BMCR 2018.10.14

Scholia vetera in Sophoclis Oedipum Coloneum. Sammlung griechischer und lateinischer Grammatiker, Band 18

, Scholia vetera in Sophoclis Oedipum Coloneum. Sammlung griechischer und lateinischer Grammatiker, Band 18. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2018. xxiii, 252. ISBN 9783110447330. €79,95.


Editions of the plays of Sophocles are ten a penny; editions of the ancient scholia to those dramas, by contrast, turn up far less often. The most recent complete edition is still that of P. N. Papageorgius, now 130 years old and showing its age; in particular, it relied wholly on the manuscript Laurentianus plut. 32.9 (L), which today is no longer regarded as the sole source of the text. Since then scholia to individual plays have been edited by Vittorio De Marco ( Oedipus at Colonus, 1951), Timothy Janz ( Philoctetes, 2004, an unpublished Oxford DPhil thesis), Georgios Christodoulou ( Ajax, 1977), and Georgios Xenis ( Electra and Trachiniae, both 2010). Xenis has now produced a further volume of scholia, this time from Oedipus at Colonus. It shows the same virtues as his previous two editions (see BMCR 2011.07.22), and can be warmly recommended to scholars and students.

After the Preface and Acknowledgements, a few pages are devoted to Sources and Bibliography. The Introduction follows, divided into sections on ‘The direct tradition’ (subdivided into ‘Overview’ and ‘The interrelation of the witnesses’), ‘The indirect tradition: the Suda’, and ‘Previous editions’ (subdivided into ‘Janus Lascaris’ and ‘Vittorio De Marco’). The Critical Text takes up the major part of the book: first the Hypotheses, then the Scholia. The book concludes with fully six indexes: ‘Scriptores in scholiis laudati’, ‘Verba de quibus scholia agunt’, ‘Grammatica’, ‘Rhetorica’, ‘Scaenica, ars tragica, histriones’, and ‘Nomina’).

Given that Oedipus at Colonus already had a post-Papageorgian edition, it might seem odd that Xenis has chosen to edit this set of scholia next, rather than those to Antigone or Oedipus the King. The reason for this, as Xenis recounts during his Introduction, is that while Vittorio De Marco’s edition did mark an advance on Papageorgius’s in some respects (not least in establishing the text on the basis of a broader recension of manuscripts), it is nevertheless flawed both by conceptual misunderstandings and by errors of fact. De Marco frequently misreports the manuscripts; he fails to notice good readings contained within them (readings that reflect conjectural activity rather than actual preservations, but which still require notice when the conjectures are good ones); he reports lemmata only from L, not from the other manuscripts, even when lemmata are missing in L; he fails to separate scholia consistently even when they can be demonstrated to be the result of the combination of diverse material; when L differs from the Roman family (the other independent branch of the tradition) he frequently makes the wrong choice of reading, missing innovatory tendencies in the Roman family that should put editors on their guard; he accepts features of later Greek into his text even when they more probably originate from later scribal error than from the scholiasts themselves; he fails to investigate the corpus of modern scholarship on the scholia and thus misses, or misattributes, important conjectures that have a good chance of being right.

Xenis illustrates all these points with exemplary clarity, giving just the right amount of information to demonstrate the problem in question without going too far. Occasionally his language gets a bit harsh — he refers to ‘the shocking number of errors’ (p. 6), ‘a shocking number of misreportings’ (p. 27), and remarks ‘such slovenliness is inexplicable’ (p. 38) — but this is counterbalanced by generous acknowledgement of the advances that De Marco’s makes (e.g. pp. 26, 30–2). Overall, this section is a model of how editors of any text can justify a decision to re-edit a text that has already received a critical edition; and students consulting the section would get a good idea of just what this kind of task demands. Redoing the scholia to Oedipus at Colonus, we may conclude, was certainly a worthwhile task; barring some extraordinary new find, it is hard to see that they will need to be done again.

The text itself is clearly and attractively presented. Each scholium has its own apparatus, in a font smaller than that of the main text but still clearly readable; this apparatus, especially in the case of the longer and more difficult scholia, often approaches the status of a textual commentary in miniature (e.g. 223, 700, 1061b), but without ever becoming long-winded. This marks an advance on Xenis’s two previous editions, whose apparatuses were generally more austere, and will only be of assistance to the reader.

A further feature of Xenis’s edition that deserves particular praise is the index. The five categories already found in the previous two editions are augmented by a sixth, ‘Nomina’; this greatly increases the accessibility of this material, and means that readers interested in (e.g.) actors in antiquity, ancient literary criticism, or ancient grammatical theory, can engage quickly with the most relevant material.

Three plays down, then; four to go. We may hope that Xenis completes this series with all speed, both as an end in itself, and as a spur to further scholarship. A reliable critical edition could be followed by a translation (into both English and modern Greek?), which would make Xenis’s achievement available to a still wider public, revealing just what the scholia have to offer both to interpreters of Sophocles and to students of the reception of his works.