Thursday, January 4, 2018

Publishing the Homer Multitext project archive

The Homer Multitext project (HMT) is changing its publication practice in 2018.  All of our work in progress remains available from publicly visible repositories hosted on github, but we are adopting a new format for integrating material from our working archive into publishable units.

Our goals have always been first to specify a model for all HMT data structures independent of any publication format, and then to select a format that fully captures the semantics of the model.  In choosing a format for publication, we prefer one that, while completely expressing the model, is as simple as possible.  It should be intellegible both to human readers and to software, and readily usable by the widest possible range of digital tools.

Beginning in 2014, we adopted the TTL serialization format of the   Resource Description Framework (RDF) to integrate textual editions, data about physical artifacts like manuscripts, and documentary images into a single publishable file.  RDF was designed to facilitate dynamic exchange and automated linking of resources on the world wide web, and is widely used for that purpose in the digital humanities community today.  As a format for disseminating stable releases of HMT content, it is not ideal, however. RDF can be quite verbose:  to represent a single citable node of text in one of our editions, for example, requirs more than a half dozen separate RDF statements.  It is often not immediately intellegible to human readers, and although the RDF model can be implemented in multiple formats (JSON and XML, in addittion to TTL), RDF data can only be practically used with software specifically aimed at RDF processing.

This month, we are releaseing our first published data sets in the CITE Exchange format (CEX).  To quote the CEX specification, CEX is "a plain-text, line-oriented data format for serializing citable content following the models of the CITE Architecture."  CEX makes it possible to represent any of the fundamental models of the HMT archive — texts, citable collections of objects, and the complex relations among these objects that our archival data sets encode — as simple tabular structures in labelled blocks of a plain text file you can inspect with any text editor.  All blocks in a CEX file are optional, so we can equally easily publish a single updated body of material — a new set of photographs of a manuscript, or a newly edited section of a text — or an entire compilation of our current archive in a single plain-text file.  Because each CEX block is a table represented as lines of delimited text, generic tools from spreadsheets, databases, or ancient command-line utilities like `sed` and `grep` can be directly applied to CEX data, in addition to specialized code libraries we have developed that understand the semantics of citation with URNs.  (See for more information about the cross-platform code libraries.)

As a result, over the coming weeks you will see a series of short announcements of releases as we test and release one portion of our archive at a time.

Happy New Year, with complex data in simple formats!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Summer 2017: Iliad 20, Multiformity, and Tradition

Ajax (Aias) fights Glaukos over the dead body of Achilles, while Paris and Aeneas look on. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
How many ways are there to tell the story of Troy? A passage from Iliad 20 makes me wonder just how flexible the Homeric tradition might be. At the beginning of book 20, Zeus calls the gods to an assembly. He tells them that they may now join the battle taking place before the walls of Troy on whatever side they wish, something that he had expressly forbidden the gods to do at the beginning of book 8. The reason he has changed his mind, he explains, is that Achilles is now preparing to return to battle for the first time since his withdrawal in book 1, and he is afraid that the Trojans will not be able to withstand him even for a little while:
καὶ δέ τέ μιν καὶ πρόσθεν ὑποτρομέεσκον ὁρῶντες·
νῦν δ᾽ ὅτε δὴ καὶ θυμὸν ἑταίρου χώεται αἰνῶς
δείδω μὴ καὶ τεῖχος ὑπερ μόρον ἐξαλαπάξῃ. (Iliad 20.28-30)

Even before now they would tremble before him when they saw him.
And now when he is terribly angry in his heart because of [the death of] his companion
I fear lest the wall [of Troy] will be sacked beyond [i.e., contrary to] fate.
Apollo, the god of prophesy and the one besides Zeus most often associated with seeing into the future, likewise fears that the Trojan walls will come down too soon at Achilles’ hands: μέμβλετο γάρ οἱ τεῖχος ἐϋδμήτοιο πόληος/μὴ Δαναοὶ πέρσειαν ὑπὲρ μόρον ἤματι κείνῳ (“For he was concerned about the wall of the well-built city, lest the Danaans destroy it on that day beyond fate” Iliad 21.516–517). Zeus’ and Apollo’s fear in these passages is remarkable, and begs questions that anyone who has read the Iliad with undergraduates will be familiar with. If the walls of Troy are destined to fall at a particular moment, how could they fall before that? Is fate something that can be changed? Is Zeus subject to fate or can Zeus alter it? But we could could also reframe these questions in terms of narrative. If the Iliad tells a traditional story, shouldn’t Zeus and Apollo know how the story ends? Would it really be possible to change the story now, and have Troy fall while Achilles is still alive, and indeed at his hands?

