BMCR 2003.08.24

Die auf Papyri erhaltenen Kommentare zur Alten Komödie. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der antiken Philologie. BzA 175

, Die auf Papyri erhaltenen Kommentare zur alten Komödie : ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der antiken Philologie. Beiträge zur Altertumskunde ; Bd. 175. München/Leipzig: K.G. Saur, 2002. 264 pages ; 24 cm.. ISBN 3598777248. EUR 78.00.

In recent years interest has been growing in commentary literature.1 The book discussed here is an edited version of a doctoral thesis prepared by the author under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Luppe, defended in 2001 at Martin-Luther-Universität in Halle-Wittenberg.

The book consists of two parts: the first, documentary one presents and analyses in detail texts of papyri that include fragments of commentaries to works of authors of Old Attic Comedy (pp. 13-116), while the second part presents an outline of the “scholarly” reception of this comedy, i.e. commentaries on comedy texts provided for scholars and for schools (pp. 117-152). Subsequently, the papyri are again analyzed, this time to classify them by type of commentary (pp. 153-209). In the next part general conclusions are drawn on the type, contents and development of the form of antique commentaries (pp. 211-236) and their associations with corpora of medieval commentaries to Aristophanes’ comedies. At the end of the book there are an index of proper names found in the papyri (pp. 237-239), a list of papyri discussed in the book (pp. 240-241), a bibliography (divided into publications of texts and secondary literature, pp. 242-262) and another factual and proper names index to the second part of the book (pp. 263-264).

The author’s main subject is papyrus commentaries to the Greek comedy writers Aristophanes and Eupolis. The goal was to find the answer to the following questions: how the commentaries to Old Attic Comedies had been developing, what was explained in them, were there any specific types of commentaries and who, therefore, were they aimed at (p. 9)?

This is not the first study of antique commentaries on comedies, but the basic source of information on scholia to Aristophanes is the outdated work of Günther Zuntz Die Aristophanes-Scholien der Papyri (Berlin 1939, 1975 2). The subject was ripe for a new analysis not only because of the discovery of new sources but also because of the progress of research on the art of commentary in antiquity. In the preface to her book, the author enumerates the major publications in the field, demonstrating that their authors were mainly interested in the development of the genre of antique commentaries: hypomnema, syngramma, scholia in the margins, as well as the formation, in the Middle Ages, of a corpus of scholia to Aristophanes.

While concentrating on Old Attic comedy, the author also takes the opportunity to study some more general issues, including but not limited to the classification of ancient commentaries.2

The discussion has been limited to Aristophanes and Eupolis; Kratinos was excluded because of the lack of fragments of papyri that could be unambiguously attributed to him. For the same reason, fragments that cannot be attributed with a high degree of probability to any known author of Old Attic Comedy were also excluded this part of the work. The author decided to leave out the fragments that, according to her, do not shed new light on the subject. However, in a supplement to the second part of the book (cap. 2.2.6), they have been enumerated and discussed briefly.3

Altogether, the book discusses in detail 22 papyri (including two fragments of a comedy of unknown authorship) with fragments of commentaries to Aristophanes’ comedies and three papyri with commentaries to Eupolis’ comedies.4 The author collected in this part of the book editions of the aforementioned fragments scattered in various publications but did not provide transcriptions of the texts, resorting instead to transliterations proposed by the original editors. The original texts have not, however, been reprinted automatically. The author in several places introduced her own additions or corrections, always pointing out to these changes in the critical apparatus and in the explanations provided in the second part of the book. As an aid to readers (some of whom the author expects to be non-philologists), the author includes German translations of the commentaries and fragments of comedies they refer to, as well as reconstructions of the contents (in italics) if the general sense of the section can be deducted from a given fragment.

Apart from discussions on the development of this genre, ancient commentaries offer a large amount of research material on topics as diverse as palaeography and ancient ‘editorial art’. They also constitute a significant source of various lectiones, useful in critical text analysis, and are an important source for language study (e.g. interesting attempts to explain etymology, explanations of obsolete words, neologisms, etc.). Moreover they are a considerable source of information: geographical, astronomical, ethnographic, and historical as well as information pertaining to mythological variants, etc.

