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An ancient Greek proverb declares: ‘beautiful things are difficult’. One obvious difficulty arises from their almost limitless variety: sights, sounds, people, natural phenomena, man-made objects and abstract ideas may all be beautiful, but what do these things have in common? It is not just beauty's breadth of application, then, that makes it difficult, but the way in which its meaning varies depending on context. The beauty of a child may mean something quite different from the beauty of an old and wizened face, let alone the beauty of a supermodel. In common parlance, beautiful may be used as a general term of approbation alongside others like lovely or fine, while in academic discourse, the word beauty has a life of its own: since the emergence of aesthetics as an independent discipline in the mid eighteenth century, beauty has been constantly theorized and responded to in different ways that have laden the term with its own peculiar historical baggage. And although some of these philosophical reflections on beauty may have trickled into the common cultural consciousness, in general they seem a far cry from beauty's most ubiquitous incarnation in modern Western society, in the cosmetics industry; to put it another way, if you go into a beauty salon in search of a Kantian ideal of disinterested contemplation, I suspect you will be disappointed.
In the Iliad the Achaean ships play a prominent role in the narrative; they are foregrounded as Achilles sits by his vessels in anger and threatens to sail home; as the Trojans come close to burning them; and as Hector's body lies by Achilles’ ships until ransomed. Where not in the foreground, the ships remain a consistent background; without them the Achaeans would not have reached Troy; they are an essential component of the Greek encampment; and are the unrealized potential vehicle of the Achaean homecoming.
The focus of this note is the simile attached to Menelaus’ wound in Iliad 4 and its Virgilian transformation in Aeneid 12. My goal is to flesh out and specify the sense of the Homeric simile; as the parentheses in my title suggest, I call upon Virgil chiefly as a fellow-interpreter. Since an important part of my argument is that the simile only takes on its full significance when considered in its narrative context, I begin by setting the scene.
The meaning of dēmokratia is widely agreed: ‘rule by the people’ (less often ‘people-power’), where dēmos, ‘people’, implies ‘entire citizen body’, synonymous with polis, ‘city-state’, or πάντες πολίται, ‘all citizens’. Dēmos, on this understanding, comprised rich and poor, leaders and followers, mass and elite alike. As such, dēmokratia is interpreted as constituting a sharp rupture from previous political regimes. Rule by one man or by a few had meant the domination of one part of the community over the rest, but dēmokratia, it is said, implied self-rule, and with it the dissolution of the very distinction between ruler and ruled. Its governing principle was the formal political equality of all citizens. In the words of W.G. Forrest, between 750 and 450 b.c. there had developed ‘the idea of individual human autonomy … the idea that all members of a political society are free and equal, that everyone had the right to an equal say in determining the structure and the activities of his society’.
The reconstruction of ensemble d–f of the Akhmîm Papyrus, better known as the Strasbourg Papyrus, which attests approximately eighteen of the over seventy new lines of Empedocles’ physical poem, has drawn the attention of scholars over recent years. Thanks to the good condition of the papyrus and the coincidence with two Empedoclean lines, already known from the indirect tradition, ensemble d–f 1–10a presents a well-restored text and an intelligible sense. In contrast, because of the damaged state of the papyrus, the restoration of d–f 10b–18 is more complicated. These lines seem to describe a life-generative process, but what process was Empedocles talking about? Some resemblances between these papyrus lines and the lines of another Empedoclean fragment, DK 31 B 62, have suggested to scholars, notably to A. Martin and O. Primavesi in 1999 and M. Rashed in 2011, that the lines of the papyrus depict, just like DK 31 B 62, the generation of whole-natured beings (οὐλοφυεῖς; cf. B 62.4). Other scholars, however, such as R. Janko in 2004 (see n. 1) and A. Laks and G.W. Most in 2016, show more caution and leave the possibility open that Empedocles is here talking about the generation of something else.
Gorgias’ On Not-Being survives only in two divergent summaries. Diels–Kranz's classic edition prints the better-preserved version that appears in Sextus’ Aduersus Mathematicos. Yet, in recent years there has been rising interest in a second summary that survives as part of the anonymous De Melisso, Xenophane, Gorgia (= MXG). The text of MXG is more difficult; it contains substantial lacunae that often make it much harder to make grammatical let alone philosophical sense of. As Alexander Mourelatos reports, one manuscript has a scribal note that reads: ‘The original contains many errors; no one should blame me; I just copy what I see.’2 The treatise's state of preservation has aptly prompted Michael Gagarin to liken it to a black hole: ‘something we cannot see directly but know must exist because of certain effects it has on other objects.’3
How are we to understand what happens to Oedipus? What or who is the cause of the terrible deeds—predicted by oracles to both Laius and Oedipus—that he has already committed before the play begins and that are revealed in its course? The purpose of the present essay, whose title alludes to a well-known article by E.R. Dodds, is to draw attention to aspects of the play that have been ignored or explained away. To give them their due it will be necessary to take issue with two views of Dodds (one of which he owes to Wilamowitz) that I regard as mistaken. To argue against an article that is more than fifty years old might be thought a pointless exhumation, but Dodds's highly influential formulations, I will argue, have caused what Sophocles wrote to be either overlooked or misconstrued and are still causing misunderstanding in the second decade of the present century. It is time these views were examined critically.
