Friday, June 28, 2013

Iliad 8 Scholia on Mythological Geography

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

This post will be the first of a series of posts adapted from my senior thesis on the scholia of Iliad 8 in the Venetus A and Escorial Y.1.1 manuscripts. Over the course of a year, working primarily with fellow Holy Cross students, Brian Clark and Rebecca Musgrave, I produced editions of the scholia of Iliad 8 in both manuscripts. The Venetus A is a 10th century Byzantine manuscript and our oldest, most complete source for the Iliad. The Escorial Y.1.1 is an 11th century Byzantine manuscript. These two manuscripts offer two separate but related transmissions of ancient Homeric scholarship dating to the 2nd and 3rd centuries BCE.  The material in these manuscripts is at times similar, but the manuscripts also possess material not contained in the other. This divergence in material makes a comparison of the two manuscripts fruitful for studying issues such as scribal practices and sources. Using the digital photography and the luxury of time, I was able to conduct this comparison in a way never previously possible.

While I was editing the scholia of the Venetus A, it became apparent almost immediately that they contained unusual and hitherto unrecorded content on the Greek concepts of the heavens and the Underworld. The first folio of Book 8 in the Venetus A (100v) contains a simple diagram of an orb divided into four regions: αιθηρ (aether), ἀήρ (air), αἰδης (Hades), and τάρταρος (Tartarus).

 The presence of a diagram presented a new issue in how we marked up the text for the digital edition of the scholia. What we clearly had was not just a drawing but a figure that included textual elements. Therefore we introduced a new element to our list of acceptable TEI markup: “figure.” This markup allows us to embed other features such as a description of the figure (in the element “figDesc”) as well as the textual elements (in the element “floatingText” etc). 

There are no other diagrams in the rest of Book 8, nor in the entire Venetus A. The Υ.1.1, while marked with the occasional drawing or “doodle,” has no such diagrams either. The Venetus A diagram appears in conjunction with a scholion commenting on line 8.12. The text of the scholion, we have transcribed as follows:
ὡς τὰ οὐράνια τρία διαστήματα ἔξει ἀέρα μεχρι νεφελῶν, εἰτα αἰθέρα μέχρι τῶν φαινομενων· οὕτως καὶ ἀπο γῆς εἰς ἄδου· ἀπὸ δὲ ἀδου εἰς Τάρταρον· ἐναντίος δὲ Ὀλύμπω ὁ Τάρταρος· ὁ μὲν γὰρ “οὔποτ’ ἀνέμοισι τινάσσεται· οὐδέ ποτ’ ὄμβρῳ” ὁ δὲ καὶ τετάρακται καὶ ψυχρὸς εἶναι δοκεῖ καὶ γοῦν τὸ σφόδρα ῥιγοῦν ταρταρίζειν φασίν. καὶ ὁ μὲν ὅλος καταλάμπεται· ὁ δὲ ἠερόεις ἐστίν

“Since heaven has three distinct parts: the lower air spans up until the clouds, then the aether spans up until the visible places. In a similar way so it goes both from earth to Hades and from Hades to Tartarus, Tartarus is in opposition to Olympus. For the one, “never shook with winds, nor with heavy rain” (Odyssey 6.43). And the other seemed to be both chaotic and cold, indeed they say that to fall into Tartarus is to be violently cold. The former is wholly shone upon. The latter is murky” (urn:cts:greekLit:tlg5026.msA.hmt:8.6).

It is obvious from the content of the scholion that the diagram is meant to serve as a visual aid, but, of all shapes, why is the diagram a sphere? The text of this particular scholion only explains the ordered stacking of the regions. The issue is explained on the next folio (101r) in a scholion commenting on line 8.16. I transcribed the text of this scholion as follows:
τόσσον ἔνερθ' Ἀΐδεω:
τοσοῦτον φησὶ τὸν Τάρταρὸν. ἀφεστᾶναι τοῦ Ἅιδου ὅσον οὐρανος τῆς γῆς. δια δὲ τούτων σφαιροειδῆ τὸν κόσμον συν ἵστησι κέντρου λόγον ἐπέχουσαν εἰσαγαγῶν τὴν γῆν καὶ τὰς ἁπ αυτῆς. ἐμβαλλομένας εὐθείας εἰς εκὰτερα τὰ περατα ἴσας λέγων εἶναι⁑  

