BMCR 2007.09.30

Rhusmos. Studi di poesia, metrica e musica greca offerti dagli allievi a Luigi Enrico Rossi per i suoi settant’ anni. Seminari Romani di Cultura Classica, Quaderni 6

, Rhusmos. Studi di poesia, metrica e musica greca offerti dagli allievi a Luigi Enrico Rossi per i suoi settant' anni. Seminari Romani di Cultura Classica, Quaderni 6. Rome: Edizioni Quasar, 2003. x, 387. €30.99.

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

For more than thirty years Luigi Enrico Rossi has conducted seminars at the University of Rome “La Sapienza” alongside his regular lectures as Professor of Greek Literature. Inspired by Eduard Fraenkel, whom the young Rossi attended on his Roman visits in the 1960s, and two of whose Roman seminars he subsequently published,1 Rossi’s own seminars had acquired legendary status long before they passed from oral to written tradition in Seminari Romani, founded 1998. It is a forum where not only Rossi’s students and colleagues have tried out new ideas, but where distinguished scholars from all over the world have made repeated appearances. The alumni, known as Le Brigate Rossi, are now legion. In this volume, fittingly published as a Quaderno of the Seminari Romani, 23 of Rossi’s students offer essays in some of his favourite subjects. Only his students (some of them now senior figures in Italian scholarship) have contributed to this Festschrift: the number and quality reveals the extent of Rossi’s legacy and the vitality of classical studies in Italy. All the papers make useful contributions, and many are outstanding.

The volume opens with an affectionate preface by Roberto Nicolai, Rossi’s successor at Rome, and a bibliography of Rossi’s publications from 1962-2003. Massimo Vetta then opens the batting with an essay on the pre-Homeric “epic of Pylos,” which has left its traces in the Iliad (11.670-762; cf. 7.123-60, 23.624-50). He follows its fortunes from its sub-Mycenaean origin in the southwest Peloponnese (first Triphylia, then Messenia), to Iron Age Attica (where it is evidenced in both legend and art), to Ionia of the age of migration; the story is at times dependent as much upon impressive speculation and a confident correlation of archaeology and mythography as upon certain fact, but no less plausible for all that. “Le società illetterate come quella ellenica dei secoli oscuri non sono prive di senso della storia e hanno, se mai, nella conservazione di eventi essenziali, maggiore severità di quanta non ne abbiano quelle in cui esiste una storiografia politica,” he writes (p. 22); anthropology shows how very “political” oral traditions are, but it is true that if an event continues to have social meaning it will be tenaciously remembered.

Albio Cesare Cassio argues interestingly that tales in the biographical tradition of Homer about other poets, or would-be poets, entertaining the vagabond bard, resulting in poems of dubious attribution, could accurately reflect a social practice in which host and guest collaborated, or at least exerted mutual influence on each other’s efforts (as in Bosnia-Herzegovina; an unexpected application of the parallel). He also advances further arguments against the thesis of an orally dictated Homer (cf. his article “Early Editions of the Greek Epics and Homeric Textual Criticism in the Sixth and Fifth Centuries BC”, in F. Montanari, ed., Omero tremila anni dopo (Rome 2002) 105-36).

Roberto Nicolai writes a learned and elegant exposition of Il. 2.852, “from Enetoi, whence come wild mules”. He argues that Zenodotos’ reading, ἐξ Ἐνετῆς for ἐξ Ἐνετῶν (apud Strab. 12.3.8, 25 and schol. A Il. 2.852), was based on a textual variant probably also known to Hekataios ( FGrHist 1 F 199), to whom Zenodotos appeals; and that Apollonios of Rhodes’ epithet for Pelops, Ἐνετήιος (2.358), alludes to Zenodotos’ reading. He shows, partly on the basis of Hittite evidence, that Ἐνετοί is a toponym, not an ethnic; it was probably so understood by Alkman PMGF 1.50 ff. and by Matron of Pitane SH 534.40. The misunderstanding of the word as an ethnic, and the concomitant invention of a tribe of that name, is at least post-Hekataian and will be related to speculation about the origin of the Adriatic Enetoi. Nicolai has amusing comments about those scholars, ancient and modern, who break their heads over the zoological meaning of ἀγρότεραι in Homer.

