BMCR 2005.02.31

Gynaikôn Katalogos und Megalai Ehoiai. Ein Kommentar zu den Fragmenten zweier hesiodeischer Epen. BzA 198

Martina Hirschberger, Hesiod., Hesiod., Gynaikōn katalogos und Megalai ēhoiai : ein Kommentar zu den Fragmenten zweier hesiodeischer Epen. Beiträge zur Altertumskunde ; Bd. 198. München/Leipzig: Saur, 2004. 511 pages ; 25 cm.. ISBN 3598778104 €110.00.

Martina Hirschberger’s (H.) book is the first modern commentary to be published on the Hesiodic Catalogues. The archaic epic poem ascribed to Hesiod known under the titles Ehoiai or Catalogue of Women was one of the most influential sources on heroic tales and genealogies in the ancient world. Until a few decades ago, it was known to modern readers only thanks to a handful of tantalizing quotations and testimonies from later preserved authors. During the last century a large number of papyrus finds have shown its remarkable popularity in Graeco-Roman Egypt and enabled scholars to gain a clearer view of its structure and importance. In the most recent survey, around 50 different manuscripts of the poem are listed and the number is increasing.1 If we may judge from the remains from provincial public and private libraries in Imperial Egypt, the Catalogue was among the most widely read poetic works, after the Iliad and the Odyssey. The papyri have also shown that even after its loss the Catalogue has played an important role in the transmission of Greek mythological lore: its general structure seems to have been followed fairly closely by one of the most popular mythological handbook to have survived the Middle Ages, the Bibliotheca falsely attributed to Apollodorus.

It may be very difficult to find one’s way in this fragmentary maze. In 1967, Martin West and Reinhold Merkelbach provided an admirable critical edition with a Latin apparatus of the Hesiodic fragments (newly discovered ones were added in the 1983 and 1990 editions of the OCT Hesiod). Almost twenty years later, West published a book on the poem (The Hesiodic Catalogue of Women. Its Nature, Structure, and Origins, Oxford 1985) which offers a precious guide for navigating this complex collection. A handful of other articles and dissertations have appeared, but nobody has tackled the task of providing a much-needed commentary on these interesting texts. H.’s book, a slightly revised version of her 2002/3 Düsseldorf Dissertation, with its more than 500 densely printed pages, is a substantial contribution to the issue. It is not possible to give here a full account of its contents: in what follows, I give a summary overview, dwelling only on a few among the many interesting problems.

After a general bibliography, the book opens with a sober introduction (pp. 21-86), followed by the texts of the fragments (pp. 89-161) and a generous commentary (pp. 163-494), and closes with two indexes, one of proper names, and another of themes and motifs, and with a concordance between H.’s edition and M.-W.

In the introduction, after a summary of her work, which gives a list of the divergences between the structure of her edition and M.-W., H. succinctly faces such topics as the titles of the Hesiodic genealogical poem(s) and the function of the ἢ οἵη (“or such as [name of a heroine] was”) formula which introduces some of the sections, and from which the titles Ehoiai and Great Ehoiai are derived. H. discusses content, structure, authorship and date of the Catalogue (pp. 32-51), which she tentatively places between 630 (the date of the foundation of Cyrene, accepted by H. as a terminus post quem for the Cyrene ehoie, which she, with many others, attributes to the Catalogue) and 590 (possible, but very uncertain date of the Hesiodic Shield, whose first 56 lines coincide with the Alcmene ehoie, from Book 4 of the Catalogue). Her idea that the poem was created in Eastern Aeolis seems less attractive to me than R. Fowler’s hypothesis, according to which the poem reflects the political situation of the Delphic Amphictyony in the early VI century BCE. H. illustrates the poem’s place within the Greek epic tradition both from a thematic and a formal point of view (pp. 51-63), locates it in the context of genealogical literature (pp. 63-70), and explores some of its most important narrative motifs (pp. 70-81). At the end of her introduction (pp. 81-6), H. discusses the evidence for a further Ehoiai poem attributed to Hesiod, the Great Ehoiai.

