BMCR 2000.02.37

Arius Didymus. Epitome of Stoic Ethics. Texts and Translations 44; Graeco-Roman 14

, Arius Didymus. Epitome of Stoic Ethics. Texts and Translations 44; Graeco-Roman 14. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 1999. ix, 160. $35.00.

Almost two decades ago a conference on Arius Didymus was held at Rutgers University and, as a result of that meeting, a very important book containing contributions by leading scholars on the subject was published (W.W. Fortenbaugh, ed. On Stoic and Peripatetic Ethics. The Work of Arius Didymus, New Jersey 1983). Since that date, a growing number of papers and books dealing with Arius have been published.1 P[omeroy]’s contribution forms part of this revival of scholarly interest in Arius Didymus.

The present volume offers a complete English translation of Stobaeus’ excerpt of Stoic ethics with facing Greek text, a brief introduction and explanatory endnotes. It is worth remembering that ten years ago there were no translations into any modern language of the extract of Stoic ethics contained in Stobaeus ( Eclogae, 2.57, 15-116, 18, ed. Wachsmuth). Now there are at least two English translations and another in progress.2 The introduction discusses both the author of the epitome and the text on which the translation is mainly based (cf. p. 3).3 P.’s introduction does not contain a discussion about the several and sometimes complicated philosophical issues exposed by Arius Didymus, although the notes satisfactorily help to account for various difficult passages on those matters. With regard to the authorship of the extract, P. largely relies both on D. Hahm’s monograph on Arius (see n.1; cited by P., p. 1, n.4) and Inwood’s defense of the traditional interpretation by Meineke (and later by Diels), i.e. that the author of the epitome was the Stoic philosopher Arius Didymus (cf. p. 2, n.6).4 The text offered in this well-edited book also contains a critical apparatus (in English); the passages where the text varies from Wachsmuth’s edition are indicated in the last section of the introduction (pp. 5-8). The apparatus, chiefly based on Wachsmuth’s, contains suggestions to improve the text taken from scholars of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century (e.g. Usener, Hirzel, Heeren, Diels, Madvig, Heine, Dindorf, Meineke, Wachsmuth) and from more recent scholars (including Asmis, Inwood, Schofield, Sedley and P. himself). The references to Wachsmuth pages are conveniently indicated on the right margin of the Greek text page as well as references to H. von Arnim, Stoicorum Veterum Fragmenta, Leipzig 1903-1905, 3 vols. ( SVF) and to A.A. Long & D.N. Sedley, The Hellenistic Philosophers, Cambridge 1987, 2 vols. (LSJ where appropriate.

P. has produced an accurate and, as far as I can judge, very readable English translation; although the author recognizes that there is some loss of fluency in the English version, I think that it is clear enough and close to the original. The endnotes are concise and mostly very useful. Indeed the spirit of P.’s notes is both to clarify the line of argument presented in the text and to provide some information about parallel passages which are useful for understanding Arius’ text. The book also supplies a basic (fundamentally English) bibliography on Stoic ethics and a very helpful Greek-English glossary, which is especially important to the understanding of the highly technical Stoic terminology contained in the Stoic extract.

As usual, the reviewer’s comments must concentrate on points of disagreement rather than on points of agreement. In the scope of a brief review it is almost impossible to do justice to all the important issues contained in this book. I shall focus on some points that in my view merit special attention. As P. notes, in the twentieth century there has been a reaction to Wachsmuth’s readiness to change the text; for the most part P.’s suggestions are persuasive and based on MSS F (Farnese) and P (Paris) (although frequently he accepts emendations by other scholars as well). Let me list, however, some of those changes that do not seem to me convincing along with some remarks on P’s translation and notes:

1. 1. In 5b (p. 58, 15-17 W) P. supplements καὶ ἀκολάσιαν before καὶ ἀδικίαν and καὶ ἀσθένεια before κακίας εἶναι. He argues that this supplement is supported by the conclusion of 5b, 9-12 (see the apparatus on p. 12), i.e. “Therefore, imprudence ( ἀφροσύνη; “stupidity” in P.’s translation), intemperance ( ἀκολασία, “lack of restraint” in P.’s version), injustice, and cowardice are forms of ignorance ( ἀγνοίας, “failures to understand” in P’s translation) of certain matters and lack of expertise; pusillanimity ( μικροψυχία, “small-mindedness” in P.’s version) and powerlessness (“incapacity” or, a few lines above, “mental incapacity” in P.’s translation), are neither forms of ignorance of certain matters nor lack of expertise” (Wachsmuth text). But ἀσθένεια in the conclusion is also a supplement (by Meineke), as P. correctly observes. Thus it is not a very persuasive argument, in my view, to introduce a supplement which is based on another supplement, no matter how acceptable that supplement may be.

