BMCR 2003.03.15

Euripides. Helen, Phoenician Women, Orestes

, Euripides, Helen, Phoenician Women, Orestes. The Loeb classical library ; 11. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002. viii, 605 pages ; 17 cm.. ISBN 0674996003 $21.50.

In 1994 David Kovacs published the first volume of his Loeb edition of Euripides. While we were writing this review, Harvard University Press published the final volume, including Iphigenia in Aulis, Bacchae and the spurious Rhesus. Kovacs (hereafter K.) has produced a new text which includes a remarkable number of new suggestions. His translation is clear and useful. The volume addresses scholars, students and the general public, offering new textual suggestions, guidance for the interpretation of the Greek, and a reliable introduction to each play, including essential bibliographical references. This review will focus on new textual suggestions, which are the main scholarly contribution of this edition.

Diggle completed his OCT of Euripides in 1994, just when K. started his own. The Loeb edition is in many ways a response to Diggle’s text. It is much closer to Diggle’s text than to any other, yet K. has sifted the wealth of new suggestions put forward or revived by Diggle, has made good use of recent studies, and has produced a very distinctive work. K. himself has made an important contribution to the study of the text of Euripides with a number or articles and books, advancing new suggestions, conjectures and deletions. It is in the nature of things that only a fraction of the conjectural suggestions advanced by scholars achieves widespread consensus. Criticism on this account, such as will be found in part of this review, does not imply that we do not appreciate K.’s boldness and ingenuity in taking new paths of thought.

The new Loeb text cannot be called conservative. K.’s forthcoming book Euripidea Tertia will discuss the new readings and interpretations adopted in this edition. These volumes will force scholars to think afresh old problems. Charles Willink, the dedicatee of volume V, is responsible for a large number of new conjectures adopted by K. in this and other volumes of the edition. K. has gone very far in his mistrust of the manuscript evidence, but his views always deserve great consideration, and his edition is useful and thought-provoking.

Some features of editorial presentation need comment. K. prints line-long supplements in the Greek text whenever he thinks a lacuna has occurred.1 The supplements are meant as no more than a plausible indication of the sense of the lost line. Other editors generally leave their rare attempts at Greek verse composition in the apparatus; printing them in the text can be very confusing, especially to students and non-specialist readers. The reader might be led to think that the material between angle brackets was written by Euripides. In the present volume, line 561 of the Helen (“”, K.’s translation) is printed between angle brackets just like the line after 1226 (“”, K.’s translation). Line 561 is attested by Aristophanes ( Thesm. 907), in the course of an extended parody of the Helen; there is no doubt that it was written by Euripides. On the other hand, line “post 1226” is a Euripidean pastiche written by K. (cf. esp. Hel. 883, 1194). The apparatus to line 561 is formally correct but not very informative: “ex t rest. Markland: om. L”. The siglum t (= testimonium) is not explained in the present volume, but only in volume I, p. 39; no mention is made of Aristophanes. At 1226 K. writes: “post h. v. lac. indic. Dale”. Leaving the lacuna blank would have been clearer, and would not have impaired the understanding or enjoyment of the poetry. Modern readers have learned from Eliot, Pound and Kavafy to love the uncertainty of fragmentary poetry. K. could have printed his reconstructions of the sense of the lost lines in his scholarly volumes or in the apparatus.

A second feature of presentation concerns the difference between spoken and sung passages. K. prints spoken lines as prose, whereas song is translated line-for-line; this makes things difficult in epirrhemata, where speech and song are interlaced. Hel. 646-7, Or. 1258-9 should have been printed as prose, because of the absence of Doric alpha ( Or. 1278-9 because they respond to 1258-9). In volumes I and II2 K. printed lyric passages as prose.

It is not possible to discuss all the new suggestions put forward by K. to solve problems old and new in these plays. We will offer comments on each play, and a discussion of individual passages where new suggestions by K. or other scholars seem particularly interesting or questionable. L. Battezzato wrote the sections on Helen and Phoenissae, E. Medda the one on the Orestes.


