BMCR 2008.01.58

“Sed nullus editorum vidit”. La filologia di Gottfried Hermann e l’Agamennone di Eschilo. Amsterdam: Supplementi di Lexis XXXI

, "Sed nullus editorum vidit" : la filologia di Gottfried Hermann e l'Agamennone di Eschilo. Supplementi di Lexis ; 31. Amsterdam: Adolf M. Hakkert, 2006. 250 pages ; 26 cm.. ISBN 9789025612139 €60.00.

The book of Enrico Medda (M.) is not an evaluation of Gottfried Hermann’s conjectural skills or a celebration of the leading figure of Wortphilologie. Its aim is to study the basis and the development of the textual criticism of Hermann (1772-1848), and perhaps no other topic could be a better representative of the great German scholar than Aeschylus and the Agamemnon.

After the Introduzione (pp. 5-9),1 the first chapter (“Metrica e testo (1796-1799)”, pp. 11-39) deals with the beginning of Hermann’s studies. M. highlights with notable clarity the influence on him not only of Friederich Wolfgang Reiz and (via Reiz) of Richard Bentley but also of Immanuel Kant, above all for the establishment of metrical theory.2 The first book of De metris poetarum Graecorum et Romanorum libri III (Lipsiae 1796), involved with the a priori definition of numerus, is modelled on the trascendental analytics of the Kritik der reinen Vernunft (Riga 1781, first ed.). Hermann tried to define the basic concepts of metre, prosody and rhythm within Kant’s philosophy, but M. rightly underlines the arbitrariness of this method, criticized by August Böckh with regard to the application of the category of causality.3 In this first attempt, Hermann also focused on one of the major problems in lyric metres, ten years before August Seidler and Böckh himself, i.e. the definition of verse endings. The attention of Hermann was first attracted by the Responsionsfreiheit in dochmiac metres, but his discontent about the phenomenon did not always lead him to amend the text, as we might expect, in order to establish a perfect agreement (cf. Sept. 345 = 357); but when he did correct the transmitted text, Hermann had a preference for rare or difficult words. Another habit of the young Hermann, the contemptio codicum, is rightly explained by M. as a legacy of the eighteenth century. Even if Hermann later changed his mind, paying due attention to them (see pp. 103-106), he always remained unmoved by work with manuscripts and relied on someone else’s collations.

In the second chapter (“Un quindicennio di studi eschilei [1800-1815]”, pp. 41-68), M. addresses the first period of Hermann’s editorial activity, devoted not only to Aeschylus. Apart from the Observationes criticae in quosdam locos Aeschyli et Euripidis (Leipzig 1798), where he emphasizes the need for combining ars critica and interpretandi negotium and the Eumenides, Hermann published critical editions of Aristophanes’ Clouds and Euripides’ Hecuba, the first step in his project to emend all metrical corruptions in the text of the dramatists. Aeschylus and the Ag. continued to be Hermann’s main interest, even though he did not yet publish his conjectures. The epoch-making Elementa doctrinae metricae appeared in 1816 (two years later came the first edition of the Epitome doctrinae metricae, both Leipzig): here the explicit references to Kant become rarer,4 and Hermann seems to establish his theory more on observatio (hence the tension between regulae and anomalies), reshaping the concept of numerus after the criticism of Böckh and resorting to physics in illustrating prosody and rhythm.

Chapter 3 is dedicated to the year 1816 (“1816: annus mirabilis”, pp. 69-99) and its harvest of conjectures and methodological contributions. After 1809, Hermann began to work with Wilhelm von Humboldt, preparing the text of Ag. for the translation (Leipzig 1816). M. looks carefully into the emendations in the Ag. (see e. g. “Adnotatio ad Humboldti interpretationem”, pp. 83-86), partially destined to become part of the Aeschylean text (e.g. vv. 131, 1468 f.), most of them required by the metre, some of them by the meaning or style.

Chapter 4 (“Verso l’edizione”, pp. 101-123) covers the next thirty years, approaching the posthumous edition of Aeschylus (Leipzig 1852). During this period, fewer contributions to the text of Aeschylus appear in print, but the work on him never ceases, as we can see from the Opuscula about the fragmentary tragedies of Aeschylus (cf. p. 101 n. 2) and the controversy with F. G. Welcker about the reconstruction of the lost trilogies. Hermann’s method is coming to maturity, a combination of doctrina, iudicium and sensus (with this one increasingly relevant from the experience in rebus metricis); he is now not only inclined to improve the text with the aid of glossae but becomes more confident with transpositio verborum. The decade 1825-1835 is significant for Hermann as well as for the history of classical philology because of his dispute with Böckh and Karl Otfried Müller (pp. 117-121): the Eumenidenstreit, as M. points out, will change Hermann’s method, compelling him to consider staging (chapter 5, “De re scenica”, pp. 125-146) not only for general interpretation but also for textual criticism.5 We are told that this debate will have an invaluable importance even in its by-products: e.g. Hermann’s studies of Greek lexicography and vase painting will greatly improve philologists’ acquaintance with these sources.

