- Philodemus: On Poems, Books 3–4. With the Fragments of Aristotle, On Poets by Richard Janko
This is a book of controversies and will be a controversial book. Its Greek texts preserve ancient controversies about the nature of poetry. Its author/editor [End Page 123] advances controversial positions on, inter alia, excavating Herculaneum (pro, to find more scrolls: vii–viii), Philodemus’ poetic theory, and Aristotle’s corpus. The editions of Philodemus, On Poems 3 and 4, are state of the art. The presentation of Philodemus’ aesthetic theory is not. The edition of Aristotle, On Poets, is a milestone of scholarship.
Between two covers lie three independent editions, each with its own introduction and commentary. Part I proffers the slight fruit of great labor, the likely remains of Philodemus, On Poems 3. Unfortunately, the arguments deployed in this controversy over euphony and diction have not survived intact.
Part II contains Janko’s edition of the better-preserved Philodemus, On Poems 4. Here Philodemus engages an opponent identified as Aristotle, based on the phrase [τω̑ν | περὶ τὸ]ν Ἀριστο̣τέ̣[λην (column 106, lines 9–10, pages 268–69). This phrase could refer to Aristotle-as-reported-by-followers, but Janko argues plausibly that it is “a periphrasis for the philosopher alone” (269, n.8; 220–21). This identification is crucial to Janko’s project because, following Sbordone (158, n.5), he attributes the positions of Philodemus’ opponent to Aristotle, On Poets. Philodemus, On Poems 4 “is a major source,” Janko writes (221), “for the fragments of Aristotle’s lost dialogue.”
And so, profitably onward. As to the possibility that Philodemus might appraise opposing views to promote his own positive poetic theory, Janko concludes that “Philodemus was not willing to construct a theory about” poetry (227). In this he tacitly retracts his earlier (Janko (2000) Philodemus: On Poems Book I, Oxford: 8–10) accord with the likes of Asmis, Sider, Wigodsky, and Armstrong, who have argued (in D. Obbink (1995) Philodemus and Poetry, Oxford) for a Philodemean theory that locates poetic value in the realization of “content” in “form.” See, too, Armstrong’s “Introduction,” in D. Armstrong et al. (eds.) (2004) Vergil, Philodemus, and the Augustans, Austin. These volumes appear in Janko’s bibliography but he does not cite them when assessing Philodemus’ theory. Also missing from his bibliography are E. Asmis, CErc 34 (2004) 5–27, and M. Wigodsky, CErc 39 (2009) 7–27. It can only aid our appreciation of Philodemus’ discussion of his opponents to have as complete a sense of his own positive views as possible. Janko’s work on On Poems 2 should afford opportunity for fuller exploration of Philodemus’ aesthetic theory.
Janko and previous reviewers make much of a citation of Democritus reconstructed in Book 4, fr. 10 (250–51). Caution is advised. Any reference to music here is tenuous. All that remains of the relevant word is an ε or a σ, then ικ[ (fr. 10, line 5: fortasse δ]είκ[ελα). Moreover, Janko appears to hold one of two erroneous views about Democritus’ εἴδωλα. He asserts that Democritus’ “εἴδωλα are themselves divine,” (214; cf. 251, n.6). Given his discussion (209–14), this could mean either (1) that Democritus thought all εἴδωλα were divine, or (2) that Democritus thought all εἴδωλα consisting of the fine atoms capable of directly penetrating our minds, as in dreams, were divine. As to (1), εἴδωλα are part of Democritus’ explanation of vision (Rudolph, JHS 131  67–83) and not inherently divine. As to (2), just because divine things either are or emit εἴδωλα of fine atoms does not entail that all εἴδωλα (even all those composed of fine atoms) are therefore divine. Janko’s thesis that Democritus’ divinely inspired poets are especially susceptible to divine εἴδωλα could stand without (1) or (2). However, this fragment does not necessarily treat divine inspiration or divine εἴδωλα. If it indeed concerns music, Philodemus may mention εἴδωλα while discussing Democritus’ physics of hearing, which appealed to streams of atoms, analogous...