BMCR 2007.05.18

Commentaria et Lexica Graeca in Papyris reperta (CLGP), adiuvante Marco Stroppa, Pars I: Commentaria et Lexica in auctores; vol. 1, fasc.4: Aristophanes – Bacchylides

, , , , , Commentaria et Lexica Graeca in Papyris reperta (CLGP), adiuvante Marco Stroppa, Pars I: Commentaria et Lexica in auctores; vol. 1, fasc.4: Aristophanes - Bacchylides. München / Leipzig: K.G. Sauer, 2006. xxxii, 310; pls. 8. €138.00.

The first fascicule of volume I of this series (Aeschines – Alcaeus) was reviewed favourably and at some length by Fr. Schironi in BMCR 2005.09.81; with its general tenor this reviewer is in agreement. As promised, fasc. 4 has appeared two years later, and fasc 2 and 3 of Part I.1 (Alcman – Archilochus) are promised for 2007 and 2008. Three more volumes of part I: papyrus ‘commentaries and lexical notes’ to specific ancient authors are scheduled, followed by II: commentaries to adespota, and III: ancient lexica and glossaries on papyrus. The overall aims and structure of CLGP set out in fasc. 1 are maintained here, and data up to late 2005 have been included, as well as photographs of unpublished papyri. The authors that appear here are Aristophanes (35 fragments); Aristotle (8); Autokleides (1); Bacchylides (7). Since Aristophanes bulks so large, the editors could rely for much of their material on the 2002 published dissertation of S. Trojahn, Die auf Papyri erhaltenen Kommentare zur alten Komödie. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der antiken Philologie. The aim is to put before scholars a ready collection of the ancient material on a solid textual basis classified by author, so that those interested in that author can have both the lemmata and ancient exegesis at hand. Since a volume of indices is planned to complete the series, each fascicule has only an index of the headings and sub-headings of the fragments, here on two unnumbered pages at the back, e.g. 9: P.Bingen 18. Note marginali a Eq. 998-1001, 1008-1012. The titles — in German and Italian — reveal the nature of the material, “Marginal notes to x”, “Lexical notes”, “Commentary on x”, where one observes that the lexical notes usually are excerpted from the lexica that will be published in the 3rd volume. The exception is Bacchylides fr.3, called “Prosa mit Zitat von Bacchylides 15,56”, which is too fragmentary to classify.

The editors’ wish that their collection will be useful to scholars is amply realized, since the material has doubled in the last 30 years (p.3); valuable too is the frequent reference to helpful updating web-sites dealing with papyri and related issues. The bibliography (xv-xxxii) is frighteningly vast and detailed, far beyond the reach of the ordinary scholar or even a good research library, revealing the many conferences on text & commentary that have been held in recent years and the many articles on detailed problems. Merely to have this mass of literature digested into one volume is a blessing. (During this preparation of this review it became clear how often in the past scholars writing on these glosses have missed either the papyri or the parallels elsewhere, precisely because of the absence of a collection like CLGP.) The fragments of each author are preceded by an introduction analyzing the material for signs of a development in the surviving ancient scholarship, a discussion most rewarding with Aristophanes. Each fragment is also given an introduction and has been painstakingly re-edited with full technical annotation and a detailed commentary, sometimes with a translation. (This last is not in this reviewer’s opinion of any value, since the commentary demands a very high standard of fluency in Greek, especially when the translation and the Greek are incomprehensible, as in the Menander cited in Aristophanes fr. 10, or as usual simply fragmented. After all, the subject of these glosses are rare words and meanings obscure even for ancient scholars.) Where the reader may disagree with a supplement, there is sufficient material in the apparatus and commentary to encourage further speculation; but the texts are conservative and the judgement sound. Parallels to the manuscript scholia are provided, particularly helpful with the new editions of Aristophanes, though the editor of that author (Montana) claims to be in no position to undertake an overall picture of Aristophanic scholarship (p.4). Since different editors operate even within the fragments of one ancient author, e.g. Montana and Esposito in Aristophanes, there are notable differences in style; the long technical description of Aristophanes fr.3 p.41 or fr.8 p.68 due to Esposito would normally constitute the introduction in the text of Montana, but the fragments deal with lexica, which will be treated in detail in volume III. (In practice, this also means that a lone gloss in a lexicon may be attributed to Aristophanes just because it occurs in Aristophanes, and an Aristophanes fragment is accordingly decorated with a question mark; but if it is going to be published anyway in context, why not deal with it there?)

