A New Commentary of Lycophron’ Alexandra
The monumental new commentary by Simon Hornblower on Lycophron’s “minor masterpiece,” as he calls the Alexandra, much helps our understanding of the text. Focussing rather on the historical evidence that might be alluded to in the work, however, Hornblower fails to take due care of literary interpretation.
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- 2 S. Hornblower (ed.), Lykophron. Alexandra, Oxford, OUP, 2015, p. 4.
1Simon Hornblower’s new commentary offers the chance to speak about the Alexandra’s poetic singularity. Hornblower beliefs the Alexandra to be “not only a powerful and richly plotted literary creation, but a text of the first importance for the understanding of some central aspects of ancient Greek religion and social history.”2 Its poetic uniqueness, however, is not at the centre of his monograph, published in 2015 by Oxford University Press. The following survey on how the Alexandra recently has been judged may help to appreciate Lycophron's poetic achievement.
2The article follows Hornblower’s monograph. Various topics mentioned in its introduction are discussed as they turn up in his book. A first part of this article is dedicated to the poem’s date, a problem intertwined with its poetic purpose. A second part centres on the Alexandra’s literary aspects. A third part tries to answer the question whether the Alexandra might be considered to be a parody. A fourth part gives some examples that may illustrate the commentary’s focus. Finally, there is a conclusive remark that rounds up the material discussed.
- 3 Cf. G. Schade, Lykophrons ‘Odyssee, ’ Alexandra 648–619, Berlin, De Gruyter, 1999, p. 215–28.
- 4 They amount to just under 200 lines, nearly a seventh of the poem: cf. S. West, “Lycophron Italicis (...)
3The question of Lycophron’s date is highly relevant to the poem’s purpose. Indeed, the implications and consequences of the prophecy of Rome’s future greatness, as expressed in Alexandra 1226–80, is one of the thorniest question that have perplexed scholars interested in Lycophron. Some scholars hold that this passage (and another, shorter one, in 1446–50) contains nothing incompatible with the traditional date for the poem, i.e. the third century BC. At present, these conservative unitarians appear to be the most numerous party. They see no problem in ascribing the Alexandra to Lycophron of Chalcis, the tragic poet and scholar, credited with the recension or revised edition of the comic poets in Alexandria. However, the historical reference and the political understanding seemingly alluded to led others to suggest that the Alexandra could not have been composed before the second century BC. Therefore, it must come from ‘another’ Lycophron: the radical unitarian view, to which Hornblower adheres.3 Joining a third group, the analysts, Stephanie West argued that an interpolator might have introduced the passages mentioned (and some other).4
- 5 S. Hornblower (ed.), op. cit., p. 38.
4Stating a hitherto overlooked allusion to the Second Punic War, Hornblower tries to support an early second-century dating, tending to merge could-haves into must-haves and might-haves into dids. However, “it is hardly reasonable to demand that a veiled and cryptic poetic text should provide the historian with helpful signposts.”5 Moreover, the Alexandra comes from an author also credited with an interest in riddles, and such literary aspects as irony and artfulness, for instance, are more important than the commentary makes them appear to be. And since Hornblower published a commentary, not an article, some may feel that not enough attention has been paid to the Alexandra as poetry.
- 6 Cf. A. Kolde, in Hurst (ed.), Lycophron. Alexandra, Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 2008, p. xli, and J. (...)
- 7 Cf. the apparatus to Adespotum Tragicum 664.
5One may consider metre as not particularly helpful for the question of dating poetry. True, but to treat the metrical shape of Lycophron’s Alexandra in a footnote only is hardly just. Features of style such as ‘play with sounds,’ assonance, or the obviously Aeschylean iambics, are important issues.6 They were regarded as relevant to the date of the Gyges-fragment, for instance, by most considered to be a Hellenistic drama.7 But there is more.
- 8 A. Hollis, “Some Poetic Connections of Lycophron’s Alexandra,” in P. J. Finglass, C. Collard, N. J. (...)
