The first unmetrical word of Leonidas, AP 6.4 requires emendation, not explanation. On the basis of a variant in Lucian, a new textual suggestion is made. The paper explores metrical and intertextual criteria for explaining the passage, but rejects them in favour of emendation.
The main purpose of this paper is to present some reflections on the relationship between metre and text in Greek literature, by concentrating on cases where emendation, in prose and verse, interacts with metrical considerations. The main case study addressed here is an epigram of Leonidas, AP 6.4, in which most editions permit an unmetrical first word to stand.
A wider interest will become clear as the paper progresses—the old question of the relative importance of ‘explaining’ apparent irregularities in our texts (in this case, an unmetrical line) as opposed to emending them. Very few editors of Euripides would print the first line of the Ion as transmitted by the manuscripts in violation of ‘Porson’s law’;1 at the same time, a recent commentator on Virgil has repeatedly pointed out that the ‘rules’ of Latin syntax are treated in the Aeneid more as guidelines.2 This paper is not an edition, and thus need not choose between different modes; it therefore suggests two possible solutions. The crux at issue is Leonidas AP 6.4.1, the metrical irregularity of which has been explained, with some brilliance, as a literary device, with reference both to Hellenistic textual culture broadly conceived and the specific aesthetics in Leonidas. The paper tries to test the hypothesis at issue by making the strongest possible case for this explanation, by adding a number of additional arguments and adducing a range of parallels. But the paper suggests that an emendation is not only available, but is the better solution, being based not only on palaeographical and etymological considerations (the emender’s toolkit) but also on the same range of literary allusion that had been adduced in the explanation. While the explanation has much to recommend it, therefore, and constructs a sophisticated series of links between inscriptional and literary epigram and other genres, notably comedy, it will be seen that the emendation is thought preferable.
Leonidas AP 6.4 (= HE 2283-2290 Gow-Page) begins with a famous metrical crux.
A well-curved hook, and a long rod, a line, and the baskets that receive the fish, and this pot, contrived for the swimming fish, and the harsh trident, the Neptunian spear, and the twin oars from the boat—these the fisherman Diophantus has dedicated to the lord of his craft, as is correct, the remains of an ancient craftsmanship.
The poem is a list of objects dedicated by a fisherman: hook, rod,3 line, basket, pot, trident and oars.4 The first word,
Jacobs and Geffcken, meanwhile, took a more daring approach. Comparing the treatment in Homer of
Cusset’s claim is far from being unreasonable.13 Although this paper will ultimately make an alternative suggestion, Cusset’s argument is nevertheless serious enough that it is worth making the strongest possible argument in its favour. Leonidas’ metrical practice is known to have peculiarities.14 The second line of this very poem (6.4.2) demonstrates an example: the use of the definite article before the caesura.15 It is also true that verses produced for inscriptions—for example, the ‘real’ dedications on which literary epigrams such as this one are based—not infrequently feature metrical irregularities.16 Leonidas’ mimesis, therefore, may be of a real, metrically defective dedication, perhaps of the sort we see in CEG II 744 (
Slightly disturbingly, however, this kind of line is attested already in archaic verse:
On the whole, the forms
On the other hand, the figure of the fisherman is one attested rather widely in Hellenistic poetry. Comic tropes about fishermen seem to have inspired Theocritus 21, a conversation between two fishermen—one named Diophantus, which can hardly be a coincidence.22 The fishermen of Plautus, Rudens 290ff. and Gripus’ speech at 906ff., if they are reprising material from Diphilus’ original, may be a further link to Hellenistic comedy (even Gripus’ name, from
Comedy itself is known to have played the same kind of metrical game as that sketched in the previous section: expectations of comic realism are disrupted by Menander fr. 163.1 K.-A., in a passage referring to an
ἐμοὶ μὲν οὖν ἄειδε τοιαύτην, θεά
Sing me a woman like this, goddess
The use of the epic form of the verb
Stobaeus preserves the lightly distorted
ἐρέ͜ω γὰρ οὕτω· “Κυλλήνιε Μαιάδος Ἑρμῆ”
Hipponax fr. 23 (= fr. 11 Degani, preserved in the same context by Priscian) has too corrupt a text to be reliable, but seems to have had the same feature. A similar mixture is found in the ‘archilochian’ (– ⏑⏑ – ⏑⏑ – ⏑⏑ – ⏑⏑ | – ⏑ – ⏑ – x), used by Callimachus (ep. 39 Pf. = 1137-1142 HE Gow-Page).
