This book is part of a series of critical contributions on ancient paroemiography which Emanuele Lelli has recently edited and coordinated.1 Volpe e leone, in particular, focuses on the use of proverbial structures in the works of three authors who have in common the choice of poetry as their preferred (or best-documented) form of literary expression, but who at the same time provide testimony to distinctive and different epochs and cultures: Alcaeus, Cratinus and Callimachus. Lelli therefore puts together the synchronic reading of the evidence on each author (to understand the personal approach to paroemiographic materials) and the diachronic assessment of the use of proverb that emerges from the comparison of the three authors under discussion. Interesting suggestions are given by the widening of the comparative parameters, which are not restricted to the ancient paroemiographic heritage, Greek and Latin, but also cover traditions distinguished by both geographical horizons (ancient Egyptian proverbs, Sumerian proverbs, etc.) and chronology (medieval and modern proverbs, often marked by regional variation). These combinations show a careful attention to the distinctiveness of every culture.
The book consists of three chapters, each one dedicated to one of the three authors and preceded by brief preliminary remarks (pp. 11-12), a concise Introduction (pp. 13-21), and a list of frequent Abbreviations (p. 22). The Introduction, in particular, describes the status of the modern paroemiographic research on ancient literatures, gives some coordinates to organize the peculiarities of proverbial uses in each author (p. 15), and shows some of the principal proverbial types which are to be adopted in the following pages: proverbs on gods and heroes, geographical proverbs, anecdotal proverbs, proverbs on animals, proverbs on Realien. Lelli devotes, finally, a few pages to the examination, deliberately paradigmatic, of the proverb
The first chapter (pp. 23-70) focuses on Alcaeus and deals with the examination of fragments 366 Voigt; 333; 335 and 346, 3; 117, 26-27; 71 (section “Proverbi a banchetto”, pp. 27-32); 15 inc. auct.; 306i col. II, 31, and 344; 249; 305a (= col.
The examination of the fragments is introduced (pp. 23-26) by bibliographic notes and remarks on the frequency of the use of proverbs in Alcaeus; Lelli emphasizes the problem of distinguishing ‘le immagini “artisticamente” metaforiche dai veri propri proverbi’ (p. 24), and also the traditional proverbs from ‘espressioni o interi versi alcaici divenuti proverbiali e più volte reimpiegati’ (p. 24). The socio-cultural interpretation proposed by E.L. also appears well-founded: the proverb would have been a useful instrument of communication inside the sympotic group, i.e. an audience limited to and acquainted with (often exclusively) values and specific meanings of some proverbial expressions. Lelli points out the fact that Alcaeus’ inclination for the use of proverbs could have satisfied specific needs of political communication, if not of real personal contrast: to the traditional image of Pittacus, wise man and author of aphorisms, Alcaeus appears to reply with a frequent use of proverbs and, so, with the choice of a communication tool similar to that of his rival.
The proverbial expressions, or the expressions of clear paroemiographic pertinence, to be found in Alcaic poetry, are examined in the first three sections (pp. 27-57). Inter alia, Lelli supports (with convincing arguments) the Aristarchan explanation of the proverb presumed by frr. 306i col. II, 31, and 344, that could go back to a particular fishing practice; Lelli also provides arguments for recognizing in fr. 249, 6-9 echoes of a sailing expression and, at the same time, the “reply” to an aphorism of Pittacus. Moreover, Lelli supports the political interpretation of fr. 393, which could fit the image of Pittacus (branded by Alcaeus also as
The chapter on Alcaeus ends with the section “La poesia proverbiale di Alceo” (pp. 65-70), in which Lelli reconsiders the material under discussion: ‘circa 30 proverbi rintracciabili nei quasi 600 versi (leggibili) del nostro corpus Alcaicum. Un proverbio, dunque, ogni venti versi’ (p. 66). To confirm this important presence of proverbs in Alcaic poetry, Lelli notes that the ancients already perceived this aspect: Aristarchus was involved in exegesis of Alcaic proverbs; Dionysius of Halicarnassus formulated a critical opinion about the style of Alcaeus (cf. the epitome of De imit. 2, 8), employing terms and formulae often used with reference to proverbs. In the opinion of Lelli, ‘il proverbio, in Alceo, ha sempre un referente pragmaticamente preciso’ (p. 68), and that could be confirmed by recognizing a political practice also in some uses of proverbs which are documented elsewhere in erotic contexts. The familiarity with the proverb is strengthened by the freedom with which Alcaeus shows to have occasionally distorted proverbial expressions, as in frr. 77 and 393. As regards the subjects of the proverbs, Lelli points out the substantial absence in Alcaeus of proverbs based on gods (because of a probable respect for a subject perceived as serious, p. 69) and on anecdotal characters (with the exception of the already mentioned fr. 130b, 9-10), the limitation of the geographical horizons evoked by proverbs and, on the other hand, the overwhelming predominance of proverbs on Realien (wine and symposium, sea and sailing contexts, animals, everyday objects etc.).