6How to judge, for instance, the many points of contact with other Hellenistic poetic texts brought to our attention by Adrian Hollis?8 Given the Alexandra’s uniqueness, one might think that Lycophron stands somewhat apart from mainstream Hellenistic poetry. Even if there are borrowings, they are not necessarily unequivocal, i.e. they may have ‘worked both ways’. Hollis, however, showed that Lycophron has some links with Callimachus, Apollonius, and Euphorion. True, Hollis’ survey on stylistic similarities does not prove either date of composition. A poet from the second century might have drawn on the great Hellenistic writers as well as a contemporary of them, living in the third century. Nevertheless, since these points of contact exist they need to be discussed, not only referred to.
- 9 S. West, “Lycophron’s Alexandra: ‘Hindsight as Foresight Makes No Sense’?,” in M. Depew, D. Obbink (...)
- 10 R. Hunter, “Hellenistic Drama,” in M. Fantuzzi, R. Hunter (eds.), Tradition and Innovation in Helle (...)
7Then, what do we have to make of Stephanie West’s proposal that we might better regard Lycophron’s literary project as if not indebted to, so at least influenced and/or inspired by, a genre that comes from Eastern literature?9 Richard Hunter saw “a great attraction in Stephanie West’s suggestion that we have to do . . . with a learned and stylised literary version of the large body of prophetic . . . and apocalyptic literature which circulated in various Eastern cultures.”10 Again, this proposal does not (and can not) prove either date; however, such an Eastern influence does not imply the assuming of a late date of the Alexandra’s composition.
- 11 N. Hopkinson (ed.), A Hellenistic Anthology, Cambridge, CUP, 1988, p. 230.
- 12 Ibid.
8Finally, the novel, yet odd combination of form and subject-matter made some readers see in the Alexandra ‘Callimachean’ poetry at its worst. Neil Hopkinson put it severely, calling the Alexandra “recondite, inaccessible, self-indulgantly obscurantist.”11 And one does not need to feel particularly jokey “to see the whole monstrous enterprise as an elaborate joke.”12 A parody’s indispensable prerequisite in the Alexandra, for instance, is the fact that the work is clearly modelled on other works. Moreover, her poetic style is exaggerated for a comic effect. However, the Alexandra’s themes are neither satirised nor inappropriate. Yet, if the Alexandra were a parody, then of what exactly is the Alexandra a parody?
- 13 The messenger’s parts Alexandra 1–30 and 1461–74 may relate to Callimachus’ Retort to Critics: cf. (...)
- 14 On these ‘catalogues’ of Persian commanders, cf. R. Schmitt, Die Iranier-Namen bei Aischylos. Irani (...)
9Since the Alexandra is a messenger's report,13 various other tragic messenger-speeches come to mind. Cassandra’s extensive and gloomy way reminds of the long and somber messenger-speeches as those in Aeschylus’ Persians (e.g., 353–432 or 447–71, and 480–513, the messenger reporting to the Queen) or in his Seven against Thebes (from l. 375 until 652, time and again interrupted by the chorus and Eteocles). As does the Alexandra, they depict fighters already dead or soon to be killed. They catalogue unusual names (in Aeschylus, foreign ones),14 and/or people somehow enigmatically identified (in Aeschylus, by the signs on their shields only).
- 15 T. Whitmarsh, Ancient Greek Literature, Cambridge, Polity, 2004, p. 127.
10Or shall we think rather of a parody of Hellenistic allusiveness? And, by implication, of the whole poetic Greek tradition? Since Greek literary tradition has always been self-reflective, “articulating political and cultural change by signalling literary shifts” as Tim Whitmarsh writes,15 perhaps Lycophron is to be considered as the ultimate apogee of literary criticism?
- 16 A. Kolde, “Parodie et ironie chez Lycophron : un mode de dialogue avec la tradition ?,” in C. Cusse (...)
