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The Lament For Adonis: Questions Of Authorship

  • R.J.H. Matthews (a1)


The Lament for Adonis or Epitaphios Adonidos has since the mid-sixteenth century commonly been known as ‘Bion 1’. In editions of Greek Bucolic it comes along with four long and four short poems allegedly by Moschus, a number of short poems or fragments by Bion of Smyrna, and a long fragment (32 lines) also since 1568 often attributed to him. This subcollection is sometimes conveniently called ‘Minor Bucolic’: ‘minor’ in relation to the much bulkier surviving work of Theocritus and ‘bucolic’ apparently only by association with him and through the clear reputation of Moschus and Bion in ancient times as bucolic writers. Editions of Minor Bucolic, i.e. Moschus and Bion published other than as an appendix to Theocritus (though sometimes combined with Callimachus, Musaeus, or ‘the Nine Poetesses’), appeared in 1565 (Meetkercke, Bruges), 1568 (Orsini, Rome), 1655 (Whitford, London), 1686 (Longepierre, Paris), and then copiously in the eighteenth century; I count at least eight in the years 1746-1795.



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1 The best modem editions of all Greek Bucolic are those by Gallavotti, C., Theocritus Quique Feruntur Bucolici Graeci (Rome 1946/1955); Gow, A.S.F., Bucolici Graeci (Oxford 1952); Beckby, H., Die griechischen Bukoliker: Theokrit Moschos Bion (Meisenheim-am-Glan 1975) with notes in German; Legrand, P.E., Bucoliques grecs: Théocrite (1925) and Pseudo-Thėocrite, Moschos, Bion (1927), both in the Budė collection with commentary in French. The Loeb edition by J.M. Edmonds (1912/1928, numerous reprints) gives Greek and English texts, both often unreliable, of all Greek bucolic. Gow’s Theocritus (Oxford 1950) does not include Moschus or Bion, but his The Greek Bucolic Poets (Oxford 1953) contains English texts only and short exegetical notes in English on all three bucolic poets. A full English-language critical commentary on Minor Bucolic has yet to be written.

2 There have hitherto been three book-length monographs on the Ep. Ad., by Ahrens, L. (Leipzig 1854), U. Wilamowitz (Berlin 1900) and M. Fantuzzi (Liverpool 1985). The former two, while noteworthy in themselves, have long since been superseded. The last-named, published in Italian by Francis Cairns at the University of Liverpool, was reviewed by the present writer in CR 32.3 (1988) 217-9. The poem is also found in Hopkinson’s, N.Hellenistic Anthology (Cambridge 1988), with critical text, apparatus and commentary.

3 Thefullest account hitherto of the manuscript history of the Ep. is to be found in Gallavotti ‘ s edition (see n.l). Gallavotti, however, uses R (and not Tr) to designate Cod.Par.Gr. 2832. A Cambridge scholar is currently (1990) researching this field. Wilamowitz, Textgeschichte der griechischen Bukoliker (Berlin 1906) contains disappointingly little on the Ep.Ad.

4 Most editors who mention the title, including Gow, Gallavotti and Beckby, get it wrong, not only by claiming it is unattributed but also by inverting MS . In fact Tr’s title, scarcely legible but unmistakable, gives the poem to Theocritus and identifies its dialect as Doric. Beckby informs us that both author and dialect were added in a copy of Tr. Legrand says the same regarding dialect; he acknowledges its MS attribution and says ‘De titulo non ambigitur’. Fantuzzi puts the record straight on all counts.

5 There may have been a further edition of Manutius, intervening between the ‘first’ and ‘second’ editions of 1495. Evidence for this comes from a scrutiny of early editions in the Laurentian Library, Florence, and concerns the text of three poems in particular: [Theocr.] 19, [Theocr.] 23 and the Ep.Ad., all from the same ‘cluster’ in V (information by courtesy of Mr Peter Hicks).

6 Both Ep.Ad. and Ep.Bi. look to Id. I but resemblances are counterbalanced by significant differences: in the Thyrsis there are no kisses of a dying hero, and the portrayal of both Daphnis and the goddess is not such as to promote them. Further, the lamented hero of Theocritus’ poem dies only near the end (Theocr. Id. 1.140), whereas in theEp£i. he is dead from the start and in the Ep.Ad. he dies at an undisclosed point towards the middle.

7 See, interalia, Sonya Lida Taràn, The Art of Variation in the Hellenistic Epigram(Leiden 1979); Giangrande, G., ‘“Arte Allusiva” and Alexandrian Epic PoetryCQ n.s. 17 (1967) 8597, and ‘Hellenistic Poetry and HomerAntiquité Classique 39 (1970) 4677.

8 Thus Callimachus berates his literary opponents for writing at length (Hymn 2.106112 and cf. Theocr. Id. 7.45-48) but can himself be unbearably long-winded and abstruse. The legends of Tiresias in Hymn 5 and (probably) Erysichthon in Hymn 6 comprise innovations by Callimachus in respect of existing myth; his H ecale in the fragmentary poem of that name is a recreated character (see Zanker, G., Realism in Alexandrian Poetry [London 1987] 209214). Moschus’ Europa also represents ‘variation’ in that what begins as an aetiological myth (model: Callimachus) and then proceeds by way of ecphrasis towards classic pastoral (model: Theocritus) turns out to be neither.

