Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Hektor’s Variation on a Lament by Briseis

One of the topics that I am most interested in on this blog and in connection with the Homer Multitext more generally is the concept of multiformity. A primary research question addressed by the Homer Multitext is the extent to which the variation and multiformity that once characterized the performance and composition of the Homeric poems are still evident in the historical documents that transmit the text of these poems to us. As Albert Lord showed (see especially Lord 1960), in an oral epic song tradition like that in which the Iliad and Odyssey were composed, no song was ever sung the exact same way twice. The song was created anew each time, using the traditional building blocks of formula and theme, employed in varying degrees of expansion and compression. Every formula is traditional, but every formula carries with it many layers of accumulated meaning, meaning that resonates through time and even across geographical distances. What is “good” about such traditional poetry is not “newness,” but, as Milman Parry put it, putting tradition “to the best use” (Parry 1932, 12-14 [= Parry 1971, 334-35]).

Richard Martin built on the work of Parry and Lord to show how patterns and structures associated with different genres of poetry and speech outside of epic (such as boasting, lament, love song, etc) came to be incorporated into epic, and so formed building blocks with powerful resonance of their own (see especially Martin 1989). One of these genres that I have explored in my own research is that of the traditional lament for the dead, especially as performed by the captive (and soon-to-be captive) women of the Iliad, such as Briseis and Andromache. Laments have a traditional structure and have traditional content, themes, and imagery, but they are dynamic forms of song. They have particular relevance to the life of the woman singing the song and narrate her own personal experiences while at the same time drawing on universal patterns and the experiences of sorrow and grief within the community of mourners. In other words, every lament is a multiform of a notional or archetypal lament, but no two laments are ever the same.

This week I happened to be reminded of the laments for Achilles in the epic of Quintus of Smyrna, whose Posthomerica (which might be translated as “epic events after Homer”) narrates the death of Achilles and the sack of Troy. In that epic, Achilles’ prize of war Briseis gives the following lament (3.551-576):
πασάων δ’ ἔκπαγλον ἀκηχεμένη κέαρ ἔνδον
Βρισηὶς παράκοιτις ἐυπτολέμου Ἀχιλῆος
ἀμφὶ νέκυν στρωφᾶτο καὶ ἀμφοτέρῃς παλάμῃσι
δρυπτομένη χρόα καλὸν ἀύτεεν· ἐκ δ’ ἁπαλοῖο
στήθεος αἱματόεσσαι ἀνὰ σμώδιγγες ἄερθεν
θεινομένης· φαίης κεν ἐπὶ γλάγος αἷμα χέασθαι
φοίνιον. Ἀγλαΐη δὲ καὶ ἀχνυμένης ἀλεγεινῶς
ἱμερόεν μάρμαιρε, χάρις δέ οἱ ἄμπεχεν εἶδος.
τοῖον δ’ ἔκφατο μῦθον ὀιζυρὸν γοόωσα·
ὤ μοι ἐγὼ πάντων περιώσιον αἰνὰ παθοῦσα·
οὐ γάρ μοι τόσσον περ ἐπήλυθεν ἄλλό τι πῆμα,
οὔτε κασιγνήτων οὔτ’ εὐρυχόρου περὶ πάτρης,
ὅσσον σεῖο θανόντος· ἐπεὶ σύ μοι ἱερὸν ἦμαρ
καὶ φάος ἠελίοιο πέλες καὶ μείλιχος αἰὼν
ἐλπωρή τ’ ἀγαθοῖο καὶ ἄσπετον ἄλκαρ ἀνίης
πάσης τ’ ἀγλαΐης πολὺ φέρτερος ἠδὲ τοκήων
ἔπλεο· πάντα γὰρ οἶος ἔης δμωῇ περ ἐούσῃ,
καί ῥά με θῆκας ἄκοιτιν ἑλὼν ἄπο δούλια ἔργα.
νῦν δέ τις ἐν νήεσσιν Ἀχαιῶν ἄξεται ἄλλος
Σπάρτην εἰς ἐρίβωλον ἢ ἐς πολυδίψιον Ἄργος·
καί νύ κεν ἀμφιπολεῦσα κακὰς ὑποτλήσομ’ ἀνίας
σεῦ ἀπονοσφισθεῖσα δυσάμμορος. Ὡς ὄφελόν με
γαῖα χυτὴ ἐκάλυψε πάρος σέο πότμον ἰδέσθαι.
ὣς ἣ μὲν δμηθέντ’ ὀλοφύρετο Πηλείωνα
δμωῇς σὺν μογερῇσι καὶ ἀχνυμένοισιν Ἀχαιοῖς
μυρομένη καὶ ἄνακτα καὶ ἀνέρα·

(For a translation, see
In my 2002 book, Homeric Variations on a Lament by Briseis, I argued that this lament in Quintus of Smyrna may well reflect (however dimly) an archaic epic lament by Briseis for Achilles that has not survived. Instead, we have an echo of that lament in her lament for Patroklos in Iliad 19.282-302, a lament which seems to be in many ways a lament for Achilles himself. An ancient audience would have been able to connect the deaths of the two comrades, and so her lament for Patroklos would have resonated on multiple levels. (See Dué 2002: 1-16 and 74-76.) The traditional formulaic language of oral poetry (and indeed lament) would have evoked all at the same time the deaths of Briseis’ first husband, Patroklos, Achilles, and indeed all husbands who die in battle—including Hektor.

Many scholars, including myself, have noted that Briseis’ lament for Patroklos in Iliad 19 shares many features with the speech of Andromache to Hektor in Iliad 6 (405-432), in which Andromache attempts to persuade Hektor not to return to battle. And in fact, as John Foley has shown (1999:188-198), Andromache’s speech is a lament in every way, even though it is not explicitly called a goos or thrēnos. (Please see chapter four of Homeric Variations for a full analysis.) She first addresses Hektor in the second person directly, then narrates the deaths of her family members in the sack of her city, and then concludes by addressing Hektor once again. The content of Andromache’s speech in Iliad 6 likewise resonates with other traditional laments in the Iliad. For example, the reproach that has been noted as characteristic of laments often takes the form of an accusation of abandonment. Andromache does not reproach Hektor directly in this speech, but she does warn him not to leave her a widow and their son an orphan. Hektor admits he would rather die than see Andromache led off into captivity (6.464-465). Andromache herself expresses a wish to die if she loses Hektor (6.410-411), and this wish too is a common feature of laments. The accusation of abandonment in both ancient and modern Greek laments is typically accompanied by a description of the lamenting woman’s endangered position in the community. Andromache relates how she has lost the protection of all of her family members, and sets up Hektor as her last resource. Many of the traditional lament themes that are featured in Andromache’s speech recur when she learns of the death of Hektor in Iliad 22 and in her lament at Hektor’s funeral in Iliad 24. She relates how Hektor has left her a widow and their son an orphan. She describes the life of servitude that will be hers, and speculates that Astyanax will likewise be a slave or else hurled to his death from the walls (24.727-728, 732-735).