Maria Broggiato reviews the various readings of Theoklymenos’ vision inspired by the weird laughter of the suitors. Her purpose is to show that even the strangest-seeming ancient interpretations—in this case, that the lines are an allegory of an eclipse of the sun—become more comprehensible when put in context (the ancients’ very keen appreciation of celestial phenomena), and may even have points of contact with modern criticism (which has achieved interesting results from close observation of the time indications in the poem, particularly of Odysseus’ return at a new moon in the spring).2 This is salutary as far as it goes, but the argument needs to go further and shift its focus to the underlying ancient and modern assumptions about how literature works. A large bibliography on ancient allegory could have been brought to bear, and modern discussions to be tested for their presuppositions could usefully include those of laughter.3

Manuela Giordano-Zecharya offers a subtle piece on the role of music in the learning, memorization, and transmission of archaic lyric (specifically, sympotic monody). Considering such compositions novelly as vocalised music rather than accompanied words, and, applying the findings of modern cognitive psychology, she argues that music as much as writing (or even instead of writing, in the case of sympotic monody) ensured verbatim accuracy. Offered as first thoughts on an important subject, this piece is a rich stimulus for further work. It is clear that music did promote memorization and transmission of this type of poetry, where the links between sound and text were fairly straightforward (the contrast with the so-called New Music is well drawn);4 but the arguments do not suffice to show that music always replaced writing and could not work alongside it. Written transmission manifestly did exist and was used by some people. G-Z. denounces evolutionary models of social and literary history but seems to regard the oral society of archaic Greece as undifferentiated. When she writes “Che la scrittura in Grecia abbia prodotto questa idea di testualità verbatim, corrispondente a quella che si affermò presso gli alessandrini, prima del quinto-quarto secolo, non è stato affatto dimostrato e anzi manca una ricerca documentata su questo punto,” I may perhaps refer to my 1987 book, in which I attempted to document the increasingly precise diction of archaic lyric.5 I hope G-Z. will develop these thoughts further; her views on archaic “originality” will need to be correlated with the considerable literature on archaic “authenticity”, in which Theognis plays a central role. More and more I am coming to think orality is overdue for serious reassessment in Greek studies.

Giulio Colesanti provides good arguments for thinking that Solon’s “Elegy to the Muses” is neither one continuous poem by Solon (the “unitarian” position), nor a Solonian elegy that has suffered interpolation (the “separatist” position), but three separate poems by Solon (vv. 1-6, 7-32, 33-76), combined in transmission. This is a valuable contribution. It would be improved by a more explicit consideration of what “logically coherent” might mean in an archaic context; the point arises several times and is overlooked in Colesanti’s dismissal of unitarian arguments. Why should our incoherence be Solon’s?

Sabrina Mingarelli, after reviewing the archaic evidence for Herakles’ expedition to Kos, suggests that Herakles’ bow, not his club, is in view in Pindar fr. 33a, and that frr. 33a-d formed part, not of a Hymn to Zeus, but of a Hymn to Delos. These suggestions merit serious consideration; the second in particular seems likely to be right.

Livio Sbardella considers the treatment of the myth in the tenth Nemean, where Pindar mentions only cattle-rustling as the cause of the quarrel; he argues, with Robert and Calame, that both women and cattle were casus belli in the archaic Cypria, as follows: at a banquet given by Menelaos and Helen for Paris, the Apharetidai, who had been promised the Leukippides in marriage, accused the Tyndaridai of carrying off their fiancées by force, without even the offer of a bride-gift; in response Kastor and Polydeukes helped themselves to their cousins’ cattle and used these as the requisite gift, whence the fight. There are good discussions of Lykophron 545-61 and Theokritos 22.145-51. To explain why Pindar omitted all reference to the women, Sbardella suggests that the poet was responding to local sensitivities; the Tyndaridai and Leukippidai being spouses in Argive cult (Paus. 2.22.5), a story casting doubts on the legitimacy of their relationship would have been unwelcome.

