BMCR 2009.05.41

Tradizione antologica dell’epigramma greco: le sillogi minori di età bizantina e umanistica. Pleiadi 9

, Tradizione antologica dell'epigramma greco: le sillogi minori di età bizantina e umanistica. Pleiadi 9. Roma: Edizioni di storia e letteratura, 2008. 214. ISBN 9788884984807 €30.00 (pb).

In addition to the Palatine (AP) and Planudean Anthology (APl), our knowledge of Greek epigram rests on several minor collections, the so-called ‘ syllogae minores’, to which only occasional scholarly attention has been devoted, and always as a consequence of the interest in the two major compilations. Maltomini intends to fill in this gap, with a twofold purpose: (1) to test whether the assumption1 that the syllogae derive from a common source, usually identified with the anthology assembled by Cephalas in the first half of the tenth century, is correct, or whether it is possible to single out different branches of transmission; (2) to assess the relationship between the manuscripts that preserve each collection, and evaluate the position of each compilation within the tradition, with the aim of establishing which of the syllogae are to be included in an apparatus of the Greek Anthology as autonomous contributors to the paradosis and which are to be excluded as dependent on known sources.

Maltomini’s careful and lucid investigation, based upon a fresh collation of the manuscripts containing the syllogae, bears important fruit, sometimes confirming common opinions with new evidence, sometimes — and more importantly — challenging and amending well-established clichés.

Maltomini offers a readable introduction, which clearly states the purpose of the investigation and provides a useful survey of scholarly works on the topic (pp. 11-27); ten chapters devoted to the syllogae minores (pp. 29-178); conclusions (pp. 179-187); an appendix, undertaking the vexata quaestio of the original appearance of book XIV of the Greek Anthology in Cephalas’ collection (pp. 189-195); a comprehensive list of epigrams (and other poems) contained in the syllogae minores (pp. 197-204), which will prove particuarly useful for those interested in tracing the fortunes of a single poem, or for editors of single books/authors of the Greek Anthology; a bibliography (pp. 205-211); and an index of the manuscripts (pp. 213-214). One regrets that in the list of the epigrams the authorial lemma — in the few cases in which it exists — is not reported. Also a general index would have maybe been useful, but this concern is somewhat made up for by the clear arrangement of the book, which greatly assists the reader’s exploration into specific questions.

A particular important contribution is Maltomini’s analysis of the Sylloge Euphemiana (ἐ, so called from the presence in it of two poems which an unknown author, born in Hypata in Thessaly but resident in Constantinople during the reign of Leo VI the Wise (886-912), dedicates to a certain Euphemius. The anonymous author is usually supposed to be the compiler of a Byzantine collection from which our excerpts would derive, and this collection is considered to be a terminus ante quem for the dating of Cephalas’ anthology. Maltomini now shows the flimsiness of this assumption. Par. gr. 2720 (ρ from which Maltomini demonstrates the other manuscripts preserving E derive, is constituted of two epigrammatic series originally independent and very different from each other. The two poems for Euphemius are in the second half (E 2), together with miscellaneous poetic material which is likely to have been ex tempore assembled by whoever was writing the manuscript. The second series thus says nothing about the origin of the first half (E 1), and the very denomination of Sylloge Euphemiana starts to look shaky. As a consequence, not only can E not be used as chronological evidence for the dating of Cephalas; we are not actually even able to say whether the collection for Euphemius was an epigrammatic anthology at all: it could have simply been a collection of various kinds of poetry, of which we are likely to have nothing else but the two introductory poems, mixed together with other miscellaneous materials.

Also important is the discovery of two new manuscripts containing the Sylloge L, the small epigrammatic collection preserved in the celebrated codex Laurentianus 32.16 compiled by Planudes, an excerpt of which was already identified by Gallavotti2 in Vat. Barb. 4 (B). In L the epigrammatic collection is divided into two parts (L 1 and L 2): Maltomini has now recognized that a sequence of L 1 appears in Vat. Urb. gr. 125 (ὐ, a miscellaneous XIII-XIV century codex written by several hands, including Planudes’ own in the epigram section, and that an excerpt of L 2 occurs in Par. gr. 1409 (π a XIV century manuscript. This is not only an important addition per se, but also a reminder of how much epigrammatic material possibly remains still hidden in miscellaneous manuscripts, which, once discovered, would be likely to modify our very view of the transmission of the Greek Anthology throughout the Byzantine and Humanistic periods.