Andromache’s and Briseis’ laments are representative of the way that wives and women in general comment on their status in the community once the man whom they are mourning is dead. Michael Herzfeld has shown in his study of a modern Cretan funeral how women may actually manipulate their status by evoking the sympathy of their audience and warding off potential reproach. Mary Ebbott, following up on the work of Herzfeld, has analyzed Helen’s language of self-blame in the Iliad in order to show how Helen uses the language of lament in even non-lament contexts to voice a view of herself that other characters in the Iliad never express. We can see in Andromache’s speech a similar kind of positioning through lament language even before Hektor’s death.

Likewise, Briseis’ lament for Patroklos deals more with defining her relationship to Achilles than it does with Patroklos. Like Andromache, Briseis uses the medium of lament to narrate the pains of her life and manipulate her status within her community. Briseis sets up first Patroklos and then Achilles as her primary resource after the deaths of her brothers and husband. She mentions the kindness of Patroklos (19.300) in order to comment on her own vulnerability. When she notes that Patroklos always promised to make her Achilles’ “wedded wife” (kouridiê alokhos) she seeks to legitimize her position through lament. She creates a status for herself that might protect her in some way when Achilles himself dies.

With the laments of Book 24 that conclude the Iliad comes an awareness that Andromache, Hecuba, and every Trojan wife will soon be captive women. And just as Achilles’ death is constantly foreshadowed, but does not occur in the Iliad, so the capture of Andromache by Greek warriors, an event that is foretold in Books 6, 18, and 24, does not take place within the confines of the Iliad itself. Her capture is instead realized in the figure of Briseis, the “wife” of Achilles. Just as Patroklos and then Hektor are substitutes in death for Achilles within the poem, so Briseis can be a substitute for Andromache. And as the funeral of Hektor foreshadows that of Achilles, Andromache’s fears for herself in turn reverberate back to Briseis, whose story, upon the death of Achilles, will come full circle, and she will be a widow and a captive once more.

As you can see, I am fascinated by the way that the traditional diction of Homeric poetry creates meaning and interconnection between different characters and different parts of the poem. For me, the repetitiveness of the poetry allows for more meaning not less. The patterns and structures of lament that I have been discussing here would have been very familiar to an ancient audience, who would have grasped them on an unconscious level. When Andromache begins using what I have called the “language of lament,” the emotional power of that speech would have connected with an ancient audience in a particular and powerful way, just as it does, within the poem, with Hektor.

This brings me back to the lament of Briseis in the Posthomerica, and, in an interesting way, Hektor. Indeed the bulk of Briseis’ lament in the Posthomerica evokes her lament for Patroklos in Iliad 19, with her narration of the loss of her homeland, parents, and brothers, and her “wife”-like (ἄκοιτιν) status with Achilles. But the last part of her lament, in which she tells of her soon-to-be captive (once again) status to a master in Greece, and her longing for death before seeing him dead, recall above all the fears that Hektor expresses for Andromache, as he explains to her why he must return to battle. In a justifiably much admired passage (the first part of which is itself a repetition of Agamemnon’s words at Iliad 4.163-165) he says (6.447-465):
εὖ γὰρ ἐγὼ τόδε οἶδα κατὰ φρένα καὶ κατὰ θυμόν:
ἔσσεται ἦμαρ ὅτ᾽ ἄν ποτ᾽ ὀλώλῃ Ἴλιος ἱρὴ
καὶ Πρίαμος καὶ λαὸς ἐϋμμελίω Πριάμοιο.
ἀλλ᾽ οὔ μοι Τρώων τόσσον μέλει ἄλγος ὀπίσσω,
οὔτ᾽ αὐτῆς Ἑκάβης οὔτε Πριάμοιο ἄνακτος
οὔτε κασιγνήτων, οἵ κεν πολέες τε καὶ ἐσθλοὶ
ἐν κονίῃσι πέσοιεν ὑπ᾽ ἀνδράσι δυσμενέεσσιν,
ὅσσον σεῦ, ὅτε κέν τις Ἀχαιῶν χαλκοχιτώνων
δακρυόεσσαν ἄγηται ἐλεύθερον ἦμαρ ἀπούρας:
καί κεν ἐν Ἄργει ἐοῦσα πρὸς ἄλλης ἱστὸν ὑφαίνοις,
καί κεν ὕδωρ φορέοις Μεσσηΐδος ἢ Ὑπερείης
πόλλ᾽ ἀεκαζομένη, κρατερὴ δ᾽ ἐπικείσετ᾽ ἀνάγκη...
ἀλλά με τεθνηῶτα χυτὴ κατὰ γαῖα καλύπτοι
πρίν γέ τι σῆς τε βοῆς σοῦ θ᾽ ἑλκηθμοῖο πυθέσθαι.

For I know this well in my heart and soul,
a day will come when holy Ilium will be destroyed,
and Priam and the people of Priam of the good spear.
But the pain of the Trojans in the future is not so much a concern for me
nor that of Hecuba herself nor of Lord Priam,
nor that of my brothers, who many and noble
have fallen in the dust at the hands of enemy men,
as much as your pain, when some one of the Achaeans with their bronze khitons
leads you away weeping, having deprived you of your day of freedom.
And then being in Argos you will weave at the loom for another woman,
and carry water from the Middle Spring and Upper Spring,
treated very shamefully, and powerful necessity will lie upon you...
May the heaped up earth of my tomb cover me dead
before I learn of your shout and your being dragged away.
What Hektor fears for Andromache, as we all know, will indeed come true, and in the Posthomerica, for Briseis, it has come true once again. Rereading the lament of Briseis in the Posthomerica I now see that in the Iliad Hektor, like Andromache, draws on the powerful language of lament to make his case. We have in essence, dueling proleptic laments from these two characters, which dramatically adds to the emotional effect of this scene.

