BMCR 2001.05.06

Les Vies des dix orateurs attiques

, Les "Vies" des dix orateurs attiques. Fribourg: Editions universitaires Fribourg suisse, 2000. 231 pages ; 23 cm. ISBN 2827108534 FF 180 (pb).

Schamp’s earlier work on Photios’ Bibliotheka has led him to write now at greater length on the old questions of (1) the relationship of Photios’ ten Lives of the orators in the Bibliotheka, codices 259-268, to the ten Lives of pseudo-Plutarch ( Mor. 832B-852C) and (2) the source of Photios’ additions.1 Schamp argues that the biographical material common to both sets of Lives derives ultimately from an earlier, shared source, dating prior to the third or fourth century A.D., i.e., the date of the Lamprias catalogue, which lists the works then attributed to Plutarch, and that the additions to Photios’ Lives and the differences between the two sets of Lives were developed in a second or third generation of Lives that eventually led to the two sets of surviving Lives, the great-grandchildren, or great-great-grandchildren, of the original Lives. A great plus of Schamp’s new book is not in the rehashing of the relationship between Photios and pseudo-Plutarch, but in his effort to move beyond this question to examine the larger, millennia-old tradition of which these Lives are the rare survivors.

Scholarship on this subject, over the last two centuries, consists of a two-part back-and-forth argument whether Photios used (1) pseudo-Plutarch or (2) a source used by pseudo-Plutarch and whether Photios added material from (3) his own research or (4) a compilation that included (1) or (2). The lists of scholars, as far as I have compiled it, runs as follows: Westermann (1833) for (1); in a review, Francke (1834) counters for (2); Westermann (1837) responds for (1) and doubts (3); in a review, Schaefer (1848) insists on (3); Ballheimer (1877) argues for (2) and (4); in a review, Martin (1879) counters for (1) and (3); Sturm (1881) returns to (2) and (4); Prasse (1891) argues for (1); Holden (1893) sticks to (1); Vonach (1910) argues for (3); in a review, Mayer (1911) counters for (4); Drerup (1923) sticks with (4); Orth (1929) sticks to (1). More recently, Ziegler (1941) calls the whole matter unlösbar and Henry (1977) says that Photios’ Lives“pose des problèmes pour lesquels des solutions simple et définitives ne me paraissent pas encore avoir été trouvées.”2

In spite of the prudence of these two great modern scholars, the back and forth of this old debate has continued, most notably with Treadgold (1980) presenting Photios as simply excerpting the Lives from an older compilation (4) and Smith, née McComb, in a 1991 dissertation and (1992) presenting Photios as an active researcher and compiler himself (1 and 3).3 Are we doomed to repeat, even with additions here and there, this debate forever? I think not. Though Schamp insists on (2) and accepts (4) and is a bit excessive in his frequent rejections of Smith, he has directed his investigation toward profitable ground where the differences between the texts can be examined not simply to put a name to them but to relate them to other elements in the tradition in particular and in general. With such a perspective we can more profitably examine the ancient tradition about each orator and develop our understanding of how such traditions worked.

In his introduction (13-27), after describing the Lamprias catalogue and the Lives of Pseudo-Plutarch, Schamp surveys much of the scholarly opinion on Photios’ Lives, starting with Ballheimer (1877). He concludes with the suggestion of Henry (1977, 219): “Pour émettre une opinion autorisé sur le problème épineux des sources de ces dix notices, il faudrait reprendre la question ab ovo et, pour cela, écrire un autre livre.” Schamp is writing that book. Of greatest importance, Schamp insists, is that the inherent character of such Lives is not that of original and creative studies; they are utilitarian works that serve to introduce readers to the work of the author in question, what Schamp terms “littérature de consommation” (17). Every text of this sort, then, is many-layered and unique in its particular creation and is more a composite of “briques and blocs” than a carefully developed whole (19).

