BMCR 2014.12.27

Scholies à Pindare, Volume I: Vies de Pindare et scholies à la première Olympique. “Un chemin de paroles” (O. I, 110). Institut des sciences et techniques de l’Antiquité

, , , , Scholies à Pindare, Volume I: Vies de Pindare et scholies à la première Olympique. "Un chemin de paroles" (O. I, 110). Institut des sciences et techniques de l'Antiquité. Besançon: Presses universitaires de Franche-Comté, 2013. 498. ISBN 9782848674650 €38.00 (pb).

Several genres of ancient literature have seen a much-deserved resurgence of interest in the last few decades: one need only think of post-Augustan Latin poetry or the Greek novel. As a (small) flurry of recent publications suggests, perhaps the time has come for ancient scholarship, and specifically for scholia to ancient authors, to enjoy a similar fate. Translations of scholiastic corpora have an essential role to play in broadening access to them beyond the circle of specialists who are familiar with their workings, idiosyncrasies, and peculiar language. Some such translations have begun to be published, at least on the Greek side: in French, the scholia to Aristophanes’ Frogs and Plutus by Marcel Chantry and to Apollonius of Rhodes by Guy Lachenaud (Paris 2009 and 2010 respectively); in Italian, the scholia to Aeschylus by Ilaria Ramelli and to Hesiod by Cesare Cassanmagnago (Milan, both 2009). The volume under review, the work of a team based at the Université de Franche-Comté in Besançon, represents the first complete translation of the scholia vetera to Pindar’s first Olympian into any modern language, as Michel Briand remarks in his preface (p. 10).

After the preface (9-13), the volume falls into three sections: a general introduction by Cécile Daude (15-45) sketching the history of the scholia, their transmission, their interests and style, and the principles followed in the present publication; an introduction, text, translation, and commentary (in the form of end-notes) to the three Lives of Pindar transmitted by medieval manuscripts as well as the few shorter texts which accompany them in Drachmann’s edition, with Philostratus’ εἰκών of Pindar as a further Annexe (47-173); and an introduction, text, translation, and commentary to the scholia to the first Olympian (175-451). Sadly but perhaps understandably, the metrical scholia—presumably the likeliest to befuddle the uninitiated reader—are excluded.1

The basic principle of the translation is laid out in the introduction: “toujours essayer, si le français s’en accommode, de traduire de telle façon que le lecteur averti puisse reconnaître le texte grec” (21, cf. 216, emphasis original). The outcome is, as a rule, closely faithful to the original, but at the same time clear and highly readable. Recurrent words and expressions tend to be translated with reassuring consistency; after a few pages one feels one could truly guess the Greek from the French. Translation-wise the Besançon team has done a very good job.

Occasions for disagreement with their choices are few and relatively minor. τῶν αὐτῶν μέμνηνται πράξεων at Vita Ambrosiana 2.22-3 more probably indicates that Simonides and Pindar ‘mention the same events’ (a staple of their synchronism) than that they “font mention de leurs activités” (61);2 παρθενικάων at Vita metrica 29 is not a synonym of παρθεναίων (65); in the epigram on the nine lyricists, 9 ἠέ stands for ἤ not ἠδέ, and “est en grande distinction chez les Lydiens” for 19 ἐν Λυδοῖσι μέγα πρέπει is somewhat misleading (67); at 5d, ἆθλα must mean ‘contests’ not ‘prizes’, cf. 5c (189); at 35d, ἐτυμολογεῖται ἀπό means not ‘the etymology comes from’ but ‘the etymology is said to come from’ (195, cf. 313);3 etc. In schol. 174a, a negative has disappeared: “si éventuellement le bonheur te fait défaut” (212). Translating the end-title as “Fin (de l’ode) du Thébain (Pindare) pour Hiéron” is a gallant but rather unsuccessful attempt to make sense of a corrupt text (213).