Riccardo Palmisciano writes an excellent essay in response to the question posed in its title. Applying five criteria developed by Jakobson he sensitively elucidates the difficulties of definition and of identifying true examples in our surviving texts, behind which we can nonetheless discern the existence of such poetry for use on many life occasions. He discusses the phenomenon of re-use and the connected one of authorial status. He stresses that throughout pagan antiquity, even when clear differences were established between literature for elite consumption and other poetic forms, the latter were not looked down upon. The gap between these two levels might be opening up already in Alkman fr. 9 Calame if read metapoetically; certainly it is apparent by the late fifth century. This is a rich essay, kernel of a book. There are points of contact with Giordano-Zecharya’s contribution.

Andrea Ercolani provides a taster of a larger work in progress on figures of sound in the tragic corpus. He opens with some theoretical remarks and a rebuttal of those scholars who deny that alliteration exists as a meaningful phenomenon in Greek texts and then proceeds to a detailed catalogue of sound figures in the Persians. I have some sympathy with the view that alliteration is extraordinarily hard to isolate as a phenomenon in Greek, and even in the clearest cases (that is, those generally agreed such as Soph. OT 371— but even this can be denied) it is not easy to go beyond banal observations in assessing its effects or purpose. But the time is ripe for a thorough new study.

Andreas Bagordo explores the links between Aesch. Sept. 774 and Pind. fr. 75.3 ff., speculating that Aischylos pays a handsome compliment to the Theban by borrowing a word of his coined to praise Athens and applying it in an elegant variatio to a Theban context.

Ester Cerbo shows first of all that the amoibaion at Phil. 1081-1217 displays several unique formal qualities compared to others in Sophokles and then provides a detailed commentary on the formal, metrical, and rhetorical properties of the passage, which collaborate impressively to support the dramatic import. A valuable discussion.

Michele Napolitano, μουσικὸς ἀνήρ, contributes the surprise piece of the volume. After a brief but masterful historical overview of the dialogue both theoretical and practical between Greek tragedy and modern opera from the traditional beginning of 6 October 1600, the date of Jacopo Peri’s Euridice, to the twentieth century, he asks why Greek myth has been so fruitful a source of musical drama, whereas until the twentieth century Greek tragedy has not (the “marriage manqué” of the title); in the last century, by contrast, composer after composer has put the ancient plays on stage. Drawing on Adorno he relates this development precisely to the crisis of traditional opera at the beginning of the century and the dissolution of its formal elements, which entailed among other things the realisation that the cohesiveness of these elements, particularly words and music, had always been illusory; reactions to this disillusionment could then take conservative or radical forms, and Greek tragedy proved an ideal medium in which to enact these doubts about aesthetic first principles. This is a rich essay, kernel of another book, in which Napolitano would doubtless wish to place the discussion in a broader framework of modernism.

Maria Grazia Palutan draws attention to an interesting parallel between a sixth-century Corinthian aryballos in the Villa Giulia ( LIMC V.1 Heracles no. 3331) and the The Wedding of Hebe (reworked as The Muses) of Epicharmos (frr. 39-64, 84-92 Kassel-Austin), as evidence of a mythological tradition shared between mother city and colony; these are the only known examples of the Muses appearing at this wedding, and in both cases their number is an uncanonical seven. She concludes her contribution with some suggestions about the dramatis personae of the play.