As for Photios’ Lives Schamp emphasizes that Photios titles the Bibliotheka as a digest, κεφαλαιώδη διάγνωσιν, of the works that he has read. He prefaces such entries “‘x’ was read”, and the digest follows, though in the later codices, 234-280, the entries generally consist of unconnected extracts rather than a coherent digest. Schamp insists that we take Photios at his word. Thus, when Photios prefaces nine of the ten Lives with “the speeches of ‘x’ were read” and concludes those nine Lives with “and so of the nine orators these are the speeches; of the ones we read, herein the account ( μνήμη) is written” (end of cod. 267), then we should believe that Photios has written a digest of what he read. So too, when he starts codex 268, on Lykourgos, “And the speeches of Lykourgos…time did not permit us to read, but we learned from the account ( ἱστορία) that fifteen speeches are preserved” we should believe that Photios is reporting what he read. This all fits together, according to Schamp, if we believe that, when Photios is reading the speeches of a given orator, he is also reading a Life that appears at the beginning of his manuscript of those speeches. This, in essence, is Schamp’s solution that allows us to believe Photios and to understand the similarities and differences between these Lives and those of Pseudo-Plutarch. To clinch this theory, Schamp points to the order of the ten codices in the Bibliotheka as compared to their order in the pinax of the Bibliotheka. The pinax has them as follows: codex 259, 261, 262, 260, 263, 264, 268, 265, 266, 267, an order that accords with the approximate year of birth of the orator and happens to be identical to the order in Pseudo-Plutarch’s collection. If we believe Photios, we can imagine that the manuscripts of the speeches were arranged on his shelves as they appear in the Bibliotheka and that his secretary rearranged the order in the pinax to fit the traditional, chronological arrangement.

In the first two chapters, on Lykourgos (29-34) and on Andokides, Isaios, Hypereides, and Deinarkhos (35-47), Schamp briefly considers a selection of passages that illustrate how Photios’ Lives and Pseudo-Plutarch’s are similar, due to their common ancestor, but also different. In his Lykourgos Photios again cites the ἱστορία that he mentions at the opening of the codex, reminding us that he is using a manuscript Life to offer this digest. For example, the Lykourgos includes an example of a proposal that Lykourgos made in the Ekklesia which is marked in Photios’ text as the “fifth” such proposal (497a30-34), whereas Pseudo-Plutarch describes five complete proposals (841F-842A). Photios, or his source, was both able to count and presumably had some purpose in including the fifth example and excluding the others. Likewise, Photios closes his Lykourgos artfully with a glance back to how the Athenians honored the orator while alive, though at the time they were prosecuting his children. By contrast Pseudo-Plutarch has a disjointed concatenation of repetitious details. Photios, or the author of his source, is a careful writer. Similar are Schamp’s observations on the next four Lives.

In the next three chapters, Antiphon (49-61), Lysias (63-83), and Demosthenes (85-143), Schamp continues to compare the biographical elements of Photios’ Lives with those of Pseudo-Plutarch. These Lives are given more attention because all three are prefaced in Photios with various comments on the authenticity or style of the orators’ works. The length of these critical introductions varies but they are all substantial: for Antiphon 34 lines, versus 41 lines for the biography; for Lysias 86 lines, versus 32 lines for the biography; for Demosthenes 112 lines, versus 279 lines for the biography. For Antiphon, Schamp points to biographical differences between Pseudo-Plutarch and Photios that are best explained by a common source rather than Photios being dependent on Pseudo-Plutarch. He closes that chapter with a brief rejection of the claim that the mention of Kaikilios in the critical section (485b51) proves that the entire section comes from Kaikilios.

For Lysias he also begins by pointing to some biographical details in Photios which both substantiate some relationship to Pseudo-Plutarch, or his source, but also reveal divergence from Pseudo-Plutarch, divergence that Schamp insists comes from Photios’ source and not Photios himself. The majority of this chapter (68-82) reexamines the efforts of past scholars to attribute passages in the critical introduction to the Life to various authors, such as Kaikilios and Dionysios of Halicarnassos. He concludes that we have an old mosaic of commentary on the orator, one that Photios simply copied from the introduction to his manuscript of Lysias.

His chapter on Demosthenes is similar to that on Lysias with pages 85-105 on a few biographical details and 106-141 on the critical introduction. Schamp’s intent is the same as well, to prove with select biographical details that Photios is too different from Pseudo-Plutarch to have drawn directly on him. With the critical introduction Schamp again reexamines standing efforts to attribute various sections to known ancient critics. At times he accepts such attributions but at times wisely, I think, attributes elements to the general tradition on Demosthenes. He concludes, as for Lysias, that Photios has drawn on a complete text that he faithfully transfers to us, without his own additions. In a final paragraph he wonders about the author of this work and tentatively suggests Zosimos of Ascalon, a strange suggestion if we accept that the Life of Demosthenes, preserved in at least five surviving Demosthenic manuscripts, is by Zosimos, as two of those five manuscripts so label the Life.

