BMCR 2024.07.05

Dionysios von Byzanz, Anaplus Bospori. Die Fahrt auf dem Bosporos. Einleitung, Text, Übersetzung und Kommentar

, Dionysios von Byzanz, Anaplus Bospori. Die Fahrt auf dem Bosporos. Einleitung, Text, Übersetzung und Kommentar. Schweizerische Beiträge zur Altertumswissenschaft, 59. Berlin: Schwabe Verlag, 2023. Pp. 184. ISBN 9783796548468.



It can hardly be said that the Anaplus Bospori of Dionysius called “of Byzantium” is one of the most famous texts of imperial literature. The fact that the reference edition, that of R. Gungerich, is a century old (1927) and difficult to find (even in the 1958 reprint, which, however, is missing an important chapter[1]) has certainly not helped its fame. Nevertheless, it is a crucial text for learning about the toponyms and mythical and legendary traditions associated in the imperial age with one of the most important crossroads in the ancient (and modern) world, the Bosphorus. For this reason, this edition by M. Billerbeck, with German translation and extensive commentary, is most welcome.

The introduction begins with a short paragraph on the obscure author. The entry in the Suda (δ 1176), which makes him an epopoios, the author of a poem entitled Περὶ θρήνων, is considered unreliable and probably the result of confusion with homonymous authors (p. 9). The actual Byzantine origin of Dionysius, claimed by the same Suda, is also questioned (p. 17). In any case, “our” Dionysius is dated by Billerbeck, as usual, to the second century AD.

With regard to the work, Billerbeck notes that the primary aim of the Anaplus is not to provide ekphraseis of places and monuments, but rather to recount local myths and traditions for the use and consumption of a literary audience capable of deciphering and appreciating quotations and allusions. It is also possible to detect knowledge of Strabo (a not insignificant feature), and that of Dionysius Periegetes.

A detailed list of the topics dealt with in each section of the work is followed by a thematic analysis. The presence of paradoxographic material is particularly interesting, since it links the Anaplus to other works that have come down to us from the famous codex Palatinus gr. 398. This Palatinus (= A) now lacks the pages containing the Anaplus, whose Greek text is preserved only in a fragmentary 14th-century apograph (= B). Its surviving pages are now divided between Paris (BNF, Suppl. gr. 443A) and London (BL, Add. 19391). The many lost sections (57-95) can be somewhat reconstructed from the Latin translation made in the sixteenth century by the French humanist Pierre Gilles, who relied on a lost Greek manuscript (= <G>) that does not coincide with A or B. Billerbeck seems to consider <G> a probable apograph of B (p. 27: “die Wahrscheinlichkeit, dass Gilles sich aus dem Athos eine Abschrift (<G>), ohne die Scholien, des Codex besorgen konnte, ist gross”), since, in her view, most of the verae lectiones in Gilles’ translation could be the result of clever emendations by learned copyists, or by the translator himself. Güngerich, on the other hand, suggested that <G> was a “brother” of G, or even belonged to a tradition independent of A.

Billerbeck devotes several pages (pp. 20-23) to the language and style of the Anaplus, referring to Güngerich’s more thorough analysis, and the Greek text is also avowedly based on Güngerich’s, with some different textual choices in sections 10 (Mango’s ὑπὲρ δὲ τοῦ νεώ for ὑπὸ δὲ τὸν νεών), 43 (αὐτῇ for αὐτῆς), 53 (δείκνυνται – ῥοωδέστατον remains, as in the manuscript tradition, after ἐπείγεται), 102 (<βαθὺς> αἰγιαλός), 109 (πόρων for πόλεων).

Pages 32-95 are followed by the text and German translation of the Anaplus and, on pp. 96-103, of its scholia. The text of the Anaplus is divided into two columns: on the left is the Greek text, when available, and on the right is Gilles’ Latin translation. The Greek text is of course accompanied by a critical apparatus. Unfortunately, neither the bibliography nor the conspectus siglorum lists the reviews and adversaria critica of Wescher’s edition, from which Güngerich derived a number of important conjectures (see the list on p. XXVI of his edition). It so happens that Billerbeck mentions Tournier no less than 41 times in her apparatus of the Anaplus and the scholia, and a few more times in the commentary, but nowhere does she indicate where he proposed his corrections. The same is also true of Miller’s and Frick’s conjectures.

