BMCR 2002.08.43

Aristophanes: Wealth

, , Wealth. The comedies of Aristophanes ; v. 11. Warminster: Aris & Phillips, 2001. xiv, 321 pages ; 22 cm.. ISBN 0856687391 $32.00 (pb).

It has been well over twenty years since Alan Sommerstein began his project to produce an edition of the complete Aristophanes, with running translation and commentary. Like all good Aristophanic narratives, the story of Sommerstein vs. the text features an ambitious and perhaps quixotic idea and success against apparently overwhelming odds. Unlike some of his comic heroes, however, Sommerstein has had no need of divine assistance to bring this about. And although it has hardly been the work of an afternoon’s entertainment, his rate of progress has been little short of astonishing, not least given that he has not been inactive in other areas either. All in all, his is an impressive achievement, for which we should all be immensely grateful. With this eleventh volume in the series, Sommerstein is ready to lead the chorus off to his well-deserved celebrations. We await a final volume of indices (the original plan was to include them here, but they have been moved owing to the demands of space), but it is safe to say that the plot is now effectively over and that we are well into the exodos.

So, it would be appropriate for the audience to take stock of what we have seen of the performance so far. The period of production has coincided with a considerable expansion of work on Old Comedy, as well as different trends in interpretation. Sommerstein’s project has also grown and developed. Like his comic heroes, he has responded to his performance context, as well as the intrusions of critics, and there is more discussion of more modern concerns, such as gender, ethnicity and ritual, which fit well with his generally historicist programme. The major development, though, has been an expansion in the scope of the volumes. Once there was a minimal introduction or bibliography, relatively short notes, little or no apparatus and certainly an absence of textual discussion in the commentary. By the time Sommerstein has reached Ploutos, notes have become much more detailed, up to a page long. The introduction and bibliography of 30-plus pages are more than introductory. Textual discussions, which were once separated, have been incorporated. There is now a short but serious apparatus, of the sort that is reminiscent of an older-style OCT, or an ambitious Cambridge Green-and-Yellow. In short, Sommerstein’s series is now treading rather heavily on the toes of the multi-author series from OUP and Fondazione Lorenzo Valla — the only thing missing that we might expect to find is a more detailed handling of metre.1

All this is marvellous grist for the specialist, of course, but in working through this volume I wondered at times what the less advanced student might make of it. Indeed, pursuing detailed textual discussions through transliteration and translation (as e.g. 277, 281) may prove a touch bizarre even for more hardened veterans, who will be demanding more linguistic references and comparanda. The introduction, too, is an uneasy mix of the introductory with the hard-core philological. In particular, S. devotes a significant proportion of the available space to a technical debate over the number and status of the different plays by the name of Wealth (on which more later), while paying considerably less attention to matters of form, characterisation and plot. Overall, I was left wondering rather whether the series has lost its focus, and who exactly was S.’s intended audience.

This is evident even in the translation. Sommerstein’s experience in this arena is even more long-standing than his commentating, as he is responsible for a good half of the Penguin translation, especially some of the more widely studied plays. As such, he has a good claim at representing a contemporary vulgate for British students. However, the translation falls awkwardly between the stools of presenting a faithful rendition on the one hand and a lively, readable rendition. The idiom, in particular, is rather stilted and occasionally distinctly off-key. Examples are: ‘a real born saddo’ (118), ‘balderdash and lunacy’ ( ληρεῖν and παραπαιεῖν, 508) ‘a worse pong [ δριμύτερον ] than a ferret’ (693), ‘my tummy [ γαστήρ ] had got bloated’ (699), ‘damn and blast’ (782), ‘made mock’ (838). Oaths and exclamations are always tricky in translating Aristophanes (cf. the problematic οἰμώζειν and κλάειν at 58, 62,174) and it would be unfair to look at these in much detail, but ‘blasted liar’ (713) is singularly far from the Greek ( ὦ κάκιστ’ ἀπολούμενε) and a bit twee. It is not a problem that Sommerstein avoids confronting the idiom, it’s just that it is dated, and reads like the work of the academy rather than street or stage. Rhythm, as well as timbre seems wrong. ‘Get the hell out of our sight’ (704) starts ok, but the line is ruined by the lame addition ‘fastish’. A rather different example is the translation of μετρίου as ‘middle-of-the-road’ (245). To these ears, ‘middle-of-the-road’ is better used of a rather dull, standardised taste (especially in relation to music), rather than indicating rationality. So I was left thinking more Bryan Adams than Aristotle. Similarly off-key is Carion’s lurch into what seems to be demotic, with a gratuitous ‘innit’ (929). This is unusual in context, where Carion’s speech has not been characterised by Sommerstein as particularly low (nor is that emphasised in the Greek here). A more intriguing resonance, for a contemporary UK audience at least, is that the term is strongly suggestive of British Asian dialect, which has been a notable feature of the UK comedy scene over the past five years.2