The last two chapters address the double codices on Aiskhines (156-173), codices 61 and 264, and on Isokrates (175-197), codices 159 and 260. For Aiskhines Schamp considers not simply the two Lives in Photios but also some of the other biographical texts on Aiskhines, which he cites by their French title and from the Budé edition of Aiskhines. Here the multiplicity of texts offers Schamp greater opportunities but he stays focused on his immediate question, the relationship of Photios’ Lives to those of Pseudo-Plutarch. He musters the added variety of texts to reach the same conclusion, that these Lives share common material because they derive from a common ancestor.

For the Isokrates Lives Schamp’s conclusion is the same, though he stresses again that both Lives in Photios derive from two different manuscripts of Isokrates that Photios read on different occasions, and we are to praise him for being so thorough that when he found the second, different manuscript he presented a digest of it in addition to the first. This theory explains the presence of two Lives for Aiskhines and Isokrates and reinforces Schamp’s insistence that Photios was presenting a digest of works read, as he claimed to be doing.

Schamp concludes (199-206) that the great value of his study is to change the question “How did Photios use the Ten Attic Orators of Pseudo-Plutarch?” to “Quels sont, sur le plan historique, les rapports entre les Vies ornant les éditions dont disposait Photios et le recueil prêté erronément au sage de Béotie?” (199). Schamp’s theory that Photios’ Lives are digests of manuscript Lives seems reasonable, especially if Photios is doing precisely what he says he is doing, digesting texts. However, in his chapters on the Lives of Demosthenes, Aiskhines, and Isokrates Schamp has well illustrated how this new phrasing of the question can lead to an even wider study on the development and growth of the overall traditions on these orators. Take his examination of the unique passage in Photios’ Demosthenes where we read how Demosthenes improved his voice by forcing olive oil from his mouth out his nostrils (88-93, Bibl. 493a22-33). Schamp draws together various related passages from medical texts in an attempt to relate this puzzling passage to what must have been a not so bizarre notion of voice training. When Schamp brings in other pieces of the tradition, such as the other Lives of Aiskhines, then we see him addressing this larger question effectively. I hope that we follow his lead.

References to scholarship is occasionally dated, e.g., Albin Lesky as a general source on Deinarkhos. When comparing two similar texts, the French translation appears side by side in the text and the Greek is in the footnotes, a practice which does not facilitate the type of comparison that Schamp is doing; I strongly recommend reversing the format. Schamp, as in previous publications, cites Bibliotheka by the Budé edition pages and lines rather than Becker page and lines; it would be much more useful to use the Becker numbers which appear in the Budé and are used by the TLG. Typographical errors are common and various, but most are insignificant; note, however, p. 8 ” Cod. 257″ for Deinarkhos should be “267”; p. 30, n. 5, the Photios text of n. 4 has been repeated, whereas we need Pseudo-Plutarch 841E; and p. 63, n. 1, ” νισία” for ” νικία“.


1. René Henry, ed. Photius, Bibliothèque, 8 vols. + index vol. Paris: Société d’édition Les Belles lettres, 1959-1977, 1991 (index by J. Schamp). Jacques Schamp, Photios, Historien des lettres: La Bibliothèque et ses notices biographiques. Paris: Société d’édition Les Belles lettres, 1987. Jacques Schamp, “Photios et les dix orateurs attiques,” Serta leodiensia secunda (Liège: C.I.P.L. Université de Liège, 1992) 431-444.

2. Rather than fill half a page with bibliography, please inquire by e-mail for full entries.

3. Treadgold, W. T., The Nature of the Bibliotheca of Photius (Washington D.C. 1980); cf. N.G. Wilson, Photius, The Bibliotheca: A Selection Translated with Notes (London 1994; orig. Fozio: Biblioteca [Milan 1992]), 244; Rebekah McComb, The Tradition of Pseudo-Plutarch’s Lives of the Ten Orators in Photius’ Bibliotheca (Diss. U. of NC, Chapel Hill 1991) and Rebekah M. Smith, “Photius on the Ten Orators,” GRBS 33 (1992) 159-189.

4. Anton Westermann, Biographoi: vitarum scriptores Graeci minores (Braunschweig, 1845; repr. Amsterdam, 1964).