BMCR 2021.09.13

Der Artemis-Hymnos des Kallimachos. Einleitung, Text, Übersetzung und Kommentar

, Der Artemis-Hymnos des Kallimachos. Einleitung, Text, Übersetzung und Kommentar. Texte und Kommentare, Band 66. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2021. Pp. x, 436. ISBN 9783110698428 $126.99.

Zsolt Adorjáni’s edition with translation and commentary on the hymn to Artemis of Callimachus is a welcome addition to the series of commentaries on the individual hymns that appeared between the late 1960s and mid-1980s, of which the commentary on the hymn to Artemis by Fritz Bornmann was one of the earliest, and the later commentaries on the whole collection of hymns of Giovan Battista d’Alessio and Susan Stephens.[1] In his preface Adorjáni states that he will avoid overlap with Bornmann’s commentary, which he still considers very useful, and will refer to it regularly. There is no indication of the kind of readers Adorjáni has in mind, but the book’s nature and contents (with its many references and learned discussions) suggest that it is primarily aimed at advanced students and scholars in the field of Hellenistic poetry.

There is a substantial introduction (p. 1-94), which contains six sections: about the hymn as part of the collection of Callimachus’ hymns; the poetic unity of the hymn; the goddess Artemis; the hymn’s date (between 274 and 267 BC according to Adorjáni) and Sitz im Leben; Artemis and Arsinoe (a relatively new idea, explored thoroughly by Adorjáni); and the hymn’s metre. Thus Adorjáni offers a useful and well-documented introduction to the hymn, though personally I would have liked to see a few other issues dealt with as well, e.g. the hymn’s position in the Greek literary tradition and in the contemporary literary field (including the interaction with fellow poets like Apollonius Rhodius and Theocritus) and its language and style. Particularly because the commentary regularly refers to these issues and gives evidence of a great deal of research on them, it would have been good if the introduction had contained a synthesis of the results.

As to Adorjáni’s view of the hymn a few points demand further attention and should perhaps be reconsidered. In the first place, though Adorjáni is certainly right to regard hymns 1-4 as closely connected by a Ptolemaic focus and 5-6 formally seem to be a pair on their own, the covert allusions to Ptolemaic issues and leadership in hymns 5-6 do connect them with 1-4 on an ideological level. In the second place Adorjáni’s arguments for the idea that behind the figure of Artemis one could see Arsinoe II demand careful investigation. In itself the idea that between hymns 2 and 4, which focus on Apollo and at several points evoke Ptolemy II Philadelphus, the third hymn for Apollo’s sister Artemis would evoke Ptolemy’s wife and sister Arsinoe is certainly attractive and deserves a thorough exploration. However, to me Adorjáni’s arguments are not really convincing, because they often contain an element of speculation or rely on features that may not have been obvious to Callimachus’ readers or are altogether very hard to find in the text. Thus one may have doubts about: (1) the etymological connection of Artemis and Arsinoe, which according to Adorjáni draws attention to their courage and intelligence as shared traits of character, but seems to be too subtle to be noticed; (2) 136-141, where the invocation draws attention to the poet as ‘singer’, but does not really frame Artemis as a Muse to be compared to Arsinoe as the ‘tenth Muse’, as Adorjáni thinks; (3) the idea that in 148-157 Heracles is teaching Artemis the royal virtue of giving generously to others, whereas the emphasis really seems to be on presenting a humorous picture of Heracles’ greed; (4) 251-258, where Adorjáni may be right in seeing a parallel in Artemis’ victory over Lygdamis and Apollo subduing the Celts in hymn 4, but the text does not really hint at Arsinoe; or (5) the complex arguments about regarding the apotheosis of Arsinoe.

Besides, a few difficult points should get more attention as they may argue against the connection: (1) the fact that after her death Arsinoe was honoured as Arsinoe-Aphrodite would be surprising if she was connected with the emphatically virginal Artemis before her death (here Adorjáni’s idea of a deliberate ‘surprise’ by Callimachus [p.72] seems to me not convincing); (2) the insistence on Artemis’ virginity throughout the hymn (explicitly mentioned in lines 6, 110 and 264) and her fondness for nymphs like Britomartis, whose virginity is also stressed, would make her a somewhat awkward role model for the king’s wife. Altogether the strongest argument for finding Arsinoe in the third hymn seems to be the fact that like Apollo and Artemis Ptolemy II Philadelphus and Arsinoe II were brother and sister and that this notion was part of royal propaganda. In this respect 168-169, where Artemis insists on sitting next to Apollo, is of interest as these lines certainly draw attention to the love of brother and sister. Adorjáni shows himself aware of this as a possible argument in his commentary on 168-169, but not in his introduction. Even so, although this passage may briefly alert the reader to the sibling love of the Ptolemaic couple, I can see no firm basis for finding Artemis consistently recalling Arsinoe in the text of the hymn.