Although anthropological research has shown that women were the traditional performers of lament in antiquity, the male heroes of epic do sometimes lament. Achilles in particular has been shown to be versed in both women’s and men’s song-making traditions. (See especially Monsacré 1984.) Here we see that Hektor has heard Andomache’s lamentation, and responded with a traditional lament of his own. This is particularly striking to me in part because ancient laments seems to have been antiphonal, with the mourner and audience responding to one another. (On the antiphonal nature of Greek laments, already represented in the laments of the Iliad, see Alexiou 1974: 131-60 and Dué 2006: 12-14.) This kind of responsion between the doomed couple makes their words even more evocative of an actual funeral.

Hektor’s variation on the captive woman’s lament is powerful precisely because it is a multiform of a pattern of speech deeply imprinted on the audience. It is powerful because it repeats, because it draws on formulas that have evolved over centuries to express precisely this kind of otherwise inexpressible sorrow. And so we see that the laments of Briseis and Andromache and Hektor are all multiforms of one another, and yet each perfectly communicates the very individual pain of each one.

(The image at the top of this post is of a painting by Zoie Lafis, Threnouses [2005], based on an ancient Greek vase.)

Works Cited
Alexiou, M. 1974. The Ritual Lament in Greek Tradition. Cambridge.

Carlisle, M., and O. Levaniouk, eds. 1999. Nine Essays on Homer. Lanham, Md.

Dué, C. 2002. Homeric Variations on a Lament by Briseis. Lanham, Md.

Dué, C. 2006. The Captive Woman’s Lament in Greek Tragedy. Austin.

Ebbott, M. “The Wrath of Helen: Self-Blame and Nemesis in the Iliad.” In Carlisle and Levaniouk 1999: 3-20.

Foley, J. M. 1999. Homer’s Traditional Art. University Park.

Herzfeld, M. 1993. “In Defiance of Destiny: The Management of Time and Gender at a Cretan Funeral.” American Ethnologist 20.2: 241-55.

Lord, A. B. 1960/2000. The Singer of Tales. Cambridge, MA. 2nd rev. edition, 2000.

Martin, R. P. 1989. The Language of Heroes: Speech and Performance in the Iliad. Ithaca, N.Y.

Monsacré, H. 1984. Les larmes d'Achille: le héros, la femme et la souffrance dans la poésie d'Homère. Paris.

Parry, A., ed. 1971. The Making of Homeric Verse: The Collected Papers of Milman Parry. Oxford.

Parry, M. 1932. “Studies in the Epic Technique of Oral Versemaking. II. The Homeric Language as the Language of Oral Poetry.” Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 43 (1932): 1-50 [repr. in A. Parry 1971: 325-64].

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Linking poetry and scholia in medieval Homeric manuscripts

In our rationale for a digital edition of the Homeric epics, we have observed (e.g., in “Digital Criticism”) that the layout of a print edition of the Iliad or Odyssey affects the reader’s perception of the text. As Casey Dué and I say in that article: “A standard print edition will present a main text, and then record alternative readings in an apparatus (generally printed at the bottom of the page in smaller-sized font), giving the impression that there is the text — and then there is everything else. Compounding this problem and further obscuring the situation for nonspecialists, the apparatus as developed and practiced in classical textual criticism uses conventions and abbreviations that can only be deciphered by those who have received special training in these practices.” In other words, the layout of the page both assumes and projects a particular view of the text and its transmission, one that is at odds with the historical reality of the composition and transmission of the Homeric epics. Not only the conventional layout of print critical editions, but also the very limitations of print as a medium, are fundamental reasons why a digital edition is necessary to fully realize a critical edition of the Homeric epics.

With that pivotal significance of page layout in mind, we can then consider further questions about how the medieval manuscripts that we have digitally photographed for the HMT present a page layout and connect multiple texts on the same page. For just how the layout of the page in our medieval manuscripts presents, organizes, and links the multiple texts on each page is crucial for understanding the relationship between these texts. And, of course, a digital edition that incorporates and references the digital images of these pages does not lose that embedded information the way print editions (and electronic editions made directly from print editions) have. The aspect of layout that I will consider here in further detail is how the multiple texts on one page of these manuscripts are linked together for the reader.

In a conference presentation I gave along with HMT Associate Editor Leonard Muellner at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland last August, and now in a forthcoming article, I began examining this topic with what seems like it should be a simple question: how does a reader read a page of the Venetus A manuscript?
It is clear that each page is carefully set up to accommodate these multiple sets of texts (see also Maniaci 2006). How, then, should a page of the Venetus A be read? Where does my eye begin reading, and how does it move through all the texts on a page? Just where to start is not obvious. The expected approach of reading top to bottom, left to right, quickly proves not correct, since I then start with commentary, and lines of poetry would be interspersed with comments. In fact, such a method of reading the page would be impossible, because the comments along the right side of the page require reading down through a comment before returning to the left side of the page, where the next line of the poetry starts. If I start by reading the lines of the Iliad do I stop each time I expect a comment, and go to look for it? Do I read all 25 lines, and then start at the top of the page and read the scholia in order from top to bottom, and left to right? Or do I read all the main scholia, then go back and read each of the other sets, the intermarginal, the interior, the exterior, and then the interlinear—and in turn, or in a single pass? Should multiple comments on the same line but belonging to different sets of scholia be read together?

The seemingly simple questions of how to read the page reveal the complexities of the relationships between the texts on the page. A codex of this size and grandeur was obviously not meant to be picked up and read like a paperback novel, but the basic questions of what the scribe’s expectations of his readers were and how readers might use this codex still require further investigation: we have not yet figured out all of the reading strategies the manuscript makes possible. Now that the manuscript is available for repeated reading by means of the digital images, we (and other scholars) can begin to conduct that kind of investigation. Yet as readers of all kinds of texts and page layouts, we know that we are not bound by the author’s (or scribe’s or typesetter’s) expectations. Thus, the Venetus A’s format for multitextual reading is an elaborate case of the possibilities for multitextual reading—different orders, different combinations—that are inherent in a page:

“The page is thus that physical aspect of the book that most persistently invites our eyes to move in directions other than the forward one, that potentially asserts, visually, the synchronic (and recursive) aspects of a narrative, over and against the diachronic ones. Roll or codex, the page is a block of text that realizes, in miniature, what is true of the entire book: all of these words are here together, at the same time” (Butler 2011: 9).