Scholars interested in the text of the following lines will find new conjectures or deletions by K. either in his text or in his apparatus: 20-21, 58 app., 80, 131 app., 186, 333 app., 365, 398 app., 447 app., 448, 449 app., 481-82, 510, 638 app., 653, 679 app., 785, 886, 915, 1254, 1353 app., 1360 app., 1543 app., 1650-55, 1685 app. I list here lines where conjectures or deletions by Willink are accepted by K. or mentioned by him in the apparatus; only a small amount of these suggestions have appeared in print before;3 an asterisk marks suggestions that are not reported by Diggle: *99 app., 166, *170, *171 app., 172, 175, 182, *352 app., *378-80 app., *445 app., 530-40, *632-35, *634-37, *639, *640, *641, *650, 664, *667, 673, 678, *688, 728-33, 752-57, 857, 1080, *1147, *1149, *1150, 1153-54, *1158, *1229-30, *1344, 1374, 1447, *1459, *1460, 1472, *1473, *1509, 1650-55 app., 1685 app. Conservative critics will be wary of this large number of conjectures, but we should bear in mind that the text of this play is transmitted by manuscript L alone (K. correctly takes the view that manuscript P is a copy of L). In keeping with the aims of the Loeb series, K. aims at offering a continuously readable text and translation, and he prints conjectures in places where it is uncertain what Euripides wrote. In plays that have a larger manuscript tradition, such as Orestes and Phoenissae, the mistakes of a single manuscript are easier to spot and eliminate. Accordingly, the number of new suggestions by K. and Willink for Phoenissae and Orestes is smaller (though still substantial). One should congratulate K. for his willingness to take risks and for a number of interesting new ideas.


I throw my arms about you
with pleasure
to receive you! (transl. K.)

At 635 ἡδονᾶι < νέαι > σ’ ὡς λάβω is Willink’s clever reconstruction of the papyrus text. This is much better than Willink’s earlier suggestion ἀνείς”letting go” to pleasure ( CQ 39 (1989) 51). However is the pleasure really “new”? Should it not be “renewed” or something similar? K.’s translation “fresh” is what we expect in the context, but not particularly close to the Greek.


Menelaus: I am content!
I have my wife, daughter of Zeus and Leda!

: Yes, her whom by bridal torch light the lads of the white horses, my brothers, called blessed, blessed: their words were not false in time past.

Menelaus: ? But it is to another fate,
a better one than this, that heaven is leading you

At 639 K. prints the neuter plural form of the relative pronoun, ἅ γ’, in the text, in reference to λέκτρα of the previous line. This is a conjecture by Willink. Manuscript L reads the feminine accusative singular form of the pronoun, ἃν. Willink preferred a reference to the more general term, “the marriage” (“marriage bed = marriage”). He argued that the presence of “you and me” in the papyrus after “blessed” rules out the feminine form at 639. Note however that Willink, followed by K., in the end gets rid of “you and me” as well.

K. adopts part of this solution, but in a context that goes against it. In the apparatus to line 638 he suggests writing ἔχω τὰν Διὸς Λήδας τ’ ἔκγονον, and his translation follows this suggestion. This is very far from the text of P.Oxy. 2336 and of L, and does not explain how λέκτρα crept into the manuscript text. More importantly, it eliminates the very word λέκτρα which is indispensable for the text K. considers certain at 639. Note that K. translates the neuter relative pronoun as “her”, which takes us back precisely to the text of L that he rejects. Even if the presence of γε at 639 is considered indispensable (which I think it is not), one can add it after the feminine form of the relative pronoun.

I am skeptical about Willink’s addition of a negative particle ( οὐ) at line 640, especially in view of Andr. 1218. If we accept his division of speakers, Menelaus’ answer implies that Helen’s previous utterance had been pessimistic in tone. I consider the text of line 640 very uncertain; it seems to me that a connective particle is missing and that the papyrus had to have a main verb in the following lacuna, on the lines of e. g. ἐμε < δὲ > σε τε μάταν γέραιρον”and they honored you and me in vain” or ἐμε < δὲ > σε τε μάταν ἰαχαῖς τίον”and they honored you and me in vain with loud songs”. Menelaus could then answer at line 641 with something like ἡμᾶς δὲ νῦν”god (leads) us now (to a better fate)”. The papyrus text is certainly very different from that of L, and it is still not clear which one is closer to what Euripides wrote. It seems better to suppose that the papyrus omitted line 641 as reported by L and had a completely different text rather than trying to rearrange the text of L to fit the papyrus.

688 “What is our daughter Hermione’s life?” is a very attractive conjecture by Willink ( δὲ τίς βίος for ἔστι βίος). K.’s apparatus omits to record that L has δ’ after “daughter”.

915 I am in sympathy with K.’s addition of σ’ (“would the god and your dead father wish to give back their neighbors’ goods or not?”, K.’s translation).

