BMCR 2005.02.28

Antike Literatur in neuer Deutung. Festschrift für Joachim Latacz anlässlich seines 70. Geburtstages

, , Antike Literatur in neuer Deutung : [Festschrift für Joachim Latacz anlässlich seines 70. Geburtstages]. München-Leipzig: Saur, 2004. XI, 380, XVI Seiten : Illustrationen, Karten. ISBN 3598730160 €92.00.

Homeric scholarship owes a great debt to Professor Joachim Latacz, one of the most authoritative figures in the field, who enjoys the respect and admiration of both colleagues and students.1 His attempt to make Homer’ s epics speak directly to present-day readers by elucidating the features of the epic composition make his work invaluable. The present volume is dedicated to him on the occasion of his 70th birthday. The eighteen essays included cover a wide range of subjects on classical antiquity — the last one even reaches to the Middle Ages. All of them, contributed by competent specialists, meet the expectations of the most demanding reader and examine the most recent results on the topics under discussion. Thus, the book, primarily of interest to scholars, also provides the opportunity to undergraduates and postgraduates to view the current condition of classical studies.

After a brief prologue (by Arbogast Schmitt on behalf of the editor team), where helpful guide-lines are sketched out, there follow eight essays, concerning Homer (Korfmann, West, Willcock, De Jong & Nünlist, Simon, Russo, Bierl, Montanari), one on Pre-Socratic Philosophy (Riedweg), three on Greek Tragedy and Comedy (Kannicht, Schwinge, Zimmermann), two on Plato and Aristotle (Schmitt, Flashar), one on Hellenistic poetry (Rengakos), two on Latin literature (Cancik, Schmidt) and, last but not least, one on Pap. Petra 17 (Koenen). A list of Professor Latacz’s publications, covering the years 1994-2003, is recorded in the last part of the Festschrift, as supplement to the full list provided in his Kleinen Schriften edited in 1994 under the title Erschließung der Antike.

Manfred Korfmann’ s lengthy article under the title “Von den Ruinen Troias zur “Landschaft Homers”” gives the reader an opportunity to become acquainted with the archaeological excavations and the findings on the broader area of Troad. Among other scholars Professor Latacz visited Yeniköy in 1984. The equation of the place-name “[W]Ilios” with Hittite “Wilus(s)a”, a quite controversial subject, is presented as virtually certain. K., the supervisor of the international and interdisciplinary research in the area, observes that, while scholars who deal with texts restrict themselves to issues relative to the Trojan War, the archaeological evidence allows access to a wider scope, especially as far as prehistoric archaeology is concerned. The historical kernel of the Iliad being accepted, the text is treated as a source for the era of about 700 B.C. The perspectives of the research as described by K.’s thorough report seem to be especially interesting (the study of the Trojan gods for instance and their connection with the Hittites).

Under the title “An Indo-European stylistic feature in Homer” Martin L. West presents a stylistic feature called the “augmented triad” (a verse constructed from three names, of which the third is accompanied with an epithet or any other qualification) and investigates concretely the frequency of its appearance in Homer, Hesiod and the Mahâbhârata. Supplementing the evidence from the East with examples from the West he adduces the interesting conclusion that this device is inherited from Indo-European and thus represents another trace of Indo-European poetry in Homeric epics. Malcolm Willcock deals with stock or traditional epithets which are attached to particular characters (“Traditional epithets”). Drawing on the evidence of these epithets the author concludes that all of the major characters presented in the Iliad predated this epic.

Irene De Jong and René Nünlist examine in their most valuable essay the spatial standpoint of the narrator, which has hardly been studied hitherto (“From bird’s eye view to close-up. The stand point of the narrator in the Homeric epics”). They first propose a typology of spatial standpoints of the narrator, then they focus their attention on the types found in the Homeric epics and finally they analyze typical Homeric passages, such as changes of scene, scenery-descriptions, battle scenes and similes. Their presentation is of great importance not only for the conclusions that are drawn about the Homeric poems (“the most common standpoint of the Homeric narrator” for example has been proved as “scenic, non-actorial, shifting” [p. 67]; “quite frequently” on the other hand “the narrator makes use of the panoramic standpoint” [p.69]) but also for the new perspectives as far as the interpretation of literature in general is concerned. The terminology used opens up to the reader the workshop of the composer, revealing the way in which he sets the narrator in motion. The primary advantage of this kind of process is that it allows dense contact between the narrator and the heroes and the impression of the narrator’s shifting throughout the text. In my opinion the application of this scope can be especially useful because it encourages and enables the reception of the actual texture of literature. Erica Simon examines in a concise article (“Homer and Odysseus”) Homeric and non-Homeric evidence about Odysseus; she traces Hermes and Sisyphus among his ancestors and comments on other sons, apart from Telemachus, who are attributed to him.

