BMCR 2023.09.09

Aristophanes fr. 101-204

, Aristophanes fr. 101-204. Fragmenta Comica 10.4. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2022. Pp. 175. ISBN 9783949189579.



The text under review is the thirty-sixth volume published as part of the project “Kommentierung der Fragmente der griechischen Komödie” (“KomFrag”).[1] The goal of this international research collaboration, directed by Bernhard Zimmermann (Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg) under the auspices of the Heidelberg Akademie der Wissenschaften, is to compile and comment on the testimonia and fragments of the comic poets as collected by Kassel and Austin’s Poetae Comici Graeci (PCG). After a steady stream of publications over the past ten or so years, the series has recently passed the half-way point of its projected seventy-two total volumes.[2] KomFrag is, needless to say, a monumental project of major significance, and its impact can already be felt in recent scholarship on Greek comedy and in the study of fragmentary texts more generally.[3]

In this contribution, Andreas Bagordo collects, translates, and comments on one-hundred and four fragments attributed to four plays of Aristophanes, along with a handful of testimonia related to them: Γεωργοί (Farmers, fr. 101-127), Γῆρας (Old Age, fr. 128-155), Γηρυτάδης (Gerytades, fr. 156-190), and Δαίδαλος (Daedalus, fr. 191-204). This publication is the seventh of eleven projected KomFrag volumes treating Aristophanes. Bagordo is a central figure to KomFrag: this is his eighth contribution to the series, his fifth focusing on Aristophanes.[4] According to information on the project’s website, he is currently at work on three additional volumes, making him the most prolific KomFrag commentator. Given that this volume is a relatively slim 175 pages and that Bagordo is also producing the subsequent volume containing Aristophanes fr. 205-304, one wonders why this material has been split into two volumes.

The evidence related to each play is preceded by a brief introduction. Each testimonium or fragment is accompanied by all of the information necessary for interpretation: the text with limited apparatus, a translation, the text and translation of the original context in which the fragment is cited, a metrical analysis (“Metrum”), details about the citation context of the fragment (“Zitatkontext”), comments toward interpretation (“Interpretation”), and lemmatic notes on particular words or phrases; some fragments receive an additional section treating the establishment of the text in more detail (“Textgestalt”). The main text is preceded by a very brief forward and is followed by a bibliography and a series of indices (verborum, rerum, locorum).[5]

In accordance with the goals of KomFrag, Bagordo’s commentary closely follows and builds on the work of Kassel and Austin’s PCG, making the wealth of information already contained therein more accessible while incorporating more recent scholarship and offering his own interventions. In a lively BMCR review of one of his volumes of unattributed Aristophanic fragments, Richard Martin extolled Bagordo’s many virtues as a textual critic of and commentator on individual fragments.[6] All of the best qualities highlighted there remain on display here: his learned and judicious assessments of matters textual and interpretive; his ability to dig up contextualizing parallels for linguistic constructions, literary devices, and cultural practices; his ear for comic poetry and his vast knowledge of the comic corpus; his inclusion of a wide range of recent scholarship. This volume, though, also offers the opportunity to consider how Bagordo incorporates this fragmentary material into synthetic interpretations of the plays to which they are attributed. After considering a few individual fragments, then, I will focus on Bagordo’s approach in his introductions to the individual plays.

First, on the texts: I note only two occasions where Bagordo’s printed text of a fragment diverges from PCG.[7] In fr. 144, he prints the codices ἐπὶ τὸν νυμφίον rather than ὡς τὸν νυμφίον, which one will find in PCG. Bagordo effectively and concisely presents the case for the printed reading: already in their “Addenda and Corrigenda,” Kassel and Austin had noted their support for the by-then corrected manuscript reading, to which they did not have access in compiling their edition of Aristophanes (their apparatus prints εἰς as the manuscript reading which Kassel sought to emend). In his “Interpretation,” he helpfully notes that ἐπί + person is a very rare but attested construction, providing one parallel from Homer (B 18) and one from another Aristophanic fragment (fr. 480.1). Somewhat less satisfying is Bagordo’s treatment of fr. 103. Here he follows the majority manuscript reading in printing the dative of the indirect interrogative (ὅτῳ), which previous editors had emended to the genitive (ὅτου) apparently required by the following construction (ὅτῳ/ὅτου δοκεῖ σοι δεῖν μάλιστα τῇ πόλει). Moving down the page to the commentary, one is surprised not to find any explanation for the decision, given that the dative is difficult to construe and that Bagordo’s own translation seems to assume the emendation (“was dir am meisten die Stadt zu brauchen scheint”).

