BMCR 1997.08.14

Antimachus of Colophon: text and commentary

, Antimachus of Colophon: text and commentary. Mnemosyne, bibliotheca classica Batava. Supplementum, 155. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1996. Pp. x, 478. ISBN 9789004104686 $153.50.

The book presents a new edition, with introduction and commentary, of the ca. 200 fragments that survive of the work of the Greek poet and grammarian Antimachus of Colophon. An older contemporary of Plato, Antimachus had an important role in the development of both elegy (the Lyde) and epic mythological poetry (the Thebaid, a poem dealing with the myths connected with the Theban saga, centered on the expedition of the Seven); the innovative nature of his work is evident in that it already met with contrasting evaluations among his contemporaries. Antimachus was also a γραμματικός, who worked on the text and interpretation of Homer, and is often quoted in the Homeric scholia.

To offer a new edition of this material is a difficult task, especially considering the wide range of sources and the recognized high standard of Wyss’ previous edition of 1936. M., in comparison with Wyss, includes some new fragments which have come to light in recent years, proposes in some cases a different arrangement of them, and above all offers a detailed commentary.

In the edition of the text of the fragments themselves, M. generally follows the paradosis closely. He is generous in proposing possible solutions to textual problems, especially new supplements in papyrus texts, but very rarely admits them to the text. As a consequence, the new text of Antimachus is not substantially different from the one we knew. Where there are differences, M. tends to be more conservative than his predecessor. A good example of this procedure is found in F 129 = 74 Wyss. The MSS have εὐλείας; Wyss accepts an emendation by Bergk, εὐλεῖος, an Ionic genitive; M. prints εὐλείας with a crux and in the apparatus proposes a good emendation, κιλλεῖος (a river Cillaeus is mentioned in Strabo; notice however that M. on p. 311 misinterprets Wyss’ note concerning the Euleus). On the other hand, M. tends to be more positive than Wyss in assigning fragments to a particular poem, on the basis of considerations of context. As a consequence, many of the fragments about which Wyss was reluctant to make a decision regarding their attribution to the Thebaid or to the Lyde are now assigned with convincing arguments to one or either of them, while some of the fragmenta dubia in Wyss are now among the spurious ones.

The Introduction deals first with ancient testimonies on Antimachus’ dating and home town, answers positively the question of the credibility of statements that make him a pupil of the rhapsode and Homeric interpreter Stesimbrotus of Thasus, and discusses the historicity of the anecdotes connecting him with his noted contemporary Plato. Antimachus’ most famous work, the Thebaid, offers first of all problems regarding its mythological content and number of books. Contrary to a still widespread opinion, based on the testimony of the scholia on Horace Ars poetica 146 and 136, M. reaches the conclusion that the poem did not go beyond the expedition of the Seven against Thebes and that it therefore did not include that of the Epigonoi: a fragment mentioning Diomedes is therefore assigned to the Lyde (F 90 = fr. incertae sedis 79 Wyss). This was also on broad lines Wyss’ position, who however considered credible the division into twenty-four books, mentioned in the same scholia. M. on the contrary, on the basis of the content of the fragments for which the book number is cited (the highest is book 5), guesses a possible total of ten books, comprising ten to 15,000 lines in all. As for the possibility that Statius in his Thebaid used Antimachus as a source, as a scholium in C. von Barth’s 1664 edition of the scholia to Statius, M. agrees with those who consider it a forgery (see his commentary on F [204] = 29 Wyss). But as for the plausibility of its content, M. is inclined to think that, given the scarcity of Antimachus’ fragments, there is not enough evidence to decide whether Statius knew Antimachus’Thebaid or not.

Antimachus’ other major work, the Lyde, a poem in elegiac couplets, is even more problematic, especially regarding its content and structure. The negative criticism of the poem by Callimachus (T 15) is discussed in detail. M.’s opinion is that it referred not to the length, but to the style of the poem, which was possibly excessively heavy and similar to that of the Thebaid. He is also inclined to consider it a carmen continuum, not, as it has been suggested, a complex of elegies composed separately and collected by others. In the Lyde Antimachus described the troubles of mythological heroes and heroines, and possibly of Antimachus himself, if West’s suggestion on the basis of T 11 and F 93 is right ( Studies in Greek Elegy and Iambus, Berlin-New York 1974, p. 170), as M. is disposed to think. The shortness of the fragments and the prevalent interests of our sources (mythology, rare words, place-names) make it difficult, however, to detect the presence of subjective love-elements in Antimachus’ elegies, and little more can be gleaned from ancient references to the poem itself. Another much discussed problem concerns the possible presence of a polemic against Antimachus in the Aetia prologue: M. has reached the conclusion, contrary to an opinion he had himself previously held, that no reference to Antimachus is to be found either in the prologue or in the scholia to it (p. 45).

Among Antimachus’ minor works, little can be said about the Deltoi, of which only a hexameter and the title survive. To the material offered by M. has to be added a recently published fragment in elegiac couplets (P. Berol. 21340, 2nd cent. B.C., ed. by W. Brashear, in Proceedings of the 20th International Congress of Papyrologists, ed. by A. Bülow-Jacobsen, Copenhagen 1994, pp. 286-8). It could throw some light on both the Lyde and the Deltoi, if we accept P. Parsons’ likely supplement of the name of Lyde in the first line and his suggestion that it could come from the Deltoi (it addresses a writing tablet in l. 7) and would, therefore, contain a reference to Antimachus’ own earlier work.