In his 1979 book The Best of the Achaeans, Gregory Nagy argued that the first song of Demodokos in Odyssey 8, in which the Phaeacian bard narrates a quarrel between Odysseus and Achilles, is in fact a compressed reference to an epic tradition in which Achilles and Odysseus quarreled over whether Troy would be taken by cunning [mētis] or by force [biē]. Nagy reads the scholia preserved in the manuscripts at Odyssey 8.75 and 77 as likewise pointing to such a tradition, which is otherwise not attested in our surviving sources (Nagy 1979:46). Might we find here in the fears of Zeus and Apollo another glimpse of these two rival possibilities for the fall of Troy? If so, we have to wonder if the Iliadic tradition is indeed so multiform, so flexible, that such a radically different ending could be possible. Is there (or was there) an alternative epic universe, in which Achilles really did take Troy by force? And if not, why does Zeus entertain the idea?

As it turns out, ancient commentators on the Iliad were concerned about these same questions. And so the scholia in the margins of the so-called Townley manuscript (Burney 86, folio 220v) record for us a fascinating variation on these verses from book 20:
τινὲς γράφουσιν ἀντὶ τοῦ <δείδω, μὴ καὶ τεῖχος>

οὐ μέντοι μοῖρ’ ἐστὶν ἔτι ζῳοῦ Ἀχιλῆος
Ἰλίου ἐκπέρσαι εὖ ναιόμενον πτολίεθρον.
πέρσει δουράτεός <θ’> ἵππος καὶ μῆτις Ἐπειοῦ.

πῶς γὰρ ὁ εἰδὼς “μοῖράν τ’ ἀμμορίην τε” [= Odyssey 20.76] νῦν διστάζει;

Some write instead of “I fear lest the wall”

It is not fated, however, with Achilles still alive
to sack the well-inhabited citadel of Ilium.
A wooden horse will destroy it and the craftiness [mētis] of Epeios.

For how is he [= Zeus], knowing “what is fated and not fated” [= Odyssey 20.76], now in doubt?
These alternative verses make clear that Troy is not going to fall at the hands of Achilles, but rather as a result of the mētis of the wooden horse. Problem solved. But the commentator, in seeking to solve a narratological, mythological, and indeed existential problem, now presents us with a textual one. What is the source of these verses that “some write,” and how do we reconcile them with our received text?


Iliad 20 is a book that seems fixated on the danger of things happening at the wrong time, i.e. "beyond fate." In verses that were athetized (that is, deemed "not Homeric") by Aristrachus, Poseidon stated:
πάντες δ᾽ Οὐλύμποιο κατήλθομεν ἀντιόωντες
τῆσδε μάχης, ἵνα μή τι μετὰ Τρώεσσι πάθῃσι
σήμερον: ὕστερον αὖτε τὰ πείσεται ἅσσά οἱ αἶσα
γιγνομένῳ ἐπένησε λίνῳ ὅτε μιν τέκε μήτηρ. (20.125–128)

We all have come down from Olympus to participate
in this battle, in order that he not suffer anything among the Trojans
today. Later he will suffer in turn whatever things fate
spun for him with her thread as he was born, when his mother gave birth to him.
Poseidon seems to be suggesting that without their intervention, Achilles might have had died too soon. These verses still today bear Aristarchus' editorial condemnation: they are marked with the obelos in the Venetus A manuscript of the Iliad.