Even when Bagordo prints the same text as PCG, readers will benefit from the more expansive format of his KomFrag edition. Material that in PCG is packed into a single dense paragraph is here presented in a more reader-friendly format, as, for example, in the case of fr. 126, on Aristophanes’ use of the demonym Στρεψαῖος in Old Age. Bagordo also improves on the older text by distinguishing two separate Photian glosses where PCG had printed only one. In light of his fuller treatment of the potential humorous connotations of the adjective as well as the related lexicographical material, Bagordo tentatively revives Dindorf’s suggestion that Theognostus’ testimonium that Aristophanes spoke of Hermes as Στρεψαῖος originated from a gloss on Wealth 1153-4, where Hermes describes himself as Στροφαῖος. Flipping to fr. 110, an interesting fragment from Farmers about the “Spartan fig,” the reader will find the exact text as printed in PCG. But in his commentary, Bagordo takes seriously Desroussaux’s proposal for a change of speaker within this text; citing Bravi’s recent study of the fragment and marshaling a formally parallel scene in Wasps (481–525), he tentatively suggests that the excerpt is from a dialogue between two speakers, a planting peasant and a radical Athenian democrat who rejects the cultivation of this “hostile and tyrannical” fruit.[8]

I turn now to Bagordo’s introductions. Readers who have worked with other KomFrag volumes of attributed Aristophanic fragments might be surprised to find that Bagordo has opted not to adopt the procedure followed by other editors, whose introductions feature discrete sections treating previous scholarship on the play at hand, its title, its content, and its date.[9] Instead, each play gets one to two pages of continuous prose, which is abundantly peppered with citations and interpretive parentheticals. While Bagordo’s introductions cover much of the same ground, the more clearly delineated format of previous editions is, in my opinion, preferable.

Treating the content of these lost plays presents a particular set of interpretive difficulties––inasmuch as the majority of that content does not exist. As the fragments of comic texts have become more accessible, and thus more widely studied, over the last few decades, one can sometimes sense a methodological tension between the strict positivism necessary for establishing what a given fragment says and the necessarily more speculative––but nevertheless important––work of synthesizing our fragmentary corpus for incorporation into broader literary, cultural, or historical interpretations. These scholarly discussions have often emerged in the context of attempts to reconstruct plots, scenes, or themes of lost comedies on the basis of the extant testimonia and fragments.[10]

Gerytades provides the best opportunity to see Bagordo’s approach toward such interpretive problems. For according to one prominent view, fr. 156 does offer us a foothold for reconstructing the plot and thematic concerns of the play.[11] In introducing the text, Athenaeus reports that in Gerytades Aristophanes lists thin men who were sent by the poets as ambassadors to the poets in Hades. In the text itself, a second speaker answers a first’s questions about the participants in this embassy by explaining that each of the three men selected represents a poetic craft: Sannyrion represents comedy, Meletus tragedy, and Cinesias dithyramb. The first speaker responds that the embassy’s success rests on slender hopes, for these men will be dragged away by the “diarrhea river” of the underworld. There is a long tradition of taking this intriguing thirteen-line exchange to contain the core of the dramatic plot of the Gerytades, which would then have a similar shape to and share thematic concerns with Frogs: the play follows these incompetent poets to the underworld, where they are instructed in their craft by master poets who have died.

