Onomacritus’ fragments and testimonia have until now been available in Kinkel ( Epicorum Graecorum fragmenta, I, Lipsiae 1877), Kern ( Orphicorum fragmenta, Berolini 1922), Colli ( La sapienza greca, II, Milano 1978) and finally Bernabé ( Poetae Epici Graeci, II/2, Monachi-Lipsiae 2005). No one, up until now, has ever had the idea of collecting Onomacritus’ remains in one autonomous edition. No wonder, since we are dealing with an ill-famed forger and interpolator: therefore, his fragments are unrecognizable by definition, and the ancient evidence about him is scarce, obscure and rarely reliable. However, the times are ripe for regarding archaic forgery as a particular kind of authorship in the context of a general tendency towards pseudepigraphy, double or multiple attributions, and the continuous readaptation of traditional material. So, if the forgery is only a peculiar form of what Foucault defined fonction-auteur,1 Onomacritus too is somehow an author, if not an auctoritas. Consequently, Ettore D’Agostino can rightly dedicate his energy to Onomacritus as a leading figure of the late-archaic age. His volume provides a terse Introduction (pp. XI-XXXII); a large bibliography (pp. XXXIII-XLVII); a collection of Testimonia vitae atque artis (pp. 1-7), Operum fragmenta (pp. 9-13), and Testimonia dubia (pp. 15-17); finally, an Italian translation (pp. 23-29) and a wide commentary (pp. 31-113) of both testimonia and fragments.
In his Introduction, D’Agostino discusses the notorious problems of chronology, reconstructs the few ascertainable facts of Onomacritus’ life, and scrutinizes the ancient evidence about the titles of his poetic works (two in the Suda,
The collection of Testimonia vitae atque artis is more inclusive than those of Kinkel, Kern or Colli; but compared to Bernabé, D’Agostino only differs in the inclusion of the so-called Scholion Plautinum (= T 9d) among the testimonia alleged in Tzetzes’ account about the Peisistratean edition of Homer. However, in a separate section, D’Agostino adds two entirely new testimonia dubia : Aristot. Pol. II 12, 1274a 22-31, where the mysterious Onomacritus of Locri, quoted in a list of ancient lawgivers, is confidently identified with the Athenian one;3 and Thgn. 503-508, where the addressee of the elegy is an unspecified Onomacritus. D’Agostino is generous in the selection of the fragments as well: he comes back to the eight fragments collected by Kinkel (five only in Kern, six in Bernabé), including Hdt. VII 6 (= T 1), duplicated in two distinct fragments sine verbis (see below); and sine verbis, of course, are all the fragments with the exception of fr. 8 (= 8 Kinkel, T 190 Kern, B 8 Colli, 845a F + 1118 T Bernabé), i.e. the well-known addition about Heracles’ ghost in the Nekyia ( Od. XI 602-604), together with the relative scholia.
The most conspicuous section of the book is the large commentary devoted both to the testimonia and to the fragments. The treatment offered by D’Agostino is a concise essay (with footnotes) on the single text, more than a punctual commentary line by line; given also the scarcity (and the vagueness) of the evidence, one has to make a kind of cross-reading between the single treatments in order to obtain an overall view of the arguments offered by D’Agostino So, the sections of the commentary complete each other as the commentary in turn completes and clears up the Introduction (and sometimes vice versa). From this complex and somewhat intricate handling of the data the reader can draw a complete description of Onomacritus’ activity and works: too complete and detailed, perhaps, but full of sharp and stimulating observations. Some examples: the treatment that D’Agostino devotes to the relation between Arist. fr. 7a-b R. (= 26 and 27 G.), Phlp. In An. 186,24 (= T 5) and Cic. de nat. deor. I 38,107 (pp. 47-51) is very convincing; and D’Agostino expresses many balanced judgments in discussing the notices offered by Plutarch ( De Pyth. or. 25, 407b = T 8) or by the Suda (III 564 A. = T 4, respectively pp. 58-60 and 44-46).
It seems appropriate to make some critical remarks on other aspects of the commentary.