The second chapter (pp. 71-133) examines about seventy fragments of Cratinus. In order, the discussion deals with fragments 56 Kassel-Austin; 247; 367; 80; 511; 58; 35; 34 (section “Comici animali”, pp. 75-85); 20; 64; 462; 387 (section “Il pane quotidiano”, pp. 86-90); 18; 263; 365; 488; 492; 7; 13; 110; 223, 2 (section “Paese che vai…”, pp. 90-98); 223, 3; 262; 153; 187; 96; 126; 260; 512; 349 (section “Una ‘folla’ di proverbi”, pp. 98-109); 172; 261; 249; 95; 254 (section “Dèi ed eroi”, pp. 109-113); 184; 393; 102; 272; 203 (section “Sentenze d’autore, e non”, pp. 114-117); 6, 3; 28; 236; 463; 139; 406; 61, 2-3; 63; 188; 301; 340; 337; 327; 177; 356; 357; 235 (section “Tra proverbi, antonomasie e modi di dire”, pp. 117-124); 3; 299, 4; 5; 182; 46 and 47; 77; 89; 347 and 119; 135; 336; 392 (section “La detorsio comica del proverbio”, pp. 124-133).
Also in this case, the fragment analysis is introduced by some general observations (pp. 71-75), which point out both Cratinus’ partiality to proverb use in the typical stylistic aspects of his poetry (in accordance with an opinion already expressed in antiquity: cf. Platon. Diff. char. p. 6, 1-5 Koster),2 as well as the communicative and “sympathetic” effectiveness of proverbs, as an important weapon in the context of the ancient Attic comedy. To that are added some methodological observations about the difficulties in understanding the proverbial nature of some expressions documented only in comedy (p. 74). Lelli frequently points out the recurrence of proverbs as a “popular” element, in particular consistent with the carnival spirit of comedy (cf. pp. 71-73): in this case, maybe it would be more correct to associate this Cratinean inclination with a systematic comic adaptation (and artistic processing) of poetic forms and cultural expressions recognized as “traditional”, rather than “popular”.3
During the analysis, Lelli notices in Cratinus the predominance of proverbs about animals (donkey, pig, mouse, scorpion etc.) and the frequent contacts with the fable tradition, but he also points out the recurrence of proverbs about elements and objects of everyday life, about people and places (as a reflection of the already strengthened Athenian influence on trades and contacts with other populations) and about gods. However, these introductory statements (pp. 109-110) should have been compared to his surveys of the relationship between Alcaeus and gods (cf. supra). Moreover, what stand out are the proverbs relating to places and particular persons of Athens (evidently known and familiar to the audience; cf. also p. 100). Lelli also emphasizes that ‘la commedia presenta al suo pubblico sententiae quasi solo a fini di paratragedia o di detorsio, spesso anche variate’ (p. 114), and acknowledges, rightly, the practice of substitution and distortion of proverbial forms as one of the most characteristic elements of the comic genre (pp. 124 ss.). An appropriate section is dedicated to antonomasia: Lelli admits that antonomastic expressions ‘non presentano un insegnamento o una morale (come i proverbi veri e propri), ma focalizzano l’attenzione su caratteristiche fisiche o caratteriali’ (p. 119), nevertheless ‘il livello socio-linguistico cui appartengono risulta affine a quello dei proverbi’ (pp. 119-120). And the same could be said for idiomatic sentences and colloquial turns of phrase (pp. 121 ss.).
Among the noteworthy observations, Lelli makes clear the negative, or at least denigrating, value of the reference to the donkey in fr. 56 (confirmed also by fr. 247) and suggests a solution to reconcile fr. 367 (and the plausible mention of Ocnus) with Ar. Ran. 186 (
The third chapter (pp. 135-185), on Callimachus, starts with a section (“Il proverbio in laboratorio”, pp. 135-137) in which Lelli compares the use of proverbs in this author with that of Alcaeus and Cratinus, in the wake of an erudite interest that could already be found in Aristotle and his pupils, and also in eminent representatives of the Alexandrian scholarship (cf. pp. 135-136). Callimachus, in particular, investigated the aetiological component of many proverbs and paid attention to the appropriate use of different types of proverbs in conformity with the ‘scala assiologica dei generi letterari antichi’ (p. 136), codified in this period.