The Aeschylean edition with commentary will appear only in 1852, four years after Hermann’s death, edited by his pupil and son-in-law Moritz Haupt (chapter 6, “Aeschyli tragoediae”, pp. 147-203). M.’s scrupulous and competent guide helps the reader to appreciate the value of Hermann’s edition and the advancement he produced in our knowledge of language, metre and style. Even some deep-rooted opinions are challenged: e.g. Hermann’s disregard of the MS tradition, which Sebastiano Timpanaro strongly criticised in an early contribution, changed over time (see pp. 155 f.). M. explains how significant MS variants became for Hermann, who knew, well before Wilamowitz, how to recognize if a Triclinian variant reading was paradosis or conjecture. Interpretation and MS tradition now have their rightful place beside the ars emendandi; as said above, interest in dramatic staging leads Hermann to avoid some of the errors that will embroil future editors (see p. 168 ad Ag. 613f.). In rebus metricis, he can now accept anomalies (even though he inclined to them much more in grammar and syntax), but M. does not conceal Hermann’s regrettable hunting for lacunae, mainly in the lyric-epirrhematic dialogues, where his analogism often misleads him. At the end of the volume come the “Conclusioni” (pp. 205-209), a very useful repertorium coniecturarum (pp. 211-220), the bibliography (pp. 221-235) and indices nominum et locorum (pp. 237-241 and 243-247).

Obviously, M.’s book is not for beginners, but the author successfully avoids the distracting complications and obscurities inherent in such difficult material.6 Though it means repeating what I have already said in the preceding lines, I would like to highlight another virtue of the work: M., even though vir Aeschyleus,7 refrains from adding his own proposals to the discussion of single Aeschylean passages, and in so doing he perfectly matches the aim of outlining the development of Hermann’s philology and offers a remarkable contribution to the history of classical scholarship.

Some minor observations and bibliographical additions.

P. 12: before Richard Bentley and Richard Porson, it is worthwhile to consider Willem Canter’s insight for metre: see G. Petrina, “Euripide nel Cinquecento: l’edizione di Willem Canter (1571)”, in ΔΙΔΑΣΚΑΛΙΑΙ. Tradizione e interpretazione del dramma attico, a c. di G. Avezzù, Padova 1999, 211-242.

Pp. 14, 119f., 151f.: about the De officio interpretis (= Opuscula, VII, Leipzig 1839, 97-128), see also G. Solaro, “L’esegesi secondo Hermann. Sul De officio interpretis (1834)”, Eikasmós 13 (2002) 325-341. P. 31 and n. 65: M. is right in rejecting the defense by G. Murray8 of the transmitted δημοκράτου (v. 457), because the supposed meaning of δημοκράτου δ’ ἀρᾶς (Murray’s paraphrasis: ὑπὸ τοῦ δήμου συγκεκραμένης scil. ἀρᾶς) is not acceptable, but Murray’s parallel ( Cho. 344 νεοκρᾶτα) was mainly intended to solve the problem of responsion between Ag. 439 and 457 without altering the paradosis, and in this sense and only in this sense it is not at all unsatisfactory.

P. 35: Ag. 1448f., if I understand correctly, is 2 doch pher (see also M. at the top of the same page).

P. 45: Hermann’s ἀνᾴσσων for the transmitted ἀνάσσων is better vindicated by E. Fraenkel, Aeschylus. Agamemnon (Oxford 1950) II 47f. ad l.; cf. also M. L. West, Studies in Aeschylus (Stuttgart 1990) 174f. in support of ἀνάσσων.

Pp. 106-110: M. argues that Hermann ( Opuscula, II, Leipzig 1827, 264) criticized F. A. Wolf’s “excessive praise” of Bentley’s Terentius (see M., p. 107); in fact, Hermann thought that the task of a scholar should also be to stress the faults of his predecessors (in this case, Wolf vis-à-vis Bentley), but we learn from M. himself (p. 107 n. 21) that Wolf did not fail to recognize the limitations of Bentley’s edition and noticed some “unhaltbare Veränderungen, die Bentley nach seiner unlöblichen Sitte gleich in den Text erhob” (F. A. Wolf, Kleine Schriften in lateinischer und deutscher Sprache, II, Berlin 1869, 1065).

Pp. 117f.: concerning the “appassionato lavoro” of Enzo Degani (see n. 2 here), M. speaks of his “eccesso di intransigenza” on some points, referring to the judgement about Degani of V. Citti, Studi sulle Coefore, Amsterdam 2006, 18 and nn. 41 f. Citti, however (p. 18 n. 41) quotes in disagreement “il perentorio giudizio espresso da Degani 1999, 311 a proposito di Müller e della sua influenza sulla filologia moderna”, whereas Degani’s really severe assessment (p. 311) was directed not at K. O. Müller but at the interpretation of the Eumenidenstreit given by G.W. Most.9 In fact, Degani shared Fraenkel’s opinion about Müller and his edition of the Eumenides (cf. p. 289 and n. 36), and, even if his preference was for Hermann, Degani decidedly supported “la complementarietà dei due indirizzi”. If some may find his words about Most too harsh, one should keep in mind that for Degani the contrast between Sprach- und Sachphilologie did not end completely with Hermann and Böckh; above all, he regarded Most’s opinion as one of the contemporary attempts to raise from the dead, even unconsciously, the worst arguments of Müller’s supporters, not against Wortphilologie, but against philology itself. What Degani rightly refused was the increasing oversight of the “rigoroso approccio ai testi che resta e rimarrà alla base di ogni seria riscostruzione”(cf. pp. 294 and 310ff.).

