BMCR 2021.01.06

Edilo, Epigrammi: introduzione, traduzione, testo critico e commento

, Edilo, Epigrammi: introduzione, traduzione, testo critico e commento. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2020. Pp. viii, 250. ISBN 9783110629620 $126.99.


Since the publication of the Milan Papyrus nearly two decades ago, Greek epigram has become an increasingly active field of study. Scholarly interest in the genre has manifested itself, in part, in a raft of new critical editions and commentaries on individual authors that have reassessed and supplemented the foundational work of D. L. Page and A. F. S. Gow, such as Antipater of Sidon, Asclepiades, Crinagoras, Dioscorides, and Nicarchos, to name only a selection.[1] In the book under review, Floridi has produced an excellent text and commentary on the early Hellenistic epigrammatist Hedylus. Though less well-known than his better attested contemporaries Posidippus and Asclepiades, Hedylus was, as Floridi demonstrates, an innovative contributor to the development of the genre. (Re)reading these poems with Floridi as a guide, one will come to appreciate Hedylus as a critical voice in contemporary aesthetic debates, a deft manipulator of generic expectations, and a trailblazer in satiric epigram, among other facets of the poet’s talents.

The volume consists of an introduction, text with accompanying translation, a detailed commentary, two appendices, a bibliography, three indices (verborum, locorum, and nominum et rerum notabilium), and a map of Cilicia Trachea and Cyprus.

The introduction includes all the necessary particulars for contextualizing Hedylus’ oeuvre and its textual transmission: his life, literary background, style and form, diction and meter, and the sources of his 12 securely attributed surviving epigrams and 2 dubia.[2] “Poco sia sa della vita Edilo” (p.1). Despite this, Floridi judiciously reconstructs (a version of) Hedylus’ life and works from our sparse sources: off-spring of poet(s?), Samian (or a descendant of Athenian cleruchs), poet at the Ptolemaic court. In the proem to his Corona (AP 4.1.45-46), Meleager grouped Hedylus with Posidippus and Ascelpiades, likely basing this association on chronological and artistic affinities. Were these “wild flowers” (l.45: ἄγρι᾽ ἀρούρης) plucked and bound together in a Soros, perhaps by Posidippus, as Reitzenstein proposed,[3] or even Hedylus himself?[4] Floridi offers a comprehensive and current overview of the status quaestionis, concluding that there is (to date) an absence of convincing evidence for Posidippus or Hedylus having edited and circulated a multi-authored collection of epigrams. That said, Hedylus doubtlessly was in conversation with the works of his contemporaries. These textual and thematic points of contact with Asclepiades (cf. 2 HE and 5 HE) and Posidippus as well as Callimachus, whom Hedylus possibly edited and whose poetry receives sustained and perceptive engagement in several epigrams, are a focus of Floridi in the commentary, and she helpfully summarizes and cross-references her findings here in the introduction.

The vagaries of textual transmission have not been kind to Hedylus. Only five epigrams (including Asclepiades HE 40) are transmitted in manuscripts to the Anthologia Graeca, whereas eight poems come down to us in the manuscripts of Athenaeus, several in quite corrupt condition. Floridi situates this pattern of transmission, in part, within the history of epigrammatic anthologization. In weaving his Corona of earlier epigrammatists, Meleager privileged erotic, dedicatory, and funerary epigrams, a selection criterion that has significantly shaped our understanding of the generic contours of Hellenistic epigram. While Hedylus, like his contemporaries Asclepiades and Posidippus, too composed epigrams in the erotic-sympotic mode, his singular contribution, as Floridi stresses, was the integration of this mode with a “vena scoptica molto marcata” (pg. 31). Hedylus’ “predilezione per le tematiche bacchiche e giocose” (pg. 32), often at the expense of comic stock characters such as the glutton, explains the citations of his epigrams in Athenaeus and affirms the existence of an early Hellenistic tradition of scoptic epigram. Floridi musters the recently published list of epigram incipits (“The Vienna Epigrams Papyrus”, CPR XXXIII) to support her larger claim for a Hellenistic tradition of scoptic epigram and further hypothesizes, given some linguistic and thematic points of contact with his corpus, that more Hedylus could be lurking within the list (pp.33-34).[5] More speculatively, Floridi suggests that Hedylus composed a number of poems on Ptolemaic subjects. 4 HE = Athen. 11.497d-e, celebrating the dedication of a rhyton at the Temple of Aphrodite-Arsinoe at Zephyrium, is a multi-faceted gem of a poem whose combination of formal experimentation, aesthetic discourse, and intercultural poetics, which Floridi lucidly explicates, makes one wish (or hope) that it is not a one-off.[6] Altogether, the complex history of Hedylus’ transmission is given a detailed treatment. In certain instances, however, the depth of discussion is not wholly merited. Floridi dedicates close to five pages (pp. 17-21) to the history and description of the apographa to P, only to conclude that “il contributo degli apografi…è sostanzialmente nullo” (21).