Pp. 34-36 (on Hdt. VII 6,2-5 = T 1): D’Agostino is utterly resolute in asserting that Onomacritus was an authentic seer, and not a mere editor, specialist or performer of ancient prophecies transmitted under the name of Musaeus or Orpheus. This is possible, but not well-grounded. Herodotus calls Onomacritus a
Pp. 36-40: Lasus of Hermione, Herodotus reports in the same passage, exposed a forgery by Onomacritus in the collection of Musaeus’ prophecies, and demonstrated that the prediction about the small islands near Lemnos—destined to disappear beneath the waves—was a fake. So our poor forger was banished by Hipparchus. D’Agostino has valid arguments in suspecting some political manoeuvre behind this strange philological querelle, and appropriately recalls the economic interests of the Peisistratids in the coasts of the Chersonesos and in the Black Sea area. Foreign policy apart, what can we think of the controversy between Lasus and Onomacritus? Why did Onomacritus insert in his collection such a dangerous prediction? How did Lasus succeed in exposing the forgery? D’Agostino offers no explanations (“credo sia uno sforzo vano cercare di determinare il procedimento che condusse Laso alla scoperta dell’inserimento”, p. 38), and seems to believe in the good faith of Onomacritus, who wrote a prophecy ad hoc for no particular reason (p. 38); besides, D’Agostino is persuaded that the
Pp. 41f. (on Tatian. ad Graec. 41 = T 2): the well-known aim of the Christian apologist is to establish that Moses was earlier than any poet or wise man of Greece. In the text under discussion, Tatian writes that “Orpheus was a contemporary of Heracles; above all [
P. 48 (on Phlp. In An. 186,24 = T 5): the mss. of Philoponus give the expression
Pp. 56f. (on Clem. Al. Strom. I 21, 134, 2f. St. = T 7): Clement’s list of the most famous Greek seers is, according to D’Agostino, the crucial test for asserting that Onomacritus was a real
Pp. 67f. (on Tz. Proll. Com., pp. 30, 140-150 and 33, 22-31 Koster = T 9a and 9b): D’Agostino devotes many pages to the constellation of unanimous (and interdependent) notices offered by Tzetzes, the Anonymus Crameri and the Scholium Plautinum. This is not the place to resume the never-ending discussion about the Peisistratean recensio of Homer; but it is surprising how easily such a crucial problem is set aside, with no more than eight lines (p. 67) asserting that there was “una tradizione antica e ben radicata, attestante il coinvolgimento di Pisistrato con i poemi omerici” (“vox totius antiquitatis”, wrote Wolf, and his exaggeration has been often condemned: see e.g. J.A. Scott, CPh 9, 1914, 397); the “ancient and deep-rooted tradition” is enough to allow D’Agostino to declare Onomacritus “editore rapsodico di Omero” (pp. XXIII-XXVII). This is, I think, an over-simplification that cannot be easily admitted. Furthermore, the fact that three of the four editors of Homer mentioned by Tzetzes (Orpheus of Croton, Zopyrus of Heraclea, Onomacritus; the last name is lost) appear to be connected whith Orphic or Pythagorean tradition suggests an ancient parallelism between Homer and Orpheus. This parallelism arouses further suspicions about the notice.11 D’Agostino, however, finds this perfectly natural (p. XXVI: “sembra rilevante il fatto che l’assemblaggio fosse stato commissionato ad
P. 71 (on S.E. P. III 30 = M. IX 361 = F 1): D’Agostino is very confident in imagining (?) the exact subpartition of the work that he chooses to call (but only “per convenzione”, p. 71; see also pp. XVI and 78)
P. 93 (on Paus. I 22,7 = F 5): the hypothesis of placing in the proem of the
P. 95 (on Hdt. VII 6,2-5 = T 1 = F 6 + F 7): D’Agostino extracts two distinct fragments from the Herodotean account, without offering any further comment on this point. He attributes the first prediction (about the islands near Lemnos: see above) to the
Pp. 95-106 (on Od. XI 602-604): D’Agostino offers a complete discussion of the problems raised, from antiquity until now, by the amazing interpolation about Heracles’ apotheosis. He provides an accurate examination of the scholia and we can agree with his conclusion that all three lines must be included in an hypothetical insertion by Onomacritus (p. 104), who seems to have supported the Peisistratean propaganda about Heracles’ cults. But somehow eluded is the key question that we can express with the words of Cassio: “if a dead Heracles proved ’embarrassing’ in view of this new state of affairs, in theory the problem might easily have been solved by simply excising the whole episode; but it was impossible in practice, because the audience expected it. The awkward interpolation shows at the same time the need to assert the importance of the new cult and the impossibility to do away with a traditional and unalterable episode involving the dead Heracles”.13 Here we can recognize a problem not different from that posed by the Herodotean notice on Onomacritus’ oracular interpolations (see above): why was the episode not simply omitted, if Onomacritus or the Peisistratids had a real editorial control on the text? Why should he have produced such complicated rearrangements if the episode was not in some way traditional and canonical? Perhaps the answer is implicit in the hypothesis formulated by D’Agostino at pp. 105f.: Onomacritus intended not only to correct an embarrassing mention of Heracles’ death, but also to insert a magnification of Heracles’ apotheosis (“l’aggiunta aveva il fine specifico di propagandare la divinizzazione di Eracle”). From this point of view, perhaps, the traditional episode gave the only or the best occasion for inserting such a celebration. However, the impression remains that this awkward and tortuous correction is not easy to explain in the context of a systematic editorial operation like that imagined by Tzetzes and accepted by D’Agostino.14
Pp. 110f. (on Aristot. Pol. II 12,6-8, 1274a 22-31 = T dubium 1): D’Agostino is not the first to suppose that the mysterious Onomacritus of Locri mentioned by Aristoteles has to be identified with our Onomacritus of Athens; and the allusion to the
Pp. 112f. (on Thgn. 503-508 = T dubium 2): the addressee of the pseudo-Theognidean elegy is an indeterminate Onomacritus. “I commentatori, all’unanimità”, says D’Agostino, “tendono ad escludere che il personaggio in questione possa identificarsi con il cresmologo attivo ad Atene” (p. 112; this is not entirely exact: see E. Harrison, Studies in Theognis, Cambridge 1902, 297-299 and Campbell, ad loc.). I see no evidence pro or contra his identification with Onomacritus of Athens. ”
To sum up, D’Agostino’s book offers a broad reexamination of the evidence, a well-informed outline of previous studies, and several penetrating observations on many points. Obviously, there are not a few controversial questions that invite dissent, and one happens to feel nostalgic for the skepticism of Linforth or West. This does not, however, compromise the usefulness of the book.