Later in the book, the two great heroes of Greek and Roman epic tradition, Achilles and Aeneas, come face to face on the battlefield, and once again, Poseidon is concerned that the mythological and poetic tradition will go awry:
ἔνθά κεν Αἰνείας μὲν ἐπεσσύμενον βάλε πέτρῳ
ἢ κόρυθ᾽ ἠὲ σάκος, τό οἱ ἤρκεσε λυγρὸν ὄλεθρον,
τὸν δέ κε Πηλεΐδης σχεδὸν ἄορι θυμὸν ἀπηύρα,
εἰ μὴ ἄρ᾽ ὀξὺ νόησε Ποσειδάων ἐνοσίχθων:
αὐτίκα δ᾽ ἀθανάτοισι θεοῖς μετὰ μῦθον ἔειπεν:
ὢ πόποι ἦ μοι ἄχος μεγαλήτορος Αἰνείαο,
ὃς τάχα Πηλεΐωνι δαμεὶς Ἄϊδος δὲ κάτεισι
πειθόμενος μύθοισιν Ἀπόλλωνος ἑκάτοιο
νήπιος, οὐδέ τί οἱ χραισμήσει λυγρὸν ὄλεθρον.
ἀλλὰ τί ἢ νῦν οὗτος ἀναίτιος ἄλγεα πάσχει
μὰψ ἕνεκ᾽ ἀλλοτρίων ἀχέων, κεχαρισμένα δ᾽ αἰεὶ
δῶρα θεοῖσι δίδωσι τοὶ οὐρανὸν εὐρὺν ἔχουσιν;
ἀλλ᾽ ἄγεθ᾽ ἡμεῖς πέρ μιν ὑπὲκ θανάτου ἀγάγωμεν,
μή πως καὶ Κρονίδης κεχολώσεται, αἴ κεν Ἀχιλλεὺς
τόνδε κατακτείνῃ: μόριμον δέ οἵ ἐστ᾽ ἀλέασθαι,
ὄφρα μὴ ἄσπερμος γενεὴ καὶ ἄφαντος ὄληται
Δαρδάνου, ὃν Κρονίδης περὶ πάντων φίλατο παίδων
οἳ ἕθεν ἐξεγένοντο γυναικῶν τε θνητάων.
ἤδη γὰρ Πριάμου γενεὴν ἔχθηρε Κρονίων:
νῦν δὲ δὴ Αἰνείαο βίη Τρώεσσιν ἀνάξει
καὶ παίδων παῖδες, τοί κεν μετόπισθε γένωνται. (Iliad 20.288-308)
Aeneas would then have struck Achilles as he was springing towards him, either on the helmet, or on the shield that covered him, and Achilles would have closed with him and dispatched him with his sword, had not Poseidon lord of the earthquake been quick to mark, and said forthwith to the immortals, “Alas, I feel grief for great Aeneas, who will now go down to the house of Hades, vanquished by the son of Peleus. Fool that he was to give ear to the counsel of Apollo. Apollo will never save him from destruction. Why should this man have grief when he is guiltless, to no purpose, and in another's quarrel? Has he not at all times offered acceptable sacrifice to the gods that dwell in heaven? Let us then snatch him from death's jaws, lest the son of Kronos be angry should Achilles slay him. It is fated, moreover, that he should escape, and that the race of Dardanos, whom Zeus loved above all the sons born to him of mortal women, shall not perish utterly without seed or sign. For now indeed has Zeus hated the blood of Priam, while Aeneas shall reign over the Trojans, he and his children's children that shall be born hereafter.” (translation adapted from that of Samuel Butler)
It is clear that Aeneas cannot be allowed to die at this moment. So much of the poetic tradition will be ruined if he does! The passage reminds me of another in Odyssey 8, where Odysseus specifically requests that Demodokos sing the song of the sack of Troy by means of the wooden horse. Odysseus says to Demodokos:
αἴ κεν δή μοι ταῦτα κατὰ μοῖραν καταλέξῃς,
αὐτίκ᾽ ἐγὼ πᾶσιν μυθήσομαι ἀνθρώποισιν,
ὡς ἄρα τοι πρόφρων θεὸς ὤπασε θέσπιν ἀοιδήν. (Odyssey 8.496-498)

If you relate these things to me in accordance with destiny
Straightaway I will speak words before all men,
saying how a god readily bestowed upon you a wondrous song.
Odysseus’ words imply that there is a correct or authoritative way to perform this song, but also that other singers might perform it differently. Here again we find competing epic traditions evaluated in terms of fate or destiny (moira). What is “fated” is the traditional and hence authoritative version of the story. What is tradition for the external audience of the epic and even for the internal audience, the Phaeacians, is in fact, for Odysseus, his own life experiences, which took place only ten years prior to the current occasion of performance. He is therefore uniquely qualified to judge the authoritativeness of the current performance. His reaction, namely his tears, reveals to us that Demodokos has succeeded.