Furthermore, literary theory and practice in the ancient world knew to exploit linguistic features of Greek in metrical ‘games’, in which texts could be analysed according to different metrical schemes.26 Lines such as Il. 23.644
I am sat here yawning, the double of the Samian—the tragic Dionysus listening to the boys. They say “the hair is sacred”—old news to me.
The quotation, in its original context at Bacchae 494, must be scanned ⏑⏑⏑ | ⏑⏑⏑ | –; the different treatment of muta cum liquida sequences in hexameter, however, also allows the line to be read as – ⏑⏑ | – ⏑⏑ | –. Callimachus’ clever game exploits a metrical ambiguity, allowing the incorporation of a quotation from one metrical context into another. How are we to imagine Callimachus reading such a poem aloud? It is not inconceivable that the original prosody was used, and that a performance of elegiac metre was disrupted by a ‘surprising’ (half) trimeter. This would bring the case closer to Hipponax fr. 35 cited above, as well as matching the kind of practice we have suggested for Menander fr. 852; this would seem then to provide an Hellenistic counterpart to the metrical experiment suggested for Leonidas.
Cusset’s explanation of the metrical anomaly of Leonidas AP 6.4 thus remains available for those who are convinced by these arguments, and has into the bargain revealed something about the relationship between comedy, particularly Hellenistic comedy, and epigram. Indeed, the fact that it draws on this kind of argument—in particularly its interest in allusive intertextuality—makes it superficially the most attractive solution. For others, via prima salutis, quod minime reris, Syria pandetur ab urbe: we move now to the possibility that the text should be emended, using a clue from, superficially, an unexpected quarter. In other words, emendation itself is based on intertextual reading and support; nevertheless, textual correction, rather than interpretation, can be shown to be the preferable answer.
At Lucian 23.14 (Prometheus), we read the following in most editions:
ὅτι δὲ καὶ χρήσιμα ταῦτα γεγένηται τοῖς θεοῖς, οὕτως ἂν μάθοις, εἰ ἐπιβλέψειας ἅπασαν τὴν γῆν οὐκέτ᾿ αὐχμηρὰν καὶ ἀκαλλῆ οὖσαν, ἀλλὰ πόλεσι καὶ γεωργίαις καὶ φυτοῖς ἡμέροις διακεκοσμημένην …
You’d know that these good things come from the gods, if you saw that the whole world was no longer dry and unattractive, but adorned with cities and farms and gentle plants …
In place of
Perhaps the most obvious objection to this conjecture is the following: ‘Well-made’ is a bland epithet for a fisherman’s hook—perhaps even intolerably bland. However, this is a less impressive counter-argument than might appear at first blush. First, Hellenistic aesthetics made much of intense work and craftsmanship being expended on small or trivial (yet valuable) objects: Catullus 1.7, calling Cornelius’ history ‘learned and much worked upon’ (cartis | doctis … et laboriosis) reflects a similar preoccupation; the trope is a familiar one in the poems of Posidippus, Callimachus and Theocritus.29 Second, the fact that the term is an unusual lexeme lends the poem an appropriate veneer of learning. At this juncture it is worth considering in more detail how an Hellenistic poet might have understood this word. Besides
-θάνατος: -θανής :: -κάματος : Χ, Χ = -καμής
In this case, the analogy works by considering the relationship between different second members of compounds. Since competing formations in -
In any case,
This seems at odds with our earlier conclusion, that Leonidas’ use of metre in 6.4 was paralleled in other texts. Yet the fact is that none of these parallels was quite exact. They relied either on quotation or on some prosodical ambiguity in the Greek language. These prosodical ambiguities—different treatments of long vowels in hiatus, different treatments of mute plus liquid sequences—are of a different order to the metrical license alleged to permit
To return to our opening reflections. This paper has expended a deal of energy to mount as strong as possible a case to justify an unmetrical text in terms of literary expression. It is important that this sort of explanation is not dismissed. It was possible to mount up parallels which served to confirm the possibility of an explanation, and furthermore these parallels suggested that we have not yet exhausted the exploration of ancient literary technique. If we then turned to emendation after all, it was because none of the parallels turned out to be precise. But emendation itself was shown to depend on literary and linguistic analysis of texts in quite another department of literature. Emendation, then, is part of literary appreciation, not an adjunct to it—and not simply a means of getting one’s own way before the game has begun. Traditional philology draws on as sophisticated an approach to work on textuality as more modern methods do.