Other features are common to the Sommerstein oeuvre, but there does seem to be a return to elements that characterised the Penguin series. A typical device is the use of ‘…’ to interrupt the flow and signal a forthcoming gag (e.g. 972, 1083). There might be moments when such a device is appropriate, such as with a para prosdokian joke, but I myself am unsure whether this is a useful way to render comic timing. Indeed, in both examples, it does not reflect the wording (and presumable performance) of the Greek. (If anything in the former example, the obvious opportunity for the pause would be at the caesura after the joke — maybe anticipating a pause for laughter?) The Sommersteinian ‘…’ in any case imposes a certain view of the comedy, which emphasises the dramatic/comic pause over rapid (Marxian) delivery. In a sense it privileges the nudge-nudge school of British humour over more direct forms. (But even then, we should distinguish the real use of the comic pause, such as we can see in the work of Frankie Howerd.) In print, it comes across as just a touch laboured.

This may be putting the translation under rather too fierce a spotlight: after all, we would not expect a performance text in this kind of volume. But I think the translation is important for a number of reasons. For one thing, it underplays the vigour of Aristophanes, something particularly problematic given Sommerstein’s dominant market position. For another, what we do not get in this volume is a literal translation, either. Sommerstein repeatedly elides jokes or references in the text and leaves these for the notes to clarify, should readers get that far. And these are not hyper-subtle (or indeed untranslatable) lines. An early example is τῷ νῦν γένει (50), translated as ‘the present state of the world’ rather than ‘the present (sc. human) race’. This masks the none-too-subtle Hesiodic reference (even ‘present age of man’ might be better). At 78-9 ‘filthiest villain in the world’ for (e.g.) ‘filthiest man alive’ obscures the joke of referring to the god Wealth as human. These twin interventions in the language of Aristophanes lead to a double lack — of really vital, familiar language, as well as the range of registers across which Aristophanic comedy can roam; on the other hand, we lose the impression of a set of cultural references that is different, alien to our own. Instead, Sommerstein’s Aristophanes is ever so slightly comfortable, cosy and unthreatening.

Given Sommerstein’s interpretation of Aristophanes’ orientation as emphatically conservative, it is perhaps telling (and maybe even intentional) that the translation reflects this interpretative trend. However, the final plays have always been problematic for the Sommerstein project. This resulted in his 1984 article, ‘Aristophanes and the Demon Poverty’.3 There he argued against the dominant trend in interpretation that Aristophanes is literally serious, and that what we have in the Ecclesiazusae and Wealth is a genuine plea for redistributive economics. In short, Aristophanes was no longer pushing a socially and politically conservative line, but had turned into a committed communist in his old age. Consistent with his general approach, Sommerstein attributes this to biography and psychology. (Indeed, S. even approaches form through a biographical filter, attributing the ‘stylistic poverty’ of Wealth to the poet’s declining faculties, p.25.) Thus Aristophanes is traumatised by the fall of Athens, and then by the subsequent general poverty during the early fourth century. S. acknowledges that there is a problem in that the evidence for the latter consists principally of Aristophanes. Thus there is acute danger of circularity — even if, as S. now suggests, we try to interpret Aristophanes as reflecting a general perception rather than material reality.