The remainder of the introduction includes sections summarizing Floridi’s studies of the epigrams’ form and structure, style, language, length of compositions, meter, and prosody. Each section is effectively cross-referenced with the detailed discussion and evidence in the body of the commentary.

Floridi has produced an authoritative text of Hedylus with an exhaustive critical apparatus and two appendices in which she collects single readings from the indirect tradition of the Suda and the apographa to P and Pl (p. 189) and modern conjectures (pp.189-90). Floridi is a judicious textual critic. 1 HE presents an especially thorny textual crux that significantly impacts the overall interpretation of the epigram. At line 3 Pl transmits Νικονόη συνεπέκπιε(ν) (P: Νικονόη σὺν ἔκπιε) [“Niconoe drank away”], which was printed by Jacobs and endorsed by Gutzwiller, who interprets the epigram as recounting a dedication to Priapus by Niconoe “who has been persuaded by large amounts of drink to remove her clothing.”[7] The reading of Pl introduces an anacoluthon into the syntax of the epigram (the list of objects in the nominative in the first couplet lack a verb and suddenly become the objects of this phrase) and transmits a unique triple compound of the verb, on which grounds Floridi places daggers around σὺν ἔκπιε (finding Stadtmüller’s συνεπήιεν unconvincing) and prints the dative Νικονόῃ proposed by Dubner. As a result, Floridi interprets the epigram as a dedication in commemoration of Niconoe’s victory at a beauty contest. In support of this reading, Floridi notes that the tripartite structure of the dedication matches those of 2 HE and 3 HE (see discussion below) and that the opening couplet’s list of items—awards rather than offerings— demonstrates a self-aware play with dedicatory conventions. Whether or not one agrees with Floridi’s interpretation of the text, she provides her reader (here and elsewhere) with all of the pertinent paleographic, linguistic, and literary evidence as well as previous scholarship to allow them to draw their own informed conclusions. The accompanying translations are clear and accomplish the stated goal of aiding in the text’s exegesis.

In the commentary itself, Floridi ably balances larger interpretive issues, explicated in the prefatory essays, with detailed excursus into points of language, form, sound patterns, generic background, and the editorial history of the text. Throughout her commentary, Floridi makes a well-considered and ultimately convincing case for Hedylus as a pivotal contributor to the development of Hellenistic book epigram, especially as it relates to the refashioning and expansion of the boundaries of the genre. In her treatments of 1 HE, 2 HE, and 3 HE, epigrams that all have female protagonists, Floridi excavates Hedylus’ experimentation with the conventions of dedicatory epigram. For example, 2 HE, a dedication to Aphrodite by the hetaira Aglaonice to commemorate the loss of her virginity to a certain Nicagoras and thus the start of her career, inverts the dedicatory topos of offerings made by sex workers upon their retirement. The erotic subject matter of the epigram, which explains its placement in book 5 of the Anthologia Graeca, contributes a second layer of inversion to the poem, one centered on literary tradition and the nature of love. The incorporation of Nicagoras and the use of οἶνος in the incipit links this epigram with Asclepiades AP 12.135 = 18 Sens, a sympotic epigram on a luckless-in-love Nicagoras. Whereas Asclepiades structures his epigram around wine, drunkenness, and heartbreak, Hedylus reworks these components to tell a tale of amatory success, creating a corrective companion piece that “suggerire, con ironic arguzia, la natura imprevedibile di amore, che condanna i suoi seguaci ad alterne fortune” (74).

Another important contribution is Floridi’s contextualization of Hedylus’ place in the history of scoptic epigram. Hedylus’ series of epigrams on gluttons (7-9 HE), transmitted in Athenaeus, repurpose and combine convivial repartee replete with mythic analogies, punning, and comic setpieces. 9 HE, for example, subjects the ravenous Clio to ribbing at the hands of her dining-mates, who joke that they can hardly stand to watch her eat a conger (γόγγρου) lest they turn to stone—for she is their Gorgon Medusa (ἡμετέρη σὺ Μέδουσα· λιθούμεθα πάντες ἀπλάτου[8] | οὐ Γοργοῦς, γόγγρου δ᾽ οἱ μέλεοι λοπάδι). Experimentation with the epigrammatic tradition is also appreciable. The command of dinner guests for Clio to provide a pledge—a girdle, earring or a token—in exchange for the conger incorporates a list of personal effects that echoes the dedication of similar items by women to gods. 11 HE, an attack on the incompetent physician Agis whose physical presence is enough to cause the demise of his patient, has potentially important implications for our understanding of the history of this comic trope and the development of scoptic epigram in general.[9] While P and Pl attribute the epigram to Hedylus, Gow and Page rejected Hedylean authorship on two grounds: i) the epigram is transmitted in a non-Meleagrean sequence of epigrams and ii) epigrams attacking physicians are only well-attested in later, imperial epigram.[10] Floridi dismantles both lines of argument: i) there are no Meleagrean sequences in Book 11 of the Anthologia Graeca from which this epigram could conceivably be isolated and other scoptic/satiric epigrams ascribed to Hellenistic authors are similarly located among later authors; ii) the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence and, moreover, physicians are attested as the target of satirical barbs in comedy. More provisionally, Floridi notes that the Vienna Epigrams Papyrus, which likely contains scoptic epigrams, transmits a partial epigram incipit that references a physician (CPR XXXIII col. VII, r. 7: Ἑρμογένης ὁ ἰατρός; cf. Lucillius AP 11.114 = 37 Floridi and AP 11.257 = 102 Floridi: Ἑρμογένην τὸν ἰατρόν), though one cannot reconstruct the theme and tone of the poem from this line.