My thanks to Enrico Prodi (Oxford), who read and commented on an early draft; Davide Massimo (Oxford), who contributed rich observations on Leonidas; and Taylor S. Coughlan (Pittsburgh), for improving a final version. My additional thanks go to Antonis Stamatis. The anonymous reviewers made many helpful remarks.
Bing, P. (2005). The Politics and Poetics of Geography in the Milan Posidippus, Section One. On Stones (AB 1-20). In: K. Gutzwiller, ed., The New Posidippus. A Hellenistic Poetry Book, Oxford, pp. 119-140.
Cusset, C. (2017). Léonidas, poète de l’humilité. L’exemple des pêcheurs. In: D. Meyer and C. Urlacher-Becht, eds., La rhétorique de « petit » dans l’épigramme grecque et latine, Paris, pp. 37-44.
De Stefani, C. (2005). Posidippo e Leonida di Taranto. In: M. Di Marco, B.M. Palumbo Stracca, and E. Lelli, eds., Posidippo e gli altri. Il poeta, il genere, il contesto culturale e letterario, Pisa, pp. 147-190.
Dübner, J.F. (1871). Epigrammatum Anthologia Palatina, cum Planudeis et appendice nova epigrammatum veterum ex libris et marmoribus ductorum, Vol. 1. Paris.
Fantuzzi, M., and Sens, A. (2006). The Hexameter of Inscribed Hellenistic Epigram. In: M.A. Harder, R.F. Regtuit, and G.C. Wakker, eds., Beyond the Canon, Leuven/Paris/Dudley, MA, pp. 105-122.
Handley, E.W. (1988). Hidden Verses. In: N. Horsfall, ed., Vir bonus discendi peritus. Studies in Celebration of Otto Skutsch’s Eightieth Birthday, London, pp. 166-174.
Porter, J.I. (2011). Against λεπτότης. Rethinking Hellenistic Aesthetics. In: A. Erskine and L. Llewellyn-Jones, eds., Creating a Hellenistic World, Swansea, pp. 271-312.
Phillips, R.A. (1973). Studies in the Diction of Leonidas of Tarentum. Diss. Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Ypsilanti, M. (2006). An Aspect of Leonidas’ Reception in Later Epigrammatists and the Art of Variation. The Case of Fishermen’s Epitaphs. CPh 101, pp. 67-73.
See now Martin 2018, 122-123 (defending Elmsley’s simpler transposition over the more complex rearrangement preferred in the Oxford text).
Horsfall 2008, xvii: “In V.’s hands, Latin usage becomes alarmingly flexible and full of surprises for those used to the comfortable verities of the grammars”; this observation was repeated in some of Horsfall’s other commentaries.
