BMCR 2022.09.07

Euripide, Ifigenia in Aulide: Introduzione, testo critico, traduzione e commento

, Euripide, Ifigenia in Aulide: Introduzione, testo critico, traduzione e commento. Lexis supplementi 4. Venezia: Edizioni Ca' Foscari, 2021. Pp. 564. ISBN 9788869695148 €36.00.

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Despite being a vibrant and complex drama, Iphigenia at Aulis is not one of Euripides’ most commented tragedies. Indeed, I am unable to name a memorable existing annotated edition of this play, such as the ones we find by William S. Barrett[1] on Hippolytus, Richard Kannicht[2] on Helen, or Christopher Collard on Supplices.[3] For this reason, writing this book is no mean feat and the result is a most welcome contribution. A rich introduction is followed by the text and translation, and an appendix covering the metre by Ester Cerbo. The commentary, which makes up the core of the book, comes next. At the end, we find the bibliography, an index locorum and an index rerum. Given the absence of full commentaries in the past, it is surprising that Valeria Andò’s and Christopher Collard & James Morwood’s[4] annotated editions were published at almost the same time. A comparison of the two is tempting and almost unavoidable. In general, Andò’s commentary explains the history of the text in more depth, as well as matters concerning the metre, while Collard & Morwood’s is a more helpful tool for understanding the grammar and nature of the Greek language.

The introduction includes nine headings, starting with a summary of the play (Section 1). Next, the manuscript tradition is outlined (Section 2). In Section 3, every part under suspicion of authenticity is addressed separately: the prologue, the parodos, the First Messenger’s rhesis in the first episode, the arrival of Clytemnestra in the second episode, the intervention of Achilles in the third episode, and the exodus. Authors defending or questioning these parts are sometimes discussed chronologically and sometimes grouped by their aligning hypotheses. The next section discusses the play, considering the mythical background of Iphigenia’s death and sacrifice (Section 4). Despite the problematic interpretation of the tragedy due to the faulty transmission of the text, Andò is able to pinpoint an innovative aspect introduced by Euripides to the mythical tradition, namely the young maiden’s voluntary attitude towards her sacrifice. The political interpretation of the myth is addressed in Section 5, especially regarding the Greek/barbarian contrast, the patriotic, and the Panhellenic reading. An overview of the characters is described at Section 6, including extra-scaenam characters, like Calchas and Odysseus, and characters somehow implied in the plot, like Helen and Tyndareus. The depiction of Clytemnestra as a “dama di alta borghesia” (p. 361), which reminds us of Ibsen’s heroines, is outdated. Other aspects discussed in the introduction are the metre in Section 7, while Section 8 offers insights into a selection of representations, translations and versions. We are not sure at times whether the author is discussing the tragedy by Euripides over time or, more widely, the mythical figure of Iphigenia and the lack of a clear ending for the play makes it even harder to ascertain this. Section 9 is a raw list of opinions on IA by different scholars.

