BMCR 1998.05.01

98.5.01, Sophocles: Second Thoughts. Hypomnemata 100

, , Sophocles: Second Thoughts. Hypomnemata 100. Gottingen: Ruprecht, 1997. Pp. 146.

That second thoughts are often best will have occurred to many, I suppose, who have ever worked seriously in the field of textual criticism, since as a human art rather than an exact science it must involve a certain degree of personal judgement, which will—at least that is what one would hope for oneself—evolve with growing experience and acquaintance with the texts. It had in recent times become quite common for scholars who have produced a major edition to publish a companion volume in which they explain their textual choices in particularly difficult places. Sir Hugh Lloyd-Jones and Nigel Wilson have followed this custom and published together with their OCT of Sophocles a sizeable volume Sophoclea (Oxford 1990). Inevitably an OCT of such a central and notoriously difficult author, produced by two so particularly distinguished scholars, prompted a vivid response, documented not only in a number of substantial reviews but also in further books and articles on textual matters in Sophocles, which took their start from Ll-J/W’s work. Now, seven years after the first edition of their text Ll-J/W have published another volume in which they take account of the ongoing discussion and of the reception of their work. This procedure must be highly welcome because it documents the benefit of serious discussion among scholars and the progress which can be achieved by it.

Already in the second edition of their OCT, published only two years after the first one, Ll-J/W introduced changes to their text in seven places (Ai. 1369, OT 81, Ant. 635, 1289, 1298, OC 882, 1729). Now this new book marks further progress. Its main part contains notes on 301 passages; at the end, an appendix is added which touches upon several more general points which have been raised in the scholarly discussion about the new OCT. The new book shows everywhere a sincere and generous appreciation of the work of others and of serious criticism advanced by other scholars, coupled with a willingness to learn and to correct the shortcomings of one’s own work. This attitude certainly entitles the authors to be outspoken from time to time about scholars who try their wits in textual matters without adequate knowledge of the basic facts. When on p. 9 in the preface Ll-J/W point out the scholarly duty of warning readers against several common faults one can hardly disagree with them, in particular if one is conscious of the fact that the number of scholars endowed with the most basic knowledge of what is going on in mss. and papyri and with satisfactory linguistic competence in Greek and Latin is sadly decreasing. Yet, despite the occasional severity one must also admire the remarkable discretion of Ll-J/W, in particular in the appendix, in reviewing several opinions which one might easily reject much less politely.

As regards the general matters treated in the appendix, I shall limit myself to briefly touching upon two points raised therein, before I come to the central part of the book. Ll-J/W rightly defend their view that the conjectural abilities of Byzantine scholars, even their inclination to interfere at all with the transmitted text, has often been overrated in the past. Recent work on the ms. tradition, in particular of the tragic poets, has shown abundantly that the impact of conjectural activity prior to Triclinius is smaller than has been assumed before. As regards the pre-Paleologan period it is extremely small indeed, at least in regard to poetic texts; I shall present the full evidence for Pindar in a book on Pindaric philology in Byzantium, due to appear shortly.

On the risk of seeming to be pedantic, I venture to add a further remark on Ll-J/W’s decision to use collective sigla for ms. groups. Looking at the cumbersome apparatuses of some modern editions—alas, indispensable as the only source of adequate information on ms. readings—one will surely welcome the desire of the Oxford editors to remove from the apparatus of an editio minor all superfluous details. The minuscule letters for the groups a,p,r,t,z, printed in bold type, surely make for a very attractive picture and an extremely clear and easy to handle apparatus. It is surely to some degree a matter of opinion how close one judges the cohesion of a group of mss. to be, but if one looks at Ll-J/W’s groups there is a marked difference between the fairly coherent families r,t,z—as regards the non-triadic plays, also a—and p or a (in the triad) on the other hand. I doubt that it was wise to cite the group p