“All the way down to Hades:
He says that Tartarus stands as far from Hades as Ouranus is from the earth. And through these [references] he makes the cosmos spherical; he has introduced the earth in the relation of the center [of the cosmos], he says that [going] straight from the earth to each opposite side is equidistant” (urn:cts:greekLit:tlg5026.msA.hmt:8.14).

This scholion makes the issue of the sphere obvious. We have no idea if these two commentaries were from the same original source, but they complement each other. The first discusses the divisions between the different parts of heaven and hell with earth in between and the second looks at the relationship between Tartarus and Ouranus in a geographic and mathematical context (see Euclid The Elements Book 11 Definition 16, Book 1 Definitions 15, 16, and 18).

The question of sources becomes more complex when we look at the comparable scholia in the Υ.1.1. The Y.1.1 also divides the contents of these scholia into two separate comments, but its organizing principles are different. Commenting on line 8.13, the Y.1.1 reads:
ἐναντίος Ὀλύμπῳ ὁ Τάρταρος· ὁ μὲ`ν γὰρ.  "οὔποτ' ἀνέμοισι τινάσσεται· οὐδέ ποτ' ὄμβρῳ"· οὗτος δὲ τετάρακται· καὶ ψυχρὸς εἶναι δοκεῖ· ὅθεν καὶ τὸ σφόδρα  ῥιγοῦν ταρταρίζειν φασίν· καὶ ὁ μὲ`ν ὅλος καταλάμπεται ὁ δὲ` καὶ ἠεροειδής ἐστιν⁑

“Tartarus is opposite to Olympus. For the one, "never shook with winds, nor with heavy rain" (Odyssey 6.43). And the other is chaotic and it seems to be cold, from which they say that to fall into Tartarus is to be violently cold. And the one is wholly shone upon and the other is cloudy” (urn:cts:greekLit:tlg5026.e3.hmt:8.13).

In this scholion, the scribe of the Y.1.1, or whichever sources he was copying from, extracts the material discussing the physical conditions of Ouranus and Tartarus and puts it on line 8.13 instead of 8.12. A few scholia later, the scribe includes this commentary on line 8.16:
τὰ οὐράνια ὥς φησι τρία διαστήματα ἔχει· ἀέρα μέχρι νεφελῶν· εἶτα αἰθέρα μέχρι τῶν φαινομένων· καὶ τῆς Διὸς ἀρχῆς· οὕτω καὶ ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς εἰς Ἅδου, ἀπὸ δὲ Ἅδου εἰς τὸν Τάρταρον· δῆλον δὲ ὡς τὸ μέσον κέντρον ἲν ἡ γῆ· ἔδει δὲ εἰπεῖν "τόσσον ἔνερθε" γῆς. ὅσον ἀπ' αὐτῆς εἰς οὐρανόν· τάχα οὖν τὸ Ἀΐδεω ἀπὸ τῆς ἀρχῆς τοῦ Ἅδου φησίν⁑

“The heavens, as he [the poet] says, have three distinct parts. The lower air spans up to the clouds. Then the aether spans up to the visible places and the realm of Zeus. And in a similar way so it goes from the earth to Hades, from Hades to Tartarus. And so the earth is clearly as the middle center point. And it is right to say that it is as far beneath the earth as the earth is from heaven. And indeed perhaps he [the poet] calls it Hades because of the rulership of Hades” (urn:cts:greekLit:tlg5026.e3.hmt:8.16).