In Sections 2 and 3 of the introduction, the author includes an illuminating overview on textual matters from Erasmus in the 16th century onwards. According to a scholion on Aristophanes’ Ranae 67d, the play was produced posthumously. This fact led to the idea that the drama was not finally revised by Euripides and that changes were introduced when it was performed. Consequently, scholars have not only been proposing many conjectures but have also cast doubts over the authenticity of numerous lines and entire parts of the play. Proposals for amending the text reached their zenith in the 19th century and, surprisingly, carried on well into the 20th century. Very revealingly, Andò tallies the number of lines that were thought to be more or less dubious. If we take Diggle’s edition, out of 1629 lines, only 688 would be traced back to Euripides and 96 would be outright spurious. When adding the 248 lines labelled as fortasse non Euripidei and those 597 labelled as vix Euripidei, we reach 941 lines under suspicion; that is, more than half of the play (57.76%). For Kovacs, 43.03% of the play is spurious (701 lines out of 1629), and 200-300 lines from the original would have been lost. Hopefully, Andò is right to be careful when considering the attempts to amend the text, without disregarding the metrical errors, the solecisms, and the incongruities of the plot (some of which are interestingly pointed out by herself, as in p. 50). In her well-expressed words, she has responded “with caution to the insidious siren of expunctions” (p. 27). Her square brackets are limited to the exodus and to scattered lines that are redundant or contain severe metrical faults (599-606, 635-7, 652, 665, 963-4, 1425, 1532-629). Although the exodus (1532-1629) is the only large part to be athetized on solid grounds according to Andò, the transmitted text would not have been substantially different from the one conceived by the poet. This implies that, even though the text itself would be spurious, we still are to think of an ending in which Iphigenia does not eventually die but is replaced by a stag (pace Kovacs 2003[5]). The cautious respect for the manuscript tradition seems to be a trend of our time. If we take Collard & Morwood’s edition, which is mainly based on Diggle’s edition, they only obelize 10.44% of the lines and many of the lines considered vixEuripidei by Diggle are kept as original.

The commentary proper mostly addresses issues relating to textual criticism, and sometimes appears to be a sort of gloss on the apparatus criticus. Notes on lexical aspects, parallels, and translations are also significant. We also find reflections on the philological method –for instance, lexical repetitions are a regular feature of tragic diction and do not justify amending the text (p. 253, but see line 535, p. 330; line 717, p. 363). Likewise, arguing for hapax legomena is dangerous when claiming the authenticity of a text (263). Aspects relating to literary interpretations are less frequent, although brilliant at times (e.g., pp. 68-72; 267; 363). There are also sparse comments on staging (e.g., 330-331; 389) and realia (e.g., 363-364; 366). Syntactic analysis is the aspect least commonly discussed to the point that you can miss it (e.g., at lines 402-403 on p. 307; at line 418 on p. 311; at line 531 on p. 329; at lines 670-671 on p. 357). The comments on the metre, at points by E. Cerbo (e.g., pp. 258-259; 295-297; 335; 354-355; 434), are noteworthy, offering a deep insight into the technicalities of the field. As is usually the case, the lines at the beginning are more lengthily discussed—for instance, 4 pages are dedicated to lines 6-8—, while comments on the final verses become more cursory. When there are many lines to be commented under a single heading, like lines 337-345 in pp. 293-294, the exact number of lines under discussion each time is not always specified. In turn, Collard & Morwood, following the editorial criteria of the series, use bits of translations as headings in the comment, which offers an even more confusing layout.

The following are a few remarks that are not to diminish the quality of the work under review, but just show the interpretative richness of the play:

In general, the only reference given for conversational features is Collard 2018, a chaotic rehash of Stevens 1937, 1976, and Collard 2005, under the ill-defined term of ‘colloquialism’. There are more and more systematic approaches on the conversational aspects of Ancient Greek. Take the note on εἶἑν at p. 318, for instance, about which see rather Biraud (2010: 195-213),[6] Labiano (1998, 2000),[7] and Nordgren (2015: 181-184).[8]

Although the tendency to condemn or change the text has decreased, the older the conjectures the more likely they are to be kept. Thus, both Andò, and Collard & Morwood accept the change of οὐ by Reiske instead of the transmitted ὃς in line 531, even when there is no good reason for the change. The head noun of the relative pronoun is νιν (s.c. Ὀδυσσεύς), which is the active antecedent and the subject of the infinitive clause governed by δοκεῖς in l. 528. There is no need for the antecedent being close to be understood (cf. e.g., S. Tr. 351-358). Moreover, if we were to accept οὐ, we would expect ξυναρπάσαντα and κελεύσειν (cf. e.g., S. Ph. 276-278). More scope for syntactical analysis would have avoided these kinds of shortcomings. Similarly, the conjecture ἐντελής by Musgrave when referring to the ‘full moon’ is preferred to the transmitted εὐτυχής in line 717. While the dictionaries register πληθούσα for ‘full’ moon, however, this meaning is not acknowledged for ἐντελής (literally ‘complete’ moon –the DGE[9] quotes no other but this passage which relies on a conjecture).