The text, which is accompanied by a German translation, is basically Pfeiffer’s.[2] Papyri which have been published after 1949 have been taken into account and the text is followed by a brief list of passages where Adorjáni’s text differs from Pfeiffer’s on p.122. These differences are discussed in the commentary and in most cases Adorjáni has good arguments for his readings (which in a few instances consist of preferring the manuscript readings to later conjectures). The apparatus has been shortened compared to Pfeiffer’s. This is certainly justified, but it would have been good for the sake of clarity to divide the apparatus into an apparatus of sources and a critical apparatus, as Pfeiffer did. Adorjáni has also included the passages to which Callimachus is alluding in a separate apparatus. Although the information thus given is very useful and helps to form an impression of the highly allusive character of the poem one may wonder if the apparatus is the right place for it, as it is not really relevant for the constitution of the text. An appendix containing all this material would certainly be worth having.

In the commentary the focus is on literary interpretation, structure and allusions. The commentary is well-researched and well-documented and offers the reader a great deal of information, including many references to relevant primary sources and to secondary literature, also of a much earlier date. For readers who want to engage with the text of Callimachus’ hymn at a scholarly level the commentary is therefore a valuable tool, which can be used with great profit. For students at a less advanced level, hoping for ‘guidance’, the commentary may be less suitable, though they too will find much that is worth reading. One general point of criticism I have is the way in which many of the notes are organized. Often the information, particularly that which is found in secondary literature, is presented in a somewhat undigested and doxographic way. It is mentioned, summarized, and sometimes criticized (Adorjáni includes discussions of statements of older scholars, like Graevius or Ernesti, that he does not agree with or references to late nineteenth century disputes, which now seem somewhat obsolete), but does not form part of a ‘narrative’ in which Adorjáni is embedding his own views in the earlier scholarship. Often it is also unclear which views Adorjáni would agree with. This approach forces the reader to digest the secondary literature for her/himself, whereas one should really expect to be led by the author, who has studied the hymn in depth and should have a well-informed and well-argued opinion on it (even if he may not be able to solve all the problems). A few examples may illustrate these points: on 15 Adorjáni refers to the intertextual connection with Apollonius Rhodius and to authors discussing it, but does not suggest an interpretation of his own or embed the passage in the larger context of the interaction between Callimachus and Apollonius; on 25, where ἀμογητί recalls a Homeric hapax Adorjáni refers to a remark of Cusset about it, but does not himself explore the possible relevance of the allusion for the context; in 60 and 110 there are interesting connections with the pictures on Jason’s cloak in Apollonius’ Argonautica, but Adorjáni only refers to Eichgrün and Reinsch-Werner on 60 and on 110 does not discuss the difference with Apollonius (where Apollo instead of Artemis kills Tityus). Another, lesser, point of criticism is that sometimes one would have liked more information on non-philological issues; e.g. on 11f. one should like to hear more about the archaeological evidence on Artemis and chitons.

The volume ends with an extensive bibliography and indexes of passages, subjects and Greek words.

Compared with Bornmann’s commentary Adorjáni offers a more extensive commentary with more references to primary sources and secondary literature as well as longer introductions to the various sections of the poem. However, the most important primary references are already in Bornmann’s commentary and although he often just mentions them, there are also many instances where the latter embeds them in an explanation of Callimachus’ text, offering the reader some guidance, whereas Adorjáni just refers the reader to them. Thus, e.g., on 190 Bornmann embeds the sources about Britomartis in an explanatory narrative, whereas Adorjáni on 189f. merely lists them after stating: “Die flüchtigen Erwähnungen von Britomartis in der griechischen Literatur sind wie folgt”; similarly on 191 κατέδραμεν and 194 ἀνέπαυσε Bornmann offers explanations, while Adorjáni merely refers to relevant material. Even so, although Bornmann’s style tends to be more helpful to the reader, Adorjáni’s commentary must now be considered indispensable, because it takes into account the large amount of literature on Callimachus and Hellenistic poetry in general that has appeared since 1968 and, accordingly, is better equipped to alert the reader to, e.g., the importance attached to issues of intertextuality and possible Ptolemaic undertones of the poem in recent literature.

Summarizing, in spite of my criticisms I find this a very useful volume and an important addition to the study of Callimachus’ hymns and of Hellenistic poetry in general, particularly for scholars who want to become familiar with the extensive recent literature on the hymn and the network of texts in which Callimachus’ text was embedded by means of allusions and parallels. The author has definitely done a very good and careful job in collecting all this material and making it available.


[1] F. Bornmann, Callimachi Hymnus in Dianam, Firenze 1968; G.B. d’ Alessio, Callimaco. Inni. Epigrammi. Ecale, Milano 2007; S. A. Stephens, Callimachus. The Hymns, Oxford 2015.

[2] R. Pfeiffer, Callimachus, Oxford 1949-1953.