Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2017.10.15 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2017.10.15

Alain Blanchard, Ménandre. Tome III. Le laboureur - La double tromperie - Le poignard - L’eunuque - L’inspirée - Thrasyléon - Le Carthaginois - Les femmes qui boivent la ciguë - La Leucadienne -Le haï - La Périnthienne. Collection des universités de France. Série grecque, 525.   Paris:  Les Belles Lettres, 2016.  Pp. vi, 677.  ISBN 9782251006109.  €55.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by William Furley, University of Heidelberg (

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This third tome of Alain Blanchard’s Budé Menander contains collected fragments of the following plays: Georgos, Dis Exapatôn, Encheiridion, Eunuchos, Theophoroumenê, Thrasyleon, Karchedonios, Kitharistês, Kolax, Kôneiazomenai, Leukadia, Misoumenos, Perinthia. Accordingly it is a sammelsurium — arranged alphabetically by Greek title — and does not represent choices of a compiler, as Blanchard argued for in the case of the Cairo Codex, represented by the previous volume (II) in the series. In the present volume the Misoumenos is the major player and will form the exemplary centrepiece of this review. The other plays are all represented by more minor fragments, although some have played an important role in the reconstitution of Menander. Georgos was the first play to turn up an important fragment (J. Nicole, 1897). One hears that more of this play is in the pipeline from Oxford, so this chapter may require updating in the near future. Dis Exapatôn is the subject of Eric Handley’s ground-breaking work on the reworking of Menander by Plautus in his Bacchides.1 Theophoroumenê is important for its relation to the pictorial tradition of performances of Menander in Roman times. Kôneiazomenai enjoys a position of curiosity as its text consists of one fragment which was published by the Russo-Georgian scholar Grigol Zereteli and seems to have gone missing in the deplorable circumstances surrounding his death.2 Leukadia contains an interesting piece of anapaestic song, almost unique among the trimeters and tetrameters of Menander.

Blanchard’s edition of all these multifarious plays deserves credit for its user-friendly presentation of nearly all relevant information. After an initial quite lengthy general bibliography, divided into veterum scripta and recentiorum commentationes, each play is given an introduction (‘Notice’) which deals with the main themes and issues raised by the play, then a description of the fragments of manuscripts (arranged by codices and volumina) and other sources. The description of manuscripts includes references to images, where available, so the reader can conduct his/her own research.  The text itself is prefaced by sigla, a cast list in French (‘Personnages’) and Latin (dramatis personae). The presentation of the text is particularly laudable as it gives the (francophone) reader all tools necessary to decode the fragmentary text: a prose translation which papers over the cracks in the Greek original with words in italics, explanatory notes keyed to the translation, and on the facing page a Greek text printed in a bold and attractive font. Below the text on each page two classes of information are given: first a list of testimonia, which includes a break-down of the manuscripts contributing to the printed text, then a remarkably complete apparatus. The edition, then, goes a long way toward fulfilling the requirements of an advanced annotated text, as most of the information normally found in a commentary finds its place either on the left or the right in the format just described.

Blanchard’s achievement in assembling all this material for what is now the third volume of Menandrea in a digestible and largely accurate way is Herculean, not to say chalcenteric. Each play, each line even, presents its own labyrinth of issues and incognita, so the editor has constantly to be dealing with conundra and showing the reader how far one can go with the available evidence. Blanchard’s gift is to sift the readings and conjectures which have been offered on Menander’s text over the decades and usually come to a sensible choice on what to print. Whilst largely refraining from the supplements and guesses which have characterised some scholars’ work, he manages, in main text and apparatus, to give what one might call a healthy selection of readings and supplements. In short, Blanchard is a good and reliable guide through the thickets of textual criticism surrounding practically each word preserved of Menander.

Let us take first a minor sample. Leucadia, ‘The Girl from Leukas’, is represented by one modest papyrus fragment and a longish quote (plus a motley selection of other shorter quotes). Within this constricted scope Blanchard conveys a good deal of context including the height of the cliff, where it is, what Menander’s stage might have included, including the remark that Menander was clearly capable of creating ‘des décors fantastiques’, and not just the somewhat monotonous street with two houses. He resists following K. Gaiser down detailed but conjectural reconstructions of the story (207 n. 4) and clearly rejects the assignment of P.Oxy. inv. 50 4B 30H (5) to Leucadia, although it is included by Arnott in his Loeb edition.3 Blanchard is showing himself from his cautious side.

A good example of Blanchard’s judicious choice of supplements comes in Kitharistês 92–101 which marks a considerable advance on Arnott’s Loeb edition through culling supplements of recent scholars such as Colin Austin and earlier ones such as Herwerden, Koerte, Sudhaus. This play has also benefited from a new papyrus find (P.Oxy. 4642 published by R. Nünlist) now giving us (portions of) lines 102–117, which Arnott did not have.