The very existence of another poem, the Artemis, whose title is attested only by Stephanus of Byzantium, has been disputed: the suggestion to emend the title ‘Artemis’ to ‘Thebaid’ was already put forward by the first editor of Antimachus’ fragments, Schellenberg. M. follows Wyss in accepting the transmitted text. He further assigns to this work, developing a suggestion first advanced by Maas, all the fragments (but for F 16) preserved in the Hermoupolis papyrus, a commentary on Antimachus with lemmata from the text; the papyrus had been discovered just before the publication of Wyss’ collection, to which it was added as a last-minute appendix.

The remains of Antimachus’ activity as a Homeric scholar, which consist of different readings and interpretations of passages of the poems, are collected in frr. 165-188. As M. himself is aware, it is difficult to draw conclusions about the value of Antimachus’ work as a scholar, given the scarcity of the fragments. As for his method, I would suggest that the fragments of the unnamed pre-Aristarchean Homeric interpreters referred to in the Homeric scholia as the glossographoi (edited by A. R. Dyck, HSCPh 91, 1987, 119-60) contain material that can be usefully compared with the Antimachean.

Two sections on Antimachus’ vocabulary and metre conclude the Introduction. The first discusses unusual vocabulary as a feature of Antimachus’ style and the presence of parallel usages in earlier, contemporary and later Hellenistic poetry, especially in Apollonius and Euphorion. The second offers a series of statistical data on metrical usages in Antimachus’ surviving lines, including those found in the Hermoupolis papyrus, compared with earlier and Hellenistic epic poetry.

The book’s greatest contribution lies in the care M. has devoted to the commentary on the single fragments, where he discusses matters of text, metrics, and possible contexts, trying to explore links between Antimachus and his predecessors and the later Hellenistic poets. M. gives particular attention to the poet’s language, which he compares with the full range of the epic tradition and of earlier and later Greek poetry; the richness of this part of the work means that the variety and the number of the problems discussed makes the work useful even to the reader who is not interested in Antimachus’ poetry for its own sake. The Index verborum and the general index, after spot checks, appear to be accurate (I found only one mistake: the word KRH/NH is in F 136, not 135). The general index is detailed and especially useful, as it helps the reader to make full use of the ancient material referred to in the commentary on each of the fragments.

A few observations on single fragments. F 11: there are unexplained differences (dots under letters accidentally missing?) between the text of the papyrus ( POxy. 1087) as M. prints it and the text to be found in the Oxyrhynchus Papyri and in Erbse’s edition of the Iliad scholia (apart from the evident misprint τὺν for τὴν). F 118: in l. 2 the readings in the text and in the apparatus do not match. F 189: the text of line 1 of POxy. 859 is different from the text as Grenfell and Hunt print it. I also think it would have been helpful for the reader if the author had been consistent both in the layout of the papyrus texts (either reproducing the lines of the papyrus or writing them out in prose-form, but not fluctuating between the two) and in his use of the conventions in the critical apparatus (especially regarding the use of the colon, and of italic type in the case of Latin texts).

I noticed a number of misprints: F 5, apparatus l. 2: omnium ne illum should read omnium me illum ?; F 37 l. 2: τὰν should read τὴν; φ 54, l. 5 from the end: τὶν should read τὸν; π. 100, l. 9 from the end: Dycolus should be Dyscolus; p. 290 n. 92: F289 Mette should read F28 Mette. Obvious errors in the accentuation of the Greek text (wrong or missing): T 2 line 2; T 10 ll. 1 and 2; T 15A ll. 2 and 4; T 15B l. 2; T 27 l. 3; T 29E l. 1; T 40 l. 5; F 54 l. 3 from the end; F 58 l. 3; F 78 last line; F 130 l. 2; F 131 l. 2 from the end; F 164, last line (and missing space in the text); F 165, l. 4 ; F 172, commentary, l. 2 from the end; F 179, l. 5; F 187 l. 8. Obvious errors in the syllabification of the Greek: T 2 lines 3 and 11; T 15A l. 4; T 16 l. 2; F 3 l. 3; F 39 l. 11; F 54 l. 12; F 146, l. 3; F 150 l. 2; F 158, ll. 4 and 5; F 177 l. 2; F 179 l. 2; p. 393, l. 19; F [214] ll. 1 and 8. Something clearly went wrong with the computer processing of the Greek text; this is surprising not only in view of the international reputation of the publisher, but also the fact that the book is a critical edition.

The book is a very useful addition to studies of classical and Hellenistic poetry, and any further work on Antimachus will surely benefit from the richness of the ancient material that M. has put together and organised. This is a field that has raised much interest in recent years, and this new collection of fragments can now be used together with two books that appeared too late for the author to cite: Michela Lombardi’s studies on the Thebaid (Antimaco di Colofone. La poesia epica, Roma 1993) and Alan Cameron’s Callimachus and His Critics (Princeton 1995, especially ch. XI).