The edition itself includes only the fragments that preserve actual ‘Hesiodic’ words: all other testimonies find their places in the commentary on more or less closely related passages, and this explains why the number of the fragments in H. is lower than in M.-W. H. does not claim to provide an edition based on direct examination of the papyri and the other manuscript sources but provides a “reading text”, drawing on other published editions. Her critical apparatus mentions only the conjectures and integrations she actually prints in the text. Other proposals that she judges less certain are selectively discussed in the commentary. Manuscripts variants too are only sparsely reported. This may at times be misleading. For example, in her introduction to fr. 5 (lines 17-9) H. prints Ἑκαταίου in the text of Strabo 10.3.19, but this is only a medieval attempt (preserved in a single, late manuscript) to correct the actual paradosis of Strabo, ἑκατέρω (quoted by H. not in the text but in the commentary, on p. 182, together with Ἑκαταίου and with no indication of its different status), which is closer to the probable original reading, conjectured by Parsons, Sijpesteijn and Worp, ἐκ Δώρου. In fr. *8.3, preserved in the scholia to Euripides, Orestes 249, H. prints the name of one of Helen’s sisters as Πεισάνδρη, with no indication in the apparatus. In the commentary she reports Geel’s conjecture Τιμάνδρη, but actually only one of the manuscripts used in Schwartz’s edition of the scholia (A) has Πεισάνδρη, while the other two (M, T) have τίς ἀνδρί which may as easily been interpreted as a corruption of Τιμάνδρη, the only form of the name of the woman transmitted by the other sources (A’s reading possibly being a mistaken attempt to make sense of a corrupted text; a fourth manuscript, B, omits the name altogether). This is not without consequences. Since the woman is known to have been called Timandre in the Catalogue (fr. 15.31), H. decides that fr. *8 cannot belong to the same poem; manuscript evidence, though, suggests that she may have been called Timandre here also. In such cases the reader gets more precise information from M.-W. When reporting papyrus readings H. does not claim to have inspected either the original texts or photographic reproductions, though she judiciously relies upon the best of several excellent editions. In this case too, however, reference to the actual condition of the manuscripts might have been useful for ruling out some proposals: in fr. 118.3, for example, the papyrus preserves what seems to be the last part of the name of a heroine, ending in – νόης. H. accepts West’s supplements to lines 4-6; and this implies that no more than three letters are missing at the beginning of line 3 (as H. correctly prints in her text), which is compatible with M.-W.’s Iphinoe, but hardly with H.’s (p. 435) Leuko-, Arsi-, Phylo-, Hippo- and Peisinoe.2

H. makes several contributions to the text by providing new supplements, or by attributing fragments to different contexts or poems. Among the first ones, her improvement on Merkelbach’s supplement to fr. 1.15 may be mentioned; also in some other passages (cf. e.g. 16.12, 37.77), H. improves previous supplements by choosing an alternative with different and usually closer parallels in epic formulaic diction, and completes a lacunose text along the same lines (cf. e.g. 37.24, 67.17; cf. also *13), but, on the whole, her text does not differ very much from that of M.-W: in most of these cases the apparatus and the commentary are far too concise and the reader cannot assess the exact extent of H.’s own contributions without resorting to previous publications.

H. attributes various fragments to contexts different from those envisaged by M.-W. (a list is provided in her general introduction, pp. 22-6). In some cases she has been preceded by previous scholars (cf. e.g. 6, absent in M.-W., but attributed to this context by West in a later article; 7 and 8, a placement already proposed in the apparatus of M.-W.; 10 and 21, after Merkelbach), and some of the newly placed fragments are so small (cf., for example, 10, 52, 53, 94) that their context is bound to remain uncertain, and they would perhaps have more conveniently been placed in a group of fragments incertae sedis, with their possible contexts mentioned in the commentary.3 Sometime H.’s different placements are not due to a different interpretation, but to divergences in the reconstruction of the genealogical sequence, as, for example, in the case of the series of Aeolus’ sons. In some of these cases too she has been preceded by previous scholars (e.g. H. places Asopus’ genealogy after that of the Pleiads, diverging from M.-W. but following the reconstruction of West’s 1985 monograph). She also prints three papyrus fragments not included in M.-W. but which have some chance of having belonged to the poem (96, 98, 103: for all of them the attribution had already been proposed; it is certain for 96, which, according to the first editors, belongs to the same papyrus roll as 99, a detail not mentioned by H.). As for the general structure of the work, however, H. follows Merkelbach and West in using Ps.-Apollodorus’ Bibliotheca as a guideline.