There is no need to think of an ad-hoc meaning for the verb κλαίειν in line 306 with the sense of ‘undergo a punishment’. In non-factual tenses or in the context of non-factuality, the verb can simply work idiomatically for conveying threats, which usually happen in the future (e.g., E. IA 311-313, E. Andr. 257).

I (for once) agree with Kovacs’ decision to delete lines 640-641. From a Conversation Analysis perspective, it is odd to say ‘hello’ once you have already established contact. These two lines look like an explanatory gloss for marking the shift of addressee. Perhaps because it sounds odd, Andò does not even translate χαῖρʼ. The idiom that follows is better translated as ‘thank you for bringing me by your side, dad’ rather than the literal rendering “ha fatto bene a farmi venire qui, padre”. Likewise, from a CA perspective, it makes more sense to transpose line 317 after line 313 (cf. E., Heracl. 120-125). Bearing in mind the huge number of conjectures for this play I am surprised that no one has suggested this yet. Again, 520 is not a good reply for 519 –note moreover the lack of particle in 520—, so Hartung could be right in deleting 520-521.

The Bibliography is organized by topics (editions and commentaries, translations, reference works and editions of ancient authors, and studies), and is remarkably up to date, as it even contains works from 2020 (e.g., Sorrentino 2020, Visvardi 2020, Worman 2020). Andò includes more mentions of Portuguese (e.g., Silva) and Spanish scholars (e.g., Brioso Sánchez, Calderón Dorda, Quijada Sagredo), too often ignored by the English scholarly tradition–note that Spaniards have two surnames, the father’s and mother’s, so Quijada 1998 and Quijada Sagredo 2016 in the bibliography, is the same person.

Typos are insignificant and I could only spot a few: on p. 85 note 275, where it says ‘Poet. 1454a 31-2’ it should say ‘Poet. 1454a 31-2’; p. 288 and p. 539 where it says ‘Sagrado’ it should say ‘Sagredo’; p. 307: where it says ‘Agamennone di dichiara’ it should say ‘Agamennone si dichiara’.

I read this book with great interest and fortunately found many inspiring ideas. We needed more commentaries on Iphigenia at Aulis and Andò has worked finely to give us one. I hope it reaches the entire community of Classicists who, like me, are thrilled by a drama full of contrasts, shifts, ritual and irony.


[1] Barrett, W.S. (1964), Euripides: Hippolytus. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[2] Kannicht, R. (1969), Euripides: Helena. Heidelberg: C. Winter.

[3] Collard, C. (1975), Euripides: Supplices (2 vols.). Groningen: Bouma.

[4] Collard, C. and Morwood, J. (2017), Euripides: Iphigenia at Aulis (2 vols.). Liverpool:Liverpool University Press.

[5] Kovacs, D. (2003), Toward a Reconstruction of Iphigenia Aulidensis. The Journal of Hellenic Studies, 123, 77-103.

[6] Biraud, M. (2010), Les interjections du théâtre grec antique. Étude sémantique et pragmatique. Louvain-la-Neuve: Peeters.

[7] Nordgren, L. (2015), Greek Interjections. Syntax, Semantics and Pragmatics. Berlin/Boston: Walter de Gruyter.

[8] Labiano, M. (1998), “Griego εἶἑν. Sobre un uso concreto y su distribución”, in López Eire, A. et al. (eds.), Retórica, política e ideología desde la Antigüedad hasta nuestros días, vol. I, 15-24; Labiano, M. (2000), Estudio de las Interjecciones en las comedias de Aristófanes. Amsterdam: Hakkert.

[9] DGE = Vv.Aa. (1980—) Diccionario Griego-Español, Madrid, CSIC.