Now, it might not be easy to spot from the text (the article appears briefly in one footnote), but the lengthy introduction consists mostly of a dramatic recanting of the above interpretation. It’s not clear to me, however, that the implications have been fully worked through. Sommerstein begins in familiar vein by arguing against attempts to deconstruct the play through apparent contradictions in the hero’s plan (e.g. abolishing poverty, yet redistributing according to virtue). He defends a non-ironist interpretation by following Rogers’ line that everyone will be both virtuous and rich — largely because of the new financial incentive — and claims that this is at least not contradicted in the second half of the play. However, he does now concede one of the central planks in a non-literal reading of the play: Poverty’s critique of the plan. He accepts that this is ignored or over-ridden by Chremylus and acknowledges that she suffers ill-treatment at his hands. Throughout, Sommerstein places great emphasis on analysing the logic of both parties’ arguments, and stresses by contrast the emotional quality of Chremylus’ arguments. What I missed here was any sustained analysis of the philosophical and rhetorical connotations of Penia’s arguments, and the implications of those for interpretation. Parallels with both the form and content of the debates of Clouds is instructive. Indeed, given that Sommerstein notes contemporary philosophical arguments in favour of redistribution, there might be scope for considering how much the play as a whole is responding to or interrogating philosophical debates. Also worth noting is Penia’s conservatism — one of her main complaints throughout is folk getting uppity (e.g. 419) — knowing one’s place is apparently a major plank of what she considers κοσμιότης (563). On the other hand, against the philosophical arguments, there is left hanging is the question of how far emotion is important in stimulating audience response.

Sommerstein also places great emphasis on Chremylus’ divine assistance, which he regards as central to the fantastic element. In fact, he is generally at great pains to deny that there is any religious scepticism or irreverence in the play. This would seriously complicate matters, but was always a potential element in either return-to-the-Golden Age or early humanity scenarios. The malicious quality of Zeus’ ill-will (87) is suggestive particularly of the god of the scandalous Prometheus Bound (not canvassed in S.’s note). I think there is an element of S. wanting to save Chremylus — and by extension Aristophanes — from such a distinctly non-conservative, even ‘immoral’ position. Current gods are against the good, despite it being ‘good’ to pay respects — a paradox that Chremylus notes (91-2). Carion is a harder case — note in particular the dialogue with Hermes (cf. 1099 with S.’s note) — but S. tries anyway. He views Carion’s description of incubation as representing this practice “with fair fidelity”, at least up until the call for silence (668-671), although it has to be noted that this stretch of the narrative is not actually very long, and I would have welcomed discussion of this in relation to other comic takes on institutions (e.g. the assembly or the lawcourt, where a certain liberty is shown). More problematic, for me, was the claim that Carion’s scatological narrative treats the god with respect — “it tends to increase his glory, not to diminish or debunk him”, and that it represents “what was commonly imagined as happening when Asclepius effected a cure” (contrast 704 and 706, with Sommerstein’s n.63). Moreover, the cheerful (if irreverent) acceptance (678) that priests were in it for their own comfort is clear enough, and not unparalled in Ar., cf. e.g. Birds 859-894.

S. takes the further position that Chremylus has the assistance here of three gods, though here as elsewhere in Aristophanes, divine assistance to comic heroes tends to come from marginal gods or quasi-divine characters (Amphitheos, Prometheus) not the Olympians. (Apart from Wealth himself, though, it is clear that Apollo is not presented as privy to Chremylus plans, cf. 41-3 and 215 with Sommerstein’s note; Asclepius is as much technician as god.) The divine assistance, for S., demonstrates that “this is a comic fantasy and should not be taken as a prescription for real legislation” (p. 20; this would be (literally) odd anyway in Old Comedy — cities in the air, anyone?). He elaborates further, though: Poverty’s ‘unanswered’ objections lead him to suppose that Aristophanes’ outlook is now bleak and pessimistic. Although Sommerstein does want to keep the Ecclesiazusae as socially progressive, he can’t recoup Wealth. “In 391, it seems, Athens had a chance of saving herself by her exertions, in 388 it will take a miracle” (p. 22). If the biographical explanation of Sommerstein’s earlier interpretation was pretty implausible, the shift into aporetic melancholy after only three years is stretching it rather. This is not my major concern, however. More important is the apparent shift in methodology. Sommerstein now seems to accept many of the methodologies and conclusions of an ironic or deconstructive approach to Aristophanes — in particular using dissenting voices to undermine the hero’s project, as well as searching for flaws in that project itself, together with a critique of how realistic that scheme is in the first place. What I am wondering is how his interpretation of earlier plays (say, Acharnians or Ecclesiazusae) would be affected if he were to use the same principles on them?