The third stasimon of Oedipus Rex (OT) is the climax of the play, separating the conversation with the Corinthian messenger from the interrogation of the shepherd, so crucial for the narrative. Indeed, the question τίς σε, τέκνον, τίς σ’ ἔτικτε, critical for the plot, comes right at the beginning of its antistrophe. Sophocles, however, offers no easy answer to it. Instead, he provides yet another narrative misdirection, one that—for the last time—suggests that the paths of the king of Thebes and of his predecessor may have been divergent: the possibility that Oedipus’ divine ancestry would question the prophecy of Apollo. After enumerating Pan, Hermes and Apollo himself as possible parents, the song also mentions Dionysus and the ‘Heliconian nymphs’. The reference to Helicon has perplexed the readers for many years, since the text seems to focus on Cithaeron as the ‘birthplace’. As a result, editions and translations prefer the conjecture ἑλικωπίδων (Νυμφᾶν) proposed by U. von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff in 1879, over Ἑλικωνί(α)δων, the form present in all manuscripts. In this paper I argue that an analysis of our sources for Heliconian cults, an assessment of the performative context, and a close reading of the stasimon and its place in the narrative, all suggest that the manuscript reading should be retained.
The Protagoras is a contest of philosophical methods. With its mix of μῦθος and λόγος, Protagoras’ Great Speech stands as a competing model of philosophical discourse to the Socratic elenchus. While the mythical portion of the speech clearly impresses its audience—Socrates included—one of its central claims appears to pass undefended. This is the claim that the political art cannot be distributed within a community as the technical arts are. This apparent shortcoming of the Great Speech does not seem to trouble philosophical commentators: it is a myth, after all, and it seems reasonable to suppose that the sly sophist slips certain claims into his myth precisely to avoid having to defend them. Nevertheless, it is worth subjecting the claim to philosophical scrutiny. What could be the reason that the political art had to be distributed differently than were the technical arts, as the myth insists?
In Book 9 of Plato's Republic we find three proofs for the claim that the just person is happier than the unjust person. Curiously, Socrates does not seem to consider these arguments to be coequal when he announces the third and final proof as ‘the greatest and most decisive of the overthrows’ (μέγιστόν τε καὶ κυριώτατον τῶν πτωμάτων) (583b7). This remark raises a couple of related questions for the interpreter. Whatever precise sense we give to μέγιστον and κυριώτατον in this passage, Socrates is clearly appealing to an argumentative standard of some kind, and claiming that his final argument alone meets (or comes closest to meeting) this standard. But what precise standard is Socrates invoking here? And given that the first two arguments of Book 9 fall short of this (as yet undetermined) standard, why does he not simply leap directly to the third, most decisive proof?
Over a hundred instances of the word ὕμνος from extant archaic poetry demonstrate that the Greek hymn was understood broadly as a song of praise. The majority of these instances comes from Pindar, who regularly uses the term to describe his poems celebrating athletic victors. Indeed, Pindar and his contemporaries saw the ὕμνος as a powerful vehicle for praising gods, heroes, men and their achievements—often in service of an ideological agenda. Writing a century later Plato used the term frequently and with much the same range. A survey of his usage reveals instances of ὕμνοι for gods, daimones, heroes, ancestors, leading citizens, noble deeds, sites and landscapes. Despite abundant evidence of Plato's own practice, studies of the Greek hymn posit an extreme narrowing of the genre in the classical period and cite the philosopher as the sole witness to, if not the originator of, this development. Two passages in particular, one from the Republic and one from the Laws, are seen to support the claim that by the fourth century b.c.e. the term ὕμνος refers exclusively to songs for gods. In Republic Book 10, we find the memorable edict on poetic censorship: ‘But we must know that of poetry only ὕμνοι for the gods and ἐγκώμια for the good must be admitted into our city.’ Laws Book 3 offers what appears to be an even more straightforward pronouncement: ‘Back then our music was divided according to its various types and arrangements; and a certain type of song was prayers to the gods, and these were called by the name ὕμνοι.’ From these two statements has arisen the consensus that Plato saw a divine recipient as the defining feature of the ὕμνος and, moreover, that this position reflects the communis opinio from at least the fourth century b.c.e. onward.
