De Gruyter (2022) h/b 378pp £109 (ISBN 9783110710960)

This volume emerged from an ‘international double event (training day and conference) focused on Greek poetic fragments and their methodology’, held in London in 2014. The admirable Introduction by Margarita Alexandrou not only justifies the work involved in reconstructing ancient Greek literary texts (here, only verse fragments) but also helpfully gives an indication of what the twelve following chapters contain. Since, of those chapters, perhaps four, being highly technical, defy review here, I shall list no more than their titles and authors: chapter 3 (W. Benjamin Henry) ‘A Papyrological Miscellany’; chapter 5 (Kathleen McNamee) ‘Sigla, Abbreviations and Annotation in Fragmentary Papyri of Greek Literature’; chapter 7 (Giuseppe Ucciardelio) ‘Handwritings, Copyists and Lyric Fragments from Oxyrhynchus: the Scribe 19 and his Bookrolls’ (with helpful ‘methodological foreword’); chapter 8 (Giovan Battista D’Alessio) ‘Physical Lay-out, Material Damage and the Reconstruction of Fragmentary Texts: Two Case Studies from Lyric Poetry’. (As noted above, Alexandrou’s Introduction gives a summary description of what each of these chapters contain).

In his exemplary chapter 2, P.J. Finglass addresses the problems with which he was faced in his 2014 edition of the fragmentary corpus of Stesichorus, a poet to whose work new discoveries were regularly being added. Poetae Melici Graeci (D.L. Page) appeared in 1962; a corrected reprint in 1967 was already out of date thanks to the arrival of three more papyri, and the situation worsened in 1971: hence Supplementum Lyricis Graecis (1974). Nor was that the end: in 1991 appeared Campbell’s Loeb and PMG Fragmenta volume one (M. Davies), both providing all the fragments of Stesichorus then known within a single volume. Trouble arises: PMGFi retains the numerations of PMG and SLG, so that ‘tracking down an individual fragment can be difficult even for scholars familiar with the text’: in fact, the numeration of PMGFi is a shambles. F. therefore (i) places fragments in their likely order of appearance within the work; (ii) places longer, more interesting fragments ahead of shorter, less significant ones; (iii) pays no attention to the source of a fragment, be it papyrus, the secondary tradition or a work of art (e.g. the Tabula Iliaca Capitolina), in deciding its position. Yet Davies groups these three different kinds of fragments together for each poem, whether or not their content merits such an arrangement. F. then compares and contrasts his approach to editing Stesichorus’ Sack of Troy to that adopted by Davies in PMGFi; F. also shows that, by failing to unify and locate a quoted fragment 200 (PMGF) with papyrus fragment 589, Davies has allowed ‘probably the single most interesting fragment of Stesichorus … and probably the single most interesting opening to any piece of archaic lyric (Athena, Epeius, and the Wooden Horse)’ to languish ‘out of sight, virtually unknown to scholarship’. (The reviewer wonders when, or whether, Davies’s projected PMGFii, for which we have been waiting for over 40 years, will appear.)

David Sider’s chapter 4, curiously titled ‘Ordovico or Viricordo: Empedocles and The Sein Anew’ (which he attempts to justify via Vico and James Joyce), discusses the Strasbourg papyrus of Empedocles which, taken with a literary fragment, gives an exceptional run of 68 hexameter lines and shows how certain phrases and lines (intentionally) recur: ‘we now have a much better sense of their (i.e. repetitions’) frequency and the role they play’. And whereas Diels had applied William of Ockham’s razor to the many citations he found of Empedocles, S.—largely relying on the repetitions seen in the Strasbourg papyrus—argues that Empedocles returned in ‘hymn-like fashion to certain key themes in varying phraseology’. Metrists may be interested by the breaches of Naeke’s Law at D201a (defended by S. at note 57 on p.72) and Meyer’s Second Law at B139. S. concludes that Empedocles’ version of didactic poetry, with its repetitions, looks back to oral teachings—far more so than Hellenistic didactic poetry ‘which need never repeat.’

