BMCR 2022.04.08

Simonides: epigrams and elegies

, Simonides: epigrams and elegies. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2021. Pp. 480. ISBN 9780198850793 $145.00.

After Orlando Poltera’s edition, translation and commentary of Simonides’ lyric compositions (Basel 2008, BMCR 2011.06.32), Simonides epigrammaticus and elegiacus were missing a new edition that gathered all the information produced in the last few decades in a comprehensive way. In Simonides. Epigrams and Elegies, David Sider’s main goal is to complement Poltera’s edition by including all the fragments ascribed to Simonides by ancient sources that are not included in Poltera’s edition (besides epigrams and elegies, some dactylic and iambic polymetric compositions, a lyric skolion, and a possible lyric passage), and to offer the most exhaustive study thus far of all of Simonides’ non-“lyric” production (p.1).[1]

Since West’s Iambi et Elegi Graeci (Oxford 19922) and Gentili and Prato’s Addenda (Berlin 2008, pp.183-233; which does not rest on autopsy of the papyri, as Sider points out (p.24, n.106)), there had not, before Sider’s volume, been a comprehensive new edition of the elegiac compositions. More importantly, since Page’s Further Greek Epigrams (Cambridge 1981), the complete Simonides epigrammaticus had not been re-edited (with the exception of Campbell’s Loeb Simonides 1991, pp.520-91, which, nevertheless, still shows significant dependence on Page, see M. West CR 42, 1992, 254).

The main innovation of Sider’s edition is the inclusion of all the elegiac and epigrammatic fragments ascribed in one way or another to Simonides in antiquity, regardless of veracity or plausibility. Sider opts for a middle-ground position between Page’s acceptance of several epigrams never attributed to Simonides as Simonidean, and the usual propensity of scholars to deny Simonidean authorship.  After presenting the reasons for or against Simonidean authorship, he leaves the matter for the reader to decide.

The book begins with a substantial introduction organized into nine chapters (The Scope of this work, Birth and Death, Simonidean Anecdotes, Works, ΕΛΕΓΕΙΑ, Textual Transmission, Meter, Aelius Aristides, and The Plan of this Edition). The extensive amount of information is complemented by a profuse number of footnotes, but the prose flows nimbly and the organization of the material is flawless.

The core of the book —Text, Translation, and Commentary— is divided into two sections: the Epigrams (74 poems) and Elegies and Sympotica (119 fragments), which is organized, like West and Ge-Pr, according to the titles of Simonidean elegiac production known from the Suda: ἡ ἐπ᾽ Ἀρτεμισίῳ ναυμαχία, ἡ ἐν Σαλαμῖνι ναυμαχία, Plataea, and others without explicit titles.

Sider diverges from Page’s FGE standard numeration because he excludes seven epigrams never attributed to Simonides (FGE 4, 17, 20, 23, 24, 39, and 40), includes four which Page had ascribed to other poets (ep. 36 to Philip in Gow-Page, Cambridge 1968; ep. 53 to Antigenes in FGE; ep. 59 to Anacreon in FGE; and ep. 74 to Simmias in Gow-Page, Cambridge 1965), and classifies fourteen epigrams in Page’s edition as elegies instead (FGE 19a, 28, 37, 38, 44, 59, 65-67, 71, 84, 85, 88, and 89). For the elegies, Sider keeps West’s numeration, with the important addition of ell. 93-118, and reassignment of fr. 91 West to epigram (ep. 11). In its place he substitutes a possible lyric papyrus metapoetic fragment (el. 91).

The Greek text is preceded by headlines indicating Page’s and West’s standard numeration followed by the correspondences to the main editions, the apparatus of sources, the critical apparatus in Latin and English, and the English translation. Substantial introductions after each fragment discuss Simonidean authorship; chronology and date; contextual and historical data; meter; information on the actual inscription (if extant) and the papyri; echoes in other inscriptions, songs, or poems; compendia of bibliography; performative context. Each fragment is followed by lemmatic commentary.