- 17 Cf. P. Bing, The Well-Read Muse. Present and Past in Callimachus and the Hellenistic Poets, Götting (...)
- 18 On the origin of the terminology cf. D. Robinson, Estrangement and the Somatics of Literature. Tols (...)
11Antje Kolde proposes to regard Lycophron’s irony as his way of relating to the glorious Greek poetic past.16 The bookish or archival turn, so characteristic of Hellenistic poetry, and the higher degree of intertextuality obtained,17 make her argument attractive. Starting from Viktor Shklovsky’s interpretation of Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, in Shklovsky’s view a parody of the whole genre of ‘biographic novel,’ Kolde noted some of the Alexandra’s ‘strategies of defamiliarisation.’ Lycophron’s estrangement device quite literally renders most unfamiliar what he makes his Cassandra perform.18 His way of relating his (secondary) text to other (primary) texts produces a discordant effect, and harmony, in various senses, is lacking indeed in the Alexandra. Once this distance established, it is confirmed by the contrast between tragic form and epic content. All this makes the Alexandra appear to be part of a literary play. Extra meaning is created by words perpertually juxtaposed in new combinations, and the Alexandra’s heightened as well as innovative language is charged with meaning to the utmost degree. The work’s often decried ‘obscurity,’ however, forms part of this playfulness: it is a darkness that never ever prevents the reader from identifying what is going on. Rather, the reader overreaches and sees too much, more than was meant. That is parodic, is it not?
- 19 As the points of contact, for instance, between Theocritus and Herondas suggest; cf. G. Zanker (ed. (...)
12Neither of these considerations helps in dating Lycophron’s Alexandra. Notwithstanding, if the work was intended to be a parody of Callimachean poetry, it would have made more sense in Alexandria during the third century, the ‘Golden Age’ of Hellenistic poetry. Then, it would have been easier for those who got to know the Alexandra to contextualise the text, establish her particular relationship with Callimachus’ poetic output. Then, such texts were published and circulated contemporaneously whose composition and poetic devices have so much in common that they must relate to each other.19
- 20 Time and again, though, Hornblower acknowledges the work’s poetic achievement. Lines are “impressiv (...)
- 21 G. Hutchinson, Hellenistic Poetry, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1988, p. 258.
13Hornblower does not enter much the field of literary studies.20 His main purpose is what he regards as Quellenforschung, i.e. the study of the sources of, or influences upon, a literary work. Remaining elusive, he shies away from what Gregory Hutchinson did, who tried to define the Alexandra’s pervading, characteristic, and even fascinating tone. Hutchinson conceived as the poem's two salient aspects its graphic and bizarre details while recounting myth, its darkness and obfuscation, and its insistent emphasis on “the Greeks’ misfortunes and ignominies.”21 Instead, in Hornblower’s monograph one gets lost a bit in the sheer amount of material.
- 22 Itself being part of a larger ‘system of images’ expressing submission of any kind: cf. A. Lebeck, (...)
14The work’s introduction presents a great variety of texts that may be regarded as a ‘source’ of Lycophron’s Alexandra, poetic texts as well as texts in prose. The disposition of the material is complex. Much, for instance, that may relate to Aeschylus’ Agamemnon is mentioned, though a few illustrations might have done better. No answer is given to the question whether Lycophron did (or did not) compose a text held together by its network of metaphors, always relating to a common semantic field, each other mutually sustaining. Surely, this is achieved in Aeschylus’ Agamemnon (and the whole of the Oresteia) by its recurrent images of capture by ‘an endless net’ (e.g., 1382).22 In Euripides’ Medea a similar effect is produced by constantly referring to nautical language, evoking the Argo’s voyage which is at the origin of the narrative’s disastrous outcome (e.g., 527).
- 23 S. Hornblower (ed.), op. cit., p. 21.
- 24 Ibid., p. 24.
15The passage dedicated to Timaios, a historian of the west and its myths and cults, is concerned with his interest in the west that “made him an obvious recourse for Lyk.”23 However, even where one thinks it likely that Lycophron used Timaios direct, “we should bear in mind that Timaios himseld had his sources,”24 which may well have been used by Lycophron, too.
