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Reviewed by:
  • Solon the Athenian. The Poetic Fragments
  • Antonio Aloni
Maria Noussia-Fantuzzi. Solon the Athenian. The Poetic Fragments. Mnemosyne Supplements 326. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2010. Pp. xiv, 579. $230.00. ISBN 978-9-004-17478-8.

It seems strange to be in Greece while writing about Solon and reading the newspapers on the χρεωκοπία of the Hellenic debt: an ancient word dramatically echoing in the present reality of an entire nation. The time has come, it would seem, to reread Solon’s lines and the traditions about him. To this end, it is both useful and pleasant to turn to the book under review, which features a critical edition of the fragments attributed to Solon; it also deals with his life, political actions, and ideology, without overlooking the issues related to the transmission of his text from the archaic age to the present day. [End Page 133]

The volume is divided into three major sections: “Introduction” (3–77), “Text” with detailed critical apparatus (82–124), and “Commentary” (127–566), followed by a bibliography (527–66) and two indexes on “Primary Sources” and “Names and Topics.” This impressive book merits a much more detailed treatment than is feasible in this review. I will therefore limit myself to analyzing the introduction and the reading of fr. 1 G-P (= 13 W), which give a good example of Noussia-Fantuzzi’s method and working style.

The introduction features five chapters (1. Solon’s Life; 2. Solon the Sage; 3. Solon the Politician and Legislator; 4. Solon’s Songs, Our Solonian Poems, and the Theognidea; 5. Solon’s imagery), which, as is the case for the whole book, discuss other scholars’ opinions with remarkable impartiality. As for Solon’s long life, whose main events are coherently arranged around the traditional date for his archonship (594/93 b.c.), Noussia-Fantuzzi highlights in chapter 1 the tradition that turns Solon from real man to “culture hero.” In the following chapter, Solon’s role as one of the Seven Wise Men is investigated. Especially noteworthy in this respect is the analysis of Herodotus’ tale of Solon and Croesus. Not only does Herodotus depoliticize Solon; he nearly falsifies his way of thinking, while in actuality his views appear more similar to the ones held by Croesus than by the Herodotean Solon.

In chapter 3, Solon is portrayed not only as the traditional lawgiver, but also (and more importantly) as the man solving a crisis that is more political than economic. This is a particularly dense chapter, where ancient evidence and modern studies are examined with great critical acumen, as the exemplary survey of fr. 30.8–15 G-P (= 36 W) demonstrates. Chapter 4 is certainly the most interesting one of the whole introduction, partly because it deals with a subject (oral versus written transmission) that in recent years has raised important and innovative discussions. Setting aside the discrepancies in the views which I myself (since I agree more with Lardinois) and Noussia-Fantuzzi respectively hold on this matter, these pages succeed in making their own points while at the same time respecting other scholars’ arguments. Noussia-Fantuzzi faces at first the opinions expressed by Lardinois and Stehle, who both—albeit from partly different perspectives—argue for a mostly (or totally) oral transmission of Solon’s poetry at least until the fourth century, with the subsequent reformulation of the text in performance. Noussia-Fantuzzi’s conclusions are quite different: unlike the Homeric poems and the Theognidean Sylloge, Solon’s poetry relied upon a written text right from the beginning, even though Solon was certainly sung and rephrased through the centuries during sympotic gatherings. As for Solon’s presence in the Sylloge, this point is consistent with Noussia-Fantuzzi’s main assumption: the variants of Solonian lines in the Sylloge stem from a necessary readapting in performance, that of the preexisting Solonian text to the different context of the Sylloge. Chapter 5 takes into account the nature and the function of the literary images in Solon’s fragments, which is all the more unusual and unexpected when applied to Solon’s own behavior (see, e.g., the wolf in fr. 30.26–27 G-P = 36 W...


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