The extensive commentary (pp. 105-168) deals mainly with literary and linguistic aspects, drawing usefully on a number of recent studies and reference works, such as Russell’s Byzantium and the Bosporus (2017), Robu’s Mégare et les établissement mégariens (2014), Külzer’s Tabula imperii Byzantini 12 – Ostthrakien (2008) and Hansen – Nielsen’s An Inventory of Archaic and Classical Poleis (2004). As for Mango’s Le developpement urbain de Constantinople (IVeVIIe siecle), reference is made to the first edition of 1985, although it would have been better to use the third edition of 2004, enriched with several pages of addenda.

Several interesting elements emerge from Billerbeck’s remarks, such as the influence of Demosthenes on Dionysius’ prose (see p. 115), which is also characterized by poeticisms (see pp. 127-128, 140, 162). In some cases, modern parallels are provided to illustrate the formation of ancient place names (e.g., p. 125 Σαπρὰ Θάλασσα is compared to “Faulensee”; 130 Μείζων ποταμός to “Lago Maggiore” or “Langensee”; 131 Χοιράγρια to “Eberswalde”). Ancient toponyms are carefully analyzed to highlight possible “false friends” as well, such as Θέρμαστις in section 43. This name, Billerbeck remarks (p. 136), is not related to hot springs or the like, but rather to the well-established meaning of “tongs” or “pincers,” and thus constitutes the equivalent of other Bosphorus place names such as Χηλαί (section 55).

In a number of instances, further investigation or information would have been welcome. In the case (section 24) of the raven stealing the meat of sacrifices and inducing the colonists to found Byzantium at the end of the Bosporion promontory, one could at least have cited the exact parallel with the founding of Cardia on the Thracian Chersonese (Stephen of Byzantium, κ 77; Hesychius, ε 1327), not to mention the similar events, in which the protagonist is an eagle, reported by John Malalas as having happened in Seleucia, Antioch, Laodicea and Apamea (8.11-12, 17-18).

As for the legend (section 42) of the friendship between a dolphin and the citharode Chalcis, who sumptuously buried his animal friend, treacherously killed by a shepherd intending to make a profit out of it, it is certainly fair to recall (pp. 135-136) the parallel of Herodotus 1.23, who recounts the famous story of Arion. It would perhaps have been useful to recall also Hyginus, Fabulae 194, where it is recalled how Arion’s dolphin, stranded, was buried with honor by the king of Corinth. The story told by Dionysius gains further depth if one considers that the inhabitants of Byzantium were often accused of eating dolphins (see Oppian, Halieutica 5.519-588).

Billerbeck’s exegesis seems to be largely acceptable, although a major problem of interpretation seems to arise in section 56 where, referring to the temple of Artemis Dictynna (Δικτύννης ἱερὸν Ἀρτέμιδος) located near Χηλαί, the Anaplous reports that ἀνέθεσαν δ’ αὐτῇ τὰς κατὰ θάλατταν ἄγρας, ὡς ἕξει μόνη θεῶν ἐπ’ ἀμφότερον εὔθηρος. ταύτην Κυζικηνοῖς σέβειν προσέταξεν ὁ θεὸς ἀφορίᾳ τῆς θαλάσσης πιεζομένοις· οἱ δ’ ὑφείλοντο λαθόντες· ἀφανοῦς δὲ γενομένης—θεῷ γὰρ ἐπὶ πάντα [γὰρ] δύναμις—, οἱ μὲν οὐδὲν ἀμείνονος ἐπειρῶντο τῆς θαλάττης, τὸ δ’ ἕδος ἦν, ἔνθα καὶ πρότερον. ἀλλὰ [τοῦ] Κυζικηνοὶ πλεύσαντες καὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ φανεροῦ μετενεγκάμενοι χρυσέαις ἁλύσεσιν ἐβεβαιώσαντο καὶ ἐκ τούτου μετέβαλε μὲν αὐτοῖς τοῦ χόλου ἡ θεός (the Greek text stops here). If I get it right, Billerbeck understands this passage (p. 73; see also her commentary, p. 143) to mean: “The catch from the sea was dedicated to her because she was the only one of the gods who could bring success in both hunting and fishing. The god told the Cyzicenes to worship her when they were in dire straits because the sea had been fished out. However, they secretly stole the offerings. As the goddess did not make herself known – a deity has power over everything – they tested the sea, but it did not improve in any way. The temple, however, remained where it had stood before. The Cyzicenes, however, who had sailed away and had changed their attitude because of what was now apparent, made amends with golden chains; and as a result, the goddess turned her wrath away from them.”[2] Here Dionysius is not talking about stolen offerings and deceived gods who are then compensated with precious gifts. What the Cyzicenes do is to take the statue of the goddess to their homeland, but without special honor or ceremony, incognito. Artemis is offended and the simulacrum disappears. The Cyzicenes continue to face a shortage of fish, and in the meantime the statue of the goddess (this is the meaning of ἕδος!) has returned to its former home. At this point the citizens set sail and bring it back with full honors to Cyzicus, binding it (out of respect) with golden chains to ensure that it does not escape again.