The design of the complex pages of the Venetus A is self-contained, yet nevertheless offers multiple ways of reading what they contain: our eyes can (and sometimes must) move in directions other than forward. A digital edition allows us to retain these possibilities in ways that a print edition cannot. Our digital edition of the manuscript encodes the location on the page of each scholion, for example, and the digital texts are linked to the images, so that a reader can easily go back and forth between them. Thus the structured markup of the scholia, including its location on the page, helps to restore the spatial information that the manuscript assumes the reader has by virtue of looking at the page.
The page layout creates possibilities of and even the need for reading strategies. So what are the ways in which the layout and other features of the page indicate the connections between the multiple sets of texts? As we study the first five manuscripts for which we have digital photography, we are starting to see a number of different strategies that the scribes used for linking texts on the page.

Venetus A

The 10th-century Venetus A (Marcianus Graecus Z. 454 [=822]) uses a combination of spatial arrangement and lemmata, excerpted words from the poetic line(s) being commented on. In the Venetus A, the main block of the poetic text is apparent in the middle of the page—the blacker ink and larger script make it visually prominent. The commentary brackets the text in an open frame, and does so in multiple groupings, appearing also in the interior margin and even in the spaces between the lines of poetry. Even on less full, more typical pages, such as 43v or 46r, these multiple sets of writing on a single page are evident. The sets of scholia, which are distinguished by their location on the page, include: (1) the main scholia, which are written above, outside, and below the lines of the epic, in a bracketing shape (yellow in the image of 46r below); (2) the intermarginal scholia, located between the poetry and the main scholia and written in a different kind of script (green); (3) the interior scholia, written in the gutters (that is, toward the bound edge of the page) (purple); (4) the exterior scholia, written in the outer margin, toward the edge of the page beyond the main scholia (orange); and (5) interlinear scholia, written between the lines of the poetry (pink).
Scholia inventory and mapping by Melissa Browne of Venetus A, 46r

The placement of the comment in one of the five sets is already conveying some information about them, presumably about the source(s) of the comment, although there is still much to be investigated about that question. The placement of the text on the page also has a spatial relationship to the line it comments on: the scholia generally follow the order of the poetic lines. In addition, as we can see on these pages 43v and 46r, if the main scholia did not fill the page, the scribe left blank space in the main scholia area to move the later comments down the page to be closer to the line(s) they comment on.

Aiding the reader in the visual coordination of text and comment in the main scholia are the lemmata, a word or words taken from the poetic line to indicate which line is commented on. It provides the eye a means of moving more easily between text and comment. We readers can look at a line of poetry and then find the same (or similar: that will have to be the subject of another post) words introducing a comment on the line. The correspondence (or near correspondence) of words from the poetry are what the reader looks for in connecting the two texts.

The intermarginal, interior, exterior, and interlinear scholia in the Venetus A, however, rely almost entirely on location on the page to indicate their relationship with other texts. (The exceptions are the longer exterior scholia, such as those seen on 12r and 12v, which rely on content alone to link to particular lines.) But the briefer scholia (sometimes only one word) in these sets are written adjacent to, parallel to (in the case of exterior scholia), or above the line they comment on, and that spatial arrangement allows the reader to see what is being commented on. For example, the interior scholion on 43v reads simply, διὰ τοῦ α τὸ πεπασθε Ἀρίσταρχος, which means “with an ‘a’ [alpha], “πέπασθε”, according to Aristarchus.” When it is seen on the page written right next to πέποσθε at the end of the line (Iliad 3.99), its meaning, that Aristarchus read πέπασθε in place of πέποσθε on that line, is easily grasped.
Detail shot of 43v of the Venetus A
The scribe of course assumed that anyone reading any particular text on the page had ready access to all the other texts on the page and also had the spatial information conveyed by their layout (such as what word πέπασθε is meant to substitute for). Because modern print editions of the scholia have seen fit to separate these texts, that easy and intuitive understanding of their relationship has been lost: when removed from the page, it is not clear why the difference of the spelling with an alpha is being noted, and the reader has to hunting through another printed text to figure it out.

Venetus B and E3

I am grouping these two 11th-century manuscripts (Venetus B is Marcianus Graecus Z. 453 [=821] and E3 is Allen’s designation for Escorialensis 291 [Υ i.1]) together because they share their main method of linking scholia to text: a numbering system. Greek numbers (that is, letters with a keraia written after to distinguish them from letters as letters) are used to link comments to lines, and even particular parts of the lines by being written both above the line being commented on and then before the corresponding comment. These two manuscripts have long been considered closely related to one another, and their similar layout and use of this numbering system contributes to that impression. The numbering system as employed in these manuscripts is also native to the codex format. (The codex is basically our normal “book” format: rectangular pages bound between covers. It differs from the earlier “roll” format: for more on this change in format, see Ebbott 2009 in Recapturing a Homeric Legacy, available in PDF for free). The lemmata system used in the main scholia of the Venetus A was useful for the earlier “roll” format. From what we know of Aristarchus’ editorial practices, he had the text in one roll, and his commentary (hupomnēmata) in another. The critical signs we see in the Venetus A (which no longer have a direct linking function in that codex, since most of the corresponding scholia do not contain the sign as well) and the lemmata helped the reader move back and forth between rolls, which could be opened simultaneously to the matching portions of text and commentary. (For more on the critical signs in the Venetus A, see Bird 2009.) But the numbering in both the Venetus B and E3 start at 1 (α’) at the top of the verso (left-hand) page, and continue sequentially down the page and then across to the recto (right-hand) page. When you turn the page, the numbering starts again at 1. Thus the layout and system of text coordination assumes a codex format, with a two-page spread visible when the book is open. One thing to note about modern print editions of the scholia from these manuscripts: when a “lemma” is cited for a scholion, it is likely the word in the text that the number is written over. Lemmata as we see them in manuscripts like the Venetus A are not used in these two manuscripts for the purposes of linking line and comment.