Let me now turn from general interpretation to some other features of the very meaty introduction. One important strand deals with the pedigree of the god of wealth. He distinguishes three strands: 1) Wealth as provider, a son of Demeter connected with Eleusis; 2) the comic tradition that associated him with a golden age, especially in Cratinus’ Ploutoi; 3) the figure of blind wealth and his malign implications, which he traces back to Hipponax, skolia and, indeed, earlier comic Wealth s. His claim is that Aristophanes’ innovation is to move from 3) to 1). This seems to me over-simplified, and I think Sommerstein misses a few moves here and in the commentary. There is clearly a lot of 2) in there as well. He doesn’t discuss, for example, the punning connection in the golden age (‘automatist’) plays of Ploutos with Plouton, or with the underworld (Ar. Tagenistai ( Fryers) fr. 504.1 with K.-A. ad loc, cf. Pherekrates’ Metalles ( Miners)). This is surprising given the same Ploutos/Plouton crossover in Wealth (727, where the note needs reference to the comic material). Nor does he mention that the ethical dimension of wealth, and often an explicit linking of justice and wealth (and arguably redistributive elements) features in the 2) tradition. And to cap that, the use of the key word αὐτόματος (1190) in the conclusion to Wealth suggests a strong intertextual reading against the plays that feature ὁ αὐτόματος βίος. In these lines (1189-90), Chremylus caps the Priest’s reference to Zeus Soter and reassures him, saying that “Zeus the saviour is present here, and has arrived of his own accord.” Sommerstein, in a long note, maintains his earlier, minority position that these lines refer to the Olympian, claiming that there are no indicators to the contrary for an audience. The intertextual reading supports the usual interpretation that this refers to Wealth himself. In general, the volume is weak on comic intertexts.

One big change slipped into the introduction is in Sommerstein’s theorising of Aristophanic narrative. To Arrowsmith’s “Great Idea” approach (cf. the introduction to vol. I, and addenda p. 222), he has grafted on a reference to Sifakis’ Proppian analysis.4 This is an undoubted advance, or should be, but I doubt whether the approaches are in fact as compatible as Sommerstein would like. In addition, I would welcome some discussion of the implications of using a Proppian approach as well as its drawbacks, which have been well-aired in narrative theory.5 The section on staging is brief, with a few remarks on number of actors (four) and costume. Most emphasis is on suggesting which side of the stage the different characters come in from. This is achieved rather literally with reference to the real-life geographic location of entities such as the Peiraeus sanctuary in relation to the real-life theatre. This apparently straightforward move raises a number of interesting questions about the (characteristic) blurring of fictional and ‘real’ worlds — and the consistency of that crossover. It could be supported and developed by reference to lines such as 772, which Sommerstein takes as an invocation of the Acropolis. For this reviewer, at least, the apparently ‘simple’ technical issue actually masks something much richer and more complex about the nature of Aristophanic comedy.