Aristotle's Ethica Eudemia (Eth. Eud.) and Ethica Nicomachea (Eth. Nic.), as is well known and much discussed, contain three books in common (Eth. Eud. 4–6 = Eth. Nic. 5–7). Less well known, at least until Dieter Harlfinger alerted scholars to the fact in 1971, is that some of the manuscripts of Eth. Eud. do, contrary to the then prevailing consensus, contain the text of these common books. Even less well known is that Harlfinger's discovery was anticipated some 50 years before by Walter Ashburner, who had uncovered this fact about Eth. Eud. MSS in the Laurentian library of Florence. Ashburner's anticipation of Harlfinger, however, is not the real value of his article. Its value rather is that it contains collations of readings for the common books, and thereby gives us an excellent resource for examining the text of the common books as this text is contained in exclusively Eth. Eud. MSS. The Eth. Eud. tradition of the common books has hitherto received little attention. Modern editions of Eth. Eud. do not include these books, and editions of Eth. Nic. have other MSS for the purpose. Ashburner's collations are the more valuable because they are taken from (among others) the one MS that, in Harlfinger's learned stemma, appears as the archetype for all the rest.
Active in Alexandria during the second half of the third century, Dioscorides is the author of some forty epigrams preserved in the Anthologia Palatina. Five of these epigrams are concerned with Greek playwrights: three dramatists of the archaic and classical periods, Thespis, Aeschylus and Sophocles, and two contemporary ones, Sositheus and Machon. Dioscorides conceived four epigrams as two pairs (Thespis and Aeschylus, Sophocles and Sositheus) clearly marked by verbal connections, and celebrates each playwright for his original contribution to the history of Greek drama. Thespis boasts to have discovered tragedy; Aeschylus to have elevated it. The twin epigrams devoted to Sophocles and Sositheus present Sophocles as refining the satyrs and Sositheus as making them, once again, primitive. Finally, Machon is singled out for his comedies as ‘worthy remnants of ancient art (τέχνης … ἀρχαίης)’. Dioscorides’ miniature history of Greek drama, which is interesting both for its debts to the ancient tradition surrounding classical playwrights and for the light it sheds on contemporary drama, clearly smacks of archaizing sympathies. They drive Dioscorides’ selection of authors and his treatment of contemporary dramatists: both Sositheus and Machon are praised for consciously looking back to the masters of the past. My focus is on Sositheus and his ‘new’ satyr-play. After discussing the relationship that Dioscorides establishes between Sophocles’ and Sositheus’ satyrs, and reviewing scholarly interpretations of Sositheus’ innovations, I will argue that Dioscorides speaks the language of New Music. His epigram celebrates Sositheus as rejecting New Music and its trends, and as composing satyr plays that were musically old fashioned and therefore reactionary.
Widely different views have been held concerning the structure of Plautus’ Menaechmi. On the one hand, the sequence of misunderstandings arising from the presence in the same city of a pair of identical twins with the same name has been likened to clockwork and attributed in essentials to an unknown Greek dramatist. On the other hand, E. Stärk has stressed features of the play which are typical of improvised comedy and put forward the bold theory that it was constructed by Plautus himself, following traditions of pre-literary Italic drama but using stock motifs of Greek New Comedy. I wish to suggest that the truth lies between these extreme positions.
That Cicero as a young didactic poet embraced the traditions of Hellenistic hexameter poetry is well recognized. Those traditions encompass various forms of wordplay, one of which is the acrostic. Cicero's engagement with this tradition, in the form of an unusual Greek-Latin acrostic at Aratea 317–20, prompts inquiry regarding both the use of the acrostic technique as textual commentary and Cicero's lifelong concerns regarding translation.