1254 K. conjectures λάβ’ for λέγ’ (“Take what you want for her sake: spare no expense”, K.’s translation). This is simple and gives a more vivid text, even if the transmitted reading (“as for money, say what you want for her sake”, in a literal rendition) is not problematic.


The extent of interpolation in this play is a notoriously disputed subject. K. deletes individual lines which are omitted by papyri (e. g. 1-2, 291-92, 387, 781, following Haslam; 436, omitted by P. Oxy. 4012 and deleted by Nauck; K. accepts as genuine line 800, omitted by a papyrus) or by part of the medieval tradition (e. g. 1199, 1282, 1376). He also sides with Fraenkel, Diggle and Willink in considering large parts of the text to be interpolated. K. deletes 774-77, 1104-40, 1221-58, 1308-53, 1582-1763, even if he admits that some genuine lines might have been included by the interpolator(s) in these last two large sections. K. also deletes 549-67, a long discussion of tyranny, as he argued in GRBS 23 (1982) 31-50, esp. 42-45. Mastronarde answers K.’s points in his commentary4 with arguments that I find entirely convincing. In some cases K. has rejected deletions recently proposed: the article by Cropp in CQ 47 (1997) 570-74 convinced him of the genuineness of 1570-76, deleted by Diggle.

Deletion of larger sections is based in part on subjective criteria of dramatic appropriateness. Excision of short passages rests on less subjective grounds. K., in some cases, prefers deletion in spite of recent arguments for authenticity; we await a statement of the reasons for deletion.

Let us examine for instance Fraenkel’s deletion of 1265-69, accepted by Diggle and K. Mastronarde showed, against Fraenkel, that it is in keeping with tragic conventions if Antigone does not hear the details of Jocasta’s speech but only the summons to appear on stage (see Hcld. 642 ff., IT 1306).5 One can add that the deletion of 1265-69 produces a text that is less in keeping with tragic staging conventions. Antigone, summoned on stage by her mother, is given only one line to exit from the skene (1264). In similar scenes, we find that actors had at least three lines to open the skene door, arrive on stage, and be ready to deliver their first line (see Hcld. 642-45; IT 1304-1306; Pho. 1067-71; K. follows Reeve in deleting 1070-71; Pho. 1530-39). This convention is meant to give a minimum of realism to these scenes. It would look undignified, and perhaps slightly comical, if the actor opened the door immediately after having been called, as if he had been waiting just behind the door. In Soph. Phil. 1261-62 Philoctetes is given only two lines to exit the cave, but there is no door to open in that play. At Med. 1314-15, Medea may have only two lines: line 1316 is deleted by Schenkl, followed by Diggle and Van Looy, but retained by Mastronarde.6 K. makes 1316 into two trimeters by printing a mid-line lacuna; this gives the actor even more time to appear. In any case, Medea makes her appearence on the mechane, and the convention might be different in that case. I think that a single line, as in Pho. 1264 in K.’s text, would not allow the text the proper tragic gravitas.

K. follows Leidloff and Diggle in considering the whole of 1582-1763 to be part of a revised production drafted by an interpolator, even if he concedes that individual lines from these sections may derive from the original script by Euripides. I think the original ending of the play had to include a scene with Creon, Oedipus, and Antigone. The presence of lines 1710-36 in the Strasbourg Papyrus, which omits the clearly spurious lines 1737-63, makes it very likely that 1710-36 are indeed by Euripides.

One would have expected to find Fraenkel’s monograph on the play mentioned in K.’s bibliography, especially as K. lists Erbse’s response to Fraenkel.

815-17 K. correctly states that lines 815-17 are “desperati”. In the apparatus he suggests an “illustrative conjecture without any confidence that it is even approximately right” (p. 301 n. 42): ἶνες δ’ οὐκ ὀρθοὶ [παῖδες] < πικρὸν > ματρὶ λόχευμα. He translates this in the English text as “sons so unlawfully begotten are embrace to their mother”. The word παῖδες is presumably deleted as a gloss on ἶνες. One would think that K. considers this last word to be the nominative plural of ἶνις”offspring” (accusative ἶνιν). The plural is not used in tragedy, and in any case the nominative plural should be ἴνιες (see Aristophanes gramm. fr. 245 A-D Slater). One could suppose a nominative plural form ἴνεις (a form not attested in TLG version ἐ, by analogy with πόλις, πόλεις. The form printed by K., ἶνες is the plural of ἴς”sinew” (cf. e.g. Od. 11.219), or, less probably, of ἴς”strength” (if the two words are really etymologically different). Even if the form is amended (or, better, substituted with the transposed παῖδες), the sentence remains too compressed: “sons which are not right/straight are bitter offspring (a bitter childbirth) to their mother, a stain to their father”. I take K.’s “embrace” for λόχευμα to be either a slip or a very loose translation of the general sense of the sentence. I agree with K. that the passage is “desperately corrupt”.