By contrast, six pages of the introduction are devoted to the two (or more) plays that went by the name Wealth. Most of this consists of a lengthy rebuttal of the suggestion by Douglas MacDowell that the 389/8 Wealth is essentially a minor revision of the 409/8 Wealth. This would account for the confusion in certain scholia, which talk about the extant play as the first one not the second.6 Sommerstein’s counter-explanation is that the real 409/8 play was not available but that the ancient commentators did in fact have two plays available: the 389/8 play and a slightly revised second version of the same play. This is an important, and indeed attractive, suggestion; one caveat is that it is always going to be dangerous to place much faith in the chronological awareness of the scholia (who elsewhere can place Knights (425/4) after Kratinos’ Putine (424/3)7). Moreover, attribution of the putative revision to the hand of the author is purely speculative. We are dealing with roughly two lines, and in these cases we might be dealing with an actor’s variant, or a gloss, or any of the other factors in textual corruption. Furthermore, if Sommerstein’s broad account is right, he may not be right to accept the version of the “second play” at 115, which he notes is leaden (and needs some tweaking to fit) and could quite easily have crept in as an explanation of the more adventurous ὀφθαλμίας. More generally, again, this discussion needs situating in the wider context of the practice of revisions and re-writes in the fifth- and fourth-century comic and tragic theatre (touched upon very briefly at 115n). Overall, I felt that the discussion here was too compressed and the question was rather too complex and technical to be dealt with adequately in this sort of context. It could and perhaps should be better served by a fuller treatment in a separate article.

Some specific comments:

35: For supersession of an initial plan note especially Frogs, and for complication, add the ‘double’ plot of Lysistrata and the re-education of Wasps; but note also substantial development of an initial idea in most extant plays before the final form is realised.

85: For baths and their connotations in comedy, add references to Clouds 1043-54, Krates, Theria or Beasts fr. 17.2ff with K.-A. ad loc.

99, 112: Should these count as genuine asides? The discussion needs a reference to at least the discussion of D. Bain, Actors and Audience (Oxford, 1977). A comparison with the style of Groucho Marx has always seemed most apt to me.

124 τυραννίδα : S. distinguishes its use in tragedy from that in comedy and prose, but also quotes from Prometheus Bound — is this the exception that proves the rule, or is the use in the Fifth Century more blurred?

254-5: Summoning of chorus — a good parallel is the summoning of the chorus in Peace.

297: I wonder whether exclusus amator is a helpful category to invoke here, even in the negative, both because of the Latin and also because Somm. does not make it clear how conventional (or even generic) he thinks the idea was in literary terms at the time.

463: Add to the ethnocentrism, the notion of Greece as a poor country (valorized e.g. in Herodotus).

478: ἰοὺ ἰού is more associated with discomfort or pain, and surprise, rather than with rage (as in the examples cited ad loc.).

541: A note on bed-bugs would be helpful.

550: This note has a slight contradiction, in relation to the position of Thrasybulus (compare p.176 with p. 175).

578: S. follows Blaydes and Dindorf in preferring to emend δίκαιον (and translates accordingly, although obelizing the word). The argument seems hair-splitting at best. It is central to Penia’s claim that poverty is just. Sommerstein himself stresses the ethical dimension of Wealth, just as we find it in other comic golden-age utopias — and the idea of the golden age itself. The response at 581, ὦ κρονικαῖς λήμαις, might also be taken to refer to the golden age context, rather than suggesting that Chremylus’ ideas were simply old-fashioned (compare Sommerstein’s own remarks in the addenda, p. 256, n. on Clouds 1028-9).

772: The function of the tragic language is not explained.

797: Using Ach. as evidence for the indifferent use of ποιητής and διδάσκαλος is slightly misleading, given the controversies that still rage over the use and/or reference of those terms in that play.

796-801: The note should mention that Aristophanes has used the technique of throwing nibbles to the audience himself at least once (in Peace 962), so maybe there is some irony (or double standard here). More important is the structure of the joke, which is that of the withdrawn/false invitation, cf. in the first instance Lysistrata 1188-1215.

815: I am tempted, as Sommerstein was in his 1984 article, by ἴπνος as oven, despite the technical implausibility.

1081: S. assigns this to Chremylus. He may well be right, but his arguments are not strong. It is entirely possible for the Old Woman, who is not showing a great deal of perspective, to think that people might be on her side.