H. prints 142 fragments as belonging to the poem known as the Catalogue of Women or Ehoiai. Some ancient sources refer to a further title, the Great Ehoiai, and modern scholars do not agree on whether this is to be taken as a different way to indicate the same poem, as an enlarged ancient edition of the Ehoiai, or as an altogether different work. H. gives a concise assessment of this intricate issue in her introduction (27-9) and, correctly in my opinion, sides with those who think that the title indicated a different genealogical poem.4 She prints 16 fragments under this heading, followed by 39 further fragments of uncertain attribution (preceded by an asterisk in H.’s numbering system). Of the 16 fragments H. attributes to the Great Ehoiai, however, only five, frr. 10, 11 and 13-15, are quoted by ancient sources under this title (other references without verbatim quotations are reported in the commentary). Frr. 12 and 16 are fragments of two different papyri whose content seems to overlap with two indirect references to the Great Ehoiai in Pausanias, while the attribution of frr. 1-9 entirely depends on H.’s conjecture as no ancient source refers to anything in them as belonging to this poem. This alone would probably have justified their placement within H’s third section (fragments from uncertain works).

A closer look at this issue may be useful to exemplify the difficulties involved in the study of these fragments and some problems inherent in H.’s choices. They belong to the famous story of the birth of Asclepius. Two different versions are attributed to ‘Hesiod’: according to the most famous one (1), he was the son of Apollo and Coronis, Phlegyas’ daughter, who, while pregnant, married a mortal, thus incurring the wrath of the god, who killed her and saved the unborn child. According to another version, also attributed to ‘Hesiod’ (2), he was the son of Arsinoe, Leucippus’ daughter. ‘Hesiod’ is also reported to have told (3) how Asclepius was killed by Zeus with a lightning for having raised a dead man; in retaliation, Apollo killed the Cyclopes, who had forged Zeus’s thunderbolts. Therefore, his father almost threw him down to Tartarus but thanks to Leto’s intercession he was only condemned to serve as a shepherd for the mortal Admetus. The beginning of story (1) is almost certainly preserved in three lines quoted by Strabo,5 whose endings have also appeared in a papyrus fragment (POxy 2483 fr. 3 = H. 70) written by the same scribe and in the same layout as other fragments securely attributed to the first Book of the Catalogue (H. 5 and 16): H. attributes it to the Catalogue. Version (2) is attributed to Hesiod, or to an interpolator of Hesiod by Pausanias (fr. 50 M.-W.) and its genealogy coincides with that given by two different anonymous hexameter couplets, both of which H. prints as from the Great Ehoiai (1, 2), though stating that one of them may belong to some other poem. That version (2) went on with story (3) is attested by the II century BCE Pergamene scholar Crates of Mallus, who refers to Apollo’s killing of the Cyclopes as from the Catalogue of the daughters of Leucippus (fr. 52 M.-W., Crates fr. 80 Broggiato), but already in the fifth century Pindar (at least up to Asclepius’ death) and Pherecydes, our earliest sources after ‘Hesiod’, knew that version (1) went on with the same story (3).

