BMCR 2019.10.38

In dialogo con Omero. Consulta universitaria del Greco, 2

, In dialogo con Omero. Consulta universitaria del Greco, 2. Pisa; Roma: Fabrizio Serra Editore, 2018. 121. ISBN 9788833150376. €38,00 (pb).

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

The Consulta universitaria del Greco is evidently a planned series of seminars, of which this is the second volume (the first concerned Hellenistic poetry and prose). This volume is the result of a seminar held at “La Sapienza” in Rome in 2017 with six papers on very varying topics with a bearing on Homer, not so much passages in Homer himself as on the treatment of points in Homer by later authors including Sophocles and Synesius. The volume consists only of a preface and the papers; the lively discussions referred to in the preface are not included.

The first piece, by Elena Langella, concerns Epeius, the person mentioned a few times in the Odyssey as the constructor of the Trojan horse and a few times in the Iliad as a participant in the funeral games of Patroclus, with a good result in the boxing and a less good result in the discus throwing. Although there is no conclusive evidence it has always been assumed that the two persons, of which the athlete has a patronymic and a Phocian origin while the horse-builder has neither, are identical. The possible etymology of the name is discussed, and the occurrences of Epeius in later literature (rather strange) and art are given. Of particular interest is an Archaic relief from Samothrace with Agamemnon together with the herald Talthybius and possibly Epeius (only Epe is preserved of the name).

The second chapter, by Isabella Nova, concerns the famous duel between Hector and Ajax following the challenge by the former. The motif of two warriors is common in vase-paintings, and already from the 7 th century B.C. there are paintings with the names of the warriors in question. The article is illustrated with five Attic red-figure vase-paintings (the only illustrations in the book). Much of the article deals with references to the event in later works, especially the tragedies of Sophocles, and much interest is shown the fatal exchange of gifts by the warriors — Hector’s sword and Ajax’s girdle — in connection with the duel. The fatal results of the gifts for the receivers, mentioned by later authors although not referred to by Homer, are also stressed.

The third paper, by Giacomo Scavello, deals with the Homeric background of three passages in the choral parts of Sophocles’ Ajax. The first is when the chorus begins to be optimistic about Ajax’s mental state and hopeful concerning his recovery, and the phrase αἰνὸν ἄχος, (“un terribile dolore”— a metrical variation of Homer’s ἄχος αἰνόν) is used in the antistrophe. The second part of the article deals with Ajax’s killing the cattle of the Greeks ‘with flashing sword’, αἴθωνι σιδήρῳ, and the comparison of the huge shield of Ajax with a tower and of Ajax himself with the defense tower, πύργου ῥῦμα, of the Greeks, used in both the Iliad and the Odyssey.

The fourth piece, by Martina Savio, is a synthesis of the author’s doctoral thesis of 2018. It consists of three parts, text, footnotes and bibliography, approximately equal in size. It deals with allegoresis, i.e. the allegorical interpretation of myths, in this case especially in the poetic texts of Homer and Hesiodos. The phenomenon was common from Archaic times to the Byzantine era, and many authors from different periods are mentioned as is the Derveni papyrus, but hardly any passage in Homer is referred to.

The fifth paper, by Maria Consiglia Alvino, deals with quotations from Homer in the works of Synesius of Cyrene, a subject that has never been the object of a concise study. Even here the whole production of the Cyrenaic bishop is not taken into account: only the prose opuscula, not the Christian hymns or the epistles. The six works examined contain more than 40 quotations, most of them in On Kingship and Praise of Baldness. Many of the passages had been discussed earlier by authors such as Dio Chrysostom, Aelius Aristides, Chrysippus, Galen, and Eusebius, who are also mentioned by Synesius.

The last paper, by Francesco Plebani, deals with interpretations of passages in the Iliad by Georgios Pachymeres, who at the end of the 13 th century wrote an extensive Byzantine history as a continuation of the work of Georgios Acropolites. A number of Iliad scholia in a manuscript dated to 1275/6 are ascribed to him. They concern mostly the 7 th book which contains the duel between Hector and Ajax. No doubt this event could be seen as an example of the philhellenism of Homer since the description of the duel makes it clear that Ajax gets the upper hand. But the few passages mentioned in the article are from the beginning of the book and hardly examples of philhellenism: the deeds of Paris, Hector and Glaucos before the duel, the discussion between Athena and Apollo on whether to bring aid to the parties or put an end to the battle, and finally the challenge put forth by Hector.

The number of ancient authors dealing with and commenting on Homer is great and the small selection in this book indeed displays a wide range of them. No doubt we shall see more collections of similar studies dealing with Homer in the future.

Table of Contents

Elena Langella, “Il personaggio omerico di Epeo: dall’etimologia del nome all’individuazione delle prerogative”
Isabella Nova, “Ettore e Aiace dopo Omero: la tradizione del dono fatale”
Giacomo Andrea Antonio Scavello, “Tre riprese omeriche nei corali dell’ Aiace di Sofocle”
Martina Savio, “‘A scuola’ da Omero: letture allegoriche dei poemi e divulgazione scientifica nell’antichità”
Maria Consiglia Alvino, “Le citazioni omeriche negli opuscoli di Sinesio di Cirene”
Francesco Plebani, “Il filellenismo di Omero nell’esegesi di Giorgio Pachimere all’ Iliade