1099 We could do with a reference to door-knocking scenes.

1119 S. is no doubt right to see Carion as being irreverent here too but doesn’t canvass what seems to me the most obvious interpretation, that of ironic commendation for Hermes’ lack of community spirit. It is difficult to see σωφρονεῖς as commending Hermes for his downfall since Hermes hasn’t actually said, done or thought anything to bring that about. Incidentally, their common position as servants helps to explain Hermes’ appeal to some kind of fellow-feeling (1134, pace note ad loc.; cf. 1139-1140).

1154. Add a reference to Strepsiades’ speaking-name in Clouds.

It now seems a long time since the regular bowdlerization of Aristophanes. Indeed, it is almost a point of pride amongst commentators to relish the obscenity, and for the most part Sommerstein is no exception. (Only at 1093 did I feel more could have been said, beyond a reference to Henderson.) In this field, there are one or two interesting new interpretations offered, but in a number of places, I did not feel wholly stimulated by the discussion. One is the treatment of penetration at 152-5. Sommerstein notes the different takes on penetration in comedy and vase-painting, but goes no further. In the note on 155, in particular, he could explore how, through the deconstruction of the χρηστόςπόρνος opposition, Chremylus and Carion are being much more explicit in tackling fine cultural/class distinctions in the field of sexuality. A reference to Davidson’s general and very accessible discussion of prostitution (male and female) in Courtesans and Fishcakes (London, 1997) would also be useful. In passing, I note that the translation of πόρνους (155) as ‘professionals’ is a tad coy and the literal version in the commentary ‘male whores’ strikes a false note. Try ‘hustlers’, perhaps even ‘rent-boys’; or ‘tarts’ if Sommerstein wants to camp it up a bit.

At 168, there is a lengthy note on παρατίλλεται, where Sommerstein introduces a new interpretation, emphasising the compound and suggesting that this should be taken as representing only a symbolic punishment, ‘a token plucking’ as he terms it. In other words, the adulterer’s money saves him from a worse fate. This is an interesting suggestion, although S. is unable to adduce any parallels for the phenomenon. For me, though, this ruins the sequence of jokes which are all about the commercial, criminal or (im)moral imperative that money brings. So, I would have thought the obvious interpretation (which is not canvassed by Sommerstein) is that we are dealing with the same thing here — that is to say money motivates the adultery. The twist is that the emphasis is transferred to the outcome: the affair rebounds on him. So, “if he is caught the adulterer gets plucked because of you” = “he [has the affair and ultimately] is caught because of you, money.” Money is, after all, the principal motivation of the young man’s relationship later in the play.

In the parodic role-playing of the chorus and Carion (290-322), S. suggests reasonably that Circe’s ‘kneading for them’ consists of masturbating them. But, the reference to kneaded shit suggests some other kind of sex-game, whether that is to do with a shit scene, or rimming (not really distinguished in S. on 315). And it may just be me, but the pig/mummy interplay is suggestive (although I am not quite sure of what). The reference to Aristyllos (315) suggests there is a more thorough-going scene being imagined throughout. Despite S.’s note on 314, ὑποχάσκων can hardly mean avoiding the shit: rather the chorus are suggesting that Carion, like Aristyllos, has a taste for it. More generally, S. underplays the role switching and performance aspects throughout this segment (and makes little of μιμούμενος (291) beyond its applicability to dithyramb). I wanted to know just what Carion and the chorus were up to here — and how this ties in with the abuse. E.g. if Carion is playing Circe, does this mean that he is performing the actions (rather like Dicaeopolis offering to service Lamachus in Ach.)?

Finally, I was not entirely convinced by the treatment of the young man and old woman. Throughout (e.g. 1043, 1057), S. underplays the vindictiveness of the young man, who seems clearly to be out for revenge for having had to service her for so long. He is rather too ready to accept the implausible idea that at 1043, the young stud might genuinely be startled at her age (he didn’t notice ?). The whole scene is predicated on what men (and it is men, especially) are forced to do through poverty. Such seems to be the reference to cunnilingus, which here as elsewhere seems to be problematic primarily on account of the power-relations involved. Sommerstein’s counter-examples are by no means unequivocal, and do not suggest that cunnilingus could not be presented as at least highly ambivalent. Likewise, at 1065 the literal translation, ‘rags’, is far nastier and more vivid than ‘wreckage’. More speculatively, the man’s reference to the once-brave Milesians (1002) is taken to refer to the old woman’s faded charms, although I wondered whether this might be the young man claiming no longer to have the necessary fortitude himself. Given both the old woman’s lack of self-awareness and the young man’s cruel streak, I also wondered whether we should accept at face-value the violence that she describes as part of their affair (1015). Has she misinterpreted the motivations or accepted disingenuous explanations? Certainly Chremylus implies an ulterior motif on the man’s part. He is a nasty piece of work and no doubt this contributes to his own less-than-utopian outcome.