It is the nexus of multiformity and tradition in Iliad 20 that we will explore at this year's undergraduate summer seminar at the Center for Hellenic Studies. As we will see, the mythological and narratological questions being grappled with by the scholars of Alexandria and the later authors whose comments survive in the scholia of our medieval manuscripts can sometimes have profound implications for the textual transmission of the Iliad and Odyssey. The scholion on Iliad 20.30 with which I began is a perfect example of the interdependence of the two. In this one comment, not only can we possibly catch a glimpse of a now lost epic tradition in which Achilles and Odysseus contend to be the sacker of Troy and the “best of the Achaeans,” we also learn about three verses that do not survive in our medieval manuscripts of the poem. All we are told, in the typically compressed way of the scholia, is that some (presumably editors) write these verses (presumably in their editions). They are not a seamless replacement for Iliad 20.30, however. If we replaced 20.30 with the verses that “some write,” we would get this:
20.28 καὶ δέ τέ μιν καὶ πρόσθεν ὑποτρομέεσκον ὁρῶντες·
20.29 νῦν δ᾽ ὅτε δὴ καὶ θυμὸν ἑταίρου χώεται αἰνῶς
20.30a οὐ μέντοι μοῖρ’ ἐστὶν ἔτι ζῳοῦ Ἀχιλῆος
20.30b Ἰλίου ἐκπέρσαι εὖ ναιόμενον πτολίεθρον.
20.30c πέρσει δουράτεός <θ’> ἵππος καὶ μῆτις Ἐπειοῦ.

Even before now they would tremble before him when they saw him.
And now when he is terribly angry in his heart because of [the death of] his companion…
It is not fated, however, with Achilles still alive
to sack the well-inhabited citadel of Ilium.
A wooden horse will destroy it and the craftiness [mētis] of Epeios.
If we assume an ellipsis here (as sometimes occurs, as at Iliad 1.135-136), we can make it work, but it is more likely that the scholia here are quoting from an edition where the entire passage was substantially different from what we find in the medieval manuscripts of the Iliad. But these verses are in no way objectionable beyond the fact that they don’t survive elsewhere. There is nothing “un-Homeric” about them, they are simply an attested multiform of the verses transmitted by our medieval manuscripts.

When we understand the Iliad and Odyssey to have been composed in a dynamic process of composition-in-performance over many centuries, we have no reason to necessarily privilege one formulaic variation over another, even if one is well attested in our medieval manuscripts and one is known only from another source. Both are at least potentially authentically generated performance multiforms, and both have something to teach us about the compositional process and the poetics of the system in which they were generated. Not all surviving multiforms would have been known to all singers at all times and in all places, but each has the potential to reveal something about the poetics of the tradition in the time and place in which that multiform is attested.

But just how fluid, how multiform, was the Greek epic tradition? If the tradition was, as I have claimed in my research, quite fluid in its early phases, why do our medieval manuscripts present us with a relatively uniform text? How do we get from a creative and vibrant oral epic song tradition like that which Albert Lord describes in The Singer of Tales to the seemingly fixed text of the more than 500 manuscripts of the Iliad that survive from medieval times? Conversely, when we accept that earlier forms of the Iliad were mulitform, what poetic possibilities open up for us?

