BMCR 2003.09.30

Euripide: Cretesi. Introduzione, testimonianze, testo critico, traduzione e commento. Università di Urbino, Istituto di Filologia Classica: Testi e Commenti, 15

, , Cretesi. Testi e commenti ; 15 = Texts and commentaries ; 15. Pisa and Rome: Istituti editoriali e poligrafici internazionali, 2001. 127 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.. ISBN 8881472791.

(The reviewer regrets having failed to meet BMCR‘s standards of promptness in presenting this review.)

Euripides’ Cretans has been far from neglected since Turner’s publication of P. Oxy. 2461 in 1962 advanced our knowledge of the text a little. Besides numerous studies we have H. Lloyd-Jones’s re-edition of the papyrus in his review of Turner (in Gnomon 35, 1963), R. Cantarella’s full edition of the fragments with commentary etc. (1964), and briefer editions by C. Austin (in Nova Fragmenta Euripidea, 1968), C. Collard (in Euripides: Selected Fragmentary Plays I, 1995), J. Diggle (the three major fragments in Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta Selecta, 1998), and H. van Looy (in the Budé Euripide VIII.2, 2000). Adele-Teresa Cozzoli’s usefully full edition will supersede for the most part Cantarella’s somewhat idiosyncratic work and deserves to be widely used. It includes a substantial introduction, texts and apparatus for the fragments and main testimonia, and translations of the fragments with a full commentary. Introduction and commentary are about twice as extensive as Cantarella’s. There is a thorough bibliography, a word-index, a general index, and well-reproduced photographs of the Oxyrhynchus fragments and the Berlin parchment.

The surviving text of Cretans includes three main items: twenty anapaestic lines from the choral parodos quoted in Porphyry’s De Abstinentia; some fifty very fragmentary lines from an early scene given by the five Oxyrhynchus fragments; and fifty-two largely well preserved lines in the Berlin parchment (P. Berol. 13217) giving Pasiphae’s extraordinary apologia for her mating with the bull along with some surrounding dialogue. For each of these texts C(ozzoli) offers something new. Her text of the parodos fragment is based on a collation of the parodos lines in the mss. of the De Abstinentia (previously aired in a 1993 article) which suggests that the earliest ms. (V, late 14th C.) does not have unique value, while Erotian’s quotation of lines 4-8 is considered by C to be erratic but not negligible. For the Oxyrhynchus fragments (examined with advice from H. Maehler and W. Cockle) C rejects the widely accepted placing of fr. 1 below fr. 2 col. ii, and prints these fragments in the numerical order that Turner originally gave them, so that the identity of the speakers in fr. 1 cannot be inferred from the identification of the chorus and Minos as speakers in fr. 2 col. ii; C tentatively prefers to identify them as the chorus-leader (newly arrived) and a member of the household other than the Nurse (pp. 46, 97). For the Berlin parchment, which disappeared during the Second World War, C spreads the welome news that it now resides in the National Museum in Warsaw — although she was not able to gain access to it and had to rely on the old photographs still available in Berlin (reproduced as Tables III and IV in her volume).

The only certain minor fragment is the phrase “Cretans, children of Ida” (F 471 Nauck 2 = Ar. Frogs 1356a), which has been connected either with the arrival of the chorus or (as C hesitantly prefers, pp. 113-6) with a monody of Icarus alleged by Schol. Ar. Frogs 849 to have occurred in Cretans. To this C adds, not unexpectedly, a trimeter describing the Minotaur’s peculiar nature (F 996 N 2) and another criticizing someone (Daedalus?) as exceeding the scope of his carpenter’s craft (F 988 N2). And she accepts with reservations Carrara’s identification (ZPE 69, 1978, 20-4) of a line embedded in a passage of John Malalas as coming from the beginning of the play but distinct from line 3 of the parodos. Beyond these she considers only the prayer to Zeus in F 912 N 2 worth discussing, and correctly finds its content incompatible with the context of Cretans (pp. 27-8).

For the play’s date C follows Cantarella in preferring the late 430s, for reasons which seem to me not very cogent (affinities with Hippolytus in the play’s treatment of erotic pathology and a perceived engagement with Socrates’ views on moral responsibility, which C discusses in a later section of the introduction). For the much-debated conclusion of the plot she leaves open the question whether it included the escape and flight of Daedalus and Icarus but opts for Pasiphae’s death rather than, as some prefer, her release. In this she relies on the possibility that John Malalas’s summary of Pasiphae’s story may depend on a hypothesis of Euripides’ play. But the heavily historicized character of Malalas’s narrative, with Pasiphae falling in love with Minos’s secretary Taurus, etc., tells against this, belying C’s talk of ‘alcune imprecisioni’ (p. 12), and his concluding remark that Euripides wrote a play about Pasiphae by no means guarantees it. Malalas’s account of Pasiphae’s wasting away in captivity is converted into a suicide in C’s interpretation, apparently for the sake of a supposed parallelism with Sophocles’ Antigone.

Further sections of the Introduction discuss recently discovered evidence for the association of Zeus Idaios and Dionyus-Zagreus in Cretan cult as early as the late Bronze Age (suggesting that the identification of the two in the prologue-fragment is far from reflecting recent religious development or being a poetic invention) and consider the play’s likely stance on questions of religion, human motivation and moral responsibility. C maintains persuasively that the play was essentially ‘sophistic’, i.e. probing, language-conscious and inconclusive, with regard to these matters. The commentary provides philological discussion on many points of detail, although it is not entirely thorough: for example, the unlikely supplement Apol]l[o]n is printed without explanation in col. 1, line 4 of fr. 3 (= P. Oxy. fr.2), there is no commentary on col. 2 of this fragment (its speaker-indications are discussed in the Introduction), and none on proposed supplements in lines 19, 21-2, 44-5 of the Berlin parchment.