9 The best known example is Theocritus, who wrote in (at least) four poetic modes (bucolic/mimetic/hymnic/mininiature epic), fourmetres (epic hexameter/14-syllable Sapphic/16-syllable Sapphic/elegiac couplets), three dialects (Doric/Ionic/Aeolic), and three identifiable styles (high: Idd. 13,16-18,22; middle: Ш. 1 -7,10-12; low: Idd. 14,15). In the Greek Anthology two poets of considerable versatility are Philodemus and Crinagoras. Variation both of self and others is common in the Anthology, with endless and tiresome replays of common themes: dedications of spoils, love-become-hate, weddings closely followed by funerals, Myron’s cow, statues that breathe, and the like.

10 By Arland, W., Die nachtheokritische Bukolik (Diss. Leipzig 1937) 4052, and esp. 40-43.

11 Namely, in a doctoral dissertation at Berne University, Switzerland.

12 is often conjectured at Ep.Ad. 89, but is at least as likely a conjecture for MSS and one with a long pedigree (16th century).

13 High incidence of parataxis naturally collates with copula use, thus Unking this point with the last, and with enjambment. See Parry, M., “The Distinctive Character of Enjambment in Homeric Verse’, TAPA 60 (1929) 200 f.

14 Zanker, op.cit. 167,219 n.54; and see references given there.

15 The figures are based on an entry-count in Rumpel’s, J.Lexicon Theocriteum (Teubner 1879), reprinted by Georg Olms, Hildesheim 1961.

16 Precisely, V has (sic, with theta but smooth breathing), and tau written in over the theta. Vat. Gr. 1311 (=copy of V) has the reverse, i.e. tau in the text and theta above it. Ahrens, who must have inspected V, took this as evidence that our poem named its hero (‘Hadonis’) throughout, and printed it in 1855 accordingly, including at line 81 without any support from V, a choice that has inevitably earned him comparison (e.g. by August Meineke, 1856) with Catullus’ Arrius or ‘Harry’ in Carm. 84.

17 On ‘Sperrung’ see Patzer, H., ‘Zum Sprachstil des neoterischen Hexameters’, MH 12 (1955) 86 f, and Conrad, C., ‘Traditional Pattems of Word Order in Latin Epic from Ennius to Vergil’, HSCP 69 (1965) 195 f.

18 Op.cit. 148.

19 For an ancient criticism of Euphorion, see AP 11.218, which combines accusations of literary peccadilloes with sexual ones. For Hermesianax, E.A. Barber’s judgement in The Oxford Classical Dictionary follows a brief description of fondness for ‘glosses’ and character¬isation of ‘Sperrung’ as ‘monotonous’ with the punch-line ‘a very mediocre brain’. See also Crowther, N.B., , poetae novi, and cantores Euphorionis’, CQ 20 (1970) 322-7, and footnote 21 below.

20 Op.cit. 148: ‘Tale artificio metrico … estraneo a Callimaco non trova seguito nell’ [Ep. Ad.]’. It is true that Callimachus uses ‘Sperrung’ sparingly but he does not totally abstain: examples in the first two Hymns are: H. 1.23, 58; H. 2.22, 24, 38, 66. Fantuzzi rather lionises Bion’s devotion to Callimachus: ‘Bione rifacendosi al poeta di Cirene con la rigidezza di un epigono’.

21 See preceding note; yet Propertius, who portrayed himself as ‘the Roman Callimachus’ (Carm. 3.1.1; 4.1.64) uses ‘Sperrung’ copiously: 20 times in the 38 lines of Carm. 1.1.1, of which the first 12 instances come in as many lines.

22 Fränkel, Herman, ‘Der kallimachische und der homerische Hexameter’ in Wege und Formen frühgriechischen Denkens (Munich 1968) 100156 (=reprint from 1926).

23 Cf. Cicero on this topic: Pro Archia Poeta 8.18.

24 It is, of course, Shakespeare, William, Venus and Adonis, lines 475480.

25 Figures for bucolic Theocritus, Moschus and Bion or Pseudo-Bion are my own; other figures are from Halperin, D., Before Pastoral: Theocritus and the Ancient Tradition of Bucolic Poetry, (Yale 1983) 209-11, 259-66. Halperin in tum has taken some of his statistics from other scholars’ computations. Where they overlap, my figures are mostly 3-4% more generous than Halperin’s.

26 What Fantuzzi actually writes is ‘ossitonia’ but it is clear from the context that he uses the term to coverall words accented on the final syllable, thus both Oxytone’ and ‘perispomenon’ as commonly understood.

27 The Aufführungstheorie, or theory of stage production in the style of Theocr. Id. 15.100-144, is now discounted, though it was defended by Wilamowitz.

28 Proponents of firm or tentative Bionean authorship for these poems include the following:

[Theocr.] 19: Valckenaer, Hermann, Meineke

[Theocr.] 20: Meineke; school of Bion: Wilamowitz, Legrand

[Theocr.] 27: Hermann, Gallavotti; influence of Bion: Wilamowitz

Papyrus Vindobonensis 29801 (= ‘Rainer Papyrus’): Gallavotti (who calls it Panis Epyllium) and Beckby (who calls it ‘Bion IV or ). Gow prints it in his Bucolici Graeci (O.C.T.) without comment on authorship.

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The Lament For Adonis: Questions Of Authorship

  • R.J.H. Matthews (a1)


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