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Interpreting a Classic

Demosthenes and His Ancient Commentators

Craig A. Gibson

Publication Year: 2002

Demosthenes (384-322 b.c.) was an Athenian statesman and a widely read author whose life, times, and rhetorical abilities captivated the minds of generations. Sifting through the rubble of a mostly lost tradition of ancient scholarship, Craig A. Gibson tells the story of how one group of ancient scholars helped their readers understand this man's writings. This book collects for the first time, translates, and offers explanatory notes on all the substantial fragments of ancient philological and historical commentaries on Demosthenes. Using these texts to illuminate an important aspect of Graeco-Roman antiquity that has hitherto been difficult to glimpse, Gibson gives a detailed portrait of a scholarly industry that touched generations of ancient readers from the first century b.c. to the fifth century and beyond.

In this lucidly organized work, Gibson surveys the physical form of the commentaries, traces the history of how they were passed down, and explains their sources, interests, and readership. He also includes a complete collection of Greek texts, English translations, and detailed notes on the commentaries.

Published by: University of California Press

Series: Joan Palevsky Imprint in Classical Literature

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

...This is a book about ancient writers and readers who shared an interest in the orations of the Athenian statesman Demosthenes. There has been no full modern discussion of the nature of this branch of the ancient reception of Demosthenes; it is a story that has been told only in part and with various aims. In addition, the texts themselves have never been assembled in one place, translated into a modern...


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pp. xi-xii

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pp. 1-10

...The Athenian statesman and orator Demosthenes (384–322 b.c.) was one of the most influential authors of Greek and Roman antiquity. The writings passed down under his name in the manuscript tradition include sixteen speeches delivered before the Athenian Assembly, nine others from important public trials, thirty-three from private law cases, six letters, a funeral oration, an essay on love, and a...

PART ONE : The Ancient Commentaries on Demosthenes

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1. Form and Transmission

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pp. 13-25

...The ancient commentaries on Demosthenes were particularly volatile and subject to various sorts of excerpting and reorganization. This resulted in the creation of different reference works for different purposes and audiences. None of these works represented any sort of advance over the others, and with the exception of the much later marginal scholia, one might have expected to find any of...

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2. Sources, Agenda, and Readership

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pp. 26-50

...Information, ideas, and arguments about Demosthenes’ orations were passed among various sorts of commentaries and lexica from at least the first century b.c. down to the end of antiquity and beyond, as we have seen in the previous chapter. But to characterize this exchange and transfer as the mechanics of transmission, and to stop at...

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3. Didymus

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pp. 51-70

...Berol. 9780 is a papyrus of the second century c.e. containing a series of discussions of problems raised by certain passages in Dem. 9–11 and 13. Didymus’s selective coverage of these four speeches has provoked scholarly debate over the past century. For a modern commentator, omitting to address every detail of a text may be considered...

PART TWO: Texts, Translations, and Notes

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1. Commentary on Dem. 9–11 and 13 (P.Berol.inv. 9780)

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pp. 77-136

...Toward the end of the second century, an introduction to Stoic ethics by Hierocles (early second century c.e.) was copied on the verso and in the opposite direction. Most of the commentary on Dem. 9 is lost; the extant text begins with the end of the commentary on that speech. The commentaries on Dem. 10, 11, and 13 are preserved almost in their entirety, the most notable exceptions being...

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2. Didymus Fragments in Harpocration

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pp. 137-156

...An epitome of the lexicon was made before the year 850. Our MSS of the fuller recension all date from after 1300. Absolute alphabetization, from first letter to last, is the general rule. The entries that are out of order—fewer than 10 percent of all entries— are the result of some problems in the transmission of the text and the incomplete application of alphabetization in certain sections...

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3. Lexicon to Dem. 23 (P.Berol.inv. 5008)

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pp. 157-171

...The length and content of the individual entries in Berol. 5008 suggest a close connection with the ancient philological and historical commentaries on Demosthenes; on this point see Naoumides, “Greek Lexicography,” 195. One entry is philological...

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4. Commentary on Dem. 5 (P.Berol.inv. 21188)

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pp. 172-174

...P.Berol.inv. 21188 is a papyrus from Hermoupolis dating from the second century c.e. that consists of one large fragment and ten smaller ones. The large fragment (frag. 1) preserves part of a commentary on the phrase “about the shadow of an ass” from Dem. 5.25...

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5. Commentary on Dem. 22 (P.Stras.inv. 84)

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pp. 175-189

...its length is 18.2 cm. The recto contains accounts from the first half of the century. The verso contains our text, a single column consisting of the ends of twenty-six lines; the restorations of the beginnings of these lines and the final entry are conjectural. Lines 3–26 are written by a second hand. The length of the undamaged lines is debated, with estimates for the portion in lacuna ranging...

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6. Lexicon to Dem. 21 (P.Rain.inv. 7)

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pp. 190-200

...several of the entries in this lexicon bear a close resemblance to entries in Harpocration; this has been recognized by both Wessely in his edition and Naoumides, “Literary Papyri,” 243. Wessely in Archiv attributed authorship to Didymus, but this is not necessary. The entry on...

Appendix: Rhetorical Prologue and Commentary on Dem. 21 (P.Lond.Lit. 179)

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pp. 201-210


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pp. 211-224

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Corcordance to the Translations

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pp. 225-230

...This concordance contains proper names, transliterated Greek words, and other significant words used in the translations in Part Two, including those translations that are based on alternate restorations of the Greek texts...

General Index

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pp. 231-236

Index Locorum

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pp. 237-246

Index Verborum

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pp. 247-259

E-ISBN-13: 9780520927308
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520229563

Page Count: 273
Publication Year: 2002

Series Title: Joan Palevsky Imprint in Classical Literature