The Greek text relies on Drachmann’s (Leipzig 1903),4 but the editors make their own choices, whether by accepting or refusing his deletions or by promoting variants or conjectures from his apparatus into the text. In a few cases the change is significant, such as Drachmann’s θετόν for τόν at Vita Vaticana 4.10 (62, cf. 136-8) or CD’s highly dubious τυπικῶς for τοπικῶς at schol. 118 (205, cf. 390-2). Beside this last example, interventions are generally for the better, and more might have been made. Mommsen’s Κρόνου <παῖδα> at 16b, which the editors endorse (191, cf. 273-4), was worth promoting to the text; an easy corruption goes unspotted at 19a (191, cf. 277-9: read ἐναντία);5 the choice to retain without daggers or comment the impossible ἐνδεδεγμένους at Vita metrica 27 is perplexing (65), as is τῆς Κάδμου βασιλείας at Vita Ambrosiana 3.2 (61, cf. 102-3, which misses the problem entirely). There is no apparatus, but deviations from Drachmann are signalled in the footnotes, and the most important ones are discussed in the commentary.

The commentary to the scholia aims to investigate “les attitudes (…) les réactions morales et affectives, la démarche, le mode opératoire des commentateurs qui se sont interessés au texte de Pindare” (27). In practice, it entwines elucidations of individual annotations with leisurely explorations of related topics, from recurrent expressions in the scholiastic jargon to important subjects in ancient criticism and interpretations of Pindar’s own text. There is much that is of value and several interesting points on matters of detail, such as nn. 19 (245-7, on νῦν), 39 (283-4, on schol. 20c-d), 86 (351, on 80b), and 111 (403, on O. 1.86). One explanation I genuinely miss is on καί embedding explanatory synonymy (‘i.e.’) in a paraphrastic passage, a frequent and potentially confusing usage which the editors do not acknowledge openly (e.g. schol. 184a ἐν ὕψει καὶ εὐδαιμονίαι, cf. 185). Reference is often made to ancient literary and linguistic criticism, lexica, and the like, but comparison of ideas and modes of thought across the Pindar scholia themselves is not attempted systematically. An index to notes on the scholiasts’ idiolect (ἀκουστέον, ἄλλως, ἀντὶ τοῦ, etc.) usefully enables the commentary to double as a reference work (473-8).

Comments are not exempt from occasional overinterpretation. In inscriptio a, γράφων (said of Bacchylides) is rendered as “peignant” and prompts a four-page digression on “la comparaison de la poésie ou du logos avec la peinture”, whose connexion to the text appears rather thin (186, cf. 217-220); in schol. 113, the mere glossing of O. 1.70 εὔδοξον as συνετήν is said to lend Pindar “le souci d’explorer aussi l’âme féminine” (386); on 131f, much is made of the writer’s personal involvement in a first person plural designating humankind in general (401-2). In the epigram on the pentathlon, μία δ᾽ ἔπλετο πᾶσι τελευτή (signifying, I presume, that the five contests produce a single overall result) becomes “une allusion pessimiste à la vanité de toute gloire” (52) and a “ memento mori ” (161).

In the introduction to the Lives, the editors remark that “désormais, il ne s’agit plus de rechercher uniquement parmi les récits biographiques les indices d’une historicité fiable (…) on s’interroge avant tout sur ce que ces récits nous apprennent quant à la représentation que les Anciens avaient de leurs poètes et du rôle social de ceux-ci” (48). This principle is largely followed, but at times the editors place considerable faith in the historicity of certain anecdotes: they wonder which of Pindar’s daughters was the one involved in the fourth apophthegm (121) and take the fifth at its word on Pindar’s alleged weakness of voice, which they explore at length and intriguingly relate to “une tradition hippocratique et péripatéticienne concernante la mélancolie créatrice” (125-30). This is not limited to the Lives : the editors also accept the scholiast’s claim that the reference to Archilochus in P. 2 is a jab at Bacchylides (358 n. 227). However, the commentary is instructive and contains several insightful points of interpretation, such as nn. 9 (89-90, on the posthumous hymn to Demeter), 38 (150-1, on Pindar’s supposed brother), and 42 (157, on Vita metrica 15).

Readers might wonder at the exclusion of that most scholarly of ancient Pindaric biographies, P.Oxy. 2438. Only published in 1961, it was obviously unknown to Drachmann, but rightfully belongs in any modern edition of Pindar’s Lives. Here, it turns up occasionally in the commentary but is not reprinted, translated, or discussed in its own right except for two rather general paragraphs in the introduction (54-5); even its well-known value as a term of comparison for the other Lives is only briefly explored (e.g. 148-9).