2. In 5b13 (p. 68, 20 W) P. suggests following the MSS FP and reading σωφροσύνῃ. I think that in this case Wachsmuth’s correction ( φρονήσει) is sound since for the Stoics φρόνησις is technically the opposite of ignorance (the φρόνιμος, “the prudent person”, being the same as the σοφός. “the wise person”, and prudence is equivalent to knowledge, as Plutarch reports, On moral virtue, 440E-441D). Ignorance, on the other hand, is the typical epistemic state of the φαῦλος, “the base man”. So Wachsmuth’ emendation appears to make better sense.

3. There seems to be an inconsistency in the passage 11a (p. 93, 15 W): P. prints and translates ἀπεχόν”having in full”, (p. 62-63), but in the list of the places where he says he varies from Wachsmuth’s edition (p. 7) he prints ἐπεχόν (following Wachsmuth’s reading).

4. In 11m (p. 110, 21 W) P. follows von Arnim in reading ἀδικοπραγεῖν, instead of keeping δικαιοπραγεῖν given by the MSS and followed by Wachsmuth. Von Arnim’s suggestion seems to me an over-interpretation; the text as presented in the MSS yields an acceptable sense without change. In order for von Arnim’s suggestion to make sense, the parenthesis (as printed by Wachsmuth) must be moved.

5. In 5b2 (p. 60, 21W) “self-control” sounds like an accurate translation of ἐγκράτεια. Accordingly, I would suggest keeping that translation for the adverb ἐγκρατῶς at 11i (p. 102, 21W) as “with self control” or something similar, not “temperately”, which is a more common translation for σωφρόνως (in his glossary P. renders ἐγκρατῶς in 11i as “with self control” but this does not fit in what we find in his translation in the mentioned passage).

6. In 5b4 (p. 62, 16-17 W) and 5b5 (p. 63, 7 W) the author renders θεωρήματα as “rules of behavior” (see 5b12, p. 67, W, where the expression θεωρήματα/ τινα is rendered as “particular rules”). His decision to render the word under discussion in this way leads him to translate the expression ἐπιστήμη θεωρητική as “a ruled-based knowledge”; but if P. is right, why didn’t he do the same with the verb θεωρεῖν (see the following point)? I think he is following to a certain extent Long and Sedley’s interpretation, which is indeed a possible way of understanding the passage (see p. 108, n.24 and LS’ commentary, vol. 1, p. 384).5 But when translating θεωρήματα as “rules of behavior” P., I think, goes too far. To be sure, the word θεωρήματα is complicated as well as crucial in this section of the text. But the introduction of the notion of ” rule of conduct” in the context would have required some further justification.

7. I wonder whether it would be possible (in 5b5 = p. 63, 12 W) to keep the correspondence between “theory and praxis” in translating τὸ θεωρεῖν καὶ πράττειν since in the passage it is clear enough, it seems to me, that the main function of prudence (“intelligence” in P.’s version) is to theorize as well as to put into practice what should be done (note that a few lines later σκοπεῖν is rendered “to view”, the same word used to translate θεωρεῖν. See the Greek-English glossary where P. translates σκοπεῖν”to examine”, which, in my view, is the best option).

8. In 6a (p. 75, 12-13 W) the Greek reads: καθ’ ἕνα λόγον καὶ σύμφωνον ζῆν. Given that σύμφωνον qualifies λόγον perhaps the translation should be: “to live according to a single and harmonic line of reason”.

9. In 6e the translation reads: “They say that happiness ( εὐδαιμονεῖν) is the goal” (italics are mine). I think that the translation “happiness” for εὐδαιμονεῖν is misleading here since it fails to emphasize the Stoic distinction, crucial in this passage, between what is corporeal and incorporeal. The Stoic thesis is that while a skopos (expressed by a noun, “happiness”) is a body, a telos (expressed by a verb, “being happy”) is an incorporeal. The expressions “living” ( ζῆν) and “being happy” ( εὐδαιμονεῖν) used in Stoic definitions of telos were regarded as “predicates”. In other words, the end ( telos) in the strict sense turns out to be a predicate, something incorporeal, not the thing itself, but the agent’s attaining the thing. Thus “being happy” ( εὐδαιμονεῖν) is the telos, not happiness.

10. In 8 (p. 85, 12 W) it seems to me that in the sentence ἀκόλουθός δ’ ἐστι τῷ λόγῳ (dative) the word ἀκόλουθος has not the technical sense of ” to be consistent with“. I would suggest understanding the sentence as “the topic of the appropriate follows ( ἀκόλουθος)on the account of the preferred”.