In addition to this numbered scholia, both the B and E3 manuscripts have additional notes written in different, later handwriting. In E3 these notes are placed in interlinear, intermarginal, interior, or exterior positions, in a much smaller quantity than those we see in the Venetus A, and, it appears, in a less systematic way (we have only just begun to investigate these scholia, which have not previously been published). These scholia seem also to depend on spatial proximity to provide connection between the poetry and the comment. In B the second set of scholia instead is connected in a way similar to the numbered scholia, but it uses symbols to make the connection: again, written both over the line and before the comment. A team of undergraduate researchers at Brandeis University, under the direction of Lenny Muellner, will be collecting and cataloguing the symbols used, and then we will be able to investigate whether the individual symbols have a particular meaning or are used in some systematic way.


The manuscript that Allen called E4 (Escorialensis 509 [Ω i.12]) is also from the 11th century. As we begin to study this manuscript in earnest, we are finding that it has many unusual features, so my remarks here are only preliminary. (See also the previous posts by Casey Dué about this manuscript.) E4 uses a combination of several linking methods: numbers, symbols, lemmata, and color.

Looking at the bifolio spread of 187v–188r that Casey discussed in her “Dog of Orion” post, I see that some of the marginal scholia are linked by Greek numbers, in a manner similar to B and E3: the number is written both over the line of poetry and before the corresponding note. The numbering starts at 1 on the verso (left-hand) page and continues sequentially on the recto (right-hand) page, again like B and E3. When I turn the page to 188v, I see that the numbering starts at 1 again. The major difference on these pages, which start Book 22 and (as Casey noted) must be read together, is that the first three numbered scholia appear on 187v, and coordinate to text on the facing page, 188r, where the corresponding numbers are written about the lines of poetry. In B and E3, the corresponding text and comment are, with only a few exceptions seen so far, on the same page, even as the numbering system itself continues across the bifolio spread of the open codex.

E4 also uses symbols in manner parallel to its use of numbers, with a symbol written above the line commented on and in front of the corresponding note. Some important differences from the use of symbols to link scholia seen in B should be noted, however. In B, the scholia using symbol are in a different hand and seem to have been added to the manuscript later. They appear as though they are placed according to what space was available around the numbered scholia. In E4, the symbol scholia are written in the same handwriting as the numbered scholia, and are written within the same block of scholia as those that are numbered. The numbered scholia and those linked with symbols are not separated spatially: the scribe intermingled them according to some principle we have yet to discern. Another question that we have begun to explore is whether the numbers and symbols indicate what source the scribe was taking the comment from (if he was, as seems likely, constructing this set of scholia himself), and whether his sources already had numbers and symbols associated with the scholia.

E4 also shows the use of lemmata, similar to the linking system we saw in A. As Casey noted in her “Dog of Orion” post, a lemma is used to link a comment on 187v to a text on 188r (and, as she noted, the lemma is itself a different reading of this line from what we see in the text on 188r). On 90v, which I looked at earlier for its scholion about Rhesos, the marginal comment on 10.437, which appears on the same page as the line it comments on, uses both a symbol and a lemma to link the comment to the text. There the lemma is, in fact, the entire line. In each of these cases, the lemma, or the first part of it, is written in a red ink. Indeed, with both the lemmata and the symbols, the scribe has made use of colored ink as part of his methods of linking texts on the page. Both a purplish-red and an orangish-red are used for some symbols and some lemmata. The color certainly helps my eye to pick up the linked texts more quickly. Whether the different shades of red mean anything in terms of the source or the content of the scholia so linked is yet another question we will have to investigate further.

E4 also contains some interlinear scholia, at least some of which use symbols to connect to the lines of poetry, but not all. These interlinear scholia appear between the lines of the prose paraphrase. That placement raises questions of whether the placement was simply one of available space, or whether in some cases the prose paraphrase itself needed explaining, or whether the annotator expected at least some of his readers to be reading the prose paraphrase first (or only).


For the Venetian manuscript that Allen called U4 (Marcianus Graecus Z. 458 [=841]), I will quote the description sent to me by Melissa Browne, Holy Cross Class of 2012. Browne is making a digital editio princeps (first critical edition) of this manuscript as her senior honors thesis. She has already inventoried every scholion in the manuscript, and, I would wager, knows it better than anyone else in the world.

According to Melissa: “The roughly 700 scholia of the U4 codex, as a general rule, do not follow one specific method of linking scholia to Iliad text. The scholia themselves we may divide into two distinct types: ‘graphetai’ scholia, and all other scholia.
Graphetai scholia, which consistently begin with the letters gamma and rho combined into a symbol (seen at left), usually appear directly to the left or right of the line upon which they comment, as they provide alternate readings of a line or half line which the scribe has, for some reason or another, decided not to [choose for the line itself]. Some scholia beginning with the graphetai symbol do appear to the right of the prose paraphrase passage; whether these graphetai scholia comment on the prose paraphrase or on the Iliad text will be an interesting question to consider. All other scholia in U4 we consider as one category, since there are no particular spatial patterns of placement or changes of ink/writing style/size which would distinguish certain scholia as particular ‘types’ (‘interior’ or ‘interlinear’, for example). The scribe does not use lemmata, as in Venetus A, but he does make (inconsistent) use of a system of symbols linking text and scholia, as in the Venetus B and E4. Most often, the scribe of U4 places his commentary near the horizontal scoring line of the line upon which he wishes to add notation. If there happens to be a larger number of scholia on a given recto or verso page, the scribe puts the symbol system to use. As U4 contains far fewer scholia than A, B, E3 or E4, his loose spatial system and employment of symbols, while not the most consistent, generally allows for the reader to link text and scholia without too much trouble.”

A central point I want to return to is that the scribe of each of these manuscripts constructed the page under the assumption that the reader would have the same page before his or her eyes, and therefore would have access to all of the texts on that page (or bifolio spread) simultaneously. These various systems of linking scholia were an aid to the reader’s eye, and perhaps also an aid for the scribe himself for the organization of multiple texts (perhaps from multiple sources) on the same page. As we become more familiar with the manuscripts we have had the chance to study through digital photographs, the importance of that relationship on the page becomes more and more apparent. That importance is the reason why the Homer Multitext has incorporated the photographs themselves into our digital editions though the visual inventory and scholia mapping that our undergraduate researchers have been doing, and why we insist on a complete, comprehensive accounting of the entire contents of our manuscripts. Users of the edition will be able to move from the digital text to the precise location of that text on the photograph of the page: they will thereby have easy access to the page itself, and all the important information contained its in arrangement.
Works cited
Bird, G. 2009. “Critical Signs―Drawing Attention to ‘Special’ Lines of Homer’s Iliad in the Manuscript Venetus A.” In Dué 2009:89–115.
Butler, Shane. 2011. The Matter of the Page: Essays in Search of Ancient and Medieval Authors. Madison, Wisc.: University of Wisconsin Press.
Dué, Casey, ed.. 2009. Recapturing a Homeric Legacy: Images and Insights from the Venetus A Manuscript of the Iliad. Cambridge, MA. [Available on-line at]
Dué, Casey and Mary Ebbott. 2009. “Digital Criticism: Editorial Standards for the Homer Multitext.” Digital Humanities Quarterly 3.1,
Ebbott, Mary. 2009. “Text and Technologies: the Iliad and the Venetus A.” In Dué 2009:31–55.
Maniaci, M. 2006. “Words within Words: Layout Strategies in Some Glossed Manuscripts of the Iliad.” Manuscripta 50:241–268.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Homeric Questions

