BMCR 1990.01.06

Λεξικόν της προσοκρατικής φιλοσοφίας. Lexicon of Presocratic Philosophy [Vol. 1, A-I.]

Λεξικόν της προσοκρατικής φιλοσοφίας. Lexicon of Presocratic Philosophy, Vol. 1, A-I. Athens: Academy of Athens, Research Center for Greek Philosophy, 1988. vx, 195.

The task of preparing this lexicon was undertaken over twenty years ago, a sample appearing in an early issue of Philosophia. In the interim of course Ibcyus and the TLG have appeared, so that one can now easily search a stored list of presocratics. It is true that the TLG followed an APA committee guideline in entering the text from Diels-Kranz, but so does this new lexicon (almost; see below), even though superior texts were available for several of the Presocratics, most notably Parmenides, Heraclitus, and Empedocles; but no serious researcher would ever fail to check any lexicon, concordance, etc. against a sound text and its apparatus. An opportunity was lost to improve upon TLG by providing information on significant variant readings (as, e.g, in Italie’s Index Aeschyleus). As it is, as with TLG unfortunately, a quite possibly correct reading found in most or even all mss. will not be cited if Diels-Kranz or whatever text is followed prints a variant or conjecture.

This is certainly the case with this new lexicon, which has the potential to mislead in this as well as in several other ways. Perhaps if but one person had taken up the task, the lexicon would have been finished within twenty years and had fewer errors. As it is, the work suffers from its having been compiled over too long a time by a committee. One’s suspicions are initially aroused by the fact that the title page gives no hint that the book contains only the first half of the alphabet. Only the Prologue mentions vol. 2 (pp. ix, xii), without however giving a hint of when it will appear. Also lacking is a clear statement of editorial practice or intent. We do learn that “there were some deviations from Diels-Kranz wherever these were judged necessary,” but not the criteria or texts which led to these deviations. There is also the unasked question of how to distinguish between ipsissima verba and the surrounding explanatory matter of a later commentator and citator, although it is clear that this is the book’s intent. The entry under ‘archê’, for example, is far neater than that in Diels-Kranz’Wortindex, which, as usual, makes looking for original words of presocratics difficult. We are still told that Thales wrote Peri archôn, but this should not mislead. A third point missing from the prologue is the criterion for inclusion. It soon becomes clear that articles, prepositions, particles, and some adverbs are ignored. But one can easily get the false impression that each listing is complete. It is true that the book is labeled a lexicon and not a concordance, but we are dealing with a relatively small body of texts, and completion (mere listing of passages if not actual citation of texts) would have been possible and highly desirable. As it is, however, one never knows when a listing is incomplete; anyone needing all uses by a Presocratic will be sent back to the Wortindex or TLG. But more bothersome is that in a brief check I found some nouns missing: aggos, Akragas, antron (all from Empedocles). There are doubtless others.

Additional points could be raised regarding particular forms of lemmas, English translations (which accompany Modern Greek ones), and definitional breakdowns within entries, but enough has been said to put the reader on guard. I’ll try to make use of this book and will spend another thousand drachs when vol. 2 comes out, but there is no doubt that an opportunity to provide a basic tool of reference for students of the Presocratics has been largely missed.