There are a few different points to be made about scribal choices in these scholia. First, the scribe of the Y.1.1 or his sources seem to group scholia contents by different themes than the scribe of the Venetus A. The first Y.1.1 scholion on line 8.13, as already stated, handles the physical conditions of Ouranos and Tartarus and their status as opposites. The second scholion explains both the concept of the four stacked regions and the concept of the universe in which the earth is the center point. Notably the direct reference to the cosmos as a sphere is absent in the Y.1.1 scholia. Another notable point is the differences in how similar contents of the scholia correspond to different lines of the Iliad in each manuscript. The first scholion from the Venetus A appears on 110v which contains the first fourteen lines of Book 8. Scholia always appear on the same folio as the lines they comment on and line 8.12 mentions Tartarus. Despite the fact that this scholion does not possess a lemma--that is, a quoted section of the Iliad that connects a scholion to the section of text it comments on--it is fairly reasonable to suppose that this reference is correct. If anything we can say for certain that in the Venetus A, this scholion is not commenting on anything after line 8.14. However, the Y.1.1 includes this content on line 8.16. There is no ambiguity here. The scholia of the Y.1.1 are linked to the text through Greek numerals and occasionally non-numerical symbols above the specific words in the line the scholion comments on, working like modern footnotes. The second scholion from the Venetus A does appear on line 8.16. The different choices in positioning the material can give us a glimpse into scribal practices in the 10th and 11th centuries. The scribe of the Y.1.1 or his source believed the commentary on 8.12, explaining the divisions of heaven and hell, belonged with the discussion of earth being the center point between Olympus and Tartarus, whereas the scribe of the Venetus A or his source believed it belonged in a separate entry on a different line. Similarly the scribes or their sources differed on where to place the material on the environmental conditions of Olympus and Ouranus: the Venetus A places this material on line 8.12 and the Y.1.1 on line 8.13.

The Venetus A contains another scholion of a similar variety on line 8.13 that reads:
τὸ ὑπὸ τὴν γῆν ἐσκοτισμένον. μέρος κατώτατον τοῦ Ἅδου· καὶ ἐν βαθuτάτῳ κείμενον τόπῳ. ἢ τὸν χαλεπὸν καὶ δυσχερῆ λέγει. ὠνόμασται δὲ. δια τὸ ἐκτετάχθαι καὶ συγκεχύσθαι τὰ ἐν αυτῷ πάντα· οἱ δὲ τὸ ἀφώτιστον τῆς οἰκουμένης μέρος ἀπεδέξαντο⁑

The shadowy place below the earth, it is the bottommost portion of Hades. And he says that it lies in the deepest region or that it is difficult and vexatious. And it is so named because of the drawing out and the confounding of everything in itself. But others understand it as the unlit region of their inhabitance” (urn:cts:greekLit:tlg5026.msA.hmt:8.13).

This material is not found in the Y.1.1. It indicates a difference in the scribal sources or scribal choices. That is, the scribe of the Venetus A either had access to materials the scribe of the Y.1.1 did not, or the scribe of the Y.1.1 was more selective about the kinds of commentaries he wished to include. These scholia and accompanying features in the manuscripts illustrate differences in scribal practices and choices in the 10th and 11th centuries that we will also examine in forthcoming posts.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Audiences and Tradition

ἔσπετε νῦν μοι Μοῦσαι Ὀλύμπια δώματ᾽ ἔχουσαι:
ὑμεῖς γὰρ θεαί ἐστε πάρεστέ τε ἴστέ τε πάντα,
ἡμεῖς δὲ κλέος οἶον ἀκούομεν οὐδέ τι ἴδμεν
(Iliad 2.484-486)

Tell me now, Muses, you who have Olympian abodes,
since you are goddesses and you are present for all that happens and you know everything,
while we only hear the kleos and we know nothing

Nikola: All right, but when you've learned my song, would... you sing it exactly as I do?
Sulejman: I would.
N: You wouldn't add anything... nor leave anything out?
S: I wouldn't... by Allah I would sing it just as I heard it. ...It isn't good to change or to add.
(Lord, The Singer of Tales, 27)

The notion of “innovation” is one of the most difficult ones that we grapple with when we, as members of a highly literate culture that prizes creativity and the concept of “genius,” encounter an oral tradition that explicitly claims not to prize it. Just as the South Slavic singers that Milman Parry and Albert Lord interviewed with the help of Nikola Vujnović claimed to always sing their songs the same way every time, so too the Homeric narrator claims to repeat exactly what he has heard from the Muses, because he himself “knows nothing.” In such a tradition, the poet claims that his song is the truth, and as such it must be unchanging. In reality, we as outside observers of the tradition, can demonstrate that in fact the songs do change from performance to performance and tradition, far from being fixed and static, dynamically evolves over time. But for the singers on the inside of the tradition, the song remains notionally unchanging.