In H.’s edition, story (3) is represented by frr. 3-9, two and half lines quoted by Athenagoras and six fragments from the same papyrus roll, all of which she attributes to the Great Ehoiai. There are, however, two good reasons to think that frr. 3-9 were more probably part of the Catalogue. The first is that the six papyrus fragments are written by the same scribe and in the same layout as several other fragments securely attributed to Book 1 of the Catalogue (POxy 2495). It is true that this seems to have been part of a set of papyrus rolls by the same scribe also including Hesiod’s Works and Days, the Shield, the Wedding of Keyx and even Apollonius of Rhodes, but among the preserved fragments at least three dozen come from the Catalogue, Book 1, while no other fragment attributable to the Great Ehoiai has been identified.6 In fr. 9, moreover, the story of Asclepius ends and is followed by a new one (introduced by the usual formula ἢ οἵην) about the birth of the twin brothers Krisos and Panopeus, sons of Phocus by a heroine whose name is lost in lacuna but whom we can identify with reasonable confidence as Asterodeia, daughter of the Aeolid Deion.7 Now, another fragment of this same papyrus preserves the story of her sister Philonis, which occurred in Deion’s genealogy in Catalogue, Book 1 (fr. 26= 35 H., attributed also by H. to the Catalogue). That two papyrus fragments of the same genre, written by the same scribe and dealing with the genealogies of the two sisters should be attributed to two different poems is perhaps possible, but certainly very unlikely. A second reason for attributing story (3) to the Catalogue is the fact that it is twice attributed to ‘Hesiod’ in Philodemus’ treatise On Religiosity (frr. 51 and 51 M.-W.). It is true that some authors quote the Great Ehoiai too as ‘Hesiod’. Philodemus, however, who in this work almost entirely relies on the encyclopedic treatise On Gods of Apollodorus of Athens (II century BCE, reflects the accuracy of his source, and elsewhere refers to ‘Hesiod’ as the author of the Catalogue/Ehoiai, and to the author of the second poem as “the composer of the Great Ehoiai” (cf. fr. 363A M.-W., quoted by H. on p. 465, in her introduction to fr. *5).

In her introduction, on p. 81, and n. 357, H. adduces Great Ehoiai fr. 9 in order to show that this poem was not organized according to broader genealogical trees but that it possibly was a collection of separate genealogical blocks. In fact, once fr. 9 is restored to the Catalogue, we must admit that we have no evidence at all about the structuring principle of the Great Ehoiai. If the fragment was part of a story where version (1) was followed by story (3), the sequence of Coronis’ story and that of Krisos and Panopeus may have been far from casual. The second story is an aition for the hostile relations between the two Phocian towns of Krisa (which at times claimed control over the Delphic sanctuary) and Panopeus. The first story is based on the vengeance taken by the Delphic god Apollo on Coronis, daughter of Phlegyas, and wife of Ischys, son of Elatos. Phlegyas was the eponymous hero of the Phlegyans, a people located in several places by ancient sources, but connected to the lower Cephisus valley as early as the Homeric Hymn to Apollo (278-80, where their hostility to Apollo is mentioned). According to Paus. 10.4.1, the inhabitants of Panopeus claimed to be descendants of the Phlegyans. Elatos too evokes the name of another Phocian town, Elateia, in the upper Cephisus valley, the most important town in the region after Delphi. This version of the story seems to have reflected the strained relations between the Delphic sanctuary and other Phocian towns,8 and it is probably no coincidence that it was followed by that of Krisos and Panopeus.