1530 K. follows Willink in inserting ὦ before the vocative οἰδίποδα, but this entails hiatus and period end between ὦ and the vocative, whereas these words cohere strictly in Greek prosody. One can refer to Hel. 1144 and 1160 for hiatus within period after ὦ. This is however rather exceptional, and the present case is more difficult because, unlike the instance in the Helen, the vowels involved are similar (for which see Il. 11.430, 14. 104, Od. 11.363, 13.4).

Pause after ὦ is admitted in Euripides only when this word is not linked to a vocative, and it reinforces an imperative (fr. 773.67 = 110 Diggle; see Cycl. 52 for hiatus within the metrical period, under similar circumstances). I found no instance in Euripides where ὦ is followed by metrical pause, even if there are several cases where ὦ is at the end of a colon which may be in synapheia with the following one ( Alc. 394 = 407 2ia / dochm; Med. 1262 dochm / dochm, 1290 dochm / dochm; El. 130 gl / gl, Tro. 1227 lec / dochm, IT 123 an / an, Ion 112 = 128 wil / gl, Hel. 1451 wil / wil, Or. 195 dochm / dochm, Rh. 896 δ tr).

The manuscript text is metrically acceptable: ia ba followed by metrical pause, and by dochmiacs. The pause between the two parts of the vocative (“aged father” and “Oedipus”) is less difficult than the one introduced by Willink. The first part of the vocative (“aged father”) is perhaps prosodically integrated in the rest of the sentence.7

Willink’s correction is part of a general attempt to make this section metrically straightforward. Willink suggests a number of new transpositions and conjectures, leaving only dochmiacs and iambi at 1530-37, eliminating dactyls and choriambs (see the analysis of Mastronarde in his 1994 Cambridge commentary). K. prints Willink’s transpositions in lines 1531 and 1534. They are neat and attractive, even if they belong in the apparatus rather than in the text. I find K.’s colometry interesting at 1536-38, where he has three times the sequence 2ba followed by a final adonean; the next passage, sung by Oedipus, also ends with an adonean (1545).


Why, daughter, have you brought me out
into the light, my blinded footsteps guided by a stick,
bedridden though I am, from my dark chamber
by your pitiable cries,
a gray and insubstantial phantom,
a dead man from the nether world,
or a winged dream?
(K.’s translation)

At line 1543 K. prints Willink’s πολιὸν αἰθερῶδες εἴδωλον ἢ (“a grey and insubstantial phantom”) for πολιὸν αἰθέρος ἀφανὲς εἴδωλον ἢ. This gives two regular dochmiacs instead of 2cr ia. However, αἰθερῶδες”aether-like” is a prose word, attested first in Plutarch, and very distant from the manuscript text. Diggle’s αἰθεροφαὲς ( Euripidea, Oxford 1994, 350) is better, but open to another objection: it is not clear why Oedipus, in a passage where he stresses his lack of strength and power, should claim to be “shining with the brightness of aether” (1543).

Why is aether mentioned at all? As Diggle pointed out, Oedipus cannot be referring to substitute dummies made of aether, like those mentioned in Hel. 34, Ba. 292-93, 631 (see also Hes. fr. 23a.21 and 260 Merkelbach-West). We should pay attention to the rhetoric of the passage. Oedipus contrasts the eidolon with a “dead man from the nether world”; the lines, with the additional mention of “winged dreams”, are meant as a polar expression, covering all the possibilities of (insubstantial) essence. What aetherial substance stands in opposition to “a dead man from the nether world”? Psyche or pneuma, according to Euripides. The phrase αἰθέρος … εἴδωλον can be interpreted as “an eidolon of the aether”, rather than “made of aether”. This would refer to the belief that the human soul goes to aether after death: Eur. Suppl. 532-34 (pneuma), fr. 839.8-11 (not specified), fr. 971 (pneuma), Erechtheus fr. 65.71-72 Austin (pneuma, perhaps the same as psyche in line 71), Hel. 1014-16 (nous; the passage is deleted by K., following Hartung). Oedipus imagines himself as already dead (see Hec. 431). Why is the image (“eidolon”) oxymoronically “invisible” ( ἀφανές)? Because it is the eidolon of a dead person. As Pindar explains (fr. 131b), the eidolon is the only part that remains after death; it remains invisible to living human beings except in dreams: “the body of all men is subject to overpowering death, / but a living image (eidolon) of life still remains, / for it alone is / from the gods. It slumbers while the limbs are active, / but to men as they sleep, in many dreams / it reveals an approaching decision of things pleasant or distressful” (transl. W. H. Race).