- 25 Cf. A. Hurst, A. Kolde (eds.), Lycophron. Alexandra, Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 2008, p. lxxx.
16In the chapter on Pindar and Bacchylides (p. 16 sq.) Medea’s prophecy in Pindar’s fourth Pythian (13–56) is overlooked, a passage that might have served as a possible model for Lycophron’s Cassandra.25 Medea and Kassandra share some points of contact: both women come from the east, they are endowed with special gifts, and both are horribly clever, potentially poisonous. Moreover, Pindar was not unknown to the Hellenistic poets, perhaps admired even. By no means Pindar’s narrative is easy to follow either, as is Lycophron’s Alexandra. Admitting harsh and dissonant collocations, the Alexandra resembles even Pindaric and Aeschylean austere composition. Though, as a whole, the text comes closer to the polished style of composition singled out by Dionysius of Halicarnassus: the words keep on the move, conveying as far as possible the effect of a single utterance (Comp. 21 and 23).
- 26 The papyrus’ second column introduces a female speaker, generally assumed to be Kassandra; cf. W. S (...)
- 27 R. Coles, “New Classical Text: Tragedy (2746),” in The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, 36, London, Egypt Explor (...)
- 28 S. Hornblower (ed.), op. cit., p. 47.
17In the chapter on performance two papyri are examined: the anapaestic Kassandra, a Berlin papyrus (9775), part of which is a lament usually assumed to be delivered by Kassandra and addressed to Priam,26 and another one from Oxyrhynchus (2746, Adespotum Tragicum 649). Its subject seems to be the combat between Hector and Achilles (Il. 22), yet it is not clear “whether the passage contains a prophecy by Cassandra of the fight and Hector’s death, or an eye-witness account, or whether Cassandra may be seeing the events clarvoyantly.”27 Yet, it may seem that the Alexandra belonged to a genre of Hellenstic Kassandra poems. Perhaps, one may even state “the apparent popularity of the genre.”28
18The introduction’s next section on the Alexandra’s “narrative structure and other literary aspects” discusses the poem’s (nearly) symmetrical architecture: the fact, for instance, that exactly half-way through the poem the Sirens’ section ends (737), or the observation that the famous prophecy of Rome’s Mediterranean rule is positioned five-sixths of the way through the poem are regarded not as accidental, but as part of the poet’s design. Given this perspective, one may see a reason for rejecting any interpolation: the numbers would probably no longer give the impression of being deliberately symmetrical, if one assumes interpolation.
- 29 S. Hornblower (ed.), op. cit., p. 52.
- 30 Cf. G. Lambin (ed.), L’Alexandra de Lycophron, Rennes, PUR, 2005, p. 248–52.
- 31 E. Fraenkel (ed.), Aeschyle. Agamemnon, III, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1950, p. 511.
19The ensuing section on language (ch. 9) is very short. A distinctive element of the Alexandra’s poetic diction such as the constant use of animal imagery is not pointed at as it deserves to be, nor is the fact highlighted that Aeschylus’ Kassandra provided the model that Lycophron followed. Animal imagery is not just one other “periphrastic denomination”29 of which the Alexandra abounds:30 for animal imagery belongs to oracular language in general, and Lycophron’s “grotesque exaggeration”31 of this feature known from Aeschylus’ Kassandra in particular may be due to Eastern literary influence.
20Perhaps the Alexandra’s metamorphoses (now in the introduction ch. 12, p. 94 sq., repeated summarily in the commentary on l. 176) might have been better judged in the context of the introduction's narrative-section. The bulk of material presented between ch. 9 and 12, however, dedicated to foundation myths (ch. 10, p. 53–62) and, much longer, to cult epithets (ch. 11, p. 62–93), is not only at its right place, but also a splendid “tour de force”. Concluding his analysis of the epithets’ poetical purpose (p. 92), Hornblower states that “for erudite listeners who grasped even some of the allusions, they gave the poem a truly Mediterranean-wide flavour, and that was the poet’s intention.” Hornblower thinks that “modern experts on myths of colonial identity, who seek to apply network theory to the Mediterranean world, might make still further progress” analysing Lycophron’s collection of epithets.