The one criticism which is almost inevitable, given the scope and pace of the publishing programme here, is the evidence of a certain haste in preparing the volume. If one examines the fine print, as it were, of the edition, as I will do below in the case of Misoumenos, there are minor imperfections. On the whole these are the result simply of a lack of time. They do not add up to serious weaknesses in method or quality of the edition. On the level of simple misprints, in line 488 (apparatus) εὑρον for εὑρών. In line 542 punctuation after ἔχει where there should be none. In line 543 punctuation after λέγῃ again where there should be none. Line 550 (apparatus) ‘supl.’ for ‘suppl.’ Line 757 τυχνόν for τυχόν. Line 794 ἓν for ἕν. In line 790 Blanchard claims that Arnott takes Σιμίχη ᾿ξελήλυθεν to mean ‘Simiche has exited’ whilst in the Loeb at least we find ‘Simiche’s come out’ and that, surely, is the correct way of taking ἐξέρχομαι in drama. In line 796 surely the question mark in the translation ‘c’est comme cela que ça se passe?’ is misplaced. In line 801 Handley’s εἴπερ only makes sense if printed as a question, εἴπερ; Line 797 (apparatus) ‘Maelher’ should be ‘Maehler’. In line 964 there seems to be an extraneous line, or half-line, attributed to Getas for no particular reason.5

Slightly more serious is evidence that Blanchard could not always keep all the manuscripts in view, as it were. For line 29 K (Kölner Papyrus) has τυχ.[, not ]τυχω[. In line 88 κακόδαιμο[ν;] should have no brackets (the nu is completely visible in P.Oxy. 3368). In line 546 there is an inserted ‘δε’ in P.Oxy. 5198 which Blanchard omits. On quite a few occasions I found he was printing dots under letters, for example, which were confirmed by another manuscript (e.g. 688 Ἡράκλεις, 684 πάντ᾿). For lines 768–72 P.Oxy. 5199 contains some fragmentary lines which cannot be relegated to the apparatus as Blanchard does: he recognizes their existence but does not follow up with the logical conclusion that part of Turner’s patchwork manuscript 2656 has been misplaced. In lines 18–25 he acknowledges in the testimonia the existence of a Cologne fragment but does not refer to its readings. θύραν in line 20, for example, is clearly legible in this fragment so does not deserve to be printed as θ̣ύ̣ραν. Likewise περίμεν᾿ in line 22 should be printed without brackets. I am sorry to say that I led Blanchard astray for a similar reason. In line 572 I conjectured (per litt.) γ᾿ [ὀ]λέσ̣α̣ντ̣α̣ where Turner had originally in the editio princeps of 2656 printed καλέσαντα without hesitation. Now, on checking, I find that B1 (P.Berol. inv. 13281) quite clearly has καλεσαντα, so my conjecture must be rejected, however possible it might be in 2656. Likewise I am afraid that my thinking about line 553 (adopted by Blanchard) will probably be subject to revision.4 The above points are the result of scrutiny down to the last letter. Put the other way round, Blanchard’s achievement impresses in assembling text and apparatus with so few weaknesses.

When one considers the ‘Notice’ which precedes Misoumenos one finds the same judicious approach.  First come a number of ‘questions’ posed by the play: for example, the lack of a tragedy serving clearly as foil for the comedy, as one finds in the case of Perikeiromene for example (Euripides’ Iphigeneia in Tauris, according to Blanchard). Blanchard suggests that the subject matter of Misoumenos may be Menander’s own invention. Then there is the role of Kleinias in the play, thought by some to be Krateia’s lost brother, a hypothesis doubted by others. Then again there is the role of Thrasonides, which is described in some detail by Epictetus. Some of the points made by the philosopher correlate well with evidence in the play, others not. A final difficulty discussed by Blanchard is the relation of the Mytilene mosaic illustrating action from the play with the play itself. Blanchard is quite right to point out that the series of mosaics have in common the fact that they illustrate the title of each play (i.e. the scene in the play which gives the play its title, e.g. Epitrepontes is illustrated by the adjudication scene). So the mosaic in this case, where Getas seems to be mimicking Thrasonides’ suicidal intent, should show Krateia’s rejection of the miserable soldier. The ‘Notice’ is equipped with notes which give a good selection of relevant secondary literature. In discussing the ragged pages of P.Oxy. 2656 which forms, among 15(!) other manuscripts, the backbone of our knowledge of this play, Blanchard notices that a play may have preceded Misoumenos and another followed it in this scholarly manuscript, so we might have here a trilogy such as Blanchard argues for in the case of the Cairo Codex.

The volume closes with a sizeable ‘addenda et corrigenda’ fattened out largely, as Blanchard says in his preface, by new finds of text of Epitrepontes as well as new work done on this play and Perikeiromene, both included in Blanchard’s Tome II on the Cairo Codex. Blanchard remarks in the preface that ‘Ménandre mérite qu’on fasse pour lui un tel effort’. The remark underpins all volumes of the series by this scholar. When one compares it with possible rivals, the obvious comparison is with Geoffrey Arnott’s Loeb Menander. Arnott has perhaps served as inspiration for the concept of these Budé volumes, but, apart from serving the Francophone world, Blanchard has outdone his predecessor both by virtue of being more up-to-date (and there have been substantial new finds of text since Arnott’s Loeb),6 and by presenting testimonia and apparatus in a manner analogous to Teubner editions. He shows editorial discrimen in every line of his adored Menander.


1.   E. W. Handley, “Menander and Plautus: a Study in Comparison. An Inaugural Lecture delivered at University College London, 5 February 1968”, London, 1968.
2.   I. F. Fikhman, “G. F. Cereteli nei fondi archivistici dell’ ex Unione Sovietica (Materiali per un ritratto socio-psicologico dello studioso)”, Istituto Papirologico ‘G. Vitelli’, Firenze, Comunicazioni 3, 1999, 1–73.
3.   W. G. Arnott, Menander, Volume II, Loeb Classical Library, Cambridge, MA and London, 1996.
4.   William Furley, Textual notes on Menander’s Misoumenos, taking in the most recently published fragments, ZPE 196 (2015), 44–48g.
5.   Following Arnott in the Loeb, it would seem, but there is no dicolon or paragraphus in the papyri.
6.   Georgos, P.Oxy. 4937; Kitharistes, P.Oxy. 4642; Misoumenos, P.Oxy. 4408, 5198, 5199. The new text for Epitrepontes belongs strictly to Tome II.

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