1619-20 Oedipus, in K.’s translation, asks: “Am I still vigorous enough to find my own livelihood? Where?”. However, πόθεν, literally “where from?”, is a colloquial expression meaning “how is it possible?” (see Alc. 781; Mastronarde refers to Stevens’ note ad Andr. 83). Oedipus is not asking where he could find his own livelihood (by working). It is impossible for him to do so, because he is too old and frail.

1719 Add question mark at the end of the line in the Greek text.

A minor inconsistency occurs in the spelling of the river of Thebes. In the Greek text, K. follows Mastronarde and other scholars (see Mastronarde ad Pho. 101 for references) in restoring the old Attic spelling, which had a rough breathing. K., however, adopts to usual English spelling Ismenos (not Hismenos) in the translation. This is probably unavoidable.


Before focusing on the textual side of K.’s work on Orestes, I would like to call attention to the brief introduction to the play, where the editor, though not attempting a general interpretation, offers some useful insights into the problems of this difficult play and lists a series of questions that may be considered a good starting point for future investigation. Readers may find a sketch of K.’s ideas about the Orestes in “Rationalism, Naive and Malign in Euripides’ Orestes”, in Vertis in usum. Studies in Honor of E. Courtney, München-Leipzig 2002, 278 ff.

In Orestes too the problem of interpolation is relevant, though not to the extent of the Phoenissae. Forty-eight deletions (for a total of 94 lines) are accepted in the play, two of which are suggested by K. himself (564-71 and 704-705, see discussion below). K. shows sound judgement in regarding as genuine a certain number of lines that have been recently suspected: see 71 (del. Haslam), 268-70 (del. Cropp: the passage is discussed by K. in Studies Courtney cit., 278 ff.), 370 (del. Willink), 561 (del. Reeve), 644-45 (del. Diggle), 932-37 (del. Willink; on 938-42 see below); 1347-48 (del. Willink); 1533-36 (del. Seidensticker). Among older suggestions, K. rightly rejects deletion at 38 (del. Nauck: perhaps the crux at Εὐμενίδας is not necessary, as I argued in my translation of the Orestes 8), 593 (del. Nauck), 706-707 (del. Harberton), 714-16 (del. Dindorf), 1556-60 (del. Oeri). At 1366 I am glad to see that according to K. the Phrygian enters “from the skene”, with 1366-68 in the text (del. Murray). The attribution of the lines to “the actors” in the scholia is best regarded as a personal suggestion of an ancient reader, based on his wrong interpretation of 1370 ff. I also feel in sympathy with K.’s choice not to mention in the apparatus the suspicions of Gruninger and Gredley about the genuineness of ll. 1503-36.

In the case of deletions based on criteria of dramatic appropriateness, approval or dissent from the editor’s choices is bound to be subjective. I am not persuaded, for example, that Willink’s arguments against Pylades’ expression of pro-democratic sentiments at 772-73 are strong enough to condemn the lines (regarded as genuine by Diggle), nor would I follow Harberton in cutting off 1049-51: I have argued in defence of the two passages in RFIC 117 (1989) 110-11 and 115-16. At 932-42 K. rightly rejects Willink’s deletion of the whole speech of Orestes in the assembly and follows Wecklein and Reeve in cutting out only 938-42. These lines are present in a papyrus of the 3rd century B.C. (P. Duke inv. MF 74.18, first published by L.P. Smith, ZPE 98 (1993) 15-18). This is not though a proof of genuineness, since the interpolation could be older than Alexandrian scholarship. It seems to me, however, that the difficulty concerning the use of φθάνω at 937 and 941 has been overstated by Wecklein and Reeve and that no other argument against 938-42 withstands closer scrutiny (see RFIC 117 (1989) 112-13). Lines 938-42 add an important point to Orestes’ defence (his death would imply dissolution of nomos and subjection of men to women), with a kind of generalization that recalls the argument expressed at 564-71 (these lines are deleted by K., see n. ad loc.). I still prefer the transmitted text to Wecklein’s excision.

