BMCR 2008.09.24

Scholia in Thesmophoriazusas; Ranas; Ecclesiazusas et Plutum. Scholia in Aristophanem, III 2/3

, , , , , , , , , Scholia in Aristophanem. Scripta academica Groningana. Groningen: J.B. Wolters, 1960-2007. 4 volumes in 18 : facsimiles ; 26 cm.. ISBN 9060880404 €110.00.

This is a momentous occasion. The publication of the final fascicule of the Groningen edition of the scholia to Aristophanes marks the completion of the scholarly endeavours of nearly half a century, made possible by the support of the NWO (Netherlands Organisation for the Advancement of Pure Research). The project began in 1960, under the supervision of W.J.W. Koster (until 1975) and then of D. Holwerda, who has seen it through to completion in the new millennium with the appearance of the scholia to the Thesmophoriazusae and Ecclesiazusae, edited by Remco Regtuit.

Given that this slender, handsome volume sets the capstone upon nearly fifty years of international cooperation in the painstaking process of producing the first new critical edition of the complete scholia to Aristophanes since Dübner’s in 1842, the reader will forgive the inclusion of a brief list of the contributors and their achievements.1

Part IV: The Commentaries of John Tzetzes: (1) on Plutus, ed. L. Massa Positano (1960); (2) on Clouds ed. D. Holwerda (1960); (3) on Frogs and Birds, ed. W. J. W. Koster (1962); (4) Indices (1964).

Part I: (1A) Prolegomena on Comedy, ed. W. J. W. Koster (1975); (1B) Scholia to Acharnians, ed. N. G. Wilson (1975); (2) Scholia to Knights ed. D. Mervyn Jones, N. G. Wilson (1969); (3.1) Ancient Scholia to Clouds, ed. D. Holwerda (1977); (3.2) Recent Scholia to Clouds, ed. W. J. W. Koster (1974).

Part II: (1) Scholia to Wasps, ed. W. J. W. Koster (1978); (2) Scholia to Peace, ed. D. Holwerda (1982); (3) Scholia to Birds, ed. D. Holwerda (1991); (4) Scholia to Lysistrata, ed. J. Hangard (1996)

Part III: (1a) Ancient Scholia to Frogs, ed. M. Chantry (1999); (1b) Recent Scholia to Frogs, ed. M. Chantry (2001); (2/3) Scholia to Thesmophoriazusae and Ecclesiazusae ed. R. F. Regtuit (2007); Ancient Scholia to Plutus, ed. M. Chantry (1994); (4b) Recent Scholia to Plutus, ed. M. Chantry (1996).

The quality and the interest of the material preserved in the Aristophanes scholia vary considerably across the corpus as a whole. The scholia to the Ecclesizausae are particularly jejune, containing little of the scholarly richness of the Alexandrian work on Birds or Frogs. In the case of the Thesmophoriazusae, the most scholarly annotation attaches to v. 162 (162a in Regtuit’s edition) and preserves remnants of the learning of Aristophanes of Byzantium and a good dose of the fractious, disputatious comments of Didymus.

Richness of content aside, the scholia to Thesmophoriazusae are particularly to be treasured because their transmission, like that of the play, hangs by a single thread, the Codex Ravennas 429 (R). Were it not for the survival of R, a manuscript written in miniscule around AD950 and containing all eleven surviving plays of Aristophanes with scholia, the Thesmophoriazusae would be known only in quotations and papyrus fragments, and its scholia would be lost except for those preserved in the indirect tradition in the lexica.2

The scholia to Thesmophoriazusae first appeared in print in Immanuel Bekker’s 1829 London edition of Aristophanes. In 1818 Bekker had collated the scholia, including those found in R, which had recently been rediscovered in Ravenna by Invernizi, apparently only a few years before the appearance of his 1794 edition of Aristophanes. To relate the manuscript’s early history as briefly as possible, the Codex Ravennas, taken from the library of Urbino, furnished the texts of the Lysistrata and Thesmophoriuzusae for their first printed edition, the Juntine Aristophanes published in Florence in 1515; but how and when it disappeared and then resurfaced in Ravenna remains shrouded in obscurity. Bekker remarked that Invernizi’s work testified to his incredible sluggishness and equally great ignorance; thus the long Alexandrian history of the despair of classical scholars over their predecessors’ failings found its modern analogue: happily, the quality of this volume and that of the collection to which it belongs will draw a line under that tradition.

