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Reviewed by:
  • Kommentar zu den simonideischen Versinschriften
  • Richard Rawles
Andrej Petrovic . Kommentar zu den simonideischen Versinschriften. Mnemosyne Supplements, 282. Leiden: Brill, 2007. Pp. xv, 345. $134.00. ISBN 978-90-04-15153-6.

Epigram of the early classical period is fascinating, and opens up many of Hellenists' favorite questions (written vs. oral; synchronic and occasional vs. diachronic and traditional; problems of genre; etc.). Unfortunately, it is also frequently problematic in fundamental, positivist terms, and this is nowhere more apparent than in the large and varied corpus of epigrams attributed, at one time or another, to Simonides. Some are later than Simonides; few attributions are identifiably pre-Hellenistic; even poems of the right period are suspect when we believe that sources frequently attributed epigrams to Simonides for invalid or nonexistent reasons.

This situation has prompted vast efforts of scholarship aimed at delineating the strands of tradition which led to the attributions we have, in the hope of separating out epigrams certainly composed by Simonides from dubia and spuria. The results of these efforts (intelligently described and evaluated in the first half of this book) are dispiriting. Probably the most important contributors on the authenticity question were Wilamowitz and Boas. But the most directly influential scholar mediating our reading of Simonidean epigram now is probably Page, since people usually read the epigrams in his Further Greek Epigrams (1981: published posthumously, and perhaps for that reason, not this great scholar's greatest work), and Page was willing to attribute only one epigram to Simonides (FGE 6).

Petrovic comments not on the whole corpus of Simonidean epigram, but on fifteen poems, all probably or certainly deriving from inscriptions, and most safely datable to Simonides' lifetime. Several are known from inscribed sources as well as (or rather than) literary ones, and Petrovic's expertise in epigram from literary sources (he merits his initials) is matched by enviable knowledge of epigraphica. On epigraphic matters there is an especially great advantage to using Petrovic rather than Page (apart from the constant benefit of greater fullness and up-to-date-ness): he is regularly a much more useful guide for description and explanation of the inscribed sources, and somebody like me, happier with literary sources, will profit enormously.

The treatment of each poem begins with a text, indication of sources, and apparatus, then a translation and a list of secondary literature. Then come remarks on epigraphical matters, and commentary on the text divided into "Hintergrund" and "Sprache" (the latter being the lemmatized part). At the end is "Zuschreibung": the delay corresponds to the author's proper conviction that we should take these texts seriously, independently of Simonidean status (the reader who wants this first can skip ahead). The commentary is full, rich in literary and epigraphical parallels and historical information, and heavily bibliographed without losing sight of accurate and pertinent description and argument. For the epigrams treated, this is now the first port of call.

On attribution, Petrovic is generally optimistic, but not incautiously so. In chapter 3 ("Echtheit"), he praises Erbse for moving away from Quellenkritik as an indicator of authenticity ("the lifting of a taboo imposed by Wilamowitz"): that something came from a dubious source does not mean it is not by Simonides. "Echtheit ≠ Überlieferung" is an eloquent section-heading. And on individual epigrams, he often stresses arguments in favor of the possibility of Simonidean authorship. But as Petrovic knows, this will not resolve difficulties: the reasons for caution with Simonidean ascriptions remain strong. [End Page 354]

This learned, intelligent, and useful book will become integral to the study of Simonidean and other early epigram. Criticisms may be made, however. In my opinion, the introductory parts are too long (perhaps reflecting the book's origins as a Ph.D. thesis), and their considerable utility could have been retained in a smaller compass. In places, errors are disruptive. The apparatus for Petrovic's epigram 5 is obscured by mistakes: for "ἦβεν. Hansen" read "ἦβην Hansen" [i.e., hέβεν: CEG uses original orthography], and for " Έλλένων Hansen" read "Έλλάνων Hansen" [i.e., hελλάνον ]. At Petrovic 6 Bergk's suggestion for line 9 is incomprehensible from the apparatus. At Petrovic 2 the second iteration of the epigram in the Anthologia Palatina is throughout...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1558-9234
Print ISSN
0009-8418
Pages
pp. 354-355
Launched on MUSE
2009-06-03
Open Access
No
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