In the section ” Inni ed Ecale” (pp. 137-141), Lelli notices that, with respect to the importance of the hexametric genre, Callimachus seldom uses proverbs of a “popular” kind in works of this type, whereas he prefers for gnomic expressions and Homeric and Hesiodic sententiae (cf. p. 138). In particular, he examines In Iov. (Hy. I) 1, 79 and 87-88; he suggests a merging of the themes “the will of the gods must be accepted” and ubi maior minor cessat in In Apoll. (Hy. II) 25-26, also used in praise of the king; he notes the presence of idiomatic expressions, of a less elevated tone, in In Cer. (Hy. VI) 93 (
In the section “Eziologia paremiografica e Aitia” (pp. 141-158), he connects the considerable presence of proverbial expressions in the elegiac works of Callimachus to the Hellenistic redefinition of the same literary genre, “low” if compared to the epic genre (“high”). He takes into consideration fr. 7, 20 and fr. 23, 5-7 Pfeiffer; frr. 24-25; fr. 95, 4-5; frr. 98-99; SH 276, 7-11 (in which he recognizes a proverbial echo, also in the comparison with In Iov. [Hy. I] 19-21); fr. 75, 13. Widening the perspective of analysis, Lelli highlights the presence of many aetiological clues regarding proverbial expressions in almost all Callimachean works. With regard to the iambs, he points out, first of all, that the Iamb XI (fr. 201 Pfeiffer) is entirely directed towards the exegesis of a proverb; he then resumes and evaluates the paroemiographic traditions related to Lemnos in reference to fr. 226 ( Iamb XIV?); He emphasizes the proverbial basis of fr. 217, which he claims is part of Branchus (fr. 229, Iamb XVII?).5 From the aetiological aspect, he confirms the nature of Ep. I Pfeiffer, which contains (in vv. 12 and 16) a famous proverbial sentence, and he points out that Callimachus appears to have been interested in proverbs also in the strictly grammatical works, as attested by fr. 405 (cf. p. 151). As well as the aetiological component, he rightly indicates the Callimachean inclination to adopt proverbs in an artistic function, i.e. as tools of characterization of people and/or contexts: in fr. 2, 5 (in reference to the character of Hesiod), in fr. 64, 1-2 (maybe in accordance with some movements of the poetry of Simonides), in fr. 110, 71-72 (in a sentence on Berenice’s curl, which stylistically notes in medium-low tone his way of speaking, p. 154), in SH 253, 1a-1 and 11 (maybe in association with the aition of Busiris and Phalaris). Ending the discussion about proverbial use in Aitia, he also examines fr. 7, 9-10; fr. 46; fr. 91 (with the comparison to fr. 191, 47).
In the section “Gli Epigrammi” (pp. 158-163), Lelli recognizes, in the recurrence of proverbial expressions in the Epigrams, a sign of axiological connotation of this genre — not high, but middle — in the Callimachean poetry, compared to the numerous and various attempts to elevate the epigrammatic genre made by other contemporary authors (cf. pp. 158-159). On this subject, he examines Ep. XXV 3-4 and 6; Ep. XLIII 5 and 6; Ep. XLIV 2 and 3-4; Ep. XLV 3; Ep. LII 1-2; Ep. XXXII 2 (variation of a proverb); Ep. XXVIII 3-4; Ep. XVIII 5-6. The section “Intricate allusioni” (pp. 163-167) deals with the detection of proverbs from the fragmenta incertae sedis, to which he devotes himself with a clear perception of the difficulties involved and the precautions required (cf. pp. 163-164). He discusses frr. 483; 493; 533; 724; 586; 388, 9; 714, 3-4. On the other hand, less certain is the acknowledgment of a proverbial matrix in the fragments that he rightly lists in the footnote 90 on p. 164: frr. 384, 44-45; 587; 607; 608; 647; 650; 700; 531.