1. See M. Foucault, “Qu’est-ce qu’un auteur?” in Dits et écrits 1954-1988, I, Paris 1994, 789-821.
2. D’Agostino’s methodological background is clearly recognizable in the lines of inquiry that emerged from the very interesting book edited eight years ago by G. Cerri: Autori vari, La letteratura pseudepigrafa nella cultura greca e romana. Atti di un Incontro di studi (Napoli, 15-17 gennaio 1998), Napoli 2000.
3. The thesis is discussed in E. D’Agostino, “Onomacrito ateniese o locro?” AION(filol) 23, 2001, 27-39. “Dubium mihi videtur,” writes Bernabé (p. 528).
4. See also D. Asheri-P. Vannicelli in Erodoto, Le storie. Libro VIII. La vittoria di Temistocle, Milano 2003, 297f. for the transmitted
5. So e.g. G.A. Privitera, Laso di Ermione nella cultura ateniese e nella tradizione storiografica, Roma 1965, 48 n. 0: “difficilmente Ipparco avrebbe permesso lo scandalo e Laso l’avrebbe suscitato, se Onomacrito avesse ancora goduto il favore della corte. Dietro la sophia di Laso vi fu, probabilmente, una manovra della corte, decisa a sbarazzarsi dell’indovino”.
6. That Lasus’ accusation took place during a public performance is the opinion of G. Nagy ( Pindar’s Homer. The Lyric Possession of an Epic Past, Baltimore-London 1990, 172f.) and of S.R. Slings (“Literature in Athens, 566-510 BC,” in H. Sancisi-Weerdenburg [ed. by], Peisistratos and the Tyranny. A Reappraisal of the Evidence, Amsterdam 2004, 57-77: 71). This hypothesis cannot change the main points of the question.
7. This was the coherent hypothesis of K. Kerényi, “Die Münzen des Onomakritos,” in Mythos. Scripta in honorem Marii Untersteiner, Genova 1970, 171-178: 172.
8. So also M.-J. Lagrange, Les mystères: l’Orphisme, Paris 1937, 23 n. 4.
9. So I.M. Linforth, The Arts of Orpheus, Berkeley 1941, 351f. The situation is not different if Tatian and Clement depend on a common source (so Colli, ad l.).
10. C. Eichhoff, “De Onomacrito Atheniensi commentatio I,” Programm womit zu der öffentlichen Prüfung der Zöglinge des Gymnasiums zu Elberfeld, Elberfeld 1840, 3-16: 6.
11. See the observations of M.L. West, The Orphic Poems, Oxford 1983, 249-251.
12. Here D’Agostino develops the opinions of Giovanni Cerri about the narrative structure of Onomacritus’ poem: see G. Cerri, “L’Odissea epicorica di Itaca”, Mediterraneo antico 5, 2002, 149-184: 176.
13. A.C. Cassio, “Early Editions of Greek Epics and Homeric Textual Criticism in the Sixth and Fifth Centuries BC,” in Autori vari, Omero tremila anni dopo. Atti del Congresso di Genova, 6-8 luglio 2000, a c. di F. Montanari, Roma 2002, 105-136: 116 n. 52.
14. On the question see also A. Aloni, Da Pilo a Sigeo. Poemi cantori e scrivani al tempo dei Tiranni, Alessandria 2006, 20-22.