BMCR 2007.07.53

L’elegia greca e l’epigramma dalle origini al V secolo. Con un’appendice sulla ‘nuova’ elegia di Archiloco

, , L'elegia greca e l'epigramma dalle origini al V secolo. Lingue e letterature. Firenze: Le Monnier università, 2007. xii, 274 pages ; 21 cm.. ISBN 9788800204927. €19.40.

In spite of the title, this is essentially a book on early Greek elegy, with only a 30-page chapter on epigram. Roughly the first half treats virtually all aspects of elegy (definition, performance, relationship to epic, language, contents, etc.), while the second half examines specific authors, their texts, and their themes. The texts are given both in Greek and in translation, but little attention is paid to textual criticism or to elucidation of controversial passages. It is general subject matter that receives primary attention. With the exception of the appendix the book as a whole contains very little that is new, but the treatment of topics is extremely sensible and presents an excellent overall assessment.

There is, however, one analysis of a passage which deserves special attention, that devoted to fr. 1 of Archilochus (pp. 102-7). It is argued that the gift of the Muses in v. 2 implies accompaniment with the lyre and a connection is seen with the Mnesiepes inscription where the Muses give the young Archilochus a lyre. The fragment ‘presuppone una narrazione di vicende vissute dall’io poetico’ and this suggests a public performance rather than the more common performance at a symposium. I am quite prepared to believe that the lyre rather than the pipe could on occasion accompany elegy, especially narrative elegy of considerable length, but I fail to see sufficient evidence to suggest that this applies to fr. 1. The second verse simply proclaims poetic skill, not necessarily in any one form of poetry. Also, we do not know whether the couplet is a complete poem or part, perhaps the beginning, of a poem of indeterminate length. If it is the latter and if we had the rest of it, we would be in a much better position to assess its significance.

The appendix (pp. 205-37) is a valuable analysis of P.Oxy. 4708, the recently published fragment of Archilochus which recounts the myth of Telephus who routed the Greeks when they landed in Mysia rather than the Troad. As is typical of fragments where we have neither the beginning nor the end and where the text is imperfectly preserved, there is ample scope for conjecture. Here many must remain as conjectures, but they are based on good evidence and sound reasoning and I heartily recommend them to anyone interested in this new text.

The book concludes with a bibliography and index of passages cited.