Aristarchus athetized at least seven passages of three verses or more in book 20 alone. Each athetesis gives us insight into an editor who was struggling to account for a mythological and poetic tradition that was multiform and at times contradictory. But where he wanted to take away, we will take back. Building on the work of earlier scholars who have demonstrated why we should expect the Iliad to be multiform (especially Lord 1960 and Nagy 1996), our seminar will explore two basic questions: First, what kinds of multiformity are attested in our surviving sources? And secondly, what are the implications of multiformity for our interpretation of the reception and transmission of Homeric poetry? These questions and our preliminary answers to them have emerged from fifteen years of collaborative work and discussion. I have often joked that the aim of the Homer Multitext is to “unedit” the Iliad. But the joke is serious in that a central goal of the project is to present the historical witnesses of the Iliad unmediated by the interventions of editors seeking to reconstruct an hypothesized “original.” Only in this way can we gain a clear picture of the multiformity with which the Iliad has been transmitted to us. In our experience, it can be incredibly difficult, sometimes impossible, to ascertain what our historical sources actually transmit if one relies on existing publications of the scholia in print or the cryptic reporting of an apparatus criticus. The Homer Multitext allows each document to be viewed and considered on its own terms.

This summer, as we do every summer, we'll remove the bindings so to speak from the medieval manuscripts and fully examine their contents, study surviving papyrus fragments in all their multiform messiness, and try to visualize without judgment the Iliad known to Plato and Aeschines. The attested multiforms of the Iliad give us an opportunity to know and appreciate a wider range of performance traditions for this remarkable poem than most of us have been taught to do. Although our attested multiforms derive from the later stages of the evolution of the poem, even so I submit that they give us a glimpse of the very long history of the text, access to even earlier Iliads, and a greater awareness of the mechanisms by which such a poem could be composed in performance.

Works cited

Lord, A. B. The Singer of Tales. Cambridge, MA, 1960.
Nagy, G. The Best of the Achaeans. Baltimore, 1979.
–––. Poetry as Performance. Cambridge, 1996.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Poetry in Stone: The Poetics of Iliad 24

Statue of Niobe and her youngest daughter from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence
This year's Homer Multitext summer seminar has focused on book 24 of the Homeric Iliad, with teams of faculty and students creating a complete edition of the text and scholia of the Venetus A manuscript for that book. An additional goal for the seminar has been to explore the poetics of the book from an oralist perspective, which is to say, we wanted to explore how the fact that the Iliad is a work composed within an oral tradition affects our understanding of the poetry of Iliad 24. Olga Levaniouk from the University of Washington and Casey Dué from the University of Houston led the discussion. Among the topics we discussed were how to interpret the simile in which Priam is compared (as he arrives within the tent of Achilles, to the astonishment of all) to an exiled murderer, and its resonance in the wider epic tradition. Olga showed that Achilles' father Peleus has a history of taking in such figures, and in some traditions was such a figure himself. For a traditional audience familiar with Peleus' backstory, the simile reveals Achilles to be like his father by taking Priam in and treating him with dignity in Iliad 24.

Olga also showed how Achilles' telling of the story of Niobe ("Even Niobe remembered food..." 24.602) comments on the nature of poetic tradition. Building on the arguments of Gregory Nagy in Homer the Classic, in which he discusses petrification as a metaphor for the notional unchangeability of epic poetry, Olga discussed how Niobe's transformation into a weeping rock is a metaphor for the still living nature of the poetic tradition even after it has achieved the status of "monument" (or stone).

Niobe will weep for all time, her sorrow is eternal. So too will Achilles be mourned for all time, as we learn in Odyssey 24, not only by his immortal mother and her sisters, but also by the Muses, and by extension, the audience of epic poetry. But even though Achilles' death is constantly foreshadowed in the Iliad, the poem ends not with his own glorious death, laments for that death, and his funeral, but with Hektor's, his greatest enemy. As Casey Dué has written, the laments of Andromache and the other women of the Iliad therefore have a dual function. On the level of narrative they are laments for the dead, the warrior husbands and sons who inevitably fall in battle. They protest the cruel fate of the women left behind, and narrate the very personal sorrows of each woman in war. The grief expressed by these women is raw and real. But for the audience of ancient epic the laments for these husbands and sons are also the prototypical laments of heroes, who, for them, continue to be lamented and mourned on a seasonally recurring basis. The poetry of epic collapses the boundaries between the two forms of song.