Only a third of the Aristophanes fragments are 3rd century AD or earlier, none is Ptolemaic; and only three may be considered scholarly commentaries (2 from s.II post, 1 from s. V). They do not of course statistically reflect the intensity of scholarship over the centuries of study of comedy, but the survival rate in Egyptian rubbish dumps. The numbers however do suggest a revival of popularity of Aristophanes in the educational system after the 3rd century, and we can look forward to the comparative figures for Euripides and Menander. They also suggest an impoverishment in the quality of scholarship in later imperial times. But suggestion is not proof. Montana points to the importance of the substitution of codex for volumen, the need for selection among authors and works studied, and the demands of education as factors in the survival of our evidence. In general (p.6) he sees the exegetical tradition as watering down erudite Alexandrian learning, represented by Didymus, for new purposes, but there is much variety and this is not an orderly process, though the IV s. represents a turning point. Nothing here will be surprising to scholars. We have small and diverse fragments of a great Hellenistic scholarly industry reprocessed by imperial schoolmen.

In that light, fragments are classified generally as e.g. “designed as a reading aid for rather advanced pupils” with suitable observations — that discussion of text variants is absent, or that specific issues are not addressed, despite scholiastic evidence that they were controversial. Sometimes it looks obvious that we have a deliberately shortened and simplified version of some larger work, perhaps at second hand, and perhaps the original was already a compendium of previous efforts. Even the learned commentary Aristophanes 27 = POxy XXXV 2737 must have been carelessly shortened, to judge by the remarkably anomalous Greek — so rightly Montana p. 170. It was a muddy stream, and getting muddier. Without a good commentary, of course, these fragments cannot be fully evaluated, and there are some lacunae. So e.g. “Bereschetoi” (Eq. 635) may indeed be unique and “made up by Aristophanes”, as the note says (fr.7); but we should be told on what basis it was invented and could be funny, and perhaps directed to the word ” ereschelo” and cognates, with the digamma as initial Beta noted; so therefore inspired by Doric like the rest of the names there, which are not made up (Kobalos, Mothon). The editors seem nobly and dispassionately to avoid evaluating the truth-content of the notes they have so painfully elucidated; others may take pleasure in demonstrating that it is nil; or suspect; or in finding the acoustically mysterious “ring of truth”. (Zuntz is cited laconically in a footnote as describing a note as “ausfuehrliche Unsinn” on p.90, while Holwerda’s dismissive ” inane interpretamentum” is called into question on palaeographical grounds at p.105.)

The discussions of the fragments vary in amplitude according to the writer and can become complex and puzzling, as the parallels from the grammatical tradition are adduced; a perhaps understandable tendency to speculate is not always controlled. Almost always the explanation of the text is perfectly adequate, but on the other hand sometimes important indirect points are not brought out. In Aristophanes pap. fr. 3 the word pregoreon (Av.1113) meaning a bird’s crop, is glossed prologos and pharynx, the former being found also in the scholia and in Hesychius (where it has been wrongly emended away). The innocent reader who searches in LSJ will find no such meaning. The word should be prolobos, as one can see from Aristotle’s use. Nonetheless the Hesychius explanation, “because there food is collected ( sul-legetai)” shows that the word pro-logos is being explained, and we know both that this was Didymus’ etymology and, as the editor indicates, that the meaning ( prolobos versus pharynx) was discussed even before him. But it is important to observe that whoever wrote prologos as an explanation in a late imperial lexicon actually thought there was a word prologos meaning bird’s throat. We do not know what clever mind several hundred years earlier first substituted the word prologos for prolobos, accidentally or deliberately as glossa pro lemmate, so inventing this etymology; but the discussion on p. 46-7 will be heavy and confusing reading for those not very familiar with ancient scholarship, and still it does not explicate this, which after all demonstrates conclusively that grammarians could produce an obscurum per obscurius even in a not very learned commentary. If the comment had been made simpler, at the same time we could have been made wiser about an ancient philological battle. As the editors well know, scholia are often valuable snapshots of a moment in a long philological debate, stretching back five hundred years, whose details elude us. Nonetheless sketching the outlines of such larger debates is a necessary prelude to understanding the realities of ancient scholarship and evaluating it. That requires that the commentaries are concise and carefully crafted towards a broader readership than specialists in the immediate text, and many classical scholars are stunningly ignorant of scholiastic habits. In that sense, it would be reasonable to demand an explanation somewhere of what the editors understand by specific terms e.g. parepigraphe, and cross reference to that discussion, rather than be sent off to a remote journal. (Do all editors have the same opinion?) There are in fact almost no cross references even to discussions in fascicule I.1, and this must be a concern for the general editors, since a general index will be many years off. Among other desiderata, a summary of the many dispersed notes on the use of sigla in these papyri would be most helpful.