- 32 Cf. J. Gould, Herodotus, London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1989, p. 19–41.
- 33 A. Hurst, A. Kolde (eds.), op. cit., p. lxxviii.
21This is a new perspective on the Alexandra’s broad Herodotean sweep, an extensiveness mirrored by the poem's countless digressions, some of considerable length, as the one from line 494 to 585. So often seen as monotonous, they now appear in a new light, representing a post-colonial catalogue. Reading the Alexandra does affect, indeed, how we consider Herodotus (a process of which Hornblower speaks, without detailing his view, on p. 8). Lycophron’s inventory of the world known now in Alexandria may confirm the reading of Herodotus’ Histories as an inventory of the world known then at Athens:32 both works form part of their era’s social memory. Hurst and Kolde speak of such a “projet d’évoquer la globalité du patrimoine culturel grec” in Lycophron: “Incontestablement, il y a dans la visée de l’Alexandra une volonté de globalité.”33
- 34 Cf. S. West, “Notes on the Text of Lycophron,” CQ 33, 1983, p. 114–35, in particular p. 132–35. Nev (...)
22Two short chapters follow which relate to the gender-aspect of Lycophron’s Alexandra. They treat briefly cults of women in the Alexandra (ch. 13, p. 94 sq.) and cults and rituals practised by women (ch. 14, p. 95 sq.). The next chapter on the Alexandra’s reception is restricted to Latin authors only. One reads about “possible detailed reminiscences” (p. 97) in Ennius and on the numerous “correspondences between the Alexandra and the Aeneid.” Eclogues and Georgics are mentioned as well.34
- 35 R. Mynors, Virgil Georgics, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1990, p. 130, on G. 2.225.
- 36 Cf. R. Thomas (ed.), Virgil Georgics, II, Cambridge, CUP, 1988, p. 218. Virgil speaks of Pallene as (...)
- 37 Surely, Lycophron never exerted a pervasive on Virgil’s Georgics, not even Hesiod did, or Aratus; c (...)
23Older commentaries, however, are not cited systematically. Roger Mynors remarked in his commentary on the Georgics that the river Clanius and his ‘unruly behaviour,’ mentioned in a section ending with references to four places in Italy and called non aequus by Virgil, “was known even in Alexandria,” because Lycophron knew of the Clanius and its ‘unruly’ habits too (‘the Glanis, which waters the land with its streams’, Alex. 718).35 This would no longer surprise much if one assumes to “see the Alexandra as itself an Italian product” as Hornblower writes (p. 99). A note by Richard Thomas, however, in his commentary on the Georgics, is not taken up by Hornblower.36 Both Mynors and Thomas presuppose a degree of intertextuality not only between Hellenstic poets but also between them and their Roman attentive readers such as Virgil. Yet, only the more historically orientated work is referred to, while the one more interested in poetic interrelation is not.37
- 38 S. Hornblower (ed.), op. cit., p. 100–13. Fraser planned a commentary on the Alexandra himself, but (...)
- 39 S. Hornblower (ed.), op. cit., p. 112.
- 40 Cf. A. Hurst, A. Kolde (eds.), op. cit., p. lvi–lxxv.
- 41 S. Hornblower (ed.), op. cit., p. 111.
- 42 The commentary also contains larger sections, such as on three-word lines (on l. 63), on metamorpho (...)
- 43 See, e.g., p. 318: “the narrative as a whole moves clockwise from east to west,” etc.
- 44 Stretching from p. 404 to 412.
- 45 P. 422–29.