On the other hand, I side with K. in accepting the deletion of 361 and 957-59, suggested respectively by Dindorf and Kirchhoff (the deletion of 957-59 is a consequence of the attribution of 960-81 to the chorus, see below). Herwerden certainly hit the mark when he excised 602-604: his suggestion seems to be confirmed now by P. Oxy. LXVII 4567 (II-III sec.), which has vv. 599-601 followed by scanty remains of a line that cannot be our 602.

Other major problems in Orestes concern the attribution of lines. K. gives 960-81 to the Chorus, with Weil and Pasquali (cf. also the editions of Biehl, Diggle, West; the attribution to Electra is defended by Di Benedetto). Opinions differ widely on this point, even between the authors of this review: I regard the impersonal language and themes of the passage as evidence in favour of the chorus, while Luigi Battezzato has collected arguments in favour of Electra.9 Anyway, we both agree with K. in rejecting the unjustified antiphonal arrangement of the lines proposed by Willink. Approval must be expressed also for the attribution of 1347b-52 to Electra (Lachmann): I discussed this subject at length in SIFC 3rd s., 17 (1999) 56 ff.

A new proposal has been advanced by K. for the much-disputed problem of symmetry in the attribution of parts in the first strophic pair of the parodos. The notae personarum of the mss. in the parodos involve several asymmetries, and many editors have changed them. My own preference for asymmetry (see RFIC 117 (1989) 101 ff.) is largely based on the arguments of V. Di Benedetto.10 In K.’s text, symmetry is restored at 173-186~197-207 by assigning 173b-186 and 194b-207 to Electra. At 140-42 K. (rightly) prefers Aristophanes of Byzantium’s attribution of 140-42 to Electra; this involves asymmetry, since in the antistrophe 153 is surely spoken by the Chorus. K. copes with this difficulty by advancing a bold suggestion. He denies responsion between 140-42 and 153-55, and interprets 140-42 as a dochmiac introduction to str. A’ and 153-55 as a dochmiac mesode. With this arrangement of the text it becomes possible to accept the shorter version of 141 τίθετε, μὴ κτυπεῖτ’ (one dochmiac) offered by Dionysius of Halicarnassus and probably attested in P. Col. 252, without facing the necessity to reconcile it with the two dochmiacs of 154. The idea that 140-42 is a ‘hushing’ introduction to the parodos is somewhat attractive: for a dochmiac proodos one may compare Hipp. 811-16. The presence of the alleged mesodes is less easy to explain and lacks convincing parallels. At Hcld. 90-92 the text is uncertain, and responsion may be restored by postulating a lacuna after 110, with Kirchhoff. Moreover, Iolaus’s response to the chorus is uttered in iambic trimeters, not in dochmiacs. It must also be noted that metrical affinity suggests responsion between 140-42 and 153-55 and that the close connection between Electra’s words at 155 (“he breathes, to be sure, but draws his breath in short gasps”, in K.’s translation) and the chorus’ reaction at 166 τί φῇς ὦ τάλας does not favour a division of the two verses between mesode and antistrophe.

67 Electra: “Now I look down every road, wondering when I shall see Menelaus’ arrival”. It is surprising to find a crux here, since Musgrave’s πᾶσαν εἰς ὁδὸν for mss. πᾶσαν εἴσοδον makes good sense and has been universally accepted. K. thinks that the line is corrupt for “several reasons”, but only one of them is made explicit in a footnote at p. 419, i.e. that only one of the eisodoi leads to the harbor, while the other connects the house of Orestes with the agora (see the note on staging at p. 411; in Studies Courtney cit., p. 286 n. 11 K. announces a discussion of this topic in Euripidea tertia). If I understand K.’s point correctly, this implies that Menelaus, who is coming from Nauplia, could not be expected to arrive from the side of the agora, nor should Electra say that she is looking down πᾶσαν εἰς ὁδὸν. In the apparatus K. accordingly proposes to write δ’ἐπ’ἀκτάς, εἰς ὁδὸν. I look forward to reading K.’s arguments; in the meantime, I offer some provisional considerations on this suggestion. Hourmouziades argued that, in this play, the palace is imagined as surrounded by the city of Argos, so that both eisodoi are available for access to/from the town.11 My own study of the organization of scenic and extra-scenic space in the Orestes (see SIFC 3rd s., 17 (1999) 36 ff.) has led me to confirm this view. Characters coming from outside the walls should be imagined as having walked through a part of the town, and may arrive from both directions. This is certain for Pylades coming from Phokis (cf. 729 and 761), and I see no reason to believe that there is a difference from this point of view between the two eisodoi. The Spartan Tyndareus enters at 471 saying that he is coming from the tomb of his daughter, where he heard of Menelaus’ arrival. According to K., Clytaemestra’s tomb lies on the road to Nauplia: this is never stated in the play, however, and since Menelaus is already in Argos, Tyndareus may have been informed of his arrival anywhere within or outside the walls of Argos. Menelaus too may then be imagined as arriving from any of the roads that surround the palace. Moreover, it is difficult to see what dramatic gain Euripides could have obtained from specializing one eisodos for the harbor, since Menelaus is the only character in the play who comes from that direction. I feel sure however that K.’s forthcoming discussion will give new impulse to think afresh on this relevant topic.

