BMCR 2012.05.52

From Scholars to Scholia: Chapters in the History of Ancient Greek Scholarship. Trends in Classics – Supplementary Volumes 9

, , From Scholars to Scholia: Chapters in the History of Ancient Greek Scholarship. Trends in Classics – Supplementary Volumes 9. Berlin; New York: De Gruyter, 2011. xi, 205. ISBN 9783110251623. $112.00.


As the editors observe in their Preface, there has been a growing interest in the field of ancient scholarship (ancient commentaries, scholia, textual criticism and exegesis, the study of the Greek and Latin philologists), especially in the course of the twentieth century, and in particular in the past two decades. This volume should be read closely with the preceding supplement 8 in the Trends in Classics series (Stephanos Matthaios, Franco Montanari and Antonios Rengakos (edd.). Ancient scholarship and grammar: archetypes, concepts and contexts. Trends in classics – supplementary volumes, 8. Berlin; New York: De Gruyter, 2011; cf. also BMCR 2012.03.30). The book comprises five essays, a bibliography, a general index, and a list of contributors. All five essays cover a wide range of topics, at times to form a cohesive whole, from the ekdosis of literary texts, to ancient linguistic theories, to the use of scholiastic corpora in the Roman world for propaganda purposes. But as is the case with edited volumes, the selection of essays with a very specific focus will often appear idiosyncratic in nature.

The first essay by Franco Montanari (“Correcting a Copy, Editing a Text. Alexandrian Ekdosis and Papyri”, 1- 15) explores the process of producing an ekdosis in Alexandria. The author considers the text produced and published both as a library artefact and as an object of editing, that is, the text together with the annotations that accompany it. By looking at P.Oxy. 2404 and P.Laur. III/278 (Aeschines’ Against Ctesiphon), Montanari privileges the ancient philologist’s crucial role not only in emending texts where deemed necessary, without caring much for the support of the textual tradition, but also in correcting texts by comparing different copies and choosing from variants. The author emphasizes that the combination of these two practices results in the “mutual dependency of textual criticism and textual interpretation” (15).

The following article by Lara Pagani (“Pioneers of Grammar. Hellenistic Scholarship and the Study of Language”, 17- 64) investigates the fascinating topic of linguistic theory in the ancient Greek world, that is, how Hellenistic philologists understand the term γραμματικὴ τέχνη, and what role they play with regard to the birth of technical grammar. Did the Alexandrians have a system of grammatical rules? Pagani offers a detailed overview of the scholarship on ancient grammar since the early nineteenth century (Classen and Lersch to Friedländer, Steinthal, Barwick, Di Benedetto, Erbse, Ax, and most recently Matthaios, among others). The author supports the idea that philology and grammar intersect, inasmuch as Hellenistic scholars are equally concerned with the exegesis of the text as with a structured grammatical system that contributes to textual criticism.

In the third essay of the volume (“The Greek origins of the Romans and the Roman Origins of Homer in the Homeric Scholia and in P.Oxy. 3710”, 65-86), Paola Ascheri looks at the Homeric Scholia and P.Oxy. 3710, a commentary on Odyssey 20, dating to the second century CE, in order to examine the nature of the idea circulating from the third century BCE onwards, and especially during Augustan times, that the Romans have a Greek origin (from Arcadia), a view promoted, for instance, by Dionysius of Halicarnassus. Of course if the Romans trace their origins back to the Greek, the implication is that Latin also derives from Greek. The papyrus commentator discusses Od. 20.155-6 and points to the connection between the Greek ταλασιουργία and the Roman custom of spinning wool, assigned to female slaves. Thus the scholiast discerns a clear association between the two cultures and traces it back to Homer: such practice exists at the palace in Ithaca and continues in the Roman world throughout the centuries. The Romans are fashioned as proud descendants of the Greeks, while at the same time, Augustan propaganda underscores the Roman origins of Homer, in a unitary vision of the Greco-Roman world. Roman imperialism thus acquires greater significance and justification: the new conquerors of the world share very much in common with the conquered, such as common heritage, language, and culture.

The fourth article by Silvia Consonni (“Observations on Περὶ ἐπιρρημάτων by Apollonius Dyscolus”, 87-104) discusses the definition of ἐπίρρημα (“adverb”) by Apollonius Dyscolus, as the part of speech that precedes the verb. Clearly, however, Apollonius is aware of the linguistic structure and usage of adverbs as postpositive, a use which he deems incorrect. At the same time, Apollonius classifies the postpositive usage of adverbs as πάθος (“pathological variant”), not ἁμαρτία (“error”) and thus approves it as an acceptable anomaly.

The final contribution by Fausto Montana (“The Making of Greek Scholiastic Corpora”, 104-162), the longest in the volume, offers a detailed overview and new insights concerning the genesis of scholiography, which has traditionally been dated back to late antiquity. Montana claims that we should distinguish between marginal annotations, which do not necessarily constitute a “corpus of scholia” and the scholiastic corpora devoted to the Greek authors of profane literature from the ninth century CE onwards. Thus Montana defines a corpus of scholia as “an exegetic editio variorum, designed to be made up in an orderly way alongside or around the text commented upon” (107). Montana then distinguishes between multifaceted materials, such as hypomnemata, syngrammata, lexeis in the margins of the editions of texts, and the corpus of scholia, that is, “the long-term selection, conservation, and safeguarding of the exegetic heritage” (111). The author provides a detailed overview of the scholarship and the status quaestionis. Montana finally allows that the question of the origin of scholiastic corpora is an open one and depends on specific individual cases, and therefore any conclusions must remain cautionary.

There are a few typos, mostly self-explanatory (and some Greek breathings/accents misplaced or missing), but overall the volume is produced well. From my personal experience of having led a graduate student workshop on ancient scholia and scholarship last semester, I can testify to the usefulness of the essays in this volume. This is a book to be consulted by scholars and students alike.