24The last chapter of the introduction (ch. 16), based essentially on Fraser’s remarks on the history of the Alexandra’s text, has been updated by Hornblower.38 A new critical text is needed to the preparation of which the “specially valuable”39 (p. 112) one of Hurst and Kolde might help a lot.40 Not all variants are discussed in the commentary, and those who have a look at the Hurst/Kolde edition and their “excellent”41 double apparatus may wonder about the discrepancies and omissions in Hornblower’s. The commentary, however, is a brilliantly displayed guide, explaining in detail how Lycophron arranged and organised his material.42 Introductory sections to larger passages help finding a way through the text.43 Long digressions, as those on the Lokrian Maidens-section,44 or on Hector’s cult at Thebes45 make Lycophron’s text disappear, while entire pages are filled with learned annotations.
25Hornblower’s work is not likely to be improved upon for many years. To those, however, interested in literary studies, too many of the Alexandra’s fascinating aspects are not properly evaluated. Both Aeschylus’ Agamemnon and Euripides’ Medea, for instance, are likely to be known by Lycophron. Perhaps he was inspired by them. But not much use is made of it in the monograph. Yet, it would well be worth the effort to find out how vehicle and tenor of Cassandra’s metaphors relate, how Cassandra’s poetic diction comes close to or rather differs from Lycophron’s models.
- 46 M. Silk, Interaction in Poetic Imagery. With Special Reference to Early Greek Poetry, London, CUP, (...)
- 47 To give an example: in his remarks on Alex. 674, Hornblower refers to Sappho’s opening of her hymn (...)
26Moreover, it would be worth analysing whether there is in Lycophron “the foreshadowing of some substantial topic or consideration within the tenor,” as Michael Silk put it.46 Not much use is made of such a ‘contextual reading’ in the commentary either.47 However, if Lycophron wrote a densely woven text, the Alexandra’s position in literary history would not be the same. In that case, his Alexandra is no longer to be called a minor masterpiece only.
2 S. Hornblower (ed.), Lykophron. Alexandra, Oxford, OUP, 2015, p. 4.
3 Cf. G. Schade, Lykophrons ‘Odyssee, ’ Alexandra 648–619, Berlin, De Gruyter, 1999, p. 215–28.
4 They amount to just under 200 lines, nearly a seventh of the poem: cf. S. West, “Lycophron Italicised?,” JHS 104, 1984, p. 127–51. Certainly, there is a Western slant in some parts of the Alexandra. It remains doubtful, however, whether this is enough to ascribe the text to another author, either as a whole or in parts. One would have to tacitly assume a possible Italian milieu for the poet to be the likely one. On the upsurge of interest in the Alexandra that followed Stephanie West’s papers cf. <https://sites.google.com/site/hellenisticbibliography/hellenistic/lycophron>.
5 S. Hornblower (ed.), op. cit., p. 38.
6 Cf. A. Kolde, in Hurst (ed.), Lycophron. Alexandra, Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 2008, p. xli, and J. D. Denniston, Greek Prose Style, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1952, p. 2 and 126 sq.
7 Cf. the apparatus to Adespotum Tragicum 664.
8 A. Hollis, “Some Poetic Connections of Lycophron’s Alexandra,” in P. J. Finglass, C. Collard, N. J. Richardson (eds.), Hesperos. Studies in Ancient Greek Poetry Presented to M. L. West on His Seventieth Birthday, Oxford, OUP, 2007, p. 276–93. Hornblower treats this briefly (p. 28–31).
9 S. West, “Lycophron’s Alexandra: ‘Hindsight as Foresight Makes No Sense’?,” in M. Depew, D. Obbink (eds.), Matrices of Genre. Authors, Canons, and Society, Cambridge, HUP, 2000, p. 153–66.
10 R. Hunter, “Hellenistic Drama,” in M. Fantuzzi, R. Hunter (eds.), Tradition and Innovation in Hellenistic Poetry, New York, CUP, 2004, p. 404–43, citation p. 440. Hunter stresses the Alexandra’s singular and, at the same time, ambivalent poetic status (p. 439) : “the Alexandra suggests both a proto-generic form (‘early tragedy’) and a contemporary deconstruction or fragmentation of that form” (italics of the original).