Margherita Bertan suggests that Kratinos fr. 19 K-A is missing a metron at its beginning so that the colometry becomes 2ia 2ia 2ia^ rather than 2ia ia 2ia^; since the verses are all in synaphea the difference might seem minimal, but the synaphea actually points to the passage being sung rather than recited and encourages comparison with a lyric passage in Aristophanes’ Frogs (384-388~389-393), where we find two long sequences of paired metra. The solution is obviously theoretically possible; some statistics to illustrate the premise about synaphea would strengthen it. Rosa Rossi is a faculty member at the Scuola di Specializzazione all’ Insegnamento Secondario del Lazio, which trains aspiring secondary school teachers. She writes passionately about bringing ancient literature to life for young students by reading it alongside parallel texts (historical, epigraphical, philosophical etc.) and opening a window onto ancient culture and values, a process which in turn raises fundamental questions about the contemporary world. She illustrates her approach with a study of Aristophanes Acharnians 496-556. When she speaks of the decline of classics in Italian schools owing to ossified teaching methods, it resonates with the experience of classicists everywhere; those in English-speaking regions might think of the crisis posed by the end of compulsory Latin in the 1960s, which released hordes of long-suffering victims to do other things and provoked the Classics in Translation reaction that arguably saved the subject from the extinction it now faces in countries too proud to follow suit. There is something cyclical about this; Wilamowitz revitalised Classics by exactly the approach Rossi advocates, producing for schools his Griechisches Lesebuch and for scholars about 70 other books. It is something we all have to keep working at. Rossi’s contribution quietly reminds the reader of the honorand’s own work for schools, highlighted by Nicolai in his introduction. One wishes this dedicated teacher every possible success in her agenda.

Fabio Cannatà argues that verses 1431a and 1431b of the Frogs should both be retained; in the first, Aischylos says “do not nurture a lion cub in the city,” and in the second he says “especially do not nurture a lion in the city”; in 1432 he says “but if one is raised, humour its ways.” Most scholars have regarded 1431a and b as alternatives and have expunged one or the other; other solutions have been tried, and Cannatà is not the first to suggest that 1431b corrects 1431a, but he seems to be the first to attribute all three verses to Aeschylus. We are to understand that the first verse, echoing an Aeschylean original and a popular saying, is then corrected because Alcibiades is already fully grown. But τρέφειν carries with it the idea of raising to adulthood, reinforced by E)Kτρέφειν in 1432, and no one would be bothered by this pedantic consideration; the point of saying “don’t nurture a lion’s whelp” is that you expect it to grow into a lion (and perhaps it already has). Moreover, μὲν in 1431b is not sufficient to convey the correction required; we need μὲν οὖν. So I cannot think this is a possible solution, but the discussion is useful.

Maurizio Sonnino discusses the series of symposia organised by the general Tlepolemos in 203 B.C. to frustrate the machinations of one Agathokles, in the course of which he moved gradually from veiled to open insults of the upstart and his ways. Though the invective is no longer in verse, Sonnino notes the continuity with archaic symposia, also organised for political purposes, to abuse one’s enemies and encourage one’s friends; he argues further from good parallels that in contrasting covert and overt abuse Polybios betrays familiarity with theories of comedy, heir to the archaic tradition of iambic abuse (though the intermediate stage of ‘ambiguous’ insult in Polybios is not paralleled).

Luigi M. Segoloni writes an excellent chapter collecting the testimonia, more ample and suggestive than I at any rate had realised, for Sokrates’ musical and poetical interests and activity, even suggesting that the verses transmitted under his name (West, IEG 2.138), usually dismissed out of hand as spurious inventions, in the light of his evidence have at least a chance of being genuine. Few will follow him here, but it is pleasant to contemplate the prospect.

Claudio Tartaglini builds on earlier work6 to show how the discussion of the character ( ἦθος) of musical harmonies at Rep. 398e1-399a4 is thoroughly informed by Plato’s core concepts of ethics, mimesis, and paideia, and thus represents a development of pre-existing theory in a specifically Socratic-Platonic direction; Damon’s pre-Socratic theory on which Plato builds, though it had ethical aspects, was more clearly physical.