According to the adopted classification,5 commentaries preserved on papyrus are classified by their format into scholia (i.e. notes written near a column of text on a roll or in the margins of a codex) and hypomnemata (i.e. commentaries written separately from the main text, either with or without the inclusion of lemmata to key them to the appropriate lines of the commented text).

The only association the author sees between the form of the commentaries and their contents is that scholia in the margins are, because of the limited space, shorter than hypomnema, which in turn limits the choice of issues discussed. Generally, there is no difference in contents between the two types of commentary; the example of P.Oxy. XI 1371 (Aristoph. Nubes) confirms that explanations taken from some hypomnema commentaries could be written in the margin of a codex (p. 211). Substantial differences, however, may be observed concerning the contents of the individual commentaries. The author also classifies papyrus commentaries by content, dividing them into three categories. The first comprises scientific hypomnemata, or comprehensive commentaries written by scholars; such works typically include quotations from authorities, explanations (sometimes even multiple and mutually contradictory ones), and literary parallels (some of which may not be closely related to the passage under discussion). The second category consists of popular hypomnemata, i.e. commentaries written for educational purposes and limited to explanations that facilitate the reader’s understanding (e.g. explanations of words and objects). Here the following types of popular hypomnema may be distinguished: commentaries focused on Attic forms and rhetorical figures (definitely for educational purposes) and commentaries including short explanations of words and factual information (historical facts or mythological problems). The third type of commentary texts the author identifies is “Lesehilfe,” annotations or glosses explaining the text, written in the margins by readers themselves. However, due to their ephemeral nature, they cannot be classified as commentaries. The majority of the discussed papyri, as many as 17, include the popular commentaries and “Lesehilfe”.

According to a well known definition included by Dionysios Thrax in his work Περὶ γραμματικῆς, the philological analysis of a literary work consists of six stages: 1. ἀνάγνωσις — correct understanding; 2. ἐξήγησις — explanation of poetic figures; 3. explanation of words and facts ( γλωσσῶν τε καὶ ἱστοριῶν); 4. study of word etymology ἐτυμολογίας εὕρεσις; 5. revealing grammatical rules — ἀναλογίας ἐκλογισμός; 6. evaluation of the work — κρίσις ποιημάτων. The major part of explanations preserved in all commentaries to Aristophanes and Eupolis conform to the third stage.

The rule, confirmed by the author’s study, states that the most popular comedies by Aristophanes, those read and commented at schools, were accompanied by commentaries explaining rhetorical, mythological and historical issues. However, scholarly commentaries, hypomnemata, refer to comedies that were not studied at schools and therefore were lost (the ones discussed include: P. Oxy. XXXV 2737 Arist. Anag., P. Flor. 112 Arist. Anon., P. Oxy. XXXVII 2813, Eupolis Prospaltioi). Commentaries such as those produced by the Alexandrian scholars were written solely in the form of hypomnema, never in scholia form, as is shown by the examples of P. Amh. 2,13 (Aristoph.) and P. Oxy. XVII 2080 (Kallimachos) as well as P. Oxy. XI 1371 (not mentioned here).

Although some preserved commentaries include explanations that can be classified as critical analysis and evaluation of a given work ( κρίσις ποιημάτων), the sixth of the stages of philological analysis of a text according to Dionysios, traces of the antique “Echtheitskritik,” cannot be found among the commented subjects. Despite the fact that this understanding of ‘krisis’ is confirmed by commentators on Dionysios Thrax’s work, the preserved commentaries to Old Attic Comedy do not discuss this issue. Probably only by chance the scientific hypomnemata, with their roots in commentaries of Alexandrian philologists, are devoid of debates of the correct attribution of the commented works. In the final part of the book Trojahn entered into discussion of the typology and evolution of the genre of commentaries proposed by Marina Del Fabbro (pp. 232-233).6 The author rejects Del Fabbro’s thesis that the original and basic form of commentaries was a hypomnema with complete lemmata of the text, i.e., editions of texts with commentaries between the lines. However, she confirms the thesis of G. Zuntz that papyri and medieval corpora of scholia were based on the same sources, the Alexandrian commentaries (p. 215).