I began the review by suggesting that there had been considerable change in this series of comentaries as it has matured. This should by no means detract from the scale of the achievement, to which I would again like to pay tribute. Yet it is clear that S. himself is aware that, just like the schemes of an Aristophanic hero, his own project has changed and developed. Over one hundred pages, roughly a third of the volume, consist of addenda. These seek to introduce into the earlier volumes the same level of scholarly apparatus as the later ones, with notable expansion of textual discussion and secondary bibliography. The general introduction — S.’s global view of Old Comedy — is also substantially revised, and here I would single out a long and important note on the origins and development of the genre (though I was not sure how S.’s insistence on early comedy’s radically anti-conservative and anti-aristocratic nature, subsequently betrayed, is consistent with the account he gives in Knights of the early comedy of Magnes). On points of detail, there are a host of second thoughts and new interpretative notes (e.g. on Ach. 633-645), although some seem to be striving for completeness rather than making new points as such. Taken together, the addenda represent a considerable rewriting of the collection as a whole, or a kind of meta-commentary on his own and others’ progress over the past twenty years. This reviewer, for one, would welcome a second edition, where the second thoughts can be worked through and incorporated fully. This would also benefit the readers of individual volumes, and not limit the readership of what is, in effect, Sommerstein II to those who have access to the series, are aware of the addenda and (above all) prepared to dig them out. As matters stand, for a series that is still rooted in the traditional idiom of Classics, which tends to deal out certain and magisterial pronouncements, the dramatic display of second thoughts is, to say the least, ironic. And maybe we should all take this to heart as an example of our own (scholarly) provisionality?

(For another review see BMCR 2002.02.27.)


1. In terms of aesthetics, production values are also much higher now. I did, though, spot a few typographical errors. For ” ΧΡ.” (631) read ” ΧΟ.“. For ” ἅκων” (781) read ἄκων. For “a long” and problems with the margin (p.135, n. 1) read “along”. For “1374-8” and “1379-81” (p. 185, n. 770/1) read “774” and “779-81″. For ” ἐορτάσα” (p. 229, addenda on Ach., n. 1079) read ” ἐορτάσαι“. For “tiv” (p. 277, addenda on Peace, n. 916), read ” τί“. The tabular format at p.278, n. 1305-end is broken. For ” κοὐδ ‘ οὖν” (p.288, addenda on Birds, n. 531) read ” κοὐδ’ οὖν“. Throughout the addenda, the line numbering quite often collides with the notes — there could usefully be a greater indent here.

2. Cf. the “Bhangramuffins” of the Goodness Gracious Me team (BBC Radio4, 1996- , BBC Television, 1998-); a good example of contemporary British cadences, with less caricature, is the recent film Bend it Like Beckham (dir. G. Chadha, 2002).

3. CQ 34 (1984), 314-333, reprinted in E. Segal (ed.), Oxford Readings in Aristophanes (Oxford, 1996).

4. G. M. Sifakis, ‘The Structure of Aristophanic Comedy’, JHS 112 (1992), 123-142.

5. See in the first instance, S. Rimmon-Kenan, Narrative Fiction: Contemporary Poetics (London, 1983), ch. 2.

6. D. M. MacDowell, Aristophanes and Athens (Oxford, 1995), pp. 324-7.

7. See scholia on Knights 526. Note also perhaps scholia on Wasps 1025b that relate Aristophanes’ abuse of Eupolis to the latter’s Autolukos of 421/0.