What, then, is “genius” in an oral tradition? What distinguishes one poet from another? We should first acknowledge that in even asking this question we are revealing our own bias. But as Milman Parry himself put it [Parry 1932, 12-14 (= Parry 1971, 334-35)]: “One oral poet is better than another not because he has by himself found a more striking way of expressing his own thought but because he has been better able to make use of the tradition. . . . The fame of a singer comes not from quitting the tradition but from putting it to the best use.”

I have explored the history of our modern Western struggle with separating genius from innovation when it comes to Homer in a lengthy essay called “The Invention of Ossian” (available here). In this post I would like to approach the question a little differently by considering the role of performance and audience in the shaping of tradition.

I recently had the opportunity to attend a concert by Fleetwood Mac, a band that reached its peak of album sales and popularity in the mid-to-late 1970s. All the members of the band are much older now and their vocal abilities are no longer what they once were, and yet the giant arena in Houston (the Toyota Center) was sold out, and the band gave an outstanding three hour performance that thrilled the crowd. Why did we all pay so much money to attend this performance, when we could have listened to a technically superior version of all the songs on CD or mp3? There is something primal, it seems to me, in our desire to gather together as a community to hear music. Even today in 2013, in the fourth biggest city of the United States, in a giant basketball arena full of strangers, we still seek to experience music with other people. As disparate from each other as we all were, we were united through our shared love of the music for the duration of the performance. That experience, I would argue, is one that we can share however distantly with the traditional audiences of the Homeric or South Slavic epic traditions, whose members would have been united by their deep familiarity with and love of the poetry of their traditional culture. Because such poetry was experienced only in performance, I would argue that there would have been an even more important bond between the experience of performance and the connection between audience members generated by the performance.

Another aspect of the concert had me thinking about Homer. As much as we appreciate live performance today for its communal aspects, and for the interaction it creates between performer(s) and audience, there is inevitably a certain pull that we feel towards the “traditional” way of doing the song - that is the version that we know from our ipods and CDs, the version we have heard countless times. At this particular concert, as thrilled as I was to hear the legendary Stevie Nicks singing live, I was disappointed that many songs had been rearranged to better suit her now more limited vocal range. I'm sure we all would have preferred the arrangements with which we were all very familiar. Moroever, there were times during the concert when the band performed some new material. The energy in the room substantially dropped; people sat down, went to the concession stand, or the bathroom. This got me thinking: what other form of entertainment or art is like this? If your favorite tv show comes out with a new episode, or your favorite novelist comes out with a new novel, you are delighted and race to view it/read it. Yet here we all were disappointed that the band was singing a new song. I don't think this is only the case for bands like Fleetwood Mac who were popular 35 years ago. I can remember going to an R.E.M. concert when I was young and experiencing the same sensation. I can't remember what the new songs were that R.E.M. performed that night. For all I know they may have been their next number 1 hits, but in that moment of performance, I wanted what I already knew - and so did the rest of the audience.

Unlike a modern band, the traditional singers of the South Slavic or Homeric traditions did not need to sell new albums. There were of course no albums to sell or equipment on which to play them. The singers made their living performing live what audiences wanted to hear, and it seems that what they wanted to hear were the songs that they all knew and loved. It is hard for us to get our heads around the fact that the best singers would not have been the ones thrilling their audiences with a new song or a new way of telling the story. But perhaps it can help us to understand this process better if we realize that this kind of poetry was only experienced in performance, which is to say, before an audience who knows the song already and has to be pleased.