Gow and Page 1965, vol. 2, 360 justify their adoption of Knaack’s emendation of
For the reception history of this epigram, see the ‘stemma’ in Geffcken 1896, 113; Ypsilanti 2006; and Durbec 2012/2013. Geffcken 1896, 113 calls the piece an “inhaltsloses und geschmackloses Gedicht”, and see von Wilamowitz-Moellendorf 1903, 55; contrast the more charitable assessment by Gigante 1971, 21-22.
Dübner 1871, 223. Note that Dübner is not referring to the edition of Leonidas by Albert Meineke, who prints
Gow and Page 1965, vol. 2, 360 call Salmasius’ “the best of the suggestions”. Beckby 1966, 446 records a conjecture by Desrousseaux of
De Stefani 2005, 169 n. 166. Surprisingly there is no discussion of the form in Phillips 1973.
Durbec 2012/2013, 714.
Solitario 2015, 57.
Geffcken 1896, 114; similarly Gigante 1971, 62 n. 106. For *anr̥tāta, see West 1988, 156 n. 42 = West 2011, 45 n. 42; differently Tichy 1981; Hajnal 2003, 77-79, 82-84; Barnes 2011.
Should this ever prove to have been a synchronic rule, there are interesting implications for the status of the reading
Cusset 2017, 39.
It should be noted, however, that it can hardly be reconciled with Gutzwiller’s interpretation, according to which Leonidas’ ornate poems are an act of the conferral of value, not a creation of ironic distance; see Gutzwiller 1998, 94-95.
Nonetheless, see De Stefani 2005, 157 for a comparison of Leonidas and Posidippus, according to which the latter is much freer in his hexameters.
Gow and Page 1965, vol. 2, 121 (on 913) and for Leonidas in particular 336 (on 2119f.). Another peculiarity, the scansion
See Todd 1939.
Obviously the hiatus would, in classical verse, be very strange. Should one understand
Our understanding of Leonidas’ metrical practice will be put on a new footing by Davide Massimo’s Oxford DPhil thesis (under completion); in the meantime see De Stefani 2005, 147-162. For the metre of Hellenistic inscribed epigram, see Fantuzzi and Sens 2006.
West 1978, 184 calls the prosody of Op. 131 “unparalleled”; it is striking however that it matches the phonetic environment of Il. 24.7. West adduces
Richardson 1974, 170 collects relevant parallels from Classical and Hellenistic poetry.
Solitario 2015, 62-64 calls attention to significant intertextual links with Hesiod. Archaism in poetic form should therefore not be discounted.
Gow 1950, vol. 2, 369; Gow and Page 1965, vol. 2, 361. The authorship of the piece has been doubted—indeed, Gow records without enthusiasm the theory that the poem was even by Leonidas—but I use ‘Theocritus’ to refer to its author for convenience.
Morgan 2010, 349-350 has analysed a comparable trick in the Latin hexameter, in which the reader is led to expect elegiac in the opening of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
Meineke 1823, 233.
See Kassel 1981, 11-18 = Kassel 1991, 121-130, on whom the following account closely depends, and Handley 1988.
We will come to consider the form’s place within Greek systems of internal derivation (i.e. synchronic word-formation rules). From the point of view of modern etymological thought, the second member of the compound would be derived ultimately from the root of the verb
Particularly relevant here are
The bibliography is vast, and a complete enumeration will not be attempted: for Posidippus, e.g. Bing 2005, 119-121; for Callimachus, Asper 1997, 160-189; Porter 2011 is a helpful and critical overview of
I am grateful to the anonymous reviewer for drawing my attention to this gloss.
Hence Geffcken 1896, 124 cannot legitimately point to the use of the term in Opp. H. 3.128 as proof of its existence in Leonidas.
Massimo 2018, 483 is right to point out (and illustrate with copious examples) the thematic resonance of
Gow and Page 1965, vol. 2, 307.
Geffcken 1896, 114; Gow and Page 1965, vol. 2, 361; Solitario 2015, 59; Gigante 1971, 63.