In the section “I Giambi : la festa del proverbio” (pp. 167-178), Lelli highlights, appropriately, the connections between the widespread use of proverbial material, the folkloristic and popular colorfulness of the diction, the adhesion to the traditional (and codified) characters of the iambic genre and the scoptic aims of the same genre, even though these last elements were submitted by Callimachus in forms of controversy about literary — or, maybe, personal — aspects (cf. pp. 167-169). In this section Lelli examines (in order): vv. 6, 26-28, 2 (as idiomatic expression), 37, 78-79, 82-83, 93 of Iamb I (fr. 191), example of the tone and the expressive methods of the entire collection; vv. 46-48 and 59 of Iamb IV (fr. 194); vv. 1-2, 19 (according to an integration of E. Livrea), 23-26, 34 of Iamb V (fr. 195); vv. 61 and 52 of Iamb XIII (fr. 203); v. 22 of Iamb VI (fr. 196); finally, v. 6 of fr. 227 ( Iamb XV?).
In the last section (“Proverbi tra poesia e vita”, pp. 178-185), Lelli points out some passages in which the use of proverb seems to be associated with moments of greater personal expression for Callimachus, or even autobiographical references. In particular, Lelli considers vv. 9-10, 15-16, 32-34 of fr. 178 (“Banquet of Pollis”); vv. 38-39 of Iamb III (fr. 193); vv. 4-9 of fr. 75 (“Acontius and Cydippe”), emphasizing the meaningfulness of the “child-image”, as a projection of the poet. In the same direction, finally, Lelli highlights (with the due precautions) the allusive potential of some verses of the “Prologue of the Telchines” (fr. 1: vv. 7, 10, 20, 25-28, 31-32 and 32-36), which could disclose ‘un sapore diverso, un colorito inedito e forse insospettato; un sorprendente tessuto proverbiale che, con la forza della condivisibilità derivante dalla tradizione, sostanzia l’argomentazione del rivoluzionario alessandrino’ (pp. 184-185).
The book ends with an “Indice delle cose notevoli e dei passi discussi” (pp. 187-191) and an “Indice dei proverbi” (pp. 192-193), limited however to the references of Zenobius, Diogenianus, Apostolius and Appendix proverbiorum. Maybe an index of the proverbs themselves, in their full forms, would have also been useful, in order to effect a targeted consultation of the book.
Very annoying, especially in such a prestigious series (“Filologia e critica”, directed by B. Gentili), are the numerous editorial defects of the book, which affect many aspects of textual standardization. There are inconsistencies in the use of the spacing and the abbreviations on the page references,6 as well as in the use (and in the spacing) of the separation signs, especially “-” and “/”. The bibliographical references, moreover, start afresh in full in every chapter, producing an effect of repetition, with frequent errors in citation. There are, also, quite a number of spelling and printing mistakes.7 These defects, of course, are not to be attributed to the author, but to the editing of the book.
Volpe e leone is an up-to-date and well documented book, helping the reader to examine the poetical fragments of such diverse authors in their historical and cultural contexts. The breadth of cultural and literary references examined makes difficult an in-depth study of the context, the use (or the genesis) and the semantic relevance of each proverb. Lelli demonstrates, nevertheless, that he has carried out a thorough examination of the larger problems, and he gives an abundance of bibliographical references for further discussions.8 In some cases, moreover, Lelli introduces personal exegetic proposals, always well highlighted for the readers’ evaluation.
This book is, first of all, an excellent tool for the critical check of the proverbs presented on the three fragmentary corpora, and thus gives material for further investigation: both for the “internal” examination of each author and for the comparative and diachronic evaluation of the passages examined. In the case of Alcaeus, for example, it is natural to ask if it is not possible to distinguish the proverbial statements according to different lyric typologies (i.e. poetic typology: poems for gods and for mortals, for example, with the proper specializations) or metric, in accordance with the (in part) similar procedure adopted for Callimachus (cf. pp. 135-137). In the case of Cratinus, it is natural to ask if the concentration of proverbs in certain comedies corresponds to exact communicative purposes: if we count the recurrences, for example, we notice 5 proverbs in
The proverbial statements of each poet could also be combined in the attempt to outline a history of these ideological systems of reference. In Cratinus, for example, as in other comic poets, proverbial forms already attested in Alcaeus and/or other lyrics are often present;9 Cratinus, then, seems to share a common proverbial system of reference. If we extend the range to Callimachus, is it possible to recognize new systems of reference, or only different ones? In other words, does Callimachus prove the use of “new” proverbs? Or does he provide evidence of an evolution of the paroemiographic system that we should consider as parallel to the social, cultural and historic evolution? More in generally, which proverbs — or proverbial systems — can we acknowledge as present in all the authors, and which not?