11 N. Hopkinson (ed.), A Hellenistic Anthology, Cambridge, CUP, 1988, p. 230.
13 The messenger’s parts Alexandra 1–30 and 1461–74 may relate to Callimachus’ Retort to Critics: cf. Y. Durbec, Lycophron et ses contemporains, Amsterdam, Hakkert, 2014, p. 24–35.
14 On these ‘catalogues’ of Persian commanders, cf. R. Schmitt, Die Iranier-Namen bei Aischylos. Iranica Graeca Vetustiora, I, Vienna, Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1978.
15 T. Whitmarsh, Ancient Greek Literature, Cambridge, Polity, 2004, p. 127.
16 A. Kolde, “Parodie et ironie chez Lycophron : un mode de dialogue avec la tradition ?,” in C. Cusset, E. Prioux (eds.), Lycophron : éclats d'obscurité. Actes du colloque international de Lyon et Saint-Étienne, 18‑20 janvier 2007, Saint-Étienne, Publications de l’Université de Saint-Étienne, 2009, p. 39–57; cf. further J. Tambling, What Is Literary Language?, Philadelphia, Open University Press, 1988, p. 27–31.
17 Cf. P. Bing, The Well-Read Muse. Present and Past in Callimachus and the Hellenistic Poets, Göttingen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1988, p. 50–90.
18 On the origin of the terminology cf. D. Robinson, Estrangement and the Somatics of Literature. Tolstoy, Shklovsky, Brecht, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008, p. 79–132; cf. further M. Silk,“The Language of Greek Lyric Poetry,” in E. J. Bakker (ed.), A Companion to the Ancient Greek Language, Chichester, Wiley-Blackwell, 2010, p. 424–40.
19 As the points of contact, for instance, between Theocritus and Herondas suggest; cf. G. Zanker (ed.), Herodas. Mimiambs, Oxford, Oxbow Books, 2009, p. 36–39.
20 Time and again, though, Hornblower acknowledges the work’s poetic achievement. Lines are “impressive” (16 sq.), “splendid” (255 and 716), “admirable” (523); one is singled out as “a neat, as well as an attractive, line” (566). The Alexandra’s text appears to be “neatly balanced” (944), a metaphor is “vivid and frightening” (1295).
21 G. Hutchinson, Hellenistic Poetry, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1988, p. 258.
22 Itself being part of a larger ‘system of images’ expressing submission of any kind: cf. A. Lebeck, The Oresteia. A Study in Language and Structure, Washington, Center for Hellenic Studies, 1971.
23 S. Hornblower (ed.), op. cit., p. 21.
24 Ibid., p. 24.
25 Cf. A. Hurst, A. Kolde (eds.), Lycophron. Alexandra, Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 2008, p. lxxx.
26 The papyrus’ second column introduces a female speaker, generally assumed to be Kassandra; cf. W. Schubart, U. von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff (eds.), Lyrische und dramatische Fragmente, Berlin, Weidmann, 1907, p. 137 sq. Hornblower treats the papyrus again p. 503–9. Two lines might allude to Lycophron’s text.
27 R. Coles, “New Classical Text: Tragedy (2746),” in The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, 36, London, Egypt Exploration Society, 1970, p. 7.