Some small collections, such as Sylloge T and Sylloge H — occasionally and inconsistently mentioned by editors — are here fully analyzed for the first time. The relationship among the five manuscripts which preserve H is not certain, and Maltomini carefully shows the different possibilities, basically configuring two options. I would be more confident than she, however, that the second one can be dismissed, since it would imply — as Maltomini herself notes (p. 149) — that two of the manuscripts, not linked by any relationship and not deriving from the same common post-archetype source, have independently selected the very same poems from a wider collection.

Also when previous opinions are confirmed, Maltomini’s acute and careful investigation provides scholars with a more reliable tool to evaluate the actual content of the syllogae and the characteristics of the manuscripts bearing them: for the so-called Sylloge Parisina, for instance, it is confirmed that B (Par. gr. 1630), a XIV century manuscript, is essentially a rearranged excerpt from S S (Par. suppl. gr. 352), of the XIII century, and also that the sylloge, as a whole, basically depends on Cephalas’ collection; but scholars have now a reliable description of the content of the collection, and several errors occurring in previous studies are corrected, including small but important details (at p. 43 n. 24, e.g., Maltomini rectifies a mistake occurring both in Beckby’s and Aubreton-Buffière’s apparatus as regards the transmission of AP 12.237, which is not, as they claim, linked to the preceding one — AP 12.235 — but clearly separated from it, and doesn’t lack two lines, due to a saut du même au même. The missing lines were actually in the manuscript, but are now lost in a material lacuna;3 Beckby and Aubreton-Buffière both likely derive the incorrect statement from Cramer and Sternbach,4 where the same claim is made. This is a good example of the kind of mistakes that occur in modern editions of the Anthology, due to a lack of modern editions of the syllogae minores).

As far as Appendix Barberino-Vaticana (ABV) is concerned, Maltomini confirms that Par. suppl. gr. 1199 (P) and Vat. gr. 240 (V) are close to, but not directly derived from, Vat. Barb. gr. 123 (B); also the assumption that the collection was intended as a supplement to APl, since almost all of its epigrams are erotic and missing from APl, is confirmed, with new evidence (it is characteristic of Maltomini’s philological acumen not to take anything for granted and not to be influenced by previous scholarship). Maltomini interestingly remarks that in the West, between the XV and XVI century, i.e. before the Palatine manuscript (P) came to light, it was possible to find epigrams which were not in Planudes’ anthology. The question is only ligtly touched upon by Maltomini, but her remark could prompt further investigation on the intricate question of the circulation of P in the West before its reappearance in Heidelberg at the beginning of the XVII century. The presence in the West of un-planudean materials before that date seems to be confirmed also by smaller syllogae such as I, which Maltomini shows to derive from a branch of the Cephalan tradition close to but independent of AP.

Maltomini basically confirms Basson’s and Cameron’s theory of a derivation of the syllogae minores from Cephalas; as far as their relevance for the constitutio textus is concerned, Maltomini concludes that S, L 1, E 1, ABV, S p, I, H are to be taken into account as well as the two major anthologies, while T, ς, F, O, K, G are to be excluded because they depend on known sources. Editors interested in documenting the fortune of the poems, however, could include them in their apparatus, as they usually do with readings from the apographs of P, which are not autonomous contributors to the paradosis, but are culturally important for the scholarly conjectures they contain and the interest in the Anthology they document.

In the ‘Appendice’, Maltomini argues that the syllogae minores bear new evidence in favor of the view that book XIV of the Greek Anthology — a collection of riddles, oracles, and arithmetical problems in rather haphazard combination — was not originally in Cephalas. Her discussion is sensible and well-reasoned, but her conclusion of a ‘mixed’ origin for the book doesn’t seem to me entirely convincing: the very meager number of epigrams of book XIV included in the syllogae cautions against any conclusion based on them. The presence of an introductory lemma similar to the ones opening the other books of the Anthology, and likely to be derived from Cephalas, is still, in my view, a strong argument for the original existence of the book in Cephalas, as pointed out by Cameron, The Greek Anthology…, pp. 136-137.