11. In the section 11d (p. 95, 4 W) I would suggest rendering ὠφελείαν by “benefit” (actually, this is the translation given in the Greek-English glossary), so that the parallelism with ὠφελοῦντα (“who benefits”) can be kept.

12. In 11f (p. 98, 4-5 W) the clause οὐ μὰ Δία τὸ φρονεῖν καὶ σωφρονεῖν is rendered: “not, by Zeus, to have ‘being sensible’ and ‘being self-restrained'”. In addition to the fact that P. had already translated the verb φρονεῖν by “being intelligent” (cf. 5b7, 6f, 8, 8a, and so on), perhaps it would have been convenient to clarify that the expression “being sensible” is used with the meaning of “acting with good sense” or something similar. This remark could also be applied to n. 9, where P. explains the meaning of βούλησις — “rational desire” — and says that sometimes it is translated as “sensible desire” (italics are mine). I confess that I have never seen that translation for βούλησις in philosophical contexts.

13. It is true that, according to the Stoic doctrine of oikeiosis, besides self-preservation the person has natural bonds with friends and acquaintances (this is the so-called “social oikeiosis“). However, this doctrine does not follow from the distinction of goods exposed in 5e (see p. 30-31). As often recognized, the doctrine of oikeiosis is absent from the Stoic extract in Arius and, even though there seems to be an implicit reference to it (in 11k = p. 105, 26-27 W), the affinity or familiarity to virtue is there mentioned in connection with the gods, not humans.

There are some misprints in the Greek (I noted over 35), but since they are concentrated on the Greek-English glossary they hardly affect the text itself. As indicated at the outset of this review, my comments have been directed toward points of disagreement but, at the same time, I should not fail to express the importance of this volume as a serious and scholarly contribution to the study of Stoic ethics. Not only did P. supply us with a revised text of Arius Didymus’s extract of Stoic ethics but also with a highly philosophical translation of this frequently complicated and sometimes awkward text. The students and scholars who deal with it will surely continue to find arguments for and against P’s decisions on philological and philosophical issues, but they also will appreciate the quality of his contribution.6


1. See, for example, J. Annas, “The Hellenistic Version of Aristotle’s Ethics”, The Monist 73.1 8 (1990), pp. 80-96; D. Hahm, “The Ethical Doxography of Arius Didymus”, Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt, Teil II (Principat), Band 36.4 (1990), pp. 2935-3055 and 3234-3243 (Bibliography); T. Göransson, Albinus, Alcinous, Arius Didymus, Göteborg 1995; J. Mansfeld and D.T. Runia, Aëtiana. The Method and Intellectual Context of a Doxographer. Vol. I. The Sources, Leiden/New York/Köln 1997 (especially pp. 238-271). It is important to recall the seminal work on Arius Didymus and Peripatetic ethics by H. Von Arnim, Arius Didymus’ Abriss der peripatetischen Ethik, Wien und Leipzig 1926, as well as that by P. Moraux, Der Aristotelismus bei den Griechen, Berlin-New York 1973 (especially pp. 259-443, vol. I). For the Stoic extract contained in Stobaeus, the study by M. Giusta, I dossografi di etica, Torino 1964-1967 (2 vols.) continues to be indispensable.

2. P.’s and B. Inwood’s. The latter is, as far as I know, the first English translation of this text (included in B. Inwood, and L.P. Gerson, Hellenistic Philosophy. Introductory Readings, 2nd edition, Hackett Publishing Company, Indianapolis/Cambridge 1997, pp. 203-232; not cited by P.). A translation with commentary by J. Annas is in progress (to be published in the Clarendon Later Ancient Philosophers Series, Oxford). There is also an Italian translation by Cristina Viano (in Etica stoica, a cura di Carlo Natali. Introduzione di Julia Annas, Bari-Roma 1999) and a Spanish translation (by myself, in V. Juliá, M.D. Boeri, L. Corso, Las exposiciones antiguas de ética estoica, Buenos Aires 1998, pp. 147-238). I have no knowledge of German or French translations of the Stoic extract.

3. C. Wachsmuth, Ioannis Stobaei Anthologii libri duo priores qui inscribi solent Eclogae physicae et ethicae, Berlin 1884, vol. II.

4. See Inwood’s remarks (in BMCR 95.12.8 [1995] [electronic version] = 7 [1996], pp. 25-30; quoted by P., p. 2, n.6) against the recent proposal by T. Göransson that the extract cannot be attributed to Arius Didymus ( Albinus, Alcinous, Arius Didymus, [cf. above n.1], p. 218; 230).

5. For a different assessment of the meaning of theoremata, see the persuasive remarks by J.M. Cooper, Reason and Emotion. Essays on Ancient Moral Psychology and Ethical Theory, Princeton 1999, pp. 99-102.

6. I am grateful to John Gibert for revising my English.