In the Iliad, grief spreads quickly from individual to community. As each lament comes to a close, the immediately surrounding community of mourners antiphonally responds with their own cries and tears. It is not insignificant then that the final lament of the Iliad and indeed the final lines of the poem, sung by Helen (who is the cause of the war), ends not with the antiphonal wailing of the women (as at Iliad 6.499, 19.301, 22.515, and 24.746), but of the people: “So she spoke lamenting, and the people wailed in response” (Iliad 24.776).

The Iliad looks at humanity without ethnic or any other distinctions that make people want to kill each other. It is not a poem that is anti-war: war was a fundamental and even sacred part of Greek culture. But it is poem that can transcend ethnicity and lament the death of heroes in battle, whether they are Greek or Trojan, and it can even lament the death of the greatest Greek hero of them all, Achilles, by lamenting the death of his greatest enemy. It is a poem that can view Achilles through the eyes of his victims, through the sorrow that he generates, and at the same time experience and appreciate his own never-ending sorrow.

Dué, C. 2007. “Learning Lessons From The Trojan War: Briseis and the Theme of Force.” College Literature 34: 229-262.

Nagy, G. 2008. Homer the Classic. Washington, DC.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Summer Seminar 2016 set to begin next week

Priam supplicates Achilles for the return of the body of Hector.
Athenian red-figure vase, ca. 500-450 BCE. Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum 3710.
Image courtesy of the Florida Center for Instructional Technology
The annual Homer Multitext Summer Seminar begins next week at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, DC. This year students and faculty from Brandeis University, the College of the Holy Cross, Furman University, Gustavus Adolphus College, the University of Houston, Leiden University in the Netherlands, Trinity University in San Antonio, the University of Washington, and Washington and Lee University will come together to learn about the theoretical underpinnings of the Homer Multitext and to create a complete edition of book 24 of the Iliad. You read that right—we are closing in on a complete edition of the entire Venetus A manuscript of the Iliad, a project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities that has been over a decade in the making.

In addition to our editorial work, we will seek to gain a better understanding of the poetics of Iliad 24, and how a multitextual approach to Homeric epic enhances our understanding of those poetics. Stay tuned for more about our discussion next week.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Escorialensis Ω.I.12 introduction posted - scholars wanted!

Folio 188 recto of Escorialensis Ω.I.12
Escorialensis Ω.I.12 (= Allen E4; West F), an eleventh-century CE manuscript of the Iliad now housed in the library of the Escorial in Spain, is not a manuscript that has received much scholarly attention, despite its antiquity and despite the fact that the layout and the organization of its text and scholia set it apart from the other tenth- and eleventh-century manuscripts of the Iliad with scholia. And yet these distinctions immediately raise many fascinating questions about the manuscript’s history and sources. Where was this manuscript constructed? Why was it acquired for Philip’s library, in addition to the Iliad manuscript known as Escorialensis Υ.I.1? Are the two manuscripts related in any way, or is it simply a coincidence that they were both for sale in Venice in 1572 and both were purchased for Philip’s library? Is the unusual layout of Escorialensis Ω.I.12 reflective of a separate channel of transmission for its text and scholia? What kind of scholia does it contain and how do they relate to those of other manuscripts?

A preliminary exploration of this manuscript is now available on the Homer Multitext site. This introduction is meant to be an invitation to others to study the manuscript in more depth using the high-resolution images we acquired in 2010. We encourage you to build on this work, and let us know about any publications or presentations that result. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Beyond crowd sourcing

How do you coordinate contributions from a hundred editors and ensure the quality of the resulting archive?  That's a challenge we face thanks to the success of the past several years of summer seminars at CHS.

The solution we've designed enables scattered teams using virtual machines to work in a collaborative work flow and document their progress in publicly visible github repositories.   The nuts and bolts of the process are increasingly thoroughly documented  (special thanks to project manager Stephanie Lindeborg and the summer 2015 team at Holy Cross for their invaluable contributions).  While this challenge applies to any collaborative digital project,  the HMT approach seems to stand apart from other digital projects, so I've posted a long overview of the technical design of our validation and verification system on the HMT github site.