Maltomini’s investigation holds its methodological warnings: her analysis of how the compilers of the collections worked (see, for instance, the union of the two originally separated series in E in two later copies made by Bartolomeo Comparini) evidences their freedom in selecting, cutting, and rearranging materials from their sources. Texts of this type are less protected against textual variation than more formalized genres: it can never be stressed enough that our perception of epigrams depends on the choice made by anthologists, which is, in turn, influenced by personal taste and/or by social and cultural factors (Maltomini remarks, for instance, that most of the syllogae show a predilection for epigrams with a ‘moral’ content, able to provoke various kinds of thoughts, which is hardly surprising considering the use of epigrams in schools and the increasing tendency to assimiliate them to gnomic literature throughout the Humanistic era). It is also interesting that, in certain cases, when thematic series are recognizable, epigrams are juxtaposed according to different criteria from those used by Cephalas: epigrams which are, according to Cephalas, ‘epideictic’, for example, occur in ‘skoptic’ series, and so forth. Scholars are aware of how generic labels are to be handled with caution, but the actual possibility of documenting a different collocation of epigrams in anthologies in the Humanistic era from the one favoured by Cephalas is a further, important reminder of how our perception of genre is conditioned by Byzantine classifications.

The book is well typeset and produced, and the bibliography is satisfactory. Just a few quibbles: p. 126 n. 26: in discussing the ascription to Killacter in ABV of AP 5.31, against the (likely right) one to Antipater of Thessalonika in AP, one would have expected to find a mention of L. Argentieri, Gli epigrammi degli Antipatri (Bari 2003) pp. 175-176, in addition to the classical Gow-Page, GP II, p. 108.

p. 104: in commenting on the ascription of AP 11.294 to Lucian in S p, against the one to Lucillius of AP, Maltomini rightly observes that the value of the divergence is somewhat weakened by the fact that the names of the two epigrammatists are very similar. AP and APl actually document a common confusion of lemmata when the two names are involved, due to paleographical similarity, as first pointed out by W. Engel, De quibusdam anthologiae Graecae epigrammatis commentatio (Elberfeldae 1875) p. 9, and some scholars went so far as to conclude that none of the epigrams given to Lucian in the Anthology are really his;5 whatever one thinks of this, the difference in ascription, when Lucian and Lucillius are involved, is hardly telling.

Information collected by Maltomini regarding place and time of compilation of each collection, identity of scribes/compilers, choice of epigrammatic genres, juxtaposition of epigrams to other types of texts (especially gnomic and moral literature), is important from the general point of view of cultural history, and offers a solid foundation on which to build future studies of the history of modern reception of Greek epigram.

The book will also give an impulse to revaluate the syllogae minores as a whole: modern editions of these minor collections are badly needed, especially considering that some of them contain much un-Cephalan material. A new edition of the Sylloge Parisina, for instance, with its sixteen epigrams absent from both AP and APl, for which Cougny, with all its limits, is still basically the reference edition, would be particularly welcome.


1. Usually acknowledged by scholars after J. Basson, De Cephala et Planude syllogisque minoribus (Berlin 1917), and the most recent re-statement by A. Cameron, The Greek Anthology from Meleager to Planudes (Oxford 1993).

2. C. Gallavotti, Planudea, in “BollClass” 7, 1959, pp. 49-50.

3. As I had the chance to verify independently myself: cfr. L. Floridi, Stratone di Sardi Epigrammi (Alessandria 2007) p. 356 n. 218.

4. J. A. Cramer, Anecdota Graeca e codd manuscriptis Bibliothecae Regiae Parisiensis, IV (Oxonii 1841) p. 385; L. Sternbach, Anthologiae Planudeae Appendix Barberino-Vaticana (Lipsiae 1890) p. 12.

5. G. Setti, Gli epigrammi di Luciano (Torino 1892).

1.It is my pleasure to thank Elton Barker for checking my English.