BMCR 2012.02.26

Fragments of Old Comedy, Volume I: Alcaeus to Diocles. Loeb classical library, 513

Ian C. Storey, Fragments of Old Comedy, Volume I: Alcaeus to Diocles. Loeb classical library, 513. Cambridge, MA; London: Harvard University Press, 2011. xlvi, 449. ISBN 9780674996625 $24.00.

Preview, vol. I

Preview, vol. II

Preview, vol. III

An edition of Old Comedy’s fragmentary material accompanied by an English translation has long been a desideratum for classicists in general and in particular for those among us who have a special interest in fragments. Kassel’s and Austin’s key edition of Poetae Comici Graeci marked a crucial step towards a better and fuller understanding of fragmentarily surviving Greek Comedy; Storey’s three-volume edition marks another.

In these three volumes Storey anthologizes—in alphabetic order—the ensemble of Old Comedy’s poets (that is, fifty- eight of them in total), whose fragments he edits and translates. He opens vol. I with a brief “Preface” (vii-x), where he outlines his methodology. In the following “Introduction” (xvii-xlii) he succinctly deals with the threefold division of Greek Comedy, runs through various salient issues concerning Old Comedy, and discusses the period’s main trends and tendencies, as represented by the individual poets. Before proceeding to the fragments themselves, Storey includes a final prefatory section entitled “About Old Comedy” (2-41), where he presents a number of testimonia (both Greek text and English translation), which highlight numerous aspects of Old Comedy’s history and nature.

In the rest of vol. I, in vol. II, and in the largest part of vol. III, we are presented with the entire corpus of fragments from Old Comedy. Storey prefaces each poet with both an introduction and a selection of testimonia; for the latter both the Greek text and an English translation are provided. Each play is also preceded by an introduction and testimonia (where available). The numbering of fragments coincides with Kassel’s and Austin’s (which is of great convenience for quick and easy cross-references), but the numbering of the testimonia does not, since Storey enriches this section with his own additions. I consider Storey’s introductions to individual plays to be particularly edifying, for they regularly include attempts to reconstruct the play’s plot, multiple parallels (e.g. antecedents and other germane cases), dating information, as well as various suggestions—put forward either by Storey himself or by other scholars—towards identifying the play’s title-figure and / or other named characters. The reader’s apprehension of the comic material is further promoted by a number of methodological tools introduced by Storey, such as the “Recent bibliography” section, where he includes the most up-to-date bibliographical information for individual poets and plays, or his policy to provide interpretative notes on obscure passages. Additionally, a concise critical apparatus is provided wherever the different readings drastically affect the fragment’s meaning. Particularly praiseworthy is Storey’s effective handling of comic material surviving on papyri; I am specifically thinking of the way he handles the cases of Cratinus Πλοῦτοι fr. 171, Eupolis Δῆμοι frr. 99-101, Μαρικᾶς fr. 192, Προσπάλτιοι fr. 259, etc., where he achieves a sensible rendering of these badly mutilated papyri scraps. Laudable is also his attempt to assign most of Eupolis’ unassigned fragments (II.236-265).

Having exhausted the alphabetic list of Old Comic poets with Xenophon in vol. III, Storey proceeds to the analysis of the adespota. From among the thousands of adespota included in Kassel and Austin VIII, Storey scrupulously selects, edits, and translates those that can be securely assigned to Old Comedy (“Comic adespota”: III.362-391). He then continues with the adespota that survive on papyri scraps and enlists them in a separate section (“Comic papyri”: III.392-423). There follows a valuable addition; this is the “Old Comedy on vases” section (III.425-451). Storey has meticulously scouted Beazley’s and Trendall’s works,1 as well as other vase-collections, in search for vases depicting—with all probability—scenes from Old Comedy. He selects twenty-six such cases (though some entries, e.g. V 11, accommodate more than one vases, so the total is somewhat higher), including some famous vases (e.g. the “ Chorēgoi vase”: V 10) and some less well-known ones (e.g. V 14), all of which definitely enhance the reader’s perception of Old Comedy. Storey deals with each vase extensively; he cites recent bibliography and possible dating, engages in a detailed analysis and discussion of individual scenes, and communicates to the reader the various scholarly views regarding the possible identification of each vase-scene (cf. e.g. V 7, V 26, etc.). Volume III concludes with three handy and reader-friendly indexes: a) Kōmōidoumenoi, b) Geographical names, c) Mythological names and subjects.

