Mnaseas of Patara (or Patrae) was active around 200 BCE and may have been a student of Eratosthenes. His Periplous or Periegesis discussed Europe, Asia and Libya, most likely in that order, in six or eight books, while his On Oracles appears to have consisted of a catalogue of oracular responses with commentary. What little we have of his work has been preserved in scholia, lexica, grammatical works and the like. Most the fragments are concerned with mythological matters, or with local genealogies or marvels. Mnaseas’ approach to his material is frequently rationalizing; he identifies the horrible King Echetus mentioned in Odyssey 18, for example, as a historical Sicilian tyrant (fr. 23), explains that the Idaean Dactyls merely got their names from their father Dactylus and their mother Ida (fr. 30), and insists that Ganymede was actually kidnapped by Tantalus rather than Zeus and buried in the god’s sanctuary after he died in a hunting accident (fr. 38).
Time has not treated Mnaseas kindly. Very few of his own words survive, and most of what we have are terse reports by later authors about tiny bits of information he preserved or unusual interpretations he offered. Müller collected most of the fragments in FHG III.149-58, but it was Mnaseas’ further misfortune to have been destined for Jacoby’s Part V (Geographers), which never appeared. Cappelletto makes a valiant attempt to redeem the situation by offering 61 fragments plus one spurium. Müller’s fr. 42 is omitted as belonging to Musaeus, but two new fragments are added, one already noted by Mette in Lustrum 21 (1978) 39-40, the other (previously ignored) from Zenobius. The fragments are set in their full literary context and equipped with both a full critical apparatus (generally drawn from existing editions of the source author) and a second apparatus offering ancient parallels of various sorts. The commentary treats first the transmission of the fragment and then the contents. Although I noted a few minor misprints in the Greek,1 the text has been carefully produced and the secondary references seem to have been checked.2
Cappelletto has made an effort to say something interesting about all the fragments, and the commentary is a work of great learning and full of intriguing information. But although useful points can be made about most of the topics on which Mnaseas touched, in the end almost nothing significant can be said about his own work. This is the best edition we are likely ever to have of him, and the sad fact is that he remains almost entirely lost.
1. At fr. 30.7, read
2. I checked 50 ancient references at random and found four errors, only two or three of which are significant: p. 182 n. 331 read