Bagordo’s brief introduction to the play does not offer any sustained discussion of the interpretive issues involved in such attempts to reconstruct the play and its themes.[12] Instead, after treating the play’s date (last decade of the fifth century) and explaining its title (a patronymic derived from γῆρυς (“voice, sound, call”) or γηρύειν (“to intone, sing, call”)), he quickly expresses doubts about some specific interpretive claims made by the most recent scholar to treat the subject: that the action of the Gerytades took place in the underworld, that it featured banquet scenes, that its literary-critical focus was on tragedy.[13] The strongest versions of these claims, he reasonably suggests, are underdetermined by the available evidence. Rather than venturing his own synthesizing treatment of the extant material, Bagordo concludes the introduction, as he does all of the introductions in the volume, with his own sequential summary of each individual fragment; these summaries account for about half of the introduction.

Though there are no explicit methodological claims here, Bagordo’s introduction to the Gerytades makes clear the methodological approach that he adheres to throughout the volume: in interpreting this material, we must focus our attention on establishing and explicating the content of what we have (i.e. thirty-five fragments from Gerytades) rather than being carried away into unverifiable speculation by our yearning after something we do not have (i.e. a complete text of Gerytades). This is, of course, an entirely appropriate approach for an editor compiling what will surely be the standard reference edition of these fragments. But Bagordo’s strict adherence to this positivist principle––even in his synthetic introductions, where a more exploratory, discursive treatment of the evidence might incorporate and assess a range of interpretive possibilities––does mean that readers will often have to look beyond this volume for a fuller picture of the approaches that other scholars have taken in interpreting these plays.[14]

In conclusion, though, I emphasize that this reservation is only a small drawback to Bagordo’s interpretive approach toward the fragments collected in this commentary. For, on the whole, his approach has helped him to accomplish expertly the leading goal of KomFrag: to make this important body of evidence more accessible to scholars and to establish a firmer foundation upon which future interpreters can build.




[2] BMCR reviews of previous KomFrag volumes include: FrC 15 (BMCR 2014.04.40); FrC 9.1 (BMCR 2014.07.34); FrC 7 (BMCR 2015.11.10); FrC 8.1 (BMCR 2018.09.29); FrC 2 (BMCR 2021.03.56)

[3] E.g., A. Lamari, F. Montanari, A. Novokhatko, Fragmentation in Ancient Greek Drama (2020).

[4] BMCR reviews of previous KomFrag volumes by Bagordo: FrC 1.1 (BMCR 2015.01.15); FrC 10.10 (BMCR 2018.10.17).

[5] FrC 10.1 will be a standalone introduction to the fragments of Aristophanes.

[6] FrC 10.10 (BMCR 2018.10.17).

[7] μειρακίω τῷ for μειρακίω τῶ in the corrupt fr. 146 seems to be a typo; it is unclear to me why the paroxytone σκαφίον is twice printed in fr. 153 for the proparoxytone σκάφιον, which appears in PCG and throughout Bagordo’s commentary.

[8] L. Bravi, “Il fico di Sparta (Aristofane, Contadini, fr. 110 K.-A.),” RCCM 58 (2016): 11-17.

[9] Compare FrC 10.3 and 10.7. FrC 10.3 also includes a section on additional fragments that scholars have attributed to the play; although additional fragments have been attributed to, e.g., Gerytades (fr. 128, 591, 595, 596, 598, 623, 696, 720, CGFP 226), Bagordo does not include this information.

[10] See, e.g., Telò on FrC 8.1 (BMCR 2018.09.29).

[11] See most recently M. Farmer, Tragedy on the Comic Stage (2017): 197-212 (cited abundantly by Bagordo).

[12] For a more extensive treatment, see S. Douglas Olson, “The Fragments of Aristophanes’ Gerytades: Methodological Considerations,” in A. Lamari, F. Montanari, A. Novokhatko (op cit.): 129-44 (cited abundantly by Bagordo).

[13] Farmer (op. cit.).

[14] Compare, again, FrC 10.3 and 10.7, which feature more extensive introductions.