Silke Trojahn’s useful book offers not only a number of aids to the analysis of papyrus texts but also remarks of a more general nature, broadening our knowledge of ancient hypomnema. Nevertheless, the work is not entirely without problems. The focus on larger issues means that discussion of individual commentaries is fragmented and sometimes repetitious. In addition, too little attention is paid to the use, in papyri of Aristophanes’ and Eupolis’ comedies, of critical signs linking the text to a separate commentary, and no mention is made of Tiziano Dorandi’s important article, which offers several significant remarks and additions to Del Fabbro’s work.7

‘Trojahn’s work, though detailed, does not of course cover the entire subject of ancient commentaries to literary texts. To draw general conclusions it is necessary to compare the results of her analyses with studies of commentaries to other literary genres. It will be interesting to discover whether her results would be confirmed by analyses of commentaries to other works of Greek drama. Wolfgang Luppe devoted an article to this issue.8


1. Cf. e.g. Le Commentaire entre tradition et innovation. Actes du Colloque international de l’Institut des Traditions Textuelles (Paris Villejuif, 22-25 sept. 1999). Publ. sous dir. M.-O. Goulet-Cazé, avec coll. édit. de T. Dorandi, R. Goulet [et al.], Paris 2000, Der Kommentar in Antike und Mittelalter, hrsg. von W. Geerlings, Chr. Schulze, Leiden/Köln 2002 (Clavis commentariorum antiquitatis et medii aevi), The classical commentary. Histories, practices, theory. Ed. by R. K. Gibson, Chr. Shuttleworth Kraus, Leiden/Köln 2002. I use the name “commentary literature” for texts belonging to the genre of commentaries as well as texts beyond it, e.g. “Lesehilfe”; I will not discuss here whether antique commentaries form a separate literary genre.

2. Cf. p. 11: “Durch die Beschränkung auf Kommentare zu einer einzigen Literaturgattung, nämlich der Alten Attischen Komödie, ist es möglich, in dieser Arbeit auch andere Aspekte wie die Arten der Kommentare zu untersuchen.”

3. They include the following: P. Oxy. ined. Inv. 101/175 (The author is preparing their edition in Oxyrhynchus Papyri), P. Oxy. XXXV 2742, P. Oxy. XXXVII 2806, P. Ryl. 483, P. Grenf. 2, 12, P. Rein. 3, 23 (= P. Vind. 29413), PSI 846, P. Oxy. XXXVII 2810, P. Oxy. XXXV 2738, P. Oxy. XVII 2086r, P. Oxy. XXXVII 2811v, P. Antin. 2, 60r, P. Oxy. XIII 1611, P. Oxy. LXVI 4508).

4. Aristophanes: P. Oxy. VI 856; P. Bodl. Gr. Class. F 72; P. Oxy. XI 1402; P. Berol. 13929 and P. Berol. 21105; P. Bingen 18; P. Oxy. XI 1371; P. Rein. 3, 20 = P. Vindob. 29423; P. Strass. 621; P. Oxy. LXVI 4509; P. Rein. 1, 34 d; P. Duk. 643; PSI 720; P. Oxy. LXVI 4514; P. Louvre (= Pack 140); P. Oxy. XIII 1617; P. Oxy. LXVI 4520; P. Oxy. LXVI 4521; P. Oxy. XXXV 2737; P. Michig. 3690; P. Flor. 112; P. Amh. 2, 13; Eupolis: P. Oxy. XXXV 2741; P. Oxy. XXXVII 2813; P. Oxy. XXXV 2740.

5. It is worth mentioning that the author refers here to the authority of E.G. Turner, declaring that Turner himself introduced this terminological differentiation (cf. p. 10, n. 2: “Fuer diese terminologische Trennung plaedierte bereits TURNER …”), and forgetting that he used the results of studies of Edgar Lobel (see: P.Oxy. XX 2260; P.Oxy. XXI 2307, p. 95; P.Oxy. XXV 2429, p. 35, see: Turner Greek Papyri, pp. 114-115).

6. M. Del Fabbro, Il commentario nella tradizione papiracea, “Studia Papyrologica” 18 (1979), pp. 69-132.

7. Le commentaire dans la tradition papyrologique: quelques cas controversés, [in:] Le commentaire entre tradition …, op. cit., pp. 15-27.

8. “Scholia, hypomnemata und hypotheseis zu griechischen Dramen auf Papyri,” published in Der Kommentar in Antike und Mittelalter, op. cit., pp. 55-77.