491 Tyndareus: “It’s this man who’s on trial for folly”. K. prints Bothe’s ἀσοφίας and cautiously proposes μωρίας vel ἀμαθίας in the apparatus. The latter is slightly better, but it seems to me that a word connected with σοφία (which is thematic in the play) is necessary here. Whatever the meaning of the difficult l. 491 may be, Tyndareus is reacting to Menelaus’ insistence on wisdom and picking up 488 σοφοῖς and 490 οὐ σοφόν. K. translates A)GWN ἀσοφίας as “trial for folly” (Willink sees in this an echo of a juridical idiom, δίκη ἀσεβείας etc., cf. his commentary, n. ad loc.). I am not persuaded that the phrase can have this meaning. In the light of expressions like Ar. Ran. 882-83 A)GWN σοφίαS (cf. also Nub. 954-56), the meaning should be “contest of folly”, which does not seem appropriate here. With the manuscript reading σοφίας, we may perhaps think that Tyndareus scornfully denies the opportunity of the debate about wisdom proposed by Menelaus. The problems of this verse are not confined however to σοφίας (see the commentaries of Di Benedetto and West ad loc.), and Diggle’s cruces are perhaps the best choice.

560 Orestes: “If I speak ill of her my words will bring disgrace on myself”. The transmitted ἐξερῶ is probably sound. Willink, n. ad loc., has pointed out that we have here a common type of brachylogy, with a second κακῶς understood, cf. 413 and Med. 1302. For the construction of ἐξερῶ with the accusative, Hermann long ago advocated the parallel of Soph. El. 984, to which Wecklein added Eur. fr. 666 N 2. K.’s proposal αἴσχρ’ἐρῶ finds only a partial parallel in Andr. 64 αἴσχρὰ σαυτῷ λέγεις, where the verb is construed with the dative.

536-37 and 564-71: A more precise evaluation of these major deletions will be possible when we know K.’s arguments in detail. At 536-37, Tyndareus suggests stoning as a punishment for Orestes. At lines 564-71, Orestes answers this by asserting that he does not deserve such a punishment since his action must be considered a great service to all of Greece. 536-37 have been suspected because identical to 625-26, and Brunck suggested excision. However, many scholars (including Diggle, who cannot be suspected of blind conservatism) have pointed out that Orestes’ mention of stoning at 564 is a strong argument against deletion of 536, so that it seems better to look for different remedies. I would favour deletion of 537 only, interpreting 624-25 as an intensified resumption of Tyndareus’ request to Menelaus. Willink deletes 536-37 and suggests that 564 should be regarded as the cause of the interpolation, prompted by someone’s wish to restore correspondence of arguments between the two speeches. K. reverses the argument and deletes both Tyndareus’ mention of stoning at 536-67 and the whole section 564-71, where Orestes tries to avert his grandfather’s threat. I do not find anything wrong in the content of 564-71. Arguments concerning the advantage brought to the community by Orestes’ action are a relevant part of his defence (cf. 934 ff. ὑμῖν ἀμύνων οὐδὲν ἧσσον ἢ πατρὶ ἔκτεινα μητήρ’ etc.). Orestes tries to present himself as the defender of all men against the crimes of shameful women; the general statement about nomos is followed by the particular case of his mother (572-78). The transmitted text is clear and understandable. It is highly improbable, in my opinion, that deletion of two passages that support each other may bring us closer to the original text. It may also be noted that if Euripides wrote this rhesis without 564, there was no reason for inserting 536-37. To explain the transmitted text we should then think of an interpolation caused by another interpolation: not impossible but scarcely economical.