Lorenzo Argentieri discusses the odd comparison the love-stricken Boukaios makes of his beloved’s feet to ἀστράγαλοι in Theocr. 10.36. Commentators have tried to make sense of this using the usual meanings of the word, either “knuckle”-bones or metaphorically the moulding at the base of an Ionic capital; that it also refers to a kind of plant is mentioned by Gow but dismissed as not obviously helpful. Argentieri argues that this is the right meaning, noting the abundance of botanical references in the vicinity (in particular, the girl’s voice in the next line is compared to a poppy), and the fact that this plant, the milk vetch, was native to Sicily. According to Argentieri the form of the plant allows natural comparison to a foot, and the colour is more appropriate to the dark-skinned Bombyka (a point on which Boukaios dwells) than bleached bones. He offers a parallel from Philostratos Epist. 18 where the beloved’s feet are compared to flowers. This does seem persuasive; certainly the other interpretations on offer are a greater stretch than this.

Roberto Pretagostini examines the mini-encomium at Theocr. 14.59-65, which is particularly effective for being 1) a surprise in the context; 2) indirectly delivered through a character in the poem; 3) gratuitous, explicitly disavowing any favour sought in return; and 4) brief. It is an example of genre-mixing and the manipulation of poetical rhetoric, deemed more successful if it achieves its purpose by stealth and camouflage, a principle the honorand has illustrated in a 1995 article on the incorporation of philology into Hellenistic poetry.7

Mario Cantilena offers some thoughts on Kallimachos’ 28th epigram, which begins “I hate the Cyclical poem”. He agrees with those who think this must refer to the epic Cycle, and argues that, in spite of the following lines, Kallimachos is unlikely to be saying that he hates such poetry because it was generally popular, as the evidence indicates that in his day the Cycle was anything but widely read. However, Cantilena suggests that it had acquired a certain vogue among Kallimachos’ learned colleagues, particularly mythographers (like Dionysios the Cyclographer). For the rest, Cantilena suggests that the echo which reveals Lysanias’ faithlessness in the final couplet, and whose pulsing sound is cleverly built into the words themselves, is meant to loop back to the opening, either by way of the circular quality of echoes in general or of the mirror-pattern Callimachus works into the sound of this one. The poet dismisses the vulgar and the commonplace, the Cyclical, through an ironical lusus appropriate to his sense of the poet’s craft. The book is a satura lanx of offerings, a fitting tribute to a revered teacher and scholar who has been in the forefront of Italian Classics for over forty years. I add my warm congratulations to theirs.

Table of Contents

R. Nicolai, “Premessa” (1-3)

Bibliografia di Luigi Enrico Rossi (1962 – luglio 2003)

M. Vetta, “L’ epos di Pilo e Omero. Breve storia di una saga regionale” (13-33)

A.C. Cassio, “Ospitare in casa poeti orali: Omero, Testoride, Creofilo, e Staroselac ([Herodot.] vita Hom. 190 ss. Allen; Plat. resp. 600b)” (35-45)

R. Nicolai, “Le mule di Paflagonia e l’origine dei Veneti: un problema di geografia antica” (47-62)

M. Broggiato, “Interpretazioni antiche e moderne della visione di Teoclimeno nell’ Odissea ( Od. 20.351-357)” (63-72)

M. Giordano-Zecharya, ” Tabella auris : musica e memoria nella trasmissione della lirica monodica” (73-92)

G. Colesanti, “Tra separatisti e unitari: l’ Elegia alle Muse di Solone” (93-116)

S. Mingarelli, “Eracle a Cos: una lettura del fr. 33a Sn.-M. di Pindaro” (117-132)

L. Sbardella, “Mogli o buoi? Lo scontro tra Tindaridi ed Afaretidi da Pindaro ai poeti alessandrini” (133-150)

R. Palmisciano, “È mai esistita la poesia popolare nella Grecia antica?” (151-171)

A. Ercolani, “Figure di suono nei Persiani di Eschilo. Una proposta d’indagine” (173-203)

A. Bagordo, “L’omaggio letterario di un Ateniese a un Tebano (Aesch. Sept. 774; Pind. fr. [ dith. ] 75.3 ss. Sn.-M.)” (205-209)