A certain bibliographical thriftiness transpires here and there in the volume,6 but becomes particularly acute with the Lives. Several relevant pieces of scholarship are ignored altogether, such as Jules Labarbe and Italo Gallo on the epigram εἰς τοὺς ἐννέα λυρικούς,7 Luigi Lehnus on the hymns to Demeter and Pan cited by the Vita Ambrosiana and on Scopelinus as Pindar’s ‘father’,8 Monica Negri on the treatment of Pindar’s chronology in P.Oxy. 2438 and the other Lives,9 and Enrico Magnelli on the dating of the Vita metrica.10 Other works are only cited second-hand, mostly through Flore Kimmel-Clauzet (49 n. 10, 51 nn. 16-17, 54 n. 22, 68 n. 5, etc.);11 one reference is quoted verbatim from Mary Lefkowitz (123 n. 163). Readers interested in Pindar’s ancient biographies and related materials will doubtlessly benefit from the commentary in this book, but will have much independent supplementation to do.

The volume suffers from a few oddities too. The choice not to update (not even in the translation) the fragment numbers given by Drachmann is bizarre: fragments discussed in the commentary are given a modern number there, but with the others, the unsuspecting reader is effectively stuck somewhere between the mid-1800s and 1903, and without as much as an editor’s name for guidance. Citations of lexica are often erratic in format; the same is occasionally true of fragments. Ms. Parisinus 2403 is sometimes called P after Drachmann, sometimes V after Mommsen. Actual mistakes are few and inconsequential,12 but the nonchalant attribution of two Anacreontea to the historical Anacreon catches the eye (168).

Typos are not many and tend to concern quotations in foreign languages; otherwise the book is well produced and gracefully printed. The writing is clear, elegant, often humorous, and overall a pleasure to read. Despite the shortcomings noted above, the commentary rewards careful study, and the translation of the scholia is as serviceable as can be. The preface describes the volume as “le premier d’une série qu’on espère nombreuse” (13): as it covers little over 56 of Drachmann’s 970 pages of Greek, at this rate we can look forward to some sixteen more. Bring them on!


1. Of these there is an Italian translation and commentary by E. R. Martino, Gli scolî metrici antichi alle Olimpiche di Pindaro. Trento 1999.

2. See M. R. Lefkowitz, The Lives of the Greek Poets. London 2012 2 (Baltimore 1981 1): 146.

3. Likewise, schol. O. 6.90d τὸν Ἴαμον ἐτυμολογεῖ means ‘he suggests an etymology for Iamos’s name’, not “il donne son sens au nom d’Iamos” (315).

4. Unfortunately P.Oxy. 5201, the only known commentary to O. 1 on papyrus, was not published until after the volume under review.

5. Cf. Greg. Cor. p. 462 Schaefer (a reference I owe to Giuseppe Ucciardello) and the discussion at 278-9.

6. E.g. 39 n. 74, 82 n. 42, 294 n. 144, 324 n. 191.

7. AC 37 (1968) 449-66; QUCC 17 (1974) 91-112.

8. SCO 22 (1973) 5-11; L’inno a Pan di Pindaro. Milano 1979; RIL 111 (1977) 78-82.

9. Atti del XXII Congresso Internazionale di Papirologia. Firenze 2001: II, 1033-43.

10. Prometheus 32 (2006) 267-83. All these were included in the Pindaric bibliographies published in Lustrum 31 (1989), 32 (1990), or 52 (2010), as applicable.

11. Morts, tombeaux et cultes des poètes grecs. Bordeaux 2013 (the editors cite from the thesis version, 2010).

12. E.g. Drachmann does not use square brackets to supplement scribal omissions (41); schol. P. 3.139a does not also transmit the end of the hymn to Pan (85); in the Vita Ambrosiana, the details of Pindar’s private life and the list of his works are not in “[u]ne même phrase”, unless the entire text is taken as one (103); in Paus. 9.10.4 Heracles is daphnephoros, not Amphitryon (105); the Skolia may actually be attested in the list of Pindar’s works in P.Oxy. 2438, see Gallo in QUCC 8 (1969) 105-12 (293); there is no evidence that Alcman PMGF 77 actually preceded 79 or was in any way connected with it (366); Drachmann’s “dist.” presumably means distinguit not a “ distermina linea ” (392).