585-87 Orestes: “It was you, old sir, who were my undoing since you begot a wicked daughter. Because of her wantonness I was deprived of my father and became a matricide”. M. Reeve ( GRBS 14 (1973) 156-57) proposed to excise these lines as a corollary of the deletion of 588-90 (accepted by K.), in order to restore a direct transition from one divine ally (the Erinyes) to another (Apollo). Diggle did not share Reeve’s doubts about the genuineness of 585-87 but was nonetheless dissatisfied with the order of the lines and proposed to transpose 585-87 after 578. K. follows Diggle’s approach to the problem but places 585-87 after 599. This is not an improvement of the text, in my opinion, since the transition from 599 to 600-601 is smooth and clear and should not be questioned. In 600-601 Orestes says that his action must be called not wrong but unfortunate. The reason for this assertion is that Apollo, after giving the command to kill Clytaemestra, has not given him support after the execution of that terrible order (596 ss.). Orestes appropriately ends his defence with the strongest defensive argument, the order of Apollo; the bitter tone of his last sentence underlines his misfortune, caused by the god’s unreliability. The insertion of 585-87 after 599 would disrupt this fine sequence. Last but not least, we may now see that P. Oxy. LXVII 4567 (II-III c. A.D.) has 599-601 in the traditional order. What should we do then with 585-87? Probably the most reasonable choice is to leave them were they are in the manuscripts. At 583-84 the Erinyes of Agamemnon are opposed to those of Clytaemestra in order to state that Orestes could not avoid punishing his father’s murderer. 585-87 add the relevant point that it was his mother’s θράσος that compelled him to act against her and in favour of Agamemnon.

704-705 Menelaus: “I will go and try to persuade Tyndareus and the city to make good use of their excessiveness”. K. adds his own deletion of this couplet to Hartung’s condemnation of 702-703 (the latter was favoured by Willink in view of the “oddly woolly language” of the passage, but not without hesitation). Without 702-705 Menelaus passes directly from the metaphor of fire to that of the ship. These images explain the need to slacken in front of the rage of the demos while waiting for the proper moment. It may be noted, however, that πόλιν at 705 offers a proper cue to the introduction of the familiar ‘ship of State’ metaphor, and that 706 ἐνταθεῖσα πρὸς βίαν and 708 τὰς ἄγαν προθυμίας seem a natural continuation of 705 τῷ λίαν. Suspicion should be limited in my opinion to 702-703, but probably the whole passage 702-705 should be regarded as genuine.


1. See Euripides, Cyclops, Alcestis, Medea, edited and translated by D. Kovacs, Cambridge, Mass.-London, 1994, 37-38.

2. Euripides, Children of Heracles, Hippolytus, Andromache, Hecuba, edited and translated by D. Kovacs, Cambridge, Mass.-London 1995.

3. See in particular Ch. W. Willink, “The Reunion Duo in Euripides’ Helen”, CQ 39 (1989) 45-69, “The Parodos of Euripides’ Helen (164-190)”, CQ 40 (1990) 77-99, and the contributions recorded in Diggle’s edition.

4. Euripides, Phoenissae, edited with an introduction and commentary by D. J. Mastronarde, Cambridge 1994, ad locum.

5. D. J. Mastronarde, Contact and Discontinuity, Berkeley 1979, 28-30.

6. See Euripides, Medea, ed. H. Van Looy, Stutgardiae-Lipsiae 1992; the line is retained also by V. Di Benedetto and E. Cerbo in Euripide, Medea, Milan 1997; Euripides, Medea, edited by D. J. Mastronarde, Cambridge 2002.

7. See Hcld. 961 and A. M. Devine-L. Stephens, The Prosody of Greek Speech, New York-Oxford 1994, 428.

8. Euripide, Oreste, con introduzione traduzione e note di E. Medda, Milano 2001, 148-49.

9. L. Battezzato, Il monologo nel teatro di Euripide, Pisa 1995, 165 ff.

10. V. Di Benedetto, “Responsione strofica e distribuzione delle battute in Euripide”, Hermes, 89 (1961) 122-55.

11. Cf. N. C. Hourmouziades Production and Imagination in Euripides, Athens 1965, 133, and also C.W. Willink, Euripides. Orestes, Oxford 1989 2, xli: “the Palace is thought of as threateningly encircled by the citizenry of Argos/Mycenae”.