Sider’s Greek text, a new, thorough edition of Simonides’ epigrammatic production, is the result of an exhaustive and autoptic examination of all relevant materials. The texts transmitted both through literary and epigraphical tradition (epp. 1, 3, 14, 22, 59) are elegantly printed with great attention to inscriptions and papyri. I counted twelve new readings (mainly orthographic and dialectal standardizations or conjectures): 1.3: τύραννον; 6.2: τᾷδ᾽; 15.4: μνάματα; 15.5: Ϙόρινθος; 15.6: εὐεργεσίας μνᾶμ᾽; 19.5a: <τοὶ δ(έ); 22.1: πολέμῳ; 26.3: ἀκοντοφόρων; 29.4: πολλὰς τ᾽; 29.6: τομάδων τότ᾽ ἆθλοι; 39.3: Σκιρωνικὸν; and 53.9: μελίγηρυς.

Sider’s text diverges from Page’s FGE at least in seventy-one passages (among these, five coincide with Campbell: 1.4, 3.1, 10.2, 39.2, 70.1). Most differences are orthographical (often having to do with accentuation: 27.1: σταδιοδρόμος; 32.1: εἶμι; 48.1: νύμφεια; 54.1: φῆμι; and 65.1: εὐθυμαχῶν), but others constitute reassessments of readings from a later corrector (C) of P (Codex Palatinus Graecus 23), as with ep. 44.2: Νικόδικον, instead of Νικοδήμου of P and Salmasius’ Νικοδίκου by Page, and from the apographa or syllogae minores of epigrams, including the Sylloge Euphemiana (Syll. E., which is the only source, together with Σπ transmitting ep. 66), the codices Parisini 2720, 1773, and 1765 (particularly useful for the adscriptions to Simonides: epp. 21, 28), Parisinus Coislinianus 352 (ep. 53.5: οἳ; 53.6: οἷος), and Σπ (the only source for ep. 33). Sider prefers the readings of P and Pl (Codex Venetianus Marcianus 481) (10.2, 16.1, 16.2, 17.1, 17.2, 24.2, 24.3, 24.5), although occasionally he favors evidence from other sources (3.1: Herodotus’ ἀχλυόεντι; 24.5: Aelianus’ γαίῃ; 68.3: Athenaeus’ βάλλω; 70.1: Strabo’s ἑπτάκις) and prefers readings from codices to modern corrections (e.g., epp. 2.4, 26.1, 27.4, 34.1, 39.1, 39.2, 53.5, 57.3, 57.4; but not in 29.6: Diehl’s τομάδων; 29.9: Bergk’s Τεγέᾳ; 39.4: Salmasius’ Μελουριάδος; 44.2: Schneidewin’s ποθεῖ; 45.2: Schneidewin’s ἐμπορίαν; and 58.1: Bergk’s Ἀθήνης). When the readings of P and Pl diverge, Sider prefers Pl in 6.4 (τ᾽ omitted by P), 9.2 (Πελοποννάσου), 41.1 (κασιγνήτην), 42.1(Τίμαρχος), and 44.2 (Νικόδικον, also corrected by C in P).

The second section, Elegies and Sympotica, contains new readings and comprehensive commentaries, but more importantly a sizeable enlargement of textual materials: from West’s ninety-two fragments we have now 119. Sider’s readings of the two main papyri which comprise the “New Simonides” (P.Oxy 2327 and 3965) differ considerably from West’s.

In more than 20 cases Sider puts sublinear dots where West had not (as in el. 9: ξύλα κα[ὶ] λαους ἐπιβάλλων, with subscript dots under κ, α, λ and α). Less frequently, Sider removes dots (as in 65.4: ἀ]λλα[ West [with subscript dots under λ, λ and α] : ]λλ[ Sider) and in more than 40 passages suppresses letters reported by West as readings from the papyri and consigns them to the apparatus (e.g., el. 7.6, Φρυξί  τ[ε West [with subscript dot under τ] : Φρυξ[ Sider; el. 33.15 ἀ]εικέα μισθ[ὸν West [with subscript dots under ε, ι and θ]: ]..κέα μισθ[ὸν Sider [with subscript dots under κ and θ]; el. 59.3]μν[ο]μένο[ισι West [with subscript dots under μ, ν, ν and ο] from Parsons suppl. : ]μ.[.]μεν.[] Sider [with subscript dot under μ]).[2] At least five times Sider adds letters not reported by West (4.4, 4.7, 10.1, 11.12, 85.1), and in six passages Sider reads letters differently from West (19-20.9, 33.18, 40.2, 63.7, 69.1, 82.2).