Joseph Russo (“Odysseus’ trial of the bow as symbolic performance”), well acquainted with traditional wisdom, identifies in Odysseus’ trial of the bow a pattern commonly recurring in world-wide epic, myth and folktale: “contenders for the hand of the royal woman must compete in a near-impossible task requiring special skill or strength or both” (p. 95). Having referred to previous interpretative endeavours of the episode he offers another variant: Odysseus relies on a clever strategy more than on mere force. According to R. this scene represents specifically the moment of Odysseus’ long-awaited return as king; the bow is after all the weapon par excellence of royalty, in both the Indo-European tradition and the Near East. R.’s argumentation seems to be right: Odysseus, having returned to Ithaca after a prolonged absence, needs to reestablish his power exactly as he needs in the course of Odyssey to rewin, through trial and recognition, Penelope. The situation, apparently alike in traditional tales, with which Odyssey shares many common themes and motives, is differentiated through the fact that the hero does not struggle for the first time in his life in order to maintain his power: this is his fate in general.

In the course of his presentation under the title “Die Wiedererkennung von Odysseus und seiner treuen Gattin Penelope. Das Ablegen der Maske — zwischen traditioneller Erzählkunst, Metanarration und psychologischer Vertiefung” Anton Bierl attempts to reinterpret the reunion between Odysseus and Penelope. The author suggests that the queen rewins her husband and that both the external and the internal mask of the hero has to be removed in a plot that surpasses all preexistent models and exploits the etymology of the hero’ s name.

Franco Montanari concludes the first section of the book with an article on the Alexandrian Homeric philology (“La filologia omerica antica e la storia del testo omerico”).

Pre-Socratic philosophy is represented by a remarkable essay of Christoph Riedweg entitled “Zur Urspung des Wortes ‘Philosophie’ oder Pythagoras von Samos als Wortschöpfer”. The author discusses the evidence attributed to Heracleides Ponticus that the term “philosopher” is “invented” by Pythagoras. Through a methodologically instructive argumentation R. attempts to distinguish the ancient kernel of the story from the narrative elements which had been added by Heracleides. The Phleius setting for instance is connected with the mid 5th cent. B.C. as terminus post quem, while the dialogue with Leo recites the common theme of discussion between an intellectual and a powerful politician.2 Only the observations quoted in pp. 173-174 about the analogy between a Greek philosopher and a modern guru seem dubious; generally speaking analogies with current habits remain always risky. The treatment of the theme “confrontation between an intellectual and a man in power” is exquisite and can serve as a reference for further investigation on the subject. The fact that the argumentation is supported with more than sufficient bibliographical quotations is also noteworthy.

Three articles refer to Greek drama (Kannicht, Schwinge, Zimmermann). A most intriguing subject, the connection between tragedy and epic literature, in correspondence with the main interests of Professor Latacz and Professor Kannicht, provides the frame for the latter’ s essay “Scheiben von den großen Mahlzeiten Homers. Euripides und der Troische Epenkreis “. In the first part of his presentation, K. comments on the quotation ὃς (sc. Aeschylus) τας ἑαυτο=υ τραγῳδίας τεμάχη εἶναι ἔλεγεν τῶν Ὁμ/ηρου μεγ/αλων δέιπνων. He draws the convincing conclusion that “Homer” is identified as far as the ancient audience until the time of Plato and Aristotle is concerned with the composer of all epic literature; thus the τεμ/αχη can be regarded as motives, themes and episodes which are to be found in the epics in general. In the second part of his work, K. investigates the quantitative proportion of the epic themes’ dramatic exploitation in Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, while in the last part he restricts himself to four Euripidean plays, Alexander, Palamedes, Protesilaus and the Scyrians.

Ernst-Richard Schwinge (“Wer tötete Medeas Kinder?”) deals with Tradition and Innovation in Euripides’ Medea. He investigates the mythological version that the Corinthians killed Medea’s children and thereafter accused her of having murdered them and concludes that it should be connected with Creophylus of Ephesos (4. cent. B.C.) and not with Creophylos of Samos (7. cent. B.C.). Consequently Euripides most probably was the one who substituted the version of a deliberate crime committed by Medea for the undeliberate murder of her children attributed to Eumelus.