In a recent post, Stephanie Lindeborg explores certain red markings in the margins of the first few folios of the Venetus A manuscript of the Iliad. She discovers that they are in fact abbreviations. The first of these that she explores looks like ερώ άπ and seems to be an abbreviation for ἐρώτησις ἀπόκρισις ("question" and "answer," so Dindorf). Stephanie surmises that the very first scholion in this manuscript in fact comes from the Ὁμήρικα ζητήματα, Homērika Zētēmata, or in its more commonly given Latin translation, Quaestiones Homericae of the third-century CE scholar and philosopher Porphyry.

The Ὁμήρικα ζητήματα exists only in a fragmentary state; the first book survives in a single manuscript, written in 1314 and now in the Vatican Library (Vaticanus Graecus 305), and the rest of what we know of its contents comes from close reading of various scholia on Homeric manuscripts, scholia which are presumed to have been excerpted from Porphyry. (In Escorialensis Ω.I.12 [E4], such excerpts are often explicitly labeled as such, though not always.) Porphyry’s work is an example of the late-antique genre of Ζήτηματα, which is generally translated “Questions,” consisting of inquiries into various topics with (often) varying and debatable answers. Ancient works on ζήτηματα covered ethical, legal, and historical topics, and Porphyry’s work on Homer is one of the few examples of literary “Questions.” The scholiastic material that comes from this work is valuable for a number of reasons, although its value has not always been appreciated. For much of the 19th and 20th centuries, scholars have dismissed Porphyry as telling us little about Homeric poetry itself, but much about the literary “parlor games” played by intelligent aristocrats in antiquity. But these scholia preserve some observations on Homeric poetry made by Aristotle and Plato, which in turn can tell us about the particular vocabulary those ancient thinkers used when they discussed epic poetry, and thus much about the ancient experience of listening to this poetry. (See the chapter by Blackwell and Dué in Recapturing a Homeric Legacy.)

In her post, Stephanie speculates about why the scribe of the Venetus A chose to explicitly mark the "Homeric Questions" on the first few folios of A, but did not do so throughout. I recently discovered, with help from my fellow editors Mary Ebbott and Neel Smith, that the scribe of E4 has likewise marked the initial "Homeric Questions" of that manuscript with a special sign.

On folio 3v of E4, we find a hypothesis for the whole Iliad, followed by a hypothesis for book 1. After this comes a set of scholia with red lemmata on the first few lines of the poem. This combination of hypotheses and scholia with lemmata resembles what we find elsewhere in E4. Each book of the Iliad in E4 begins on the recto side of a folio. On the adjacent verso side, the scribe writes usually two hypotheses, and, in the same text block, scholia with red lemmata. These scholia with lemmata will fill the remainder of the text block, and the amount of scholia seems to be determined solely by how much space is left in the block after the hypotheses have been written. A different set of scholia is then written in the available space in the margins all around. (These scholia do not, for the most part, have lemmata, and when they do, they are not red.) Here on 3v the scribe has followed this same pattern, but while studying the folio I noticed a sign that I initially did not recognize from the other folios. This sign looks like a capital upsilon above a lambda with a slash, and we find it in four places in the text block, each time after one of the read lemmata.

The sign does not follow every single lemma, however, so my fellow editors and I immediately wondered what the notes that do have the sign have in common. Here is how each note begins:

1. ζητοῦσι, διὰ τί ἀπὸ τῆς μήνιδος ἤρξατο...

2. διὰ τί εὐθὺς ἀπὸ τῶν τελευταίων τοῦ πολέμου ἤρξατο...

3. διὰ τί ὁ Χρύσης οὐ κατ‘Ἀγαμέμνονος  ηὔχετο τοῦ ὑβρίσαντος αὐτὸν ἀλλὰ κατὰ πάντων τῶν ἑλλήνων;

4. διὰ τί δὲ ἀπὸ τῶν κυνῶν, καὶ τῶν ἡμιόνων, ὁ λοιμὸς ἤρξατο, οὐκ ἀπὸ τῶν Ἑλλήνων δὲ, οὐδὲ ἀπ' ἄλλου τινὸς ζώου;

Each of these notes is in fact a question, which is followed by the sign and then the answer to that question. So for example question 1 asks why the poet began with the word "wrath," which is such an "ill-famed" word. We then find the sign, followed by the answer: "For two reasons. First, because..." This question and answer combination is in fact the same one that begins the scholia in the Venetus A, the very passage that Stephanie just described in her post.

The sign in E4 must be, as we have already seen in A, an abbreviation, but instead of ἀπόκρισις it must be λύσις, which is the word used in the scholia and elsewhere for a "solution" to a Homeric Question.Therefore what we see in E4 is similar to what Stephanie describes for A, a set of "Homeric Questions" and answers within the body of scholia that have been marked explicitly as such. Once I understood what I was seeing on folio 3v, I realized that we find this sign/abbreviation elsewhere in E4, including, for example, on folio 27r, where we find not only two signs for in λύσις in crimson ink, but also two examples of a crimson ἀπό alongside the accompanying Questions. The ἀπό is no doubt an abbreviation for ἀπόρημα, another common way (in addition to ζήτημα) of referring to problems of Homeric interpretation in antiquity.

