Herodotus holds an honoured place among the pioneers of Greek epigraphy. We seek in vain for earlier signs of any appreciation of the historical value of inscriptions, and though we may conjecture that the antiquarian interests of some of his contemporaries or near-contemporaries might well have led them in this direction, our view of the beginnings of Greek epigraphical study must be based on Herodotus, whether or not he truly deserves to be regarded as its ρχηγέτηϲ. Apart from its significance (...) in the history of scholarship Herodotus' use of inscriptions may be expected to throw some light on his methods and on his conception of his task. He cites epigraphic evidence throughout his work and in relation to a wide range of topics; if his use of this material suggests any general conclusions, we do not need to allow for the bias of a single source or the effect of peculiar local conditions, as we must when we consider his accounts of individual episodes or areas. We are relatively well placed to assess his procedure. We have a reasonably clear idea of the general appearance of the various scripts concerned , and in this respect enjoy a considerable advantage over the majority of Herodotus' original audience. Three of the inscriptions which he cites have been wholly or partly preserved, and thus provide a simple gauge of his accuracy in reporting such evidence. (shrink)
The proverbial obscurity of the Alexandra discourages conjecture, and Lycophron's editors have not been given to bold emendation. It may indeed seem that much has been suffered to pass unquestioned which no-one would think tolerable if it stood in the MSS. of Aeschylus, whose style Lycophron clearly sought to emulate. Yet despite the prophetic form of his Rahmenerzählung his manner of expression is far removed from the deliberate opacity, all too often accompanied by defective grammar , characteristic of genuine apocalyptic (...) prophecy, whether bona fide or post eventum, nor does the appeal of this rather bookish poetry lie in that power to enlist our sympathies for impossible dreams and lost causes beside which animadversions on syntactical abnormality seem stony-hearted. (shrink)
More Than a quarter of a century has elapsed since the publication of the Oxyrhynchus papyrus which Lobel identified as a fragment of Sophocles’ Inachus, and though it has revolutionised our knowledge of the play, it has proved an excellent example of the papyrological commonplace that each new discovery creates more problems than it solves. What could with reasonable confidence be inferred about the Inachus from the comparatively numerous ancient quotations and allusions is well summarised in Pearson's introduction: Inachus, Hermes, (...) Argus, and Iris took part in the action, but beyond the fact that the play told of Io's transformation and of blessings bestowed on Argos as a result of Zeus' visitation the development of the plot could only be conjectured. A majority of those who have discussed the play have shared Hemsterhuys' view that it was satyric, and the publication in 1933 of a Tebtunis papyrus preserving part of a dramatic composition dealing with Zeus’ love for Io and strongly suggesting a satyr-play was welcomed by many as confirmation of this conjecture. But the ascription of the Tebtunis fragment to Sophocles is far from certain, and its testimony will not allay the doubts of those who are troubled by the lack of direct evidence for satyrs in the Inachus and by the feeling that the importance of the moral and theological issues raised makes its theme unusually serious for satyric drama. (shrink)
Cicero's Cato, in a passage nicely illustrating that enthusiasm for Greek literature which is said to have come upon him in old age, offers some valuable observations about manure : ‘quid de utilitate loquar stercorandi? dixi in eo libro quern de rebus rusticis scripsi; de qua doctus Hesiodus ne verbum quidem fecit, cum de cultura agri scriberet; at Homerus, qui multis ut mihi videtur ante saeclis fuit, Laertam lenientem desiderium quod capiebat e filio, colentem agrum et eum stercorantem facit.’.
Significant dreams, like omens and oracles, play a conspicuous part in Herodotus′ narrative; the prominence which he affords to them well illustrates the difference between his approach to historiography and that of Thucydides, in whose work we shall look in vain for nocturnal visions. From the point of view of the scientific historian reports of dreams are inadmissible evidence, resting as they must on the unverifiable testimony of a single witness whose recollection is very likely to have been influenced by (...) subsequent events. Herodotus′ more hospitable attitude in part reflects his incalculable debt to the traditions of Levantine storytelling; but it is also connected with the central position occupied by kings and other powerful individuals in his narrative. Homer bears witness to the belief that the dreams of kings are more likely to be divinely inspired than those of others , and throughout the Near East rulers recorded the achievements which resulted from monitions received in sleep; if royal dreams assumed a more lucid and orderly form than most people could well parallel from their own experience, this might be regarded as a natural corollary of the peculiar link between king and gods. (shrink)
The second line of the poem in which Archilochus related his fable of the fox and the ape was a source of perplexity to Hellenistic scholars. According to Athenaeus Apollonius Rhodius explained it by reference to the Spartan practice of winding official dispatches round a staff or baton: τι δ λευκ μντι περιειλοντες τν σκυτλην ο Λκωνες γρφον βολοντο ερηκεν κανς πολλνιος διος ν τ περ ρχιλχου. This interpretation evidently failed to satisfy Aristophanes of Byzantium, who wrote a monograph περ (...) τς χνυμνης σκυτλη' view has held the field. (shrink)
It once seemed almost self-evident that the extraordinary progress of Greek astronomy and mathematics in the Hellenistic age were, at least in part, the result of contact with Babylonian and Egyptian culture. But, whatever they may have owed to Babylonia in the exact sciences, there is now a growing consensus that even as early as Eudoxus the Greeks had advanced beyond the point where they might have profited from Egyptian help, and it is not easy to find a solid basis (...) for the widespread Greek belief in the superior wisdom of the Egyptian hierarchy. Yet the preface to the famous Calendar for the Saite nome, P. Hibeh 27, provides circumstantial evidence that one Greek, at least, in the fourth or early third century B.C., found in Egypt an instrument for measuring the time at night which was new to him and which he may well have found impressive in its accuracy. (shrink)
‘One of Horace's fables remembered or invented. It is not found elsewhere’ . Not elsewhere in classical literature, certainly. But a story illustrating precisely this absurd ignorance of the natural world is attested later, in circumstances which make it highly unlikely that it derives from Horace's brief reference, and I think we may safely assume that he did not invent the tale.
Cicero's discussion of wit in the de oratore includes an entertaining story about Ennius and a certain Nasica : ‘Valde haec ridentur et hercule omnia quae a prudentibus per simulationem subabsurde salseque dicuntur. Ex quo genere est etiam non videri intellegere quod intellegas… ut illud Nasicae, qui cum ad poetam Ennium venisset eique ab ostio quaerenti Ennium ancilla dixisset domi non esse, Nasica sensit illam domini iussu dixisse et ilium intus esse; paucis post diebus cum ad Nasicam venisset Ennius et (...) eum ad ianuam quaereret, exclamat Nasica domi non esse, turn Ennius “quid? ego non cognosco vocem” inquit “tuam?” Hic Nasica “homo es impudens:ego cum te quaererem ancillae tuae credidi te domi non esse, tu mihi non credis ipsi?”’ This anecdote, devitalized by its divorce from a well–known name, finds a place in the Philogelos, a compendium of jokes compiled in late antiquity and ascribed to the otherwise unidentifiable Hierocles and Philagrius, : Δύσκολόν τις ζτει. δ πεκρίνατο Ούκ εμì δε. τοû δ γελσαντος καì επόντοςΨεύδ τς γρ φωνς σου κούω – επεν ῏Ω κθαπμα, ε μέν δολός μου επχες ν ατ πιστεσαι γ δ σοι οφαίνομαι ξιοπιστότερος κείνου εναι. (shrink)