Although the title of Bernhard Zimmermann’s article refers to the work of Aristophanes (“Poetologische Reflexionen in den Komödien des Aristophanes”), in the beginning of his essay the author records the poetological reflections traced in Odyssey. The phenomenon which occurs often in archaic and classical literature is explained by Z. through the prevailing competitive spirit among the poets and their eagerness to distinguish their work from their rivals’ production. The explanation, reflecting the agonistic spirit of Greek civilization, seems to be most probable, but should not be considered as complete. Other options remain open to investigation; the author’s comments on his art for instance can serve occasionally as a kind of criterion or indication for a directive change in his work. Z. traces abundant poetological quotations in Aristophanes; the parabaseis of Acharnians, Knights, Clouds, Wasps and Peace, covering the years 425-421, down to the parodos of the Frogs (presented in 405 B.C.) provide the modern reader with a poetics of comedy created by Aristophanes himself.

Two essays are devoted to Plato and Aristotle. Arbogast Schmitt, in his presentation “Platon, Politeia”, examines the relationship between man and the state in Plato taking into consideration the doctrines of Aristotle and some modern theorists. Helmut Flashar, on the other hand (“Aristoteles, Über die Philosophie”), after a brief introduction on the lost Aristotelian dialogues, investigates the fragments that can be attributed to Aristotle’s Über Philosophie. His conclusions on the connection of separate fragments with specific books of the dialogue and his methodological directions concerning the approachment of the issue are remarkable.

Antonios Rengakos covers the field of Hellenistic poetry with a most comprehensive essay entitled “Die Argonautica und das ‘kyklische Gedicht’. Bemerkungen zur epischen Erzähltechnik”. Although the title suggests Apollonius Rhodius’ Argonautica as subject matter, the article surpasses its announced scope. The treatment of time is presented throughout the Homeric epics, with a useful comparison between the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Cyclic epics, with an enterprising endeavour to restore the time sequence in them; related references in Aristotle and Hellenistic theorists are also included, as well as Hellenistic epics apart from the Argonautica. The epic of Apollonius Rhodius is examined afterwards, with the conviction that it is the only work where an absolute linearity can be observed. Can it be that Callimachus had in mind exactly this epic poem when he stated that he hates the Cyclic poem? The question remains, in my opinion, open. The present essay provides the modern reader with a concise and instructive summary of terms, techniques, research and quotations related to the issue under consideration. The absolute linearity in the Argonautica can be identified as a perspective for further investigation.

Latin literature is represented through the articles of Hubert Cancik and Ernst A. Schmidt. Cancik (“Ein Volk gründen. Ein myth-historisches Modell in Vergils Aeneis”) examines the sources available on the Asiatic and the Latin version of the Aeneas’ myth. According to C. Vergil adopts the historical-political version and transcribes the Iliad into a new epic.

Schmidt (“Vorzeichnung zur Physiognomie des tragischen Oeuvres Senecas”) surveys modern approaches to Seneca’s dramatic production, distinguishing features as the intense violence, the eagerness for revenge, the thematic connection between the prologue and the rest of the play, the emergence of spirits.

Only one article refers to the field of papyrology: Ludwig Koenen, “Sprachliche Bemerkungen zu P. Petra 17 [inv. 10]”. The author deals with terms used in the Petra Papyri ( ὁροθέσια, ἐπαιωρόυμενον, μικρῷ πρ/ος), in order to draw general conclusions: the survival of some terms even when the situation to which they refer changes, the influence of the Roman Right, the emergence of new words during medieval times. In brief, the volume offers a welcome insight into a variety of subjects through different approaches and inspires stimulating questions and fruitful further thought. Generally speaking it manages to give a strong sense of current debates and thus can be regarded as a valuable contribution to classical studies. Only one detail: the addition of an index locorum would have aided the reader. On the other hand, the book has been excellently edited; I have not noticed any mistake. May Professor Latacz reach his 80th birthday healthy and creative and be honored through another volume of similar quality!


1. See especially his commentary on Homer’ s Iliad (Homers Ilias. Gesammtkommentar), vol. 1-2, Munich & Leipzig 2000, his book Troia und Homer (4th edition, Munich 2003) and for anglophone readers the translated Homer, His Art and His World (tr. by J. Holoka), published in Ann Arbor (The University of Michigan Press 1996).

2. See for example the famous meeting of Croesus and Solon in Herodotus (I.30-33).