BMCR 2022.03.22

Scholia vetera in Sophoclis “Antigonam”

, Scholia vetera in Sophoclis "Antigonam". Sammlung griechischer und lateinischer Grammatiker, 20. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2021. Pp. xix, 219. ISBN 9783110616774. $103.99.


The fourth volume of Georgios A. Xenis’s magisterial edition of the ancient scholia to Sophocles—he first truly critical edition of these important texts—is a welcome addition to the past three. In it we see all the virtues which have characterised his previous editions of the scholia to Trachiniae, Electra, and Oedipus at Colonus (reviewed by me for this journal in BMCR 2011.07.22 and 2018.10.14): clarity and concision both in the analysis of the manuscript tradition and in the presentation of the text, accompanied by sober good judgment throughout and a continual desire to make things as easy as possible for his readers.

The Introduction is divided into two main sections, ‘The manuscript tradition’ and ‘The editio princeps’, both of which often presuppose (and duly cite) Xenis’s earlier work, but which can nevertheless be read and understood without having his other volumes to hand. The first of these, by far the longest, has three subsections: ‘Overview’ (an account of each different source for the scholia, together with information on whether Xenis has consulted it remotely or in situ), ‘The interrelation of the witnesses’ (an analysis of which manuscripts were copied from other manuscripts, and in which cases we must posit now lost exemplars to take account of the pattern of errors across different manuscripts), and ‘Stemma codicum’ (a visual representation of the conclusions of the previous subsection). As someone who over the years has spent hours wrestling with editions of classical texts attempting to work out, often on the basis of some impenetrable abbreviation or obscurely worded phrase, exactly what a scholar is trying to say, or exactly what basis s/he has for a particular claim or textual choice, I wish that all editors were as clear as Xenis is in setting out so precisely the basis for his decisions. Moreover, in the course of his analysis, Xenis presents a strong case against the consensus that a particular manuscript was written by the Cretan scholar Marcus Musurus (pp. 14–15), a point of historical as well as of philological significance. The second section, as its title suggests, examines the first printed edition of the Sophoclean scholia, which appeared in 1518, edited by Janus Lascaris. Through a careful analysis Xenis weighs the evidence for Lascaris’s knowledge of different manuscripts and the principles which underlie his edition.

The critical text and apparatus which follow form the main part of the book. Xenis’s critical apparatus is a kind of mini-commentary on these often recalcitrant texts, at times briefly explaining his own textual judgments, at times illustrating through parallel passages particular styles of definition found in the scholia. These latter illustrations are useful not just for someone considering the textual history of the scholia themselves. Having a sense of what words ancient scholars typically reach for to define other words is an important asset to anyone attempting to establish the text of an ancient author, given how marginal and interlinear glosses so frequently displace an original word from the tradition. Time spent browsing Xenis’s edition would therefore not be wasted for any Greek textual critic.

The indexes which conclude the book are a particularly welcome part of the edition. There are six in all: ‘Scriptores in scholiis laudati’, ‘Verba de quibus scholia agunt’, ‘Grammatica’, ‘Rhetorica’, ‘Scaenica, ars tragica, histriones’, and ‘Nomina’. Once the edition is complete a consolidated index, which allowed readers to track the use of a term across the whole corpus of ancient Sophoclean scholia, would be a great benefit.

But before that there are three more volumes to look forward to. This is a great edition in the making, one in which we encounter the riches of Hellenic scholarship on drama down the centuries: from the great scholars of Alexandria, to the pioneers of printing such as Musurus and Lascaris, to the author of the present volume himself.