Because E4 contains so many excerpts from Porphyry, it is only natural to assume that these four questions on folio 3v are derivative of Porphyry's work, but we cannot be certain, because these particular questions do not survive in the the one independent manuscript containing a portion of Porpyry's Ὁμήρικα ζητήματα. These questions may have a different source altogether. As we have seen, the first question in E4 is the very first scholion on the Venetus A (folio 12r), and also survives in the "D" scholia manuscripts, such as the ninth-century manuscript known as Z (Romanus, Bibl. Naz. Centr. Gr. 6 + Matrit. B. N. 4626). As Stephanie notes, another version of this same question and answer survives in the Venetus B, where it is attributed to Zenodotus. The second question in E4 is written in the harp that decorates the top right corner of folio 12r of the Venetus A (adjacent to where question 1 is written.) Question 3 is not in A, but is preserved in the "D" scholia manuscripts. Question 4 can be found written as part of a decorative column on folio 12v of the Venetus A, and is also preserved in the "D" scholia. It is likely that there was a tradition of composing and answering such questions in schools and/or among scholars, and there may have been multiple scholarly works in antiquity devoted to these types of questions. In fact we know that Aristotle composed such a work. (See the introduction to G. Nagy's Homeric Questions [Austin, 1996].)

As always when I think about the similarities between such manuscripts as A and E4 and Z, I begin to try to imagine the ancient exemplars from which the scribes were drawing their material. What was the ultimate source for these questions? Was it a complete manuscript of Porphyry's Ὁμήρικα ζητήματα? Or might the students of Aristotle have made a compilation of his "solutions" (λύσεις) to the ἀπορήματα of his day? Close examination and comparison of multiple manuscripts allows us to see back in time, and speculate about where all of this material came from. And once these manuscripts have been fully transcribed and edited, future scholars may well be able to test such speculations and find concrete answers.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Investigating the Red Marginal Notes of the Venetus A

A guest post by Stephanie Lindeborg, Class of 2013, College of the Holy Cross

12r–13r, the first two folios that contain the Iliadic text in the Venetus A, are densely covered folios. Besides the texts, scholia, and drawings found on these folios, we can see small marginal notes written in bright red ink. They appear only through 13r, never to be seen again in the entire manuscript from what we can detect in the natural light photography. While it may be possible that they have completely faded, given that many of those that we can make out are barely visible, it seems highly unlikely that almost an entire manuscript’s worth of red notes have completely faded away. It seems even more unlikely considering the fact that even though 12r is one of more damaged and faded folios, we can still make out red marks on that folio, some of them quite clearly. This evidence suggests that the scribe who wrote the red marks ceased to include them after 13r or roughly thereabouts.

There are two different kinds of red marks that appear between 12r and 13r. The first one that appears in the manuscript is shown in the image:

We can make out the letters “ερώ άπ” which is an abbreviation for “ἐρώτησις ἀπόκρισις” (“question and answer”). We derive this expansion from Dindorf’s edition of the Venetus A scholia, who, in a footnote to the first scholion with this mark, writes that the abbreviation appears in red and should be expanded to “ἐρώτησις ἀπόκρισις” (seeing as the scholia deal with questions, we see no reason to doubt this expansion). There are two occurrences of this red abbreviation (both on 12r), both with scholia that pose and answer a question. The scholia follow the general formula of “διὰ τι… ὅτι/ἵνα…”. It is clear that the two scholia marked “ἐρώτησις ἀπόκρισις” are not the only question/answer scholia in the manuscript. Were there simply too many to mark? Given the formulaic nature of these scholia, it might be reasonable to suppose that the reader no longer needs the help of the scribe to know that the scholion is a question/answer scholion after being told twice what such a scholion looks like. More interesting than why the scribe stopped marking question/answer scholia, is why he started in the first place. It is highly likely that the scribe was working from a text of Homeric questions. The first and most probable suspect would the Ὁμήρικα ζητήματα (Homeric Questions) of Porphyry. There is still quite a bit of guesswork to determine whether these question/answer scholia are Porphyry’s. In Dindorf’s aforementioned footnote, he writes that most scholia of this formulaic nature are generally attributed to Porphyry, but this one (i.e. the first scholion marked question/answer) is a slightly shorter version of one that appears in the Venetus B and is attributed rather to Zenodotus. Dindorf also refers in this footnote to a passage from his preface which states that there are several shorter question/answer scholia which are generally different from Porphyry. He also notes Aristotle authored a Homeric Questions as well (ἀπορήμασιν Ὁμηρικοῖς), which are said to have influenced Porphyry and are different from the content of the scholia in the Venetus A.

In my investigation I searched through the TLG’s collection of the relevant texts of Porphyry and discovered that the two marked scholia do appear, at least in part, in Schrader’s 1880–1882 edition of the Homeric Questions. Only the first half of the first marked scholion appears in the Quaestionum Homericarum ad Iliadem pertinentium reliquiae (1.1.21–1.1.28). The Venetus B scholion, to which Dindorf refers, appears directly before the A scholion in this edition. It is unclear, however, where the remaining half of this scholion might come from, as it does not appear in any editions of Porphyry’s Homeric Questions including Sodano’s 1970 edition which is based on an incomplete manuscript of the Homeric Questions and does not include material that has only survived through the Homeric scholia. The Schrader edition does attribute the scholion to the Venetus A, which makes it especially interesting that the second half of the scholion is not included. Was the latter half not deemed genuine Porphyry by the complier of the edition? He also attributes the same material to another manuscript, Lipsiensi 32 (olim 1275). It is equally possibly that this other manuscript only includes the material to where Schrader breaks off, but this still means that Schrader was looking at both manuscripts and made an editorial judgment not to include the second part of the scholion.