Various instances of divine statues being chained to prevent them from fleeing or deserting are recalled by Frazer in his commentary on Pausanias 3.15.7 (III, p. 336-337). There is even an explicit mention of an ἕδος τῆς Ἀρτέμιδος bound by the inhabitants of Erythrae to prevent it from leaving (Scholia in Pindar’s Olympics 7.95a)[3], and the use of gold chains to block a statue of Apollo is attributed to the inhabitants of Tyre by Curtius Rufus 4.3.21-22. It was precisely in Cyzicus, moreover, that the stone anchor used by the Argonauts was also said to be kept in the local Pritaneum. This was known as the lapis fugitivus precisely because of its tendency to wander, so much so that it had to be fixed with lead ties (Pliny, Naturalis Historia 36.99). This passage has caused difficulties for other translators as well[4]. Hopefully, it will be understood correctly in the future.

The volume, which concludes with a bibliography and indexes, is elegantly paginated and the editing is precise[5].

All in all, this edition of the Anaplus, while not replacing Güngerich in everything, will undoubtedly be an indispensable reference from now on. The commentary, although not always exhaustive, is nevertheless a good starting point that will hopefully encourage and stimulate new studies on this text.



[1] As explicitly stated (see Dionysii Byzantii Anaplus Bospori, una cum scholiis X saeculi ed. R. Güngerich, Berolini, apud Weidmannos, 1958, p. VI), the chapter entitled “Critica et exegetica,” which in the 1927 edition took up as many as thirty pages (XLV-LXXV), was deliberately omitted in order to reduce printing costs.

[2] “Man weihte ihr den Fang aus dem Meer, weil sie als einzige unter den Göttern in der Lage wäre, sowohl im Jagen als auch im Fischen Erfolg zu bescheren. Sie zu verehren, trug der Gott den Kyzikenern auf, als sie durch das ausgefischte Meer in eine Notlage gebracht worden waren. Diese aber stahlen im Geheimen die Opfergaben. Da sich die Göttin nicht bemerkbar machte – eine Gottheit hat nämlich Macht über alles –, stellten sie das Meer auf die Probe, welches sich jedoch in keiner Weise gebessert hatte. Der Tempel blieb allerdings dort, wo er schon vorher gestanden hatte. Die Kyzikener aber, die abgesegelt waren und aufgrund dessen, was nun offenbar war, ihre Haltung geändert hatten, leisteten mit goldenen Ketten Genugtuung; und als Folge davon wendete die Göttin den Zorn von ihnen ab.”

[3] See also T.M. Kristensen, Making and Breaking the Gods: Christian Responses to Pagan Sculptures in Late Antiquity, Aarhus, Aarhus University Press 2013, p. 45-46 for images of a chained Artemis on Roman coins from Asia Minor.

[4] See S. Belfiore, Il Periplo del Ponto Eusino di Arriano e altri testi sul Mar Nero e il Bosforo, Venezia, Istituto Veneto, 2009, p. 280.

[5] I found just one typo on p. 143, fourth-to-last line: Didorus lege Diodorus.