Bekker’s collation of the scholia, which W. G. Rutherford excoriated for being conducted in a “slovenly manner” ( Scholia Aristophanica 1896, vol. I, p. xiv n. 6, cf. xiii-xiv), was revised by August Seidler (or as Rutherford put it, Seidler “at the cost of immense labour threw it into some sort of shape”, ibid.) and was the foundation for a flurry of publishing in the 1830s: Thiersch and Fritzsche edited the Thesmophoriazusae with scholia in 1832 and 1838 respectively; and Dindorf’s four-volume Aristophanes, including an edition of the scholia in part III of volume IV, was published in Oxford in 1838. Further contributions to the study of the Thesmophoriazusae scholia came in the form of Dübner’s single-volume edition of the Aristophanes scholia in 1842, which revised and expanded Dindorf’s work, and in Enger’s edition of the Thesmophoriazusae with scholia in 1844, in which further scholia vetera were added.3

Neither Dübner nor Enger, however, based his edition on an independent examination of R, and while it appears that the scholia were transcribed afresh for Dindorf’s edition by M. Miller, it is all but certain that Dindorf himself never consulted the manuscript.4 In the end, it was more than fifty years before the publication W. G. Rutherford’s edition of the Ravennas scholia furnished the learning of the ancient scholars preserved in R with a critical edition based on a thorough-going study of the manuscript. In preparing his edition, Rutherford relied on the work of a colleague, Dr. Hans Graeven, who transcribed the Ravennas scholia, consulting the codex and comparing its readings to the new collations of A. Martin and von Holzinger, both published in 1882. The resulting edition and translation of scholia to all eleven plays (vol. II including the scholia to Thesmophoriazusae, appearing in 1896) is generally considered something of a white elephant, because Rutherford edited (and translated) only the scholia preserved in R — though this was no mean project, given the density and difficulty of the material compared to the fuller VE γ scholia, and consumed seven years of the Headmaster of Westminster School’s life. Nevertheless, in the case of Thesmophorizusae, where R is our only source, Rutherford’s work has been of enduring importance.

Now, after over a century, it has been superseded. In dealing with difficult editorial matters, Regtuit has proceeded with due caution and austere textual conservatism. Among the bolder decisions, a confident transposition has been effected at 870, assigning the words οἶσθ’ οὖν ὃ δρᾶσον; to the lost Polyidus of Euripides, in disagreement with Nauck and more recently Kannicht (TGrF V.2), who preferred to assign the quotation to Hecuba 225, explaining the scholium’s Polyidus as a corruption of Polydorus, the alternative title by which the play was known. Editors of the fragments of Euripides will form their own opinions of the matter, but from the position of an editor of the scholia to Aristophanes, Regtuit has struck a blow for the Polyidus : the passage is discussed in his prolegomena (pp. 12-13) and the arguments offered are compelling.

The work of editing the scholia in Ravennas 429 underlines the difficulties an editor dealing with a single manuscript tradition encounters in steering a course between the competing claims of preserving faithfully, accurately, and without prejudice the readings of the manuscript, and the need to make sense of an inevitably flawed textual tradition. As Rutherford caustically remarked of his predecessors, “[i]f editors of the scholia had taken the trouble to translate them, they would scarcely have been so apt to print them in a form which often makes desperate nonsense” (ibid. p. viii). The following is a case in point.

Scholium Th. 389b remarks on the usage of the verb σμήχειν.

ἐπισμῇ· μεταφορικῶς ἀπὸ τοῦ σμήχειν, οἷον ἐπιτρίβει. σφοδρὰν γάρ τινα τρίψιν καὶ τὴν σμῆξιν εἶναι. τάχα δὲ καὶ τὴν σμώδιγγα εἰρῆσθαι ἀπὸ τούτου. διόδωρος δὲ οὐ μεταφορικήν, ἀλλ’ ἐξ ἔθους γλωσσηματικήν, καὶ μὴ εἶναι ἐπιτρίβειν ἀλλὰ τύπτειν ἢ σκώπτειν τὸ σμήχειν.