P. 158: Ag. 239 (not 240) κρόκου βαφάς is discussed by F. Delneri, “Cassandra e Ifigenia (Aesch. Ag. 1121-1124; 231-247)”, Eikasmós 12 (2001) 55-62: 56ff. (but Delneri does not quote Hermann’s interpretation of v. 239, even though he comes before Frankel II 138: cf. p. 57 nn. 9-11 of her paper).

P. 161 n. 34: I partially disagree with M.’s representation of Denniston-Page’s dissatisfaction10 with the transmitted νόμῳ in Ag. 1207. M. omits mention of the fact that they first corrected ἤλθετον (codd.) with Elmsley’s ἠλθέτην ( i.e. Apollo and Cassandra) and then νόμῳ with Butler’s ὁμοῦ, because “there could be no question of Apollo marrying Cassandra”, nor could νόμῳ mean in their text ‘according to the custom’, the sense that Hermann (and M.) rightly required with ἤλθετον.11


1. Cf. E. Medda, Ars Aeschyli emendandi: l’ ‘Agamennone’ di Gottfried Hermann, Lexis 24 (2006) 283-312 (= Atti del Convegno Internazionale Eschilo e la tragedia: comunicazione, ecdotica, esegesi).

2. After O. Jahn, Biographische Aufsätze, Leipzig 1866, 99f., cf. e. g. A. La Penna, “Sugli inizi della filosofia “positivistica” in Germania”, in A. Santucci (a c. di), Scienza e filosofia nella cultura positivistica, Milano 1982, 427-445: 437-440; E. Degani,”Filologia e storia”, Eikasmós 10 (1999) 279-314: 280 f. (= Filologia e storia. Scritti di Enzo Degani, II, Hildesheim 2004, 1268-1303).

3. Cf. De metris Pindari libri tres in Pindari opera quae supersunt, I/2, Leipzig 1811, 8f.

4. But the influence of Kant will emerge again, when Hermann will try to define the sensus and its relationship with the regulae (pp. 113 ff.).

5. Cf. De re scenica in Aeschyli Orestea (Leipzig 1846 = Opuscula, VIII, ed. Th. Fritzsche, Lipsiae 1877, 158-172).

6. A substantial part of the volume is the result of M.’s teaching at the University of Pisa and benefited from his pupils’ contributions (2004-2005).

7. See for example Eschilo. Orestea, introd. di V. Di Benedetto, trad. e note di E. Medda, L. Battezzato, Maria Pia Pattoni (Milan 1995).

8. Aeschyli septem quae supersunt tragoediae, (Oxford 1955, 2nd ed.), in adp. ad l.

9. Cf. G.W. Most, “Karl Otfried Müller’s edition of Aeschylus’ Eumenides”, in Zwischen Rationalismus und Romantik. Karl Otfried Müller und die antike Kultur, hrsg. von W. M. Calder III und R. Schlesier. Unter Mitwirkung von S. Gödde, Hildesheim 1998, 372f. As a curious slip, the title of this miscellanea in Degani becomes “Zwischen Realismus und Romantik” (p. 311 = 1300). The contribution of Most seems to me very rich and full of lively writing and witty remarks, but I am uncomfortable when, for example, he argues that Hermann’s love of horseback riding and his “attentive study of methods of locomotion” not only provided him with “apta exempla”, in order to explain to beginners certain metrical and rhythmic concepts (G. H., Epitome doctrinae metricae, Leipzig 1852, third ed., IV and J. E. Sandys, A History of Classical Scholarship, III, Cambridge 1921 [3a ed.], 94f.), but led him to make arsis and thesis“the central categories of his metrical theory” (p. 366). Perhaps I fail to appreciate Most’s humorous vein, but I prefer to imagine, with M., that behind Hermann’s first theoretical thoughts about Greek metre was the figure of Immanuel Kant, and not the pace of his own horses.

10. Aeschylus. Agamemnon, ed. by J. D. Denniston and D. Page (Oxford 1957) 180.

11. There are very few misprints: p. 8: n. 9 is missing; p. 11 l. 14: read “a Hermann”; p. 12 l. 22: “der reinen Vernunft”; p. 26 n. 46 “( ia 3 cr)”; p. 30 n. 60: “emendamento.”; p. 98 l. 1: “come”; p. 107 l. 14: ” Bentleio“; p. 108 l. 15 (and p. 116 l. 3): ” datus“; p. 110 n. 28 ” De Ricardo Bentleio 7″; p. 125 n. 1: ” Plautinisches; p. 126 n. 5: “v. 48s.”; p. 132 n. 20: βαθμοὺς; p. 133 n. 24: “Pickard-Cambridge”; p. 169 l. 18: “Chaeremon TrGF 71 F 27 Snell-Kannicht”; ibid. l. 23: “propria”.