Another case where H.’s new arrangement of the fragments may be seen as questionable is that of the Atalante ehoie, one of the best-preserved and liveliest pieces of narrative in the whole corpus. This is usually thought to have been part of the Catalogue, but H. prints it among the fragments of uncertain attribution. Her reasons for doing so are not, in my opinion, compelling. With West and other scholars, H. thinks that the story of Schoineus’ daughter Atalante was the first of a book, and that the end of the previous book is preserved in POxy 2999 (fr. *1). This fragment is thought to have included also line 1 of the following book, the beginning of Atalante’s story, an editorial device used to connect the two consecutive papyrus rolls. She is, however, uncertain, whether fr. *1 should be attributed to the Catalogue or to the Great Ehoiai, as she thinks it mentions genealogical information which, according to Pausanias, was absent in the Catalogue. Pausanias, however, only says that in the Ehoiai there was no mention of any offspring of Polykaon and Messene, and that a marriage between a Polykaon son of Boutes and Euaichme, daughter of Hyllus, appeared in the Great Ehoiai. This is not incompatible with the attribution to the Catalogue of fr. *1, where the union of the Boutidai with the daughters of Hyllus seems to have been mentioned, but no individual name is preserved. The Great Ehoiai passage referred to by Pausanias, in its turn, seems to have been preserved in another papyrus fragment (ME fr. 12 H.: Pausanias has apparently confused the name of Aristaichme, Polykaon’s wife, with that of her sister Euaichme, wife of Polykaon’s brother, Polykreion, also mentioned in the same lines). If fr. *1 is not attributed to the Catalogue, one has to make the unlikely assumptions that the same genealogy occurred twice in the Great Ehoiai, or that fr. *1 and, consequently, the Atalante ehoie belong to a third, unknown ehoiai poem. Moreover, if the mention of the presence of Schoineus’ daughter Atalante in ‘Hesiod’ according to Philodemus’ On Religiosity (fr. 72 M.-W.) also goes back to Apollodorus, this implies that her story featured in the Catalogue.9

H.’s commentary is rich and informative. The discussion of every single fragment is preceded by a useful specific bibliography. The main focus of the commentary itself is on linguistic features, on formal parallels from other Greek epic poems, on comparative material (mostly from Near Eastern and Indian sources) and on references to other mythographic and genealogical texts, while relatively less attention is paid to problems concerning the establishment of the text, proposing new solutions or judging between available alternatives.10 A further issue frequently coming up in the commentary is that of the exploration of the different possible placements of the fragments within the broader structure of the poem(s): some of them have been discussed above. The repetition of some material, appearing almost identical in different notes, might have been avoided by a more careful editing. The same can be said of several minor mistakes in the Greek quotations in the commentary and in the bibliography, involving titles, names of authors, publication dates and quotations in foreign languages: in many cases they are mere typos, and are seldom seriously misleading.11

In conclusion, though H.’s treatment of some issues leaves room for disagreement, and a more thorough revision might have saved her from some minor mistakes, her book is to be welcomed as a serious and useful contribution to a difficult subject.


1. D. Marcotte and P. Mertens, Catalogue des Femmes et Grandes Éoés d’Hésiode. Liste, description et bibliographie fondamentale des fragments papyrologiques (= MP 3 508-531.2), in Storia poesia e pensiero nel mondo antico. Studi in onore di M. Gigante, Napoli 1994, 407-23, and Online Updated List of Hesiodic Papyri.

2. A reproduction of the papyrus is available both in Plate IV of The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, vol. XXVIII, London 1962 and online: POxy 2485.

3. H. thinks that fr. 22 (a line where a masculine subject is doing something in a river when it is full) may have been part of the story of Tyro, where Poseidon appears to the heroine among the waves of the Enipeus River. She does not give any possible alternative placement in her commentary, but Sittl’s hypothesis that it may refer to Jason’s crossing of the Anauros was also worth mentioning (H. refers to it in her general introduction, 57, when discussing the presence of themes related to the Argonauts, but there is no cross-reference in the commentary). H.’s attribution of fr. 48 to the episode of the wanderings of Proitos’ daughters seems very doubtful to me: the present tense used in the description has no parallel in the poem (unless we suppose it was part of a reported speech) and it is even uncertain to which ‘Hesiodic’ work the quotation belongs. For fr. 42, where H. diverges from M.-W. in making this Magnes a son of Aeolus and not the son of Deukalion mentioned in fr. 3, she had been preceded by C. Brillante, La leggenda eroica e la civiltà micenea, Roma 1981, 109 n. 69 not mentioned in H.’s commentary on this fragment, nor in the relevant passage of the introduction, though duly quoted in the commentary on fr. 3.

4. I deal with the issue in detail in “The Megalai Ehoiai: a Survey of the Fragments”, forthcoming in R. Hunter (ed.) The Hesiodic Catalogue of Women: Constructions and Reconstructions, Cambridge 2005, 176-216. H.’s book appeared too late to be taken into account in that work.