The first sentence of the notice declares that the use of ἐπισμῇ is metaphorical and comparable to the (metaphorical) sense of ἐπιτρίβει, meaning to afflict or to destroy, but literally to break something down into fine particles (to rub or crush). Diodorus, the annotation reports, argued that the usage here is not metaphorical but is instead to be explained as a dialect feature; thus σμήχειν does not mean ἐπιτρίβειν (in its metaphorical sense) but τύπτειν ἢ σκώπτειν. The point is that the verb σμήχειν is supposed to convey a simple, physical action, like the non-metaphorical usage of ἐπιτρίβειν. τύπτειν (hit, strike) fits perfectly; σκώπτειν (jeer, ridicule) does not. If σμήχειν means σκώπτειν (as well as τύπτειν), the former must be a metaphorical usage and Diodorus’ note is self-contradictory. Clearly what Diodorus wrote is τύπτειν ἢ σκήπτειν (hit or smite / hurl down upon), as Rutherford saw. It is of course significant that this note was so mishandled as to allow the word σκώπτειν to infiltrate the text and establish itself there contrary to common sense, and that information should be available to the reader; but at the very least Rutherford’s σκήπτειν should be remembered in the apparatus, and one might go so far as to argue that the text is not in fact the proper place for σκώπτειν.

If I have suggested that the conservative bent of the editorial decisions has on occasion been a little too severe, that should not detract from the great achievement that this volume represents.5 When reviewing the first fascicule to appear, which was of in fact from Part IV, Mervyn Jones exclaimed “Tzetzes can never have had it so good.”6 With the excellent on-going editorial work in the Clarendon (now Oxford) series of Aristophanes commentaries, and in Henderson’s Loeb texts and translations, and with the publication of the fragments of Aristophanes as vol. 3.2 of Kassel and Austin’s PCG, the completion of Alan Sommerstein’s commentaries and indices, the recent appearance of Nigel Wilson’s OCT, and now the consummation of the NWO scholia project, Aristophanes scholars are in a better position to study their author than any generation of scholars since the Alexandrians.7


1. I am merely completing the panorama that Colin Austin had in prospect in CR 51 (2001) pp. 18-19. I owe my warmest thanks to Professor Austin for generously giving me his time and expert advice, not least on ς 389b to Thesmophoriazusae, and to Professor Olson for his patience and invaluable help with the preparation of this review.

2. For the history of the tradition, see Colin Austin and S. Douglas Olson’s superb 2004 edition, Aristophanes: Thesmophoriazusae (Oxford University Press), pp. lxxxix-xcii.

3. Cf. Regtuit, pp. 14-15.

4. See W. G. Clark, ‘The History of the Ravenna Manuscript of Aristophanes’, Journal of Philology 3 (1871), pp. 153-60, at p. 153.

5. The number of errors (nisi fallor) that I detected is small and there is nothing, I think, that is seriously misleading.

1.Th. 267/8 read λαλήσεις for λαλήλεις

1.Th. 533: read εἝρσης for Ἔρσης

1.Th. 1174: read κἀνακάλπασον for κἀνακάλπισον

1.Th. 1175d Rutherford’s [τί] τὸ Περσικὸν ὄρχημα has much to recommend it.

1.Eccl. Argumentum A2, l. 5: read αὑτῶν for αὐτῶν

1.Eccl. 18: read σκίρον for σκῖρον

1.Eccl. 346: read ἅρμοζον for ἁρμόζον

6. CR 11 (1961) p. 120.

7. Appearing most recently in the Clarendon series were N. Dunbar 1995 Birds and S. D. Olson 1998 Peace. In the OUP series (the Clarendon imprint having been discontinued by the press), the most recent contributions are S. D. Olson 2002 Acharnians, and C. Austin and S. D. Olson 2004 Thesmophoriazusae. N. G. Wilson’s 2008 OCT Aristophanes, replacing Hall and Geldart, is reviewed in BMCR 2008.07.50.