In terms of content, this is admittedly an outstanding edition. Regarding the organizing of these volumes, however, I have one major objection. This concerns Storey’s strategy in relation to what he calls “Brief fragments”. According to his programmatic statement in vol. I (viii), when a particular fragment consists of a single word or phrase, he omits the Greek text and provides simply an English translation under “Brief fragments”. However, since the present edition was meant to be an edition of fragments, then fragments themselves ought to be given priority and utmost attention, at the expense of literally anything else; even if this might mean shorter introductions to individual poets or fewer testimonia ( should space restrictions be an issue). I would very much like to see the Greek word for a “brief fragment”, even in parenthesis. But as it stands, the mere presence of an English translation is practically pointless. For example, Eupolis and Pherecrates have one and a half pages of “brief fragments” each (II.265-266 and II.519-520 respectively), which end up being tiresome enumerations of isolated and—hence meaningless—English words and phrases. Let me present some concrete examples. For Alcaeus fr. 6 Storey simply provides the translation “queen”, whereas one might wish to know that Alcaeus chose to employ specifically the term βασίλισσα, and not βασίλεια nor βασιλίς nor βασίλιννα. Phrynichus the Atticist, our ancient source, has purposely singled out Alcaeus’ choice explicitly for its peculiarity; he notes: ( Ecl. 197) βασίλισσα οὐδεὶς τῶν ἀρχαίων εἶπεν, ἀλλὰ βασίλεια ἢ βασιλίς, and further down ( o.c. 231) βασίλισσαν· Ἀλκαῖόν φασι τὸν κωμῳδοποιὸν καὶ Ἀριστοτέλην ἐν τοῖς Ὁμήρου ἀπορήμασιν εἰρηκέναι … τοῖς πλείοσιν οὖν πειθόμενοι βασίλειαν ἢ βασιλίδα λέγωμεν· οὕτω γὰρ ἂν διακρίνειν δόξαιμεν τό τε καλὸν καὶ τὸ αἰσχρόν (cf. Kassel and Austin ad loc.). Storey’s readers simply learn that Alcaeus happened to use the word “queen” in his Ganymede, i.e. a piece of information that is relatively useless when not put into context, that is when not accompanied by the original Greek text. Hence, the reader misses out on this very detail, i.e. the fact that Alcaeus chose deliberately to use the rare term βασίλισσα, instead of the commoner ones βασίλεια or βασιλίς. I do not mean to suggest that the full text of the ancient source for each “brief fragment” should necessarily have been included in Storey’s edition; but even the simple quotation of the Greek word or phrase that is being translated would have made much more sense to the reader. Cf. Ameipsias fr. 39 where one really would like to know what the Greek word for a “bag for bedclothes” is (the reader needs to look up Kassel and Austin to find out that it is στρωματόδεσμος). Besides, the fact that more information is required to get the full meaning out of the “Brief fragments” becomes self-evident in cases where Storey accompanies the translation with a short note; e.g. Hermippus fr. 17: “pump” (translating the Greek term αὐτοσχεδές), where Storey adds the note of a woman’s shoe (fr. preserved by Poll. 7.89: αὐτοσχεδὲς δὲ ὑπόδημα τὸ ἁπλῶς εἰργασμένον Ἕρμιππος εἴρηκεν); or else, Eupolis Κόλακες fr. 184: “foot heifers” (translating πεζὰς μόσχους), which Storey supplements with the note prostitutes. The reader could have made better sense out of this metaphor, if he had been given both the ancient text and context, i.e. Phot. π p. 404.16-19: πεζὰς μόσχους: ἀντὶ τοῦ ἑταίρας … τὰς χωρὶς ὀργάνων. The information contained in the “brief fragments” may seem petty to anyone who takes little or no interest in fragments . But for those really dedicated to the study of fragments, no matter how tiny they are, Storey’s scanty treatment of these “Brief fragments” comes as a downright disappointment.

A few minor comments. For practical reasons, the references to Athenaeus should have included the book number (e.g. “Ath. 7.307f” instead of simply “Ath. 307f”; this is adesp. fr. 112) Thus, one would know instantly which volume to grab from the shelf—since not all volumes of Olson’s new edition of Athenaeus have paragraph numbering printed on their backs.

There are a few translation infelicities; e.g., Eupolis fr. 407 ἀνεπτερῶσθαι τὴν ψυχήν is translated as “that the soul has taken flight”. However, the verb ἀναπτερόομαι means to be in a state of eager expectation and not something like ἀναπέτομαι ( fly away). Hence, the translation should have been “the soul is excited / put on the tiptoe of expectation” (cf. LSJ 9 s.v. ἀναπτερόω). By the way, Eupolis fr. 407 is identical with Cratinus fr. 379, where Storey provides the more accurate translation “to have one’s heart aflutter”.

Unfortunately, a disproportionately large number of typographical errors have slipped the proof-readers’ attention. To mention but a few examples: Autocrates fr. 1 (consisting of ten lines) contains four typos (πάρθενοι for παρθένοι, κἀνακρουουσαι misses the acute accent, χέροιν for χεροῖν, and κίγλος for κίγκλος); the name Chionides (in capitals) is printed with an omicron (ΧΙΟΝΙΔΗΣ) instead of an omega (ΧΙΩΝΙΔΗΣ) on the poet’s introductory page (I.192); in II.82 the second half of a Latin testimonium, which continues from the previous page, is printed with Greek characters and the resulting text is indecipherable.

All in all, however, this edition of Old Comic fragments is a welcome addition to the world of classics. In a second edition, the “Brief fragments” section might be given a more useful shape; but apart from that, this is a comprehensive and all-encompassing work; the introductions, the bibliographies, the notes, the apparatuses, the treatment of the papyrus fragments, the vase-section, have all been conscientiously and assiduously composed; and so these volumes will serve as an immensely useful tool for both scholars and students for a considerable time. Storey is to be highly commended for bringing this intricate task to completion.


1. Bibliography cited by Storey III.427: J. D. Beazley, Attic Red-Figure Vase-Painters, 2nd ed. (Oxford 1963); A. D. Trendall, Phlyax Vases, 2nd ed. (London 1967) [ BICS Supp. 19]; etc.