The important conclusions: while a single book of the Iliad can easily surpass 10,000 words of text in a manuscript like the Venetus A, the HMT project's validation system  ensures that every word can be tracked to a region of interest on an image, and that both text and image are connected to a specific page of the manuscript by a syntactically valid URN that cites an object that really exists in the HMT archive. Every word of every text is tested against rigorous criteria that are specific to the type of the word.  Automated validation and computer-assisted human verification put the HMT archive on a solid foundation.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Resolving a Century-Old Problem of a Scholion’s Lemma

Athena wearing Zeus's aegis, one of the topics of this scholion
This post comes from the team of editors creating the HMT editions of Iliad 15 and Iliad 18 in the Venetus A manuscript during the Holy Cross Summer Research program in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences: Brian Clark '15, Claude Hanley '18, Stephanie Neville '17, Charlie Schufreider '17, Alex Simrell '16, and Melody Wauke '17. Their perceptive solution to the problem of this particular scholion and its lemma demonstrates their masterful familiarity with the Venetus A manuscript and the practices of its scribe. — Mary Ebbott

Among the many potentially befuddling characteristics of the Venetus A manuscript, one thing that is usually fairly straightforward is the connection made to the Iliad text by a scholion’s lemma, an excerpted word or phrase from the Iliad text at the beginning of a scholion which cues the reader as to what lines the scholion will be commenting on. While some scholia have no explicit lemma, these scholia usually indicate clearly what Iliad lines are being commented on based on their content. When a scholion’s lemma has no clear connection to the Iliad text, however, editors are thrown for a loop.

We find such a case at the beginning of Iliad 15, after a newly awakened Zeus sends Iris to order Poseidon to stop his assault on the Trojans. Chafing against the assumed supremacy of his brother, Poseidon angrily reminds Iris that, being a son of Kronos, he has equal authority over the actions of the battlefield as Zeus. Still, Poseidon yields and Zeus then orders Apollo to rouse Hector to arms.

The lemma in question begins the third main scholion on folio 194 verso of the Venetus A.

Detail of Venetus A 194v: see zoomable version here
Like other lemmata, it is written in the same semi-uncial lettering different from the rest of the scholion. Additionally it is set apart from the rest of the scholion by some sort of punctuation, in this case a colon. It reads:
Κρόνος χρησμὸν λαβὼν:
This string of words does not appear anywhere on the page. Discrepancy between a lemma and text does happen elsewhere in the Venetus A. Often the differing words in the lemmata actually suggest an apparent multiformity. However, for a lemma to differ so greatly that the discrepancy goes beyond spelling differences or word order is certainly unusual. The Holy Cross team examined the content of the scholion to see if any explanation of multiformity existed, but no such discussion followed:
ὅτι ὀ ΐδιος αὐτὸν τῆς βασιλείας μεταστήσει υἱὸς, τὰ γεννώμενα κατέπινεν Ῥέα δὲ τεκοῦσα Δία, Κρόνῳ μὲν αὐτοῦ λίθον σπαργανώσασα ἔδωκε καταπιεῖν· τὸ δὲ παιδίον εἰς Κρήτην διακομίσασα, ἔδωκε τρέφειν Θέμοδι καὶ Ἀμαλθίᾳ ἡ ἢν αἴξ, ταύτην οἱ Τιτᾶνες ὁποτ ἂν ἐθεάσαντο ἐφοβοῦντο· αὕτη δὲ τοὺς αὑτῆς μαζοὺς ὑπέχουσα ἔτρεφε τὸ παιδίον. αὐξηθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ζεὺς μετέστησε τῆς βασιλείας τὸν πατέρα. πολεμούντων δὲ αὐτὸν τῶν Τιτάνων, Θέμις συνεβούλευσε, τῷ τῆς Ἀμαλθίας δέρματι σκεπαστηρίῳ χρήσασθαι εἶναι γὰρ αὐτὴν ἀεί φόβητρον, πεισθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ζεῦς ἐποίησεν καὶ τοὺς Τιτᾶνας ἐνίκησεν· ἐντεῦθεν αὐτὸν φησὶν αἰγήοχον προσαγορευθῆναι