Among Sider’s twelve new proposed readings (3.4, 4.4, 10.1, 11.11 [not reported in the app.], 11.39, 17.11, 18.6, 19-20.19, 21-22.11, 33.18, 45.1, 52.2), the restorations in el. 3.4 (τοῦ Βορέου] :  ἀθανάτων West), 21-22.11 (νηριτ]οφύλλοις : ἀκριτ]οφύλλοις Lobel), and particularly 45.1 (ἀναδήσ]ατο χαίτ[ας) are noteworthy. On around 25 occasions Sider consigns many of West’s restorations only to the apparatus. This decision evidences a healthy scrutiny of some of West’s readings and opens the way to different possibilities of restoration (10.5, 11.2, 11.7, 11.8, 11.10, 11.21, 11.24, 11.25, 11.39, 14.5, 14.6, 14.7, 21-22.21, 27.4, 31.4, 31.5, 33.15, 59.3, 60.6, 65.4, 66.3, 69.1, 69.2, 69.3, 75.3). Conversely, Sider includes restorations in the body of the text in cases where West had not done so (e.g., 7.5: Peek; 7.8: Peek; 10.3: West;11.39: Sider; 14.2: West; 14.4: West; 21-22.14: Peek; 21-22.18-19: West).

Regarding the elegies transmitted through literary sources, Sider’s text diverges from West’s, Page’s (FGE and PMG), Gow-Page’s (HE), Schneidewin’s, and Bergk’s in twenty passages (15-16.3, 23, 25.1, 25.5., 86.1, 87, 88.2, 96.3, 97.1, 100.1, 100.9, 109.1, 110, 111.2, 116.5, 116.9, 117.1, 118.3, 119.5, 119.7). Sider sometimes prefers the readings of codices instead of conjectures and corrections: 15-16.3: νέμονται from Plutarch’s codd. rather than the regularization νέμοντες of the Aldina; 25.5: χεέτω from Athenaeus codd. A instead of West’s χείτω. Elsewhere, he confirms modern conjectures: in 25.1 Casaubon’s τῇ instead of τὴν of Athenaeus’ codex A; in 87 Bergk’s γὰρ instead of Apollonius’s δ; in 88.2, like West, Pierson’s ψήχει instead of ψύχει from Codex F of Stobaeus; in 97.1 Sider inserts Lehrs’ δέ omitted by Herodianus’ codd.; in 116.9 τὰδ᾽ Ὀρείᾳ of Stadtmuller and not τάδ᾽ ὄρεια from P and Suda; and in 118.3 Sider prefers Foucart’s Ξείνιδος to Λίνδιος from P and Pl. Sider favors the readings from sources other than P and Pl in 96.3 (Σιμωνίδεω from schol. Tz. instead of Σιμωνίδου of P and C2), 117.1 (Παυσανίην from DL instead of Παυσανίαν from P and Pl) and 119.5 (Ζεῦν from Athen. instead of Ζῆν᾽ of P and Pl). Conversely, in 100.1 he accepts the reading ὀπώρας of C and Pl, instead of the Suda’s ὀπώρης. Regarding the divergences between P and Pl, in 100.9 Sider favors the rare pronoun φιν transmitted in P, instead of σφιν of C and μιν of Pl and the Suda (accepted by Page FGE and Bergk). Finally, for 110.1, Tzetzes’ reading προσήρμοσεν is preferred over Plutarch’s συνήρμοσεν printed by Bergk.