There is something about live performance that creates community and thereby reinforces tradition. “Newness” is not what is wanted or called for in that moment. And yet newness does happen. The songs at the Fleetwood Mac concert were sung a bit differently (though still, ultimately, they were “the same”) and new songs were performed. Audience interaction contributed to and shaped what transpired. The tradition was perpetuated, but was also evolving, through performance.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Wake up! A return to Iliad 10 and the poetics of the night

At the end of this month our third annual Homer Multitext undergraduate summer seminar will take place at the Center for Hellenic Studies. This year it just so happens that we will be working on book 10 of the Iliad, otherwise known as the Doloneia. This coincidence of timing in our workflow will allow Mary Ebbott and me to revisit a book to which we have a devoted a great deal of thought, resulting in our 2010 book, Iliad 10 and the Poetics of Ambush (available for purchase here and published on-line here). As I reacquaint myself with what we have published about this particularly controversial book of the Iliad, it occurs to me that is worth stating that even though the inclusion of this book in our Iliad has been contested since ancient times, the book received no less attention from ancient commentators than any other book of the Iliad, and likewise numerous very ancient texts of the book survive (in fragmentary form) on papyrus. As a result, book 10 is just a fertile a book for exploring the multiformity of the Homeric tradition as any other. Indeed, Mary and I chose to use Iliad 10 as a starting point for exploring the poetics of oral poetry precisely because its multiformity illustrates so well how oral poetry works. We felt that the book's contested status (in fact the entire book is bracketed as an interpolation in Martin West's 1998 edition of the Iliad) gave us a wonderful opportunity to question why scholars have perceived the book to be unusual since ancient times, and to demonstrate what unites the language and poetry of Iliad 10 with other surviving archaic epic poetry, including the rest of the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Epic Cycle.

A small example serves as a good reminder of why a multitextual approach to editing and publishing the Iliad is superior to more traditional forms of textual criticism. At Iliad 10.159, the tenth-century Venetus A manuscript of the Iliad reads:

ὄρσεο Τυδέος υἱέ· τί πάννυχον ὕπνον ἀωτεῖς;

"Wake up, son of Tydeus. Why do you slumber the whole night through?"

The other surviving manuscripts are in fact divided, however, between this reading (ὄρσεο) and ἔγρεο (which also means something like 'wake up' or 'rouse yourself'). Some of our oldest manuscripts, including the Venetus B (and those in that family), the Townley, and Escorial Ω.1.12, as well as a fourth-century CE papyrus (481) read ἔγρεο, while the vast majority of other manuscripts read ὄρσεο. The scholia, moreover, indicate that Aristarchus, the premier editor of Homer in Ptolemaic Alexandria, knew both readings. In the intermarginal scholia of the Venetus A (which seem to derive from a very ancient source) we find this note:

διχῶς ὁ Ἀρίσταρχος, ἔγρεο καὶ ὄρσεο

The eleventh-century manuscript known as T likewise records that Aristarchus know both:

γράφεται καὶ ὄρσεο. διχῶς αἱ Ἀριστάρχου

As we note here in our published commentary, this is possible because two separate editions or ekdoseis of the text of Homer were attributed in antiquity to Aristarchus (= αἱ Ἀριστάρχου in the scholia), both of which were known to his student Didymus. From Didymus’ scholarly work many of the scholia derive. Rather than choose between these equally attested readings, the Venetus A itself takes a multitext approach by noting, right next to the line in question, that multiple ancient readings are known for this verse.

Moreover, if we look at these two readings from the perspective of the system of composition-in-performance that generated them, we find that both verbs are well attested in the formulaic diction. ἔγρεο occurs here and in two places in the Odyssey; ὄρσεο is attested four times in the Iliad and once in the Odyssey. Clearly, both verbs could be generated by a poet composing in performance. Here is a perfect illustration of the difficulty a modern editor of Homer faces when trying to choose between two or more equally Homeric (= formulaic) variations. When we convene in Washington, DC on the 24th, we hope to wake the students up to the advantages of exploring the history of the Iliad from a multitextual perspective, in which both readings can be understood and appreciated as witnesses to the workings of formulaic diction and in which one need not be chose at the expense of the other.