Chapter 6—‘Students, Scholars and Archaic Greek Song’—comes from Mark de Kreij. Well illustrated in a manner hardly calculated to encourage the budding papyrologist, it concentrates on ‘paraliterary’ works (commentaries, glossaries, annotated texts), with examples from Alcaeus, Pindar (including Theon’s excerpted hypomnemata), Alcman (glossary), Callimachus, ‘where the classical scholar cannot but think of mediaeval manuscripts with marginal scholia’, Treatises, Mythography (a ‘luxury’ papyrus of Apollodorus), Metrical treatises (detailed physical description of an anonymous treatise), Biographies, including the ‘practically unparalleled’ biography of Pindar, P.Oxy xxvi 2438. Some ‘cursive’ commentaries, K. argues, presuppose a small audience, whereas a professional ‘book hand’ implies a wide audience (e.g. school); it is noteworthy that in the case of Alcaeus, almost all of whose papyri are annotated, he was apparently read as a political author. Paraliterary papyri, K. concludes, can be ‘uniquely informative about a range of reading contexts in Greco-Roman Egypt’—though the boundaries are necessarily ‘fuzzy’.

Chapter 9, by Lucia Prauscello is titled (in part) ‘Sappho’s book of Epithalamia and P.Oxy 2294: A New Proposal’. Did the Alexandrian edition of Sappho include a book of epithalamia? Were there 8 books of Sappho’s poems, or 9 (as claimed by the Suda and Tullius Laurea, Cicero’s freedman?). Much depends on the meaning of the numeric ‘theta’—i.e. 8 in Attic, 9 in Milesian. We find Lobel and Wilamowitz being sceptical about the trustworthiness of Laurea, an approach now being seriously doubted. The argumentation in this chapter is very dense. The conclusion is that ‘number 8 vanishes’ (the reviewer had expected ‘number 9’, given the treatment handed out to Lobel and Wilamowitz) and there were not ‘multiple concurrent “editions” of Sappho in the imperial period’); the ‘tantalizing’ P.Oxy 2294 provides some light, but of an uncertain kind—see pp. 208-216: adhuc sub iudice lis est, and s/he is a brave scholar who simultaneously discards both Lobel and Wilamowitz.

In Chapter 10, by Chris Carey, we turn away from papyri: ‘Poetic Fragments in the Indirect Tradition’ considers fragments extracted from quotations, where the quoting text gives us as much of the source text as the author needs for his immediate purpose. A good example is from the Thebais (Athenaeus 11.465e), cited in full, which, C. claims, shows that ‘the sensitivity to slight and proclivity to anger which we find in Homer’s heroes are not confined to Homer but are part of a larger epic construction of the heroic world’: but is the passage in question—which tells us of the strife between Eteocles and Polynices—analepsis (flashback ) or prolepsis (foreshadowing)? C., seemingly changing a long-held view, now thinks it may be analepsis, part of a brief scene-setting narrative. A passage from Apollonius about Alcman is even more puzzling: we cannot rationally deduce the context—nor can we in other quotations cited by C. There is ‘no single answer to the interference in the message caused by the medium of transmission’: just so, and, as Paul Maas said in the context of manuscripts, ‘There is no remedy against contamination’, so we are limited by our incomplete and provisional knowledge of any given author. We can look to genre, the agenda of the quoting author, perhaps to an indication of where the quotation occurs in the underlying text, or to authorial usage, ‘but the awareness of doubt is always preferable to the comforting illusion of certainty’. (Of course, C. does not consider here another, and no less interesting problem: the accuracy of the transmitted fragment or longer excerpt—particularly relevant in the cases of e.g. Macrobius and Aulus Gellius).

In chapter 11, Christos Tsagalis picks up Carey’s theme in ‘Unplaced Epic Fragments: Eumelus GEF 34-35’ (Eumelus of Corinth, to be dated before Solon, who quotes him). Here, T. explores the meaning, function and position of two unplaced fragments. The first one, quoted by Clement of Alexandria, deals with the Muses, and is used by Clement to show that Greek poets steal from one another: but what is its function? T. argues convincingly against an ‘invocation-scenario’, because the quotation includes a number (nine) which should not appear in an invocation; therefore, a genealogy-list (in which numbers do occur) is more plausible; and are we sure that the citation comes from Eumelus? The attribution has been questioned, but T. comes out in favour of Eumelus, thanks to a couple of technical points. The second (barely a fragment) unplaced Eumelus fragment is quoted by the scholiast on Tzetzes (Hes. Op. 23 Gaisford) in a long passage on the Muses, which, inter alia, states that the Muses are nine, because the number is square and cubic (an obvious absurdity, which it seems T. needed to have pointed out to him by G.B. D’Alessio: note 21, p.245). T. sets out three possibilities regarding the context of the fragment, the most interesting being that proposed by Hermann in 1827, which depends on a most elegant emendation (p.248) and is to be preferred even to one offered by Martin West; it relates the fragment to a context in which only Epicharmus and Eumelus used river names for the Muses. Is there, perhaps, a reference to the spring Castalia, via Eumelus’ identification of the first Muse as Cephisus? The argument is somewhat tenuous, but has its attractions.