Likewise there is the question of testimonia. These are sometimes written out in full, especially and helpfully when the mediaeval scholia are parallel; but not always; and other testimonia can be cited in full or in short form or omitted, and their connections left obscure. I should think that for many glosses a full but short form testimonia apparatus is essential, if possible classified by explanation, and the commentary could refer to this and save paper. As it stands, the papyrological data is expansively detailed, even at times self indulgent, while the explanatory comment, despite its generous survey of the history of discussion, still leaves readers often with further homework to do in difficult sources, a pity when the writers themselves have such obvious experience and resources at hand. Less, often much less, could be worth more.

Didymus the Great (so Suidas) was scarcely a “student of Aristarchus” as is quoted p.161 without explanation; he was not even a follower of Aristarchus, cf. the useful website “Lessico dei grammatici greci antichi” = LGGA, where oddly F. Montana sets out the evidence. This is noteworthy, because at times throughout these commentaries there is implicitly accepted the old established and comfortable thesis that Didymus acts as a sort of bottleneck through which the superior philology of Alexandria was transmitted to the imperial world; he is then variously dismissed as a compilator and incompetent epitomator. Such generalized estimates and others like them are dangerous and can be shown to be at times wrong; each gloss is to be weighed on its own merits, and we have at present no right to rely on such propositions to make a specific judgement. There are times when Didymus shows Aristarchus, himself a compilator, to be lacking in what we should call elementary commonsense. The strange world of ancient scholarship must be understood in its own terms, not ours, and certainly not in terms of 19th century ideas; anyone who has read A. Grafton’s superb discussion of Scaliger’s scholarly principles knows what this means.

The 8 legible fragments of Aristotelian scholarship are all lexicon words save for the unusual commentary, largely paraphrase, of his Topica from the end of the 1st century AD. The survey of this very different tradition is due to Fr. Montanari. The 6 certain fragments of Bacchylides are in the expert hands of H. Maehler; yet the history of the text rests on a series of fragile assumptions. It is odd that Maehler translates — differently from his own commentary —Bacch. 3.67 paresti as “soll” instead of “kann”, which brings the uncertain supplement ( [dei ton anth]rop(on)) into the text of the papyrus scholion, mostly paraphrase. Generally the supplements are more adventurous than Montana’s, but frag.3 the “Prosatext mit Zitat” must, I think, be considered a commentary on Bacchylides Dithyramb 1. The introductory discussion of the idiom: sons of X = X [cf. Pindar I. 3.18 with scholia], recognised by Haslam, refers not to line 56, but line 39, ” paides Achaion” i.e. Achaioi, for only thus does the remark in line 11 of the commentary make sense, “In what follows, Bacchylides […” citing Dith. 1.56. Naturally the scholiast jumps to an obvious parallel a bit further on, and might of course go back to cover the intervening lines. In fact, not only is iatron paides = doctors etc. common scholia language e.g. Schol. Ran 942, but a supplement for line 9 grammatikon] paides anti tou g[rammatikoi is supported by Athenaeus 2.32.13; 8.59.2. The locus classicus for this periphrasis is Odyssey 11.546, Apollonius Sophistes s.v. uies Achaion. Bacchylides 4 contains the precious information that Aristarchus criticized Callimachus for ignorance, in classifying as a paean a poem that was clearly a dithyramb, because it took as its theme the myth of Cassandra. One needs here at least a reference to Ierano, Ditirambo, 323 for this vexed question.

Lastly and regrettably, there is the matter of cost. Fascicule I.4 costs 138 Euros for 307 pages. (BMCR reviewed fasc 1 as 118 Euros, the Sauer/de Gruyter website now gives the price as 138.) With potentially 15 volumes altogether, this is a work for wealthy libraries. (One may predict that photocopying of the relevant pages will be normal.) Yet the value of the collection should be in the collection and the parallels and the indices. All the more reason for the editors to think how to emphasize concision in the interest of the scholarly public and avoid following in the footsteps of Didymus. If only indigent philologists could have had all this splendid material in a searchable pdf file! But to summarize, this is a valuable and difficult project, well realized; it will save scholars much time and bibliographic effort. We have every reason to hope for a successful conclusion.

[For a response to this review by Fausto Montana, please see BMCR 2007.06.01.]