5. Only West, The Hesiodic Catalogue, 71 f. thinks this may be the beginning of a story dealing with Dotia, Coronis’ grandmother according to some sources (about whom almost nothing, apart from her name, is known); West attributes only version (2), followed by story (3), to the Catalogue. The verbal coincidences with the descriptions of Coronis in Pindar and other authors, however, make the identification more than likely.

6. H. does not give any information about the papyrological evidence when discussing these fragments, though she mentions the various works represented by the scribe of POxy 2495 on p. 23 n. 15 of her introduction (where no mention is made of the possibility that some of them may belong to the Great Ehoiai) and in her commentary on fr. *36 (a fragment attributed to the Wedding of Ceyx by M.-W.), on p. 488.

7. In her commentary (446), H. mentions two names known by other sources as wives of Phocus, Asterodia and Antiope, without choosing between them. Only the former, however, is known elsewhere as the mother of the twins Krisos and Panopeus, and only the former is likely to have come from Phylake (v. 9), the town founded by, or in any case connected to her brother Phylakos (cf. fr. 33a).

8. At a later stage, the mythographic relations between Elatos/Elateia and Delphi seem to have been readjusted in order to reflect a more friendly situation: in Pausanias’ time (10.34.2) the people of Elateia told that Elatos had come to their city from Arcadia in order to defend Delphi from the Phlegyans.

9. Ambiguous evidence on the placement of the Atalante ehoie has been published by C. Meliadò, Un nuovo frammento esiodeo in uno scolio a Teocrito, ZPE 145 (2003), 1-5, probably too late to be used by H.; I discuss it in the paper quoted above, n. 4.

10. Among the former, H.’s proposal to read ἀγακλυτόν instead of ἀγακλειτόν in 25.20 is unmetrical. (The same can be said of March’s supplement in 99.9, mentioned without comments by H., ἕλων (so both H. and March, instead of the expected ἑλὼν) ἐν εὐρ]υχόρωι Ἰαωλκ[ῶι). Among the latter, cf. H.’s discussion of the various possible alternatives for the reconstruction of 5.53-56: I would not adduce *9.2 as the sole evidence for the superlative ὁπλότατος used instead of the comparative of the younger of two persons: the reconstruction and interpretation of that fragment is open to several doubts (cf. West, The Hesiodic Catalogue, 118 f.). I would have expected a discussion of the text of, for example, fr. 11.4, where ϊερον of the papyrus can hardly be interpreted differently from ἱερὸν, a possibility not mentioned by H.: West’s suggestion that the adjective may have modified the proper noun Molos is linguistically unlikely at this age; for a possible alternative supplement, cf. M. Steinrück in Maia 51 (1999), 390, ἣ τέκε παῖδα μόλον μένος] ἱερὸν, which may perhaps be improved to καὶ μόλου ἀντιθέου μένο]ς ἱερὸν (if the woman mentioned in the previous line is Molos’ sister, not his mother), or ἥ οἱ τίκτε Μόλου μένο]ς ἱερὸν. In fr. 31.31 West’s σύν < θ’ > should have been mentioned.

11. A small selection: Bibliography, 163 (and 166) “Benviste”, instead of “Benveniste,” 179, “J.S. Hutchinson”, instead of “G.O. Hutchinson”, 249 “SCO 42”, instead of “SCO 46.2”, 320 and 326 “Annbühl”, instead of “Ambühl”, 69 n. 274 mistakes in the text of the Italian quotation, 81 n. 358 “callimacea” instead of “callimachea”; cross-references: 75 n. 309 “F 30” instead of “F 31”; Greek words: 178 twice Ἕλλας instead of Ἑλλάς; 188 ὁπολό]τατος instead of ὁπλό]τατος, 235 νε]κείεσκε instead of νει]κείεσκε; in the edition itself, apart from several cases of omitted punctuation, I have noticed only πάρα instead of παρὰ, required by H.’s textual choice, in 90.8 (cf. also the commentary, where, moreover, the situation is reversed in reporting Evelyn-White’s supplement, which requires πάρα).