The main innovation of this section is the inclusion of twenty-eight fragments (ell. 91-119) not previously endowed as autonomous elegiac textual items (except 92 W = 92 S). Ten of them feature as epigrams in FGE (93, 94, 95, 96, 100-102, 105, 114, and 116), seven as ἐπιγράμματα ἐπικήδεια, ἀναθηματικά, incerta and παίγνια in Schneidewin and Bergk (97, 98, which is also West’s 22 of adespota elegiaca, 107-110, and 112), two in Page’s PMG (106 = PMG 636 and 111 = PMG 890), two in the FGE section on Empedocles (104 and 117), one in Asclepiades (115 = GP 40 HE), one in Antagoras (118 = GP 2 HE), and another in Aeschrion (119 = GP 1 HE). Four additions (91, 103, 111, and 113) are of the utmost importance because they have never been included in any edition of Simonides.

El. 91, a possible part of a dactyl-epitrite from P. Berol. 9571: μέ]τρον διαγλύφω, or most likely διαγλάφω (“I carve out my meter”), is perhaps the most interesting because, despite its omission from Poltera, it makes excellent sense as Simonidean. The editor of the papyrus (Arch. Pap. forsch. 14, 1941) had integrated Simonides’ name in his app. crit. for col. i. 17: ..Σι]μωνί[δη.], and col. ii.53: [Σιμ]ωνί(δης).

El. 103, an elegiac couplet transmitted by AP and ascribed to Simonides by the corrector (C), whose attribution to Simonides was disparaged by Page as “absurdly furnished” (FGE, p.253). Schneidewin (186, p.174) quotes this epigram after el. 102 without indicating Simonidean authorship (traductum epigramma poeta ἀδήλῳ).[3]

El. 111, a lyric skolion omitted by Poltera, transmitted by Athenaeus and other sources, and ascribed to Simonides by eight sources, not without hesitation and alternative ascriptions. It features in Page’s Carmina Convivialia section (PMG 890 and 146 = dubia et spuria) and Bergk’s Scolia. Carmina popularia. Fragmenta adespota (8).

El. 113, previously a mere paraphrase introducing two lyric quotations that Page considered adespota (PMG 947). Sider believes that Aristides quoted this as a verse composed by Simonides (pp.37-41 and 401; contra Boas (Groningen 1905) and Wilamowitz (Berlin 1913); see Poltera, pp.424-425).

Sider’s detailed commentary lists all relevant explanations for every aspect of each fragment: textual issues, epigraphical phraseology, onomastics, loci similes, meter (especially, but not exclusively, in the polymetric compositions), prosody, scholarly discussions, style, grammar, and dialect.

The book closes with the bibliography, two tables of concordances for each major section of the edition, with an index of sources other than Anthologia Graeca (pp. 455-61), and a general index.

In conclusion, almost thirty years after the no-longer-quite-so-new “New Simonides”[4] came to light, Prof. Sider has provided classical scholars with a brand-new epigrammatic and elegiac Simonides in this masterful edition, translation, and commentary.[5]


[1] Sider, D. “Simonides lyricus elegiacus epigrammaticus”, in L. Prauscello and P. Agocs (eds.), Simonides Lyricus (Cambridge, 2020, pp.105-20) argues against a stark division between lyric, elegiac, and epigrammatic poetry.

[2] An inspection of the digital images of P.Oxy 2327 and 3965 confirms Sider’s critical circumspection.

[3] Sider, “Simonides personal elegies”, in L. Swift and C. Carey (eds.), Iambus and Elegy: New Approaches, Oxford, 2016, p.146, n.16.

[4] Sider 2020, p.106.

[5] The book is excellently produced with one slip (missing section titles in the edition of the epigrams) and few typos: p.1: “ep. 111 and ep. 91”, read “el. not ep.”; p.31, note 144: “epigraphiche”; p.39, n. 178: “Poltera SL 424, n.174”, read “n.374”; p.50: parenthesis not opened; p.92: Sparatan; p.145: “Τεγέᾳ Bergk”, read “Brunck”; p.175: “Νικόδικου”, read “Νικοδίκου”; p.261, 11+13.25: “ἧμαρ”, read “ἦμαρ”; p.263, app. crit. ad 25-26 “ἧμαρ”, read “ἦμαρ”; p.371, 99 S on the heading it lacks Bergk 82; p.390: “225 S”, read “Incerta III, p. 225”; p.456: “59 Anacreon 15 HE”, read “15 FGE”; p.457: The concordance 91 Sider/65 FGE is incorrect; this should be in the next column in concordance with 114 Sider.