CUP (2019) p/b 404pp £25.99 (ISBN 9781107686717)

This is a welcome edition of Supplices. T.G. Tucker’s edition (1888-9) held the stage for some 60 years, while the 1,100 page, three volume edition of Friis Johansen/Whittle (1980) is unlikely to have found its way to the desks of many students; the long and superbly meticulous review of it by James Diggle (Classical Review 32, 1982) is well worth reading. In 2013, Antony Bowen published a very useful edition (Aris and Phillips), reviewed on this site at

The publication in 1952 of POxy 2256 radically changed our understanding of this play. S. discusses the subject in section 11 of his Introduction, pp. 41-4: in this papyrus fragment, Aeschylus is shown as having won first prize at a competition with his Danaids tetralogy, over Sophocles, who came second. Since Sophocles did not begin to compete until c. 470 BC, the implication that this tetralogy was produced in the 460s is unavoidable (one cannot fix a definite date): the various attempts to evade it are implausible—yet Taplin’s doubts (see p. 42, note 140) are understandable.

S.’s lengthy Introduction (12 sections) opens with an account of the playwright’s life, insofar as it can be ascertained or plausibly inferred: note that Aristotle credits him with introducing the second actor, and, interestingly in the current context, with reducing the choral element. S. notes that there are strong arguments against the authenticity of Prometheus Bound, while also accepting that theopposite case continues to be made: however, he will not have seen the well-nigh conclusive case against authenticity recently made by N. Minousakis in his Prometheus Bound—A SeparateAuthorial Trace in the Aeschylean Corpus (reviewed here at Other sections cover the Danaid Myth, the Danaid Tetralogy (Amymone was the Satyr play, but complex argument continues about the names and order of the plays in the trilogy), Supplication, Marriage, Greeks and Barbarians, King, People and Tyrant (‘In Suppliants, we find what is perhaps the best-thought-out presentation in surviving tragedy of the idea of a democratic monarchy’), Zeus and Io, Character and Choruses, and Transmission and Text (a highly corrupt text, dependent upon one manuscript and its corrector).

The text follows, with bulky apparatus criticus: among the many scholars (especially M.L. West) whose conjectures are found worthy of mention, the sixteenth century scholar Turnebus (friend of Montaigne) stands out, but the profusion of obeli indicating loci desperati tells its own story. The Commentary on the text—working out at about three lines of Greek to the page—is of a kind calculated both to give full explanations to the student and keen pleasure to (surely among many others) those of a philological bent. Your reviewer noted at random: 90, dative plural of Homeric word μέροπες of unknown meaning; 108 δυσπαραβούλοις, a strange hapax; 117 unusual scansion of Ἀπίαν (the reviewer notes a possible semi-parallel in a Pindaric fragment); 119 rare word for ‘know’, κοννεῖς; 254 interesting placing of elided preposition; 313 cult title ἐφάπτωρ not found outside Supplices; 397 double elision of ἐμέ; 422 rare aorist middle participle of ὄρνυμι, with excellent commentary; 428 necessary correction to subjunctive τλᾶς from transmitted optative τλαίης; 460 a periphrastic construction equalling a future perfect, matched at Sophocles OT 1146; 512 unique use of passive of εὐφημεῖν; 516 future middle with passive sense ‘common in 5th C Attic’; 522 rare future ἐλεύσομαι, interestingly matched at PV 854; 648 rare word ἰαίνοιτο(‘gladdened’) leading to a startling meiosis; 660 optative necessary, not infinitive with different accent; 887 the form ἄραχνος is found only here and in Hesychius; 473 ὑπερτοξεύσιμον is hapax—nobody could shoot higher than an arrow.

Of course, S. also deals fully with ‘stagecraft’ and characterisation, to the relatively limited extent that these are necessary; as to where precisely this play stands in the trilogy (Introduction, pp. 10-20: especially p. 13), the general vote is in favour of Suppliants first, followed by Egyptians and Danaids, but opinion continues to be divided, and S. maintains a judicious balance. It may be helpful here to observe that S. translated Suppliants for the Loeb Aeschylus (2008), where he favoured Egyptians as the first play in the trilogy. Two Indices and a Bibliography complete the work.

This is a most useful addition to the Green-and-Yellow series: it is attractively priced, and is recommended with confidence for its envisaged market in ‘advanced undergraduates and graduate students’

Colin Leach