28 S. Hornblower (ed.), op. cit., p. 47.
29 S. Hornblower (ed.), op. cit., p. 52.
30 Cf. G. Lambin (ed.), L’Alexandra de Lycophron, Rennes, PUR, 2005, p. 248–52.
31 E. Fraenkel (ed.), Aeschyle. Agamemnon, III, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1950, p. 511.
32 Cf. J. Gould, Herodotus, London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1989, p. 19–41.
33 A. Hurst, A. Kolde (eds.), op. cit., p. lxxviii.
34 Cf. S. West, “Notes on the Text of Lycophron,” CQ 33, 1983, p. 114–35, in particular p. 132–35. Nevertheless, the fact that expressions, words, or parts of phrases, are identical, resemble or come close to each other, does not prove much. The first Mimiamb of Herondas, for instance, contains a catalogue of Alexandria’s attractions. Gyllis, the speakeress, ends it by claiming that in Alexandria there are “so many women that the sky can’t boast it’s got as many stars” (1.28–32). Clearly, this seems to be echoed, or translated, in Ovid’s quot caelum stellas, tot habet Roma puellas (Ars am. 1.59). However, this fact does not imply, and can even less prove, that Herondas was a model to Ovid, or that the later one was influenced by the earlier one. Paradoxically, passages by younger authors which clearly refer to famous passages in older poetry treating the same subject, avoid such an too obvious resemblance, perhaps as being judged to be unrefined.
35 R. Mynors, Virgil Georgics, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1990, p. 130, on G. 2.225.
36 Cf. R. Thomas (ed.), Virgil Georgics, II, Cambridge, CUP, 1988, p. 218. Virgil speaks of Pallene as Proteus’ fatherland (G. 4.390 sq.), while Lycophron states (Alex. 126) that Proteus “visited Pallene from his fatherland, Egypt” (italics of the original). Given the fact that Callimachus referred to Proteus as the seer from Pallene (in the opening section of his Victoria Berenices), Thomas concludes that “the reversal, and Virgil’s insistence, might suggest a Callimachean correction of Lycophron.”
37 Surely, Lycophron never exerted a pervasive on Virgil’s Georgics, not even Hesiod did, or Aratus; cf. J. Farrell, Vergil’s Georgics and the Traditions of Ancient Epic. The Art of Allusion in Literary History, New York, OUP, 1991, p. 63.
38 S. Hornblower (ed.), op. cit., p. 100–13. Fraser planned a commentary on the Alexandra himself, but was sidetracked from Lycophron by another work (p. vi).
39 S. Hornblower (ed.), op. cit., p. 112.
40 Cf. A. Hurst, A. Kolde (eds.), op. cit., p. lvi–lxxv.
41 S. Hornblower (ed.), op. cit., p. 111.
42 The commentary also contains larger sections, such as on three-word lines (on l. 63), on metamorphoses (on l. 176), or a list of historical evidence for Spartan overseas settlements (on l. 586 sq.).
43 See, e.g., p. 318: “the narrative as a whole moves clockwise from east to west,” etc.
44 Stretching from p. 404 to 412.
45 P. 422–29.
46 M. Silk, Interaction in Poetic Imagery. With Special Reference to Early Greek Poetry, London, CUP, 1972, p. 155. C. McNelis, A. Sens, The Alexandra of Lycophron: A Literary Study, Oxford, OUP, 2016, p. 15–46, have some interesting remarks on the Alexandra’s imagery; cf., e.g., p. 32 sq. and 43–45.
47 To give an example: in his remarks on Alex. 674, Hornblower refers to Sappho’s opening of her hymn to Aphrodite. The epiclesis begins by an adjective that may mean either ‘sitting on an ornate throne’ or ‘being equipped with magical drugs.’ Hornblower hesitates to decide, though the meaning in Sappho is made obvious (or unveiled) by the following: Aphrodite ironically asks Sappho whom she is to persuade this time to lead back to her love. The narrative’s sequel suggests that Aphrodite is conceived as magical, a sense that in fact anticipates what is to come: the image of a goddess is evoked who is capable of using the well needed magical drugs, rather than that of a goddess being transported through the sky by sparrows while sitting on an excessively decorated chair.Top of page
Gerson Schade, « A New Commentary of Lycophron’ Alexandra », Aitia [Online], 7.1 | 2017, Online since 21 March 2017, connection on 01 May 2017. URL : http://aitia.revues.org/1776 ; DOI : 10.4000/aitia.1776Top of page
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