Chapter 12 ‘Editing Adespota. Methodological Considerations for Anonymous Papyri’ comes from Marco Perale. He asserts that there is a conspicuous difference between the fragmentary text of a Greek ‘authority’ not yet recognized or identified as such, and an autograph copy of a local poet unknown to us. Papyri with unidentified hexameters started ‘to populate corpora of fragmentary poetry from the last quarter of the nineteenth century’: of the epica adespota in Powell’s Collectanea Alexandrina (1925), eight of the nine fragments were papyri—rising to 58 in the Supplementum Hellenisticum (1983). Since then, technology has significantly aided identification—P. provides examples, but perfection is still far away. Thus the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae still uses, for comic adespota, the obsolete editions of Kock and Meineke; nor does it include variant readings. Thus it took time before the ‘unidentified hexameters’ of P.Ant III 118 were recognized as relics of Hesiod’s Works and Days, via just such a variant reading. P. goes on to say that textual discrepancies may have more than one cause—e.g. divergences within a given textual tradition, or as ‘the marker of separate, independent texts’. Puzzling examples are given from Berlin and Oxyrhynchus papyri which may be from Callimachus and Antimachus—or are they better given the status of ‘doubtful adespota’? Different editors have come up with different decisions, including ‘pruning’ (as with Merkelbach and West’s 1967 edition of the Hesiodic fragments). This is a minefield, as in the case of a 1st century BC papyrus containing a dialogue between Theseus and Meleager set in the underworld: Hesiod, Chersias of Orchomenos (7th century BC), and Prodicus of Phocaea have been nominated as authors, the last named by Pausanias, with equal (im)plausibility. Nor is doubt limited to verse: the authorship of a historical papyrus ascribed to Choerilus of Samos (5th century BC) was doubted by Lobel who called it the product of a ‘relatively late writer’. If ever there was one, the ‘canon’ of hexameter poetry in Imperial and Late Antique times must have been small enough to suggest that it is best to err on the side of caution: for lapidem in mare iacit sannio: et quis tam sapiens ut eum extrahere possit? (Lobel).

The final chapter (‘Tracing Mantic Genealogies in Homer and in the Hesiodic Corpus: Polyidus [a seer] and his Family’) by Ettore Cingano involves reviewing the fragmentary evidence relating to Melampus and his family in greater detail than has been previously attempted. In particular, he attempts to point out the features shared by the Hesiodic fragments and to venture some new readings and observations on a ‘most tattered, enigmatic and intricate text, fr. 136 M-W, which has long defied comprehension’. There is no getting round the deep and intricate argumentation of this long chapter; can there have been an early epic tradition which dealt with the two branches of the Melampodids, perhaps in the Melampodeia, which dealt with the most illustrious diviners located in different traditions and areas of Greece? Were there, even, ‘proto-guslars’? Of course, it must be accepted that the great majority of the Hesiodic fragments were assigned to the Catalogue of Women by M-W, owing to its popularity over the other poems of the Hesiodic corpus throughout the imperial age and late antiquity.

In her Introduction, Margarita Alexandrou sums up: ‘In the world of fragments, where conclusions are very often provisional, the only path is that of methodological virtue; imagination is as good as fact, and detail as promising as the big picture … (but) neither the collection as a whole nor any of its chapters pretends to be the last word’; indeed, to this reviewer, the gains seem modest and hardly won; even names such as Page, Merkelbach, West, Lobel, Wilamowitz do not escape unscathed. To be sure, the papyri keep coming; technology advances, and today’s modest advances may provide the springboard for tomorrow’s great discovery. The excellent plates (some in colour) that this book provides will help to show the budding papyrologist that his/hers is no easy path.

The extra information provided includes a list of Contributors, Abbreviations of editions, commentaries and works of reference, a Checklist of the abbreviations of Papyri mentioned, Sigla, a List of the 42 Figures, a Glossary, a Bibliography, a GeneraI Index, an Index Locorum and an Index of Papyri, Inscriptions and Codices. De Gruyter have maintained their impeccable production standards, and I noticed precisely two typos (of no importance): a splendid achievement, especially in a book of this typographical complexity. The editors, too, deserve credit for assembling so strong a team of contributors, and for bringing the book to publication. Its readership will presumably be specialist in nature.

Colin Leach