All studies of Greek doxography have the same starting point: an epoch-making 1879 edition, Doxographi Graeci (DG), by Hermann Diels, at that time a 31-year-old Gymnasium teacher. Doxography as a genre begins with Theophrastus’ Φυσικῶν δόξαι, which featured the teachings of the philosophers from Thales on, whom Aristotle called “physicists.” In the first century b.c. Theophrastus’ compendium was revised and abridged; this version, Vetusta placita, was again abridged by Aëtius (first century a.d.), whose name appears only in selections from his work made by Theodoret (fifth century a.d.). Whereas from Φυσικῶν δόξαι and Vetusta placita only a dozen verbatim fragments and testimonies remain, two independent abridgements of Aëtius, Ps.-Plutarch’s Placita (second century a.d.) and Stobaeus’ Eclogae Physicae (fifth century a.d.), constitute the basis of the preserved doxographical tradition.
Since the 1980s all stages in the doxographical tradition have been the subject of intensive research and lively debates. Joining this field, Heike Bottler has produced a very learned and meticulously systematic study (a revised version of her 2012 Frankfurt dissertation) of Ps.-Plutarch and Stobaeus. Her aim is to challenge the validity both of Diels’s theory (“DG is a highly hypothetical, speculative work,” 16) and of its interpretation by J. Mansfeld and D. Runia, who, though disagreeing with Diels on many important issues, mostly confirmed his reconstruction of Aëtius.1 Thus, Bottler questions that Ps.-Plutarch and Stobaeus are indeed independent sources. Theodoret too may have consulted Ps.-Plutarch, in which case the Aëtius reconstruction would be seriously undermined. There are also other differences, but given the complexity of Dielsian [End Page 424] theory, which involves dozens of Greek and Latin sources, they are not that numerous. It would have been much easier for the author to prove her theses on the limited number of persuasive examples, but she has preferred a path that is more difficult and more rewarding for the reader. To study all the textual differences between the first two books of Ps.-Plutarch and Stobaeus, she prints their text in synoptic tables with German translation and adduces other relevant doxographical sources, including an Arabic translation of Ps.-Plutarch by Qusṭā ibn Lūqā (in German translation by H. Daiber). Where the editors of Ps.-Plutarch and Stobaeus give the text with differences from the manuscripts, Bottler returns to the manuscript reading, to avoid the danger of improving the epitomators themselves. This procedure is hardly commendable in itself and, as a previous reviewer has shown, it has been conducted very inconsistently and with many inaccuracies.2
All the variant readings and words occurring only in one version are marked graphically. Special attention is paid to the transmission of the chapter headings. Using a system of sigla, Bottler shows which sources agree and which disagree in respect to each specific reading, thus making the complex picture of textual transmission clearer and more visible. This is the most valuable contribution of the book to the study of doxography.
Due to the shift of focus from the reconstruction of Aëtius, which Bottler considers very problematic, to the first two books of Ps.-Plutarch and Stobaeus, she devotes the bulk of the book (56–493) to the detailed analysis of various aspects and problems related to each lemma. Again, since no synthesis of this analysis is envisaged, Bottler does not feel the need to take sides in discussions or to offer her own solution. Very often she reports diverse opinions expressed in scholarship, gives arguments pro and contra, but leaves the issue unresolved. In this context, it is understandable why all the differences in opinion with Mansfeld and Runia on the same subjects are painstakingly recorded and then summarized in a special appendix.
The results of the study are presented in “Final Considerations” (493–518). Bottler finds numerous inconsistencies in the material, both in content and structure:, between, for example, chapter headings and content, between Ps.-Plutarch and Qusṭā ibn Lūqā, Stobaeus...