Internet Proverb Sleuth: Parmenides and the Apparatus Criticus

When I was in graduate school I had a job working for the editor of the Classical World and I would receive odd assignments like transcribing some Greek from a 19th century German letter (almost always New Testament stuff) to assembling a bibliography on the Roman poet Sulpicia. I am still haunted by a failed quest to review the origins of an apocryphal quote attributed to Plato before the advent of Google.

Over the past few years a few proverbsfalse quotations or mangled lines have been brought to my attention. I love this because I get to play detective and there is nothing like a mystery to get me going. (In fact, I suspect that the basic plot of a sci-fi mystery is so thoroughly embedded in my psyche that it actually drives most of what I call scholarship.

Anyway, the following came to me this morning and I only partially answered on twitter with help from some friends (most importantly Peter Gainsford):

(I totally had to look up John Toland’s Clidophorus. I had no idea what that was.)

So this is Parmenides fr. 1.28-30 DK:

χρεὼ δέ σε πάντα πυθέσθαι
ἠμὲν ᾿Αληθείης εὐκυκλέος ἀτρεμὲς ἦτορ,
ἠδὲ βροτῶν δόξας, ταῖς οὐκ ἔνι πίστις ἀληθής.

I want you to learn all things (by inquiry):
Both the unwavering heart of well-rounded Truth
And the opinions of men in which there is no credible truth.

Here is what was in the epigraph on twitter:

χρεὼ δέ σε πάντα πυθέσθαι
ἠμὲν ᾿Αληθείης εὐπειθέος ἀτρεκὲς ἦτορ,
ἠδὲ βροτῶν δόξας, τῆς οὐκ ἔτι πίστις ἀληθής.

I want you to learn all things (by inquiry):
Both the genuine heart of well-persuasive Truth
And the opinions of mortals, of which there is no longer credible truth.

I actually like ἀτρεκὲς here: it seems rather archaic to me (also poetic, consider Pin. Nem. 5.17: φαίνοισα πρόσωπον ἀλάθει’ ἀτρεκές). But the adjective ἀτρεμὲς  is rather common among presocratic philosophers. I am not really convinced that ἔτι is a much worse reading than ἔνι (although ταῖς is clearly better for reasons of grammatical number). One does not need the ἔνι for ἔνεστι for this to construe.

Here is what is printed in the app. Crit of the new Loeb (LCL 528: 36-37):

29 εὐπειθέος Plut. Adv. Col. 1114D, Clem. Alex. Strom.5.59.6, Diog. Laert. 9.22: εὐκυκλέος Simpl.: εὐφεγγέος Procl. In Tim. 2. 105bpost v. 30 hab. Sextus D8.2–6a = B7.2–6 D.–K.32 χρῆν DE: χρὴν A: χρὴ Karstenπερῶντα A: περ ὄντα DEF

But on another page through a footnote we find ἀτρεμὲς NLE: ἀτρεκὲς ABVR (which implies multiple manuscripts or manuscript traditions [one for each letter, LCL 528: 98-99).

In any case, this is a condition of manuscript variants. The version in the original tweet comes from Parmenides’ fragment as found in Diogenes Laertius Lives of the Eminent Philosophers. The second comes from Sextus Empiricus (7.111). In most versions available online, the ‘corrected’ version in Sextus has been ‘restored’ to the Diogenes Laertius (Peter Gainsford explains this in the tweet below). Without access to a proper apparatus criticus, it would be difficult for anyone to know this.

Fortunately, Diels-Krantz Fragmente Der Vorsokratiker is available online. Unfortunately, this edition (1902?) does not have the good apparatus of the most recent version.


Anyway, one of the most frustrating things about online corpora of edited texts is that critical editions are either still covered by copyright or they are awkwardly presented. Also, we don’t do a great job of educating people about what a critical edition is.

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