In a poem setting forth the way things are in nature, it is fitting for Lucretius to address, among many other phenomena, human conception and embryonic determination. With an eye toward ethics, Lucretius demonstrates how sexual reproduction at the seminal level can be explained by Epicurean atomism. In this paper, I am concerned with the biological ‘how’ of conception as explained in De Rerum Natura (= DRN) but also with the ethical ‘therefore’ for Lucretius’ readership and (over)estimations of male autonomy. For modern audiences with a basic grasp of procreation that includes sperm supplied by a male and egg supplied by a female, encountering Lucretius’ verses on women contributing semen (semina) to the process of conception can be surprising (4.1209–62). The idea of female semen may give us pause as we calibrate it with our understanding of eggs and ovulation, but Lucretius, in his time, was not advancing some novel theory. Wading into established debates on male-only or joint male-female semen production and gendered insemination (that is, who produces semen and whose semen is active at conception), Lucretius sides with those promulgating mutuality for both questions (for example Democritus [DK 24 A13]) and rejects Aristotle's representative exclusivist claim of male activity vs female passivity (τὸ ἄρρεν ἐστὶν ὡς κινοῦν καὶ ποιοῦν, τὸ δὲ θῆλυ ὡς παθητικόν, Gen. an. 729a28–30; cf. 726a30–6). That is to say, a sexually mature female, like her male counterpart, emits semen that has determining potency in the formation of a human embryo (Lucr. 4.1209–62). Although the discharge and activity of female semen is the focus of this paper, my investigation is not a Quellenforschung or historical survey of Greco-Roman ideas about women's contributions to insemination and fertility, since others have treated these matters extensively. I concentrate rather on how Lucretius employs the concept of female semen in terms of his poetics in Book 4 and what I see as an ethical argument against the domineering nature of Roman masculinity. The problem of female semen, from the point of view of Lucretius’ Roman male audience, is that it is potentially costly to men because it rivals and threatens their status from the physiological to the discursive level. Iain Lonie broaches the same issue from Greek perspectives.
After long neglect, in English-language scholarship at least, the question of how Julius Caesar wrote and disseminated his Gallic War—as a single work? in multi-year chunks? year by year?—was revived by T.P. Wiseman in 1998, who argued anew for serial composition. This paper endeavours to provide further evidence for that conclusion by examining how Caesar depicts the non-Roman peoples he fights. Caesar's ethnographic passages, and their authorship, have been a point of contention among German scholars for over a century, but reading them and the rest of the text with eyes unclouded by the exhausted debate about possible interpolation reveals details that bear upon wider questions of composition. In these passages Caesar devised an ethnographic framework in order to rank against one another the levels of threat posed by different barbarian peoples, downplaying the relative ferocity of the Gauls in contrast to other groups in an effort to magnify the peril the others posed to Rome and the glory to be obtained from their defeat. This ethnographic framework is significant for understanding Caesar's method both because it provides insight into Caesar's reasons for including the ethnographic passages and because it implies that the Gallic War was composed in, at a minimum, four stages: Books 1–2, where the framework is first developed and used, by 56 b.c.; Books 3–4 and 5–6, where it is elaborated and extended, by 54 and 52 b.c. respectively; and finally Book 7, after 52 b.c., when Caesar, in recounting the campaign against Vercingetorix, was forced to abandon and contradict the ethnographic framework in a fashion that suggests that the earlier books were already in circulation, preventing him from adjusting them to the new circumstances of the campaign of that year.
The rape (or threatened rape) of a sleeping Europa in Plato Comicus has curiously not attracted any attention from critics commenting on later texts which narrate the story of Europa. Yet, the motifs of night, sleep and dreaming play a prominent role in the Europa poems of both Moschus and Horace. This article will investigate the role of these motifs and argue for a closer connection between these two poems than has thus far been allowed. It will also maintain that, in both poems, the suggestion that the heroine was (or could be) raped in her sleep is lurking in the background and that, if taken into consideration, it can significantly expand our scope of interpretation and perhaps account for some features which would otherwise be hard to explain. While it is not unlikely that the two authors to be discussed here had direct access to Plato Comicus' Europa, my argument does not rely on knowledge of this comedy, which could, after all, be parodying an earlier tragedy. Rather, the main thesis of this article is that a classical or early Hellenistic version of Europa's myth (which Plato Comicus may either reflect or be the source of) had the young woman raped in her sleep. This tradition, then, informs these two later poems, which may or may not have been directly influenced by Plato Comicus’ rendition.
Since Sir Ronald Syme wrote a paper on the legions under Augustus, there has not been much development on the movement of legions in Illyricum before a.d. 9. The basic reference work on the matter is still J.J. Wilkes's Dalmatia; and the last considerable upgrade was made in this very journal—in the paper by Stephen Mitchell, who showed that legio VII was most probably one of the legions that Marcus Silvanus brought from Galatia to fight the Pannonians at the Volcaean marches in a.d. 7. Since the presence and the movements of the legions in Illyricum during the Augustan era is clouded by the lack of new discoveries of inscriptions, I find it suitable to quote L. Keppie's note from the preface of the second edition of The Making of the Roman Army: ‘The pace of epigraphic discovery has not slackened, though the number of military inscriptions which can confidently be dated to before a.d. 14 remains disappointingly small.’