However, the opportunity of further research doesn’t detract, in any way, from the intrinsic value and the importance of this book, which, given the wealth of Lelli’s ideas, provides an essential reference point for anyone who wants to analyse in depth the three authors examined and, in general, to tackle the study of ancient paroemiography.
1. Cf. I proverbi greci. Le raccolte di Zenobio e Diogeniano, a cura di Lelli, Soveria Mannelli (Catanzaro) 2006; Lelli, Paroemiographica comica, “Philologus” 151, 1 (2007), pp. 161-163. Cf. also the references on p. 11 (“Premessa”).
2. Cf. also Platonio. La commedia greca, edizione critica traduzione e commento di F. Perusino, Urbino 1989, pp. 38-39, and the notes of pp. 64 ss.
3. Cf. M. Ornaghi, Omero sulla scena. Spunti per una ricostruzione degli Odissei e degli Archilochi di Cratino, in G. Zanetto, D. Canavero, A. Capra, A. Sgobbi (edd.), Momenti della ricezione omerica. Poesia arcaica e teatro, Quaderni di Acme 67, Milano 2004, pp. 197-228.
4. For the defence of the cratinean paternity of the comedy
5. Now cf. L. Lehnus, Un intervento lessicografico di Paul Maas nel Branco di Callimaco (fr. 229, 6 Pf., con una postilla su fr. 80, 19), in G. Daverio Rocchi (ed.), Tra concordia e pace. Parole e valori della Grecia antica, Quaderni di Acme 92, Milano 2007, pp. 259-265.
6. Only some examples: “Firenze 1962, pp.43-50 […] Napoli 1980, 15-39” (n. 1 p. 13); “Tosi no. 733 […] Arthaber no. 1449″ (n. 31 p. 29); ” Alcée…, cit. n. 1, n. 274″ (n. 32 p. 29) VS ” Il P.Oxy. 2506…, cit. n. 28, p.7s. […] cit. n. 24, p. 245″ (n. 42 p. 32); “p.91 s. […] pp.553ss. […] pp.686 ss.” (n. 51 p. 36); “Libanio, epist. 109,2 […] cit. n.51, p. 35 […] Zen. 1, 75 […] Diog. 2,61 […] Hor. epist. 1, 2, 42 […] Dietae Salutis, p.294 b” (n. 57 p. 87) etc.
7. For example: “Vondouevre-Genève” instead of “Vondoeuvre-Genève” n. 144 p. 54 (and “Geneve” without accent); n. 1 p. 135. “Schmeidewin” instead of “Schneidewin” p. 65 (fourth from the end l. of text). ” Verspotting” instead of ” Verspottung” n. 2 p. 71. “adep.” instead of “adesp.” n. 6 p. 72. ”
8. Only a few additional references are missing. On Alcaeus, among the general and most recent arrangements, cf. A. Pippin Burnett, Three Archaic Poets. Archilochus, Alcaeus, Sappho, London 1983, pp. 105-205 (for example, pp. 176 ss.); for the historic and cultural contextualization of Alcaic poetry, cf. also A. Aloni, Eteria e tiaso: i gruppi aristocratici di Lesbo tra economia e ideologia, “DdA” III S, 1, 1983, pp. 21-35 (for instance p. 29, for the interpretation of fr. 117, in association with frr. 299 and 306i); A.M. Andrisano, Iambic Motifs in Alcaeus’ Lyrics, in A. Cavarzere, A. Aloni, A. Barchiesi (edd.), Iambic Ideas: Essays on a Poetic Tradition from Archaic Greece to the Late Roman Empire, Lanham 2001, pp. 41-63. On Cratinus, cf. M. Ornaghi, Note di onomastica comica: Cratino ( POxy IV 663; PCG Cratinus Fr. 342; Fr. 502), in QUADERNI del Dipartimento di Filologia Linguistica e Tradizione Classica “Augusto Rostagni”, N.S. 5 (2006), pp. 81-111 (in particular, pp. 96 ss., about fr. 462 inc. fab.); and now also M. Ornaghi, Note di onomastica comica (II): Aristofane e i poeti comici del V secolo, in QUADERNI del Dipartimento di Filologia Linguistica e Tradizione Classica “Augusto Rostagni”, N.S. 6 (2007), pp. 23-60 (in particular, p. 39, about fr. 153).
9. Among the lyric poets the agreements with Archilochus stand out: cf. p. 82.