ὅτι [Because] his own son will remove him [Kronos] from his dominion, he [Kronos] gulped down his begotten children. But Rhea, after giving birth to Zeus, wrapped a stone in swaddling clothes and then gave it to Kronos to devour. As for the child, she sent him to Crete to be raised by Themis and Amalthia, who was a goat and one whom, whenever the Titans laid eyes on her, was feared. Nursing him at her breast Amalthia raised the child, and once he had grown Zeus stripped his father of his kingdom. But when the Titans were making war with him, Themis advised him to make use of Amalthia’s hide as a shield. For she advised that Amalthia was always terrifying. Persuaded Zeus did so and conquered the Titans. For this reason he says that he was addressed as “aegis-bearing.”
So not only does the scholion concerning Zeus’s upbringing shed no light on the multiformity of the text, but the scholion’s first word, ὅτι, only confuses matters further. ὅτι is typically used at the beginning of scholia to correlate with Aristarchean critical marks, such that they mean, “[the critical mark was placed there] because.” So not only does the lemma not exist, but the scholion supposedly corresponds with some Aristarchean critical mark that also does not exist, and the content is not typical of the kind of editorial comments Aristarchus makes, either.

Our team at Holy Cross was not the first editorial team to struggle with this scholion. Both Erbse and Dindorf recognized the peculiarity of the scholion, and having analyzed the content, concluded that the scribe had made a mistake in placing this scholion here and decided that he meant to comment on line 229 of book 15:
ἀλλὰ σύ γ᾽ ἐν χείρεσσι λάβ᾽ αἰγίδα θυσσανόεσσαν, (15.229)
On the one hand this conclusion makes some sense. That line contains mention of the aegis, it contains some form of the word λαμβάνω, a word from the lemma, and the name Kronos, another word in the lemma, appears just four lines above. While it would still be a stretch, it is perhaps understandable how there might exist some multiform which included our given lemma in the around this part of the text. The problem with this interpretation is that line 15.229 appears on folio 195v, two folios later from where the scholion actually appears. Such a “mistake” seems extremely unlikely for the scribe of the Venetus A who, on every other account, scrupulously connects scholia with their textual counterparts on the same physical page.

Assuming that the scribe did not make that egregious error, some other explanation is required. Our Holy Cross team decided to look at the surrounding scholia to look for positioning clues. The main scholia are ordered sequentially with the line they comment on. So a scholion on line 2 will succeed a scholion on line 1 while immediately preceding a scholion on line 3. In this case, our scholion of interest is sandwiched by two grammatical scholia on line 15.187. Since a single line can have multiple scholia, it is only logical that our scholion in question must also comment on the line. An examination of the line 15.187 reveals that such a conclusion is not too far-fetched:
τρεῖς γάρ τ᾽ ἐκ Κρόνου εἰμὲν ἀδελφεοὶ οὓς τέκετο Ῥέα (15.187)
While the text and lemma do not match, the poetic line is connected to the scholion’s content: namely, it is about one child of Kronos and Rhea. It seems safe to say that the scholion is simply providing an expanded mythological background to the story of Kronos’s children.

How then must we take this ghost lemma? It has every indication of being a lemma in that it is written in the same lettering that is used for lemmata and is set apart from the rest of the scholion by a colon. The solution then is to concede that the scribe did make a mistake or, at least, that some scribe at some point in the manuscript tradition made a mistake. One must concede that Κρόνος χρησμὸν λαβὼν is not a lemma after all, but merely the beginning of the scholion mistakenly written as a lemma. If one removes the colon after λαβὼν, first sentence of the scholion reads:
Κρόνος χρησμὸν λαβὼν ὅτι ὀ ΐδιος αὐτὸν τῆς βασιλείας μεταστήσει υἱὸς, τὰ γεννώμενα κατέπινεν

Kronos, having received an oracle that his own son will remove him from his dominion, gulped down his begotten children.
No longer does one have to infer from context who the father is whose dominion is being stripped away, nor does one have to supply a subject for κατέπινεν. Both cases are elucidated by the clearly nominative form Κρόνος. Most importantly the ὅτι which likely threw off Erbse and Dindorf given its usual formulaic structure in the scholia serves instead here as just a marker of indirect speech, “that,” rather than an indicator of critical marks. And with that conclusion our diplomatic edition was able to not only keep true to the manuscript’s layout, unlike Erbse and Dindorf, but also make sense of something that had baffled some of the brightest Homeric scholars.