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  • The Texts of Early Greek Philosophy, 2 vols
  • Richard McKirahan
Daniel W. Graham (ed. and tr.). The Texts of Early Greek Philosophy, 2 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Pp. 1020. $189.00 (hb.). ISBN 978-0-521-84591-5; $103.00 (pb.). ISBN 978-0-521-60842-8.

Graham’s book (TEGP) is “the first bilingual sourcebook of the Presocratics with English as the target language” (13). It aims to serve as “a bridge between the introductory textbook and the exhaustive collection, a kind of portable and up-to-date assemblage of the texts everyone should have access to for the figures everyone studies” (xiii), and thus TEGP will be valuable to all students and scholars of early Greek philosophy. Since its subtitle, “The Complete Fragments and Selected Testimonies of the Major Presocratics,” announces the book’s significant relation with Diels’ Fragmente der Vorsokratiker (DK), which is still the standard reference point for pre-Socratic studies, the main purpose of this review will be to set out the similarities and differences between the two works.

Like DK, TEGP aims to present all the fragments and a selection of the testimonia of the authors it includes; unlike DK, with its ninety headings (mostly of individual thinkers), TEGP covers only nineteen pre-Socratics and two anonymous texts. (The pre-Socratics are in vol. 1, the fifth-century Sophists in vol. 2.) [End Page 136] In fact, Diels extended the notion of “pre-Socratic” beyond reasonable bounds, and with two significant exceptions, the authors covered by TEGP are the only ones that receive significant attention. TEGP includes fragments unknown to DK (such as the Empedocles material in the Strasbourg papyrus) and occasionally upgrades passages in DK’s testimonia to the status of fragments (e.g., Anaximander F 4), and downgrades DK’s fragments to testimonia (e.g., Xenophanes B 13, 19, 20) and sometimes mysteriously downgrades DK fragments to testimonia (e.g. Anaximenes B 2 and Heraclitus B 70). It also includes many testimonia not in DK. (I count over two hundred texts that TEGP does not identify as in DK, but several of these—for example, ten testimonia of Anaximander and ten of Anaximenes—are in fact in the older work.) Both works translate fragments, but TEGP translates the testimonia as well. The book is attractively presented, with texts in the original language on the left page and facing translations on the right. Unlike DK, TEGP does not separate the testimonia from the fragments. This decision makes it possible to print fragments in the context that quotes them (as with Heraclitus F 1 and 2) and to locate all the material on individual topics in one place, but it makes it relatively difficult to find the individual fragments. The fact that fragments are printed (both in the original language and in the translation) in boldface helps here, but in many cases boldfaced words are mysteriously not labeled as fragments. TEGP does not blindly follow DK’s versions of the original texts, but “uses the best critical texts available” (xiv), giving a minimal critical apparatus and making only a few textual proposals. Unlike DK, TEGP gives a brief introduction to each author and a brief commentary on the selected passages. The book ends with a bibliography, concordance with DK, index of sources, index of passages referred to in comments, and a general index, but unfortunately no index of names.

TEGP is destined to be a work that lasts. It has the right scale and scope for a sourcebook on early Greek philosophy, the selection of texts is sensible, and as far as I have checked the translations are very good. There are, however, a number of problems with the book as it stands. Most glaring are the absence of a section on fifth-century Pythagoreanism (and the consequent omission of important Aristotelian material) and the failure to give Hippias (who originated the practice of pre-Socratic doxography) a place among the other principal Sophists. Also missing is a discussion of the sources, which is needed since many of TEGP’s intended readers will not be in a position to know how much weight to give to, say, a testimonium from...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1558-9234
Print ISSN
0009-8418
Pages
pp. 136-137
Launched on MUSE
2012-12-04
Open Access
No
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