existence of female students of Epicurean philosophy. This fragment “may or may not belong to Letter to Menneas,” one of the “Ten-Line-Column Writings” that may have been in the central course of the apparently seven-course inscription (p.129). Almost an entire column of NF 186 is well preserved, and one feminine pronoun and one feminine participle are clearly legible. Hammerstaedt and Smith translate: “… [I shall help them (?)] [in every] way, when I can. As you know, we do not have better things to offer them (N.B. ‘them’ is feminine) than our own good fare. For indeed they happen already to have done some tasting of the doctrines of Epicurus, but to be sure not in such a way that [the disturbances] that strike [them have been removed]” (p. 130). The commentary suggests plausibly that the addressee is “an Epicurean or Epicurean sympathizer” and that “our own good fare” may refer to Epicurean philosophy (p. 130). Sadly, the next column is too damaged to read more than a few characters. Perhaps future discoveries will reveal whether these women belonged to some sort of circle of seekers or students, or if they were simply two or more acquaintances or correspondents.

In NF 192, addressing “Zeno and Cleanthes, and you, Chrysippus,” Diogenes asserts that the Epicurean telos is not the pleasures of “the masses,” as the Stoics claim, but is like the Stoic telos, though the Stoics “hate the name of pleasure” (p. 153). Diogenes’ naming of Chrysippus, who is not mentioned in other fragments, will be of interest to scholars who think that Epicureanism continued to develop after the lifetime of Epicurus. Chrysippus (born c. 280 BCE) was only a boy when Epicurus died in 270 BCE.

This leads me to one aspect of the fine work of Hammerstaedt and Smith that is not to my taste, though it may bother only a minority of other scholars. I would have liked to see in the commentaries more attention to Diogenes’ particular context in the Epicurean tradition. While acknowledging that later Epicureans seem to have been eager to demonstrate their loyalty to the teachings of Epicurus or, more generally, to the teachings of “The Men” (Epicurus, Hermarchus, Metrodorus, and Polyaenus), I agree with Snyder that Epicurean texts were “not simply a static body of documents to be restored, but a sinuous, evolving entity.”2 Philodemus’ allegiance seems to be to “The Men,” but so far it appears that Diogenes saw himself as a follower solely of Epicurus, whom he mentions eight times in the known fragments if we count one certain and one uncertain reference to “son of Neocles” (the fragment numbers are listed on p. 131). And yet, Diogenes does not deliver wisdom straight from the books of Epicurus, as his inimitable voice and aspects such as his reference to Chrysippus make clear.

But Smith’s approach to these fragmentary texts often involves filling in lacunae with words imported from the texts of Epicurus, though Hammerstaedt and Smith do take care to remind readers that Smith’s restorations are merely suggestions. For example, in the notes on NF 156, they write: “S.’s restoration of the whole maxim…is closely based on the passages in which Epicurus (especially Hdt. 49-50) and Diogenes (especially fr. 9, 43) describe how the images cause vision, thought, and dreams, but of course he does not claim to show how the text went, only how it might have gone” (p. 59). Sometimes the editors have found that “how it might have gone” was clearly not how it went. NF 157 was discovered in 2008 (published expeditiously in 2008), but the full text on the stone was not uncovered until the following season (and then published in 2009). For the 2008 publication, Smith presented restorations and a translation of the text as it had so far been revealed (p. 60). But when the rest of the stone was uncovered a year later, Hammerstaedt and Smith discovered that half of that restored text and most of the translation were incorrect, as the full photograph, text, and translation demonstrate (p. 89). To their credit, Hammerstaedt and Smith call attention to the hazards of restoration by issuing “a mild ‘health warning’” (p. 3) and a list of updates (p. 5) for readers who would otherwise be unaware that a proposed restoration has become untenable.

This book will be essential for scholars and fans of Diogenes of Oinoanda, and the wealth of detail it contains about the extensive recovery, recording, and preservation efforts should make any reader optimistic that Diogenes has even more to tell us.

Table of Contents

Finding and Citing the Latest Edition of a Diogenes Fragment
New Fragments (NF) 136-212, and Some Additions to “Old” Fragments
1. MFS, In praise of the simple life: a new fragment of Diogenes of Oinoanda [= Anatolian studies 54 (2004) 35-46]
2. MFS, JH, The Inscription of Diogenes of Oinoanda: New Investigations and Discoveries (NF 137-141)." [= Epigraphica Anatolica 40 (2007) 1-12]
3. JH/ MFS, Diogenes of Oinoanda: The Discoveries of 2008 (NF 142-167) [= Epigraphica Anatolica 41 (2008) 1-37]
4. JH/ MFS, Diogenes of Oinoanda: The Discoveries of 2009 (NF 167-181)." [= Epigraphica Anatolica 42 (2009) 1-38]
5. Hammerstaedt, Jürgen, and M. F. Smith. "Diogenes of Oinoanda: The Discoveries of 2010 (NF 182-190)." [= Epigraphica Anatolica 43 (2010) 1-29]
6. Hammerstaedt, Jürgen, and M. F. Smith. "Diogenes of Oinoanda: The Discoveries of 2011 (NF 191-205, and Additions to NF 127 and 130)." [= Epigraphica Anatolica 44 (2011) 79-114]
7. Hammerstaedt, Jürgen, and Martin Ferguson Smith. "Diogenes of Oinoanda: new discoveries of 2012 (NF 206-212) and new light on" old" fragments." [= Epigraphica Anatolica 45 (2012) 1-37]
Further Contributions
8. JH, Zum Text der epikureischen Inschrift des Diogenes von Oinoanda [= Epigraphica Anatolica 39 (2006) 1-48]
9. JH / MFS, The Continuous “Theological Physics-sequence” (NF 167 + NF 126/127 + fr. 20 + NF 182)
10. JH / MFS, Additions and Corrections
11. JH / MFS, Greek Indices


1.   For the text of this and other fragments discovered before 1993 (through NF 124), see Martin Ferguson Smith, Diogenes of Oinoanda. The Epicurean Inscription, La scuola di Epicuro, Supplemento 1, Naples, Bibliopolis, 1993. Fragments discovered after that publication (through NF135) can be found in Martin Ferguson Smith, Supplement to Diogenes of Oinoanda, The Epicurean Inscription, La scuola di Epicuro, Supplemento 3, Naples, Bibliopolis, 1993. The publication under review here includes corrections to those editions.
2.   H. Gregory Snyder, Teachers and Texts in the Ancient World (New York: Routledge, 2000), 53.

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