The bibliography, divided into sections on reference works, earlier editions, commentaries and translations of the Anthologia Graeca and Athenaeus, and works cited, is extensive and up-to-date. In fact, Floridi offers us glimpses of the future of scholarly publications. She cites, with some regularity, works that were in-press at the time of the commentary’s publication.

This introduction, text, and commentary on Hedylus join Floridi’s other significant contributions to the editing and exegesis of Greek epigram.[11] The book is handsomely produced and meets the high standards of De Gruyter’s Texte und Kommentare series. Graduate students and scholars will benefit from the learning and sober judgement to be found on each one of its pages.


[1] L. Argentieri, Gli epigrammi degli Antipatri (Bari 2003); A. Sens, Asclepiades of Samos: Epigrams and Fragments (Oxford 2011); L. A. Guichard, Asclepíades de Samos: Epigramas y fragmentos (Bern 2004); M. Ypsilanti, The Epigrams of Crinagoras of Mytilene (Oxford 2018); G. Galán Vioque, Dioscórides, Epigrammas (Huelva 2001); A. Schatzmann, Nikarchos II, Epigrammata (Göttingen 2012).

[2] The dubia are: 13 Floridi = Asclepiades HE 40 = AP 5.161 (bis AP 11.9), a humorous epigram on courtesans attributed to either Hedylus or Asclepiades by C in the lemma to AP 5.161 and to Simonides in the lemmata to AP 11.9 and Pl, and 14 Floridi = SH 459 = Strabo 14.6.3, a fragmentary work of three elegiac couplets on deer sacred to Apollo reconstructed from quotations and ascribed by Strabo to “Hedylus or anybody whosoever” (εἴθ᾽ Ἡδύλος ἐστίν, εἴθ᾽ ὁστισοῦν). Floridi rejects the notion that Strabo questioned the ascription of these lines to Hedylus on the basis of his perceived lack of geographic knowledge, as recently proposed by Cairns (Hellenistic Epigrams: Contexts of Exploration [Cambridge 2016]: 102).

[3] R. Reitzenstein, Epigramm und Skolion (Giessen 1893): 96-102.

[4] A. Cameron, The Greek Anthology: From Meleager to Planudes (Oxford 1993): 374.

[5] P. Parsons, H. Maehler, and F. Maltomini, The Vienna Epigrams Papyrus (Berlin 2015).

[6] On this epigram see the discussion in A. Sens, “Hedylus (4 and 5 Gow-Page) and Callimachean Poetics”, Mnemosyne 68: 40-52 (2015), whose analysis is adopted and reinforced in Floridi’s treatment.

[7] K. J. Gutzwiller, Poetics Garlands: Hellenistic Epigrams in Context (Berkeley 1998), 176 with further discussion in n. 119.

[8] Floridi prints the emendation of Kaibel for λιθούμεθ᾽ ἅπαντα πάλαι ποu in the Venet. Marc. gr. 447 manuscript of Athenaeus. She rightly rejects as “inutilmente complicata” (148) the recent emendation of Schaps (“Our Medusa: A Gorging Gorgon in Hedylus 9”, SCI35 [2016]: 59-64): λιθούμεθα φαντασίᾳ που.

[9] Floridi sets her discussion in critical opposition to the approach exemplified by G. Nisbet, Greek Epigram in the Roman Empire: Martial’s Forgotten Rivals (Oxford 2003), who emphasizes the influence of Aristophanes and Old Comedy on Greek imperial scoptic epigrammatists and downplays the existence of thematic roots in earlier epigram.

[10] A. F. S. Gow and D. L. Page, The Greek Anthology: Hellenistic Epigrams vol. 2: 297 (Cambridge 1965).

[11] L. Floridi, Stratone di Sardi: Epigrammi (Alessandria 2007) reviewed in BMCR 2008.01.03 and L. Floridi, Lucillio: Epigrammi (Berlin 2014) reviewed in BMCR 2015.05.03.