The Quaestionum Homericarum ad Iliadem pertinentium reliquiae shows the scholion as the following:

ζητοῦσι δια τί ἀπὸ τῆς μήνιδος ἤρξατο οὕτως δυσφήμου ὀνόματος· δια δύο ταῦτα· πρῶτον μὲν ἵν’ ἐκ τοῦ πάθους ἀπκαταῥρεύσῃ τὸ τοιοῦτο μόριον τῆς ψυχῆς καὶ προσεκτικωτέρους τοὺς ἀκροατὰς ἐπι τοῦ μεγέθους ποιήσῃ καὶ προσεθίζῃ φέρειν γενναίως ἡμᾶς τὰ πάθη. μέλλων πολλέμους ἀπαγγέλλειν· δεύτερον. ἵνα τὰ ἐγκώμια τῶν Ἑλλήνων πιθανώτερα ποιήσῃ· ἐπεὶ δὲ ἔμελλε, νικωντας ἀποφαίνειν τοὺς Ἑλληνας, εἰκότως οὐ κατατρέχει ἀξιοπιστότερον ἐκ τοῦ μὴ παντα χαρίζεσθαι τῷ εκείνων ἐπαίνῳ·
The Venetus A continues:
ἤρξατο μὲν ἀπὸ μήνιδος ἐπείπερ αὕτη τοῖς πρακτικοῖς ὑπόθεσις γέγονεν· ἄλλῳς τε καὶ τραγῳδίαις τραγικὸν ἐξεῦρε προοίμιον· καὶ γὰρ προσεκτικοὺς ἡμᾶς ἡ τῶν ἀτυχημάτων διήγησις ἐργάζεται· καὶ ὡς ἄριστος ϊατρὸς, πρῶτον ἀναστέλλων τὰ νοσήματα τῆς ψυχῆς ὕστερον τὴν ΐασιν ἐπάγει. Ἑλληνικὸν δὲ τὸ προ τέλει τὰς ηδονὰς ἐπάγειν· ῾ϊστέον δέ, ὥσπερ ἐπι συκῆς πρωτον μέν ἐστιν όλυνθος εἶτα φίλιξ σύκον ϊσχάς. οὕτω πρῶτον· ὀργή· θυμός· χόλος· κότος· μῆνις· ὅμως ὁ ποιητὴς ὡς συνωνύμοις ὀνόμασιν ἐπὶ Ἀχιλλεως χρῆται “ἢἐ χόλον παύσειεν, ἐρητύσειε τε θυμόν” (Iliad 1.192)· “οὐδ’ ὄθομαι κοτέοντος” (Iliad 1.181), “αὐτὰρ ὁ μήνιε νηυσίν” (Iliad 1.488)
The whole translates to:
They question why it [the poem] begins with μήνις such a noun of infamy. It is because of these two things. First it is because such a part of the soul flows from suffering and makes the listeners attentive to the greatness/loftiness and accustoms/trains us to bear suffering nobly. He is about to narrate battles. Second: because it makes the victories of the Hellenes plausible. Since he was intending to portray the Hellenes victorious, naturally he does not inveigh against them, more plausibly by not indulging in praise of them [Here is where the Quaestionum Homericarum ad Iliadem pertinentium reliquiae stops]. It begins with μήνις seeing that it [μήνις] becomes the cause for actions. Both elsewhere and in tragedies, it creates a tragic introduction. And because the narrative of misfortunes causes you to be attentive. And the best healer possible [Apollo], first raising up the plagues of the soul, later supplies the cures. To introduce pleasures before the end is Hellenic. One must know, just as there is a winter fig from the fig tree, then there is a wild fig, a fig, and a dried fig. In this way first: ὀργή [impulse], θυμός [heart], χόλος [gall], and κότος [wrath] [are like] μῆνις. Similarly the poet with synonymous nouns said for Achilles “ἢἐ χόλον παύσειεν, ἐρητύσειε τε θυμόν” (Iliad 1.192)· “οὐδ’ ὄθομαι κοτέοντος” (Iliad 1.181), “αὐτὰρ ὁ μήνιε νηυσίν” (Iliad 1.488)
From where the Quaestionum Homericarum ad Iliadem pertinentium reliquiae leaves off, the scholion continues to enumerate the reasons why the poet begins the poem with “μῆνιν ἄειδε,” but it is possible to see a change mid-scholion. The scholion begins saying there are two reason the poem starts with μήνιδος and those two reasons are listed in the portion published in the Quaestionum Homericarum ad Iliadem pertinentium reliquiae. In addition to the ordinal differentiation, the two reasons are contrasted in a μὲν… δέ… construction. The next part of the scholion begins another μὲν… δέ… construction that is clearly distinguished from the first half found in the Quaestionum Homericarum ad Iliadem pertinentium reliquiae. It could be that the scholion is combined, part-Porphyry part-someone else who wrote about the same issue. Certainly the later parts of the scholion go off in a direction very different from the beginning.

The second marked scholion appears in its entirety in the same edition of the Homeric Questions (1.18.6–1.18.9). It too is attributed to the Venetus A. Yet other scholia that have gone unmarked in Book One appear in this edition of the Homeric Questions at least in part if not in entirety. There are, however, scholia that begin in this formulaic way but do not appear in any edition of the scholia. Porphyry’s name never appears in the manuscript with any of these scholia. It is certainly a point for further research to determine whether these scholia really can be attributed to Porphyry and whether there is material that has not been attributed to Porphyry but perhaps should. It is, I think, safe to say that these marked scholia are likely originating from a text of Porphyry that the Venetus A scribe was using to compile the scholia.

The second type of red mark that appears in the manuscript looks like this:

Many of these are faded, but in a clear image we can make out the letters “ἱστ” short for “ἱστορία” (i.e. a narrative or history). Dindorf expands this abbreviation in his edition, and then notes in footnotes that the abbreviated letters appear in red. The scholia noted by this mark are generally longer scholia that detail larger, tangental background stories. Of the twelve stories marked are: the origins of the Hellenes and the Achaeans; the origins of the word “ἥρως”; the decree of Zeus; Agamemnon’s family tree; the birth of Apollo; Daphne and Apollo; why there is a temple to Apollo at Cilla; where Tenedos got its name; two different reasons why Apollo might be called the Sminthean (in two separate scholia); the origins of the Danaans; and the development of burial rites. All of these scholia share the common thread of explaining references found in the main text. These are not the last of such scholia to appear in the manuscript.

Again we find ourselves wondering why the marks stop after 13r. These scholia marked ἱστ’ are not formulaic like the question/answer scholia. We therefore cannot suppose that a reader would continue to recognize narrative scholia on that basis. There are certainly more scholia of this variety than are marked, so why doesn’t the scribe continue marking them (or why did he begin to at all)? Furthermore, like the question/answer scholia, are the narrative scholia evidence that the scribe is compiling the Venetus A scholia using multiple manuscripts and sources that we no longer have? Since they appear so similar to the the question/answer markings, is it reasonable to suppose that these also come from a source the scribe was working with? If that is the case then we must wonder what that source is. What we can say with a reasonable degree of certainty is that either the Venetus A scribe, or a scribe who copied the manuscript(s) our scribe was working from, compiled the Iliadic scholia from a variety of sources.