E. Cerbo, “Un ‘inconsueto’ amebeo lirico tra Filottete e il Coro: a proposito di Soph. Phil. 1081-1217″ (211-226)

M. Napolitano, “Tragedia greca e opera in musica. Appunti su un matrimonio mancato” (227-242)

M.G. Palutan, “Le Nozze di Ebe o le Muse di Epicarmo e una pittura vascolare corinzia” (243-250)

M. Bertan, “Per una nuova colometria di Cratino, Boukoloi fr. 19 K.-A.” (251-252)

R. Rossi, “La parola del teatro e la parola dell’assemblea. Laboratorio di ricerca didattica: Diceopoli e Pericle guardano alla guerra negli spazi del dibattito politico” (253-270)

F. Cannatà, “Il leone e la città (Aristofane Rane 1431-1432)” (271-282)

M. Sonnino, “Insulto scommatico e teoria del comico in un simposio alessandrino del 203 a.C. (Polibio 15.25.31-33)” (283-301)

L.M. Segoloni, “Socrate ‘musico’ e poeta” (303-17)

C. Tartaglini, ” Ethos del lamento e ethos simposiale nella paideia musicale dei guardiani nella Repubblica di Platone” (319-345)

L. Argentieri, “I piedi di Bombica (Theocr. Id. 10.36)” (347-355)

R. Pretagostini, “Il miniencomio di Tolemeo II in Theocr. 14.59-65” (357-64)

M. Cantilena, “Il Ciclo, Callimaco, e Lisania” (365-377).


1. L.E.Rossi, ed., Due seminari romani di Eduard Fraenkel. Aiace e Filottete di Sofocle (Rome 1977).

2. To Wilamowitz and Austin, whom she cites, one may add U. Hölscher, Die Odyssee: Epos zwischen Märchen und Roman (Munich 1988) ch. XVIII.

3. For instance, Dominique Arnould’s Le rire et les larmes dans la littérature grecque d’Homère à Platon (Paris 1990); S. Halliwell, “The Uses of Laughter in Greek Culture”, CQ 41 (1991) 279 96; D. Lateiner, Sardonic smile: nonverbal behavior in Homeric epic (Ann Arbor 1995); Marie-Laurence Desclos, ed., Le Rire des Grecs. Anthropologie du rire en Grèce ancienne (Grenoble 2000) (rev. BMCR 2002.07.17).

4. Relevant here is the recent important article of Armand D’Angour, “The New Music—so what’s new?”, in S. Goldhill, R. Osborne, edd., Rethinking Revolutions through Ancient Greece (Cambridge 2006) 264-83; if pitch accent was relevant to melody, as both Giordano-Zecharya and D’Angour argue, the “melody” will not mean quite what it does for us; it will be more a framework than a fixed tune, which does not change from stanza to stanza.

5. The Nature of Early Greek Lyric. Three Preliminary Studies (Toronto 1987).

6. C. Tartaglini, “Ethos ἑκούσιον e paideia musicale nella Repubblica di Platone”, SemRom 4 (2001) 289-311.

7. L.E. Rossi, “Letteratura di filologi e filologia di letterati”, in A. Porro, G. Milanese, edd., Poeti e filologi, filologi-poeti: composizione e studio della poesia epica e lirica nel mondo greco e romano, Atti del Congresso, Brescia, Università Cattolica, 26-27 Aprile 1995, Aevum(ant) 8 (1995) 9-32.