Poetic Study in the Time of Pindar

J.E. Sandys, A History of Classical Scholarship, Vol.1: 


“In the age succeeding the expulsion of the Peisistratidae, Pindar, with a conscious reference to the origin of the word Rhapsodos, describes the Rhapsodes as ‘the sons of Homer, singers of deftly woven lays’. He also alludes to the laurel-branch that they bore as an emblem of poetic tradition. Homer himself (he tells us) had ‘rightly set forth all the prowess of Ajax, leaving it as a theme for other bards to sing, by the laurel-wand of his lays divine. Pindar’s praise of Amphiaraus is a clear reminiscence of a Homeric line in praise of Agamemnon. He describes the ‘fire-breathing Chimaera’ in a phrase like that of Homer, but differs from him in minor details as to Bellerophon, Ganymede and Tantalus. He shows a similar freedom in giving a new meaning to a phrase borrowed from his own countryman the Boeotian poet, Hesiod, by applying to the athlete’s toilsome training a proverbial admonition originally referring to the work of the farm. In the age of Pindar, and in the Athenian age in general, the poet and his audience were alike saturated with the study of the old poets. Homer and Hesiod, and a touch alone was wanted to awaken the memory of some long familiar line.”

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Early Interpolations in Homer

J.E. Sandys, A History of Classical Scholarship Vol. 1: 

Early Interpolations

“There are some dubious stories of early interpolations in the Homeric poems. Thus Peisistratus is said to have introduced into the Odyssey a line in honour of the Attic hero, Theseus[1]; and both Solon and Peisistratus are credited with the insertion of a line referring to Ajax, for the supposed purpose of proving that Salamis was an ancient possession of Athens[2]; but, as the recovery of Salamis took place in Solon’s time, while Peisistratus was still a boy, Solon alone should have been mentioned in this connexion[3] Onomacritus, who is said to have been one of the four who put together the Homeric poems under the authority of Peisistratus[4], was, according to Herodotus, caught in the act of interpolating the oracles of Musaeus, and was banished by the tyrant’s son, Hipparchus[5].”

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[1] Od. Xi 631 Θησέα Πειρίθοόν τε, θεῶν ἐρικυδέα τέκνα· Plutarch, Theseus 20; cp. Flach, p. 27.

[2] Il. Ii 558, στῆσε δ’ ἄγων ἵν’ ᾿Αθηναίων ἵσταντο φάλαγγες. Strabo, p. 394; cp. Flach, p.29

[3] Cp. Diog. Laert. i 2, 57, and see Busolt, Gr. Gesch. ii 220.

[4] Tzetzes, Proleg. In Aristoph. τεσσάρων ὄντων ἐπὶ Πεισιστράτου συνθέντων <τῶν> ῞Ομηρον. Cp. La Roche, Hom. Textkr. P.10, and Jebb’s Homer p. 115.

[5] Her. vii 6.

Reading is Like Eating: Here’s How It’s Done

Pier Paolo Vergerio, de ingenuis moribus et liberalibus adulescentiae studiis, L:

“In learning, however, it often happens that that which should have been a great help turns out to be a great impediment – I am talking, of course, about eagerness for learning, from which it sometimes happens that students want to take in everything, but are able to retain none of it. For, just as excess food does not nourish the stomach, but rather affects it with disgust while aggravating and weakening the rest of the body, so does the great mass of facts heaped up into the mind easily slip away in the present, while making one’s mind weaker in the future. Therefore, those who are eager for learning should always read many things, but each day they should select a few which their memory is able to let simmer; in this way, they can register three or four things (depending on their mental strength and free time) as the profit of the day. By reading other things it happens that they can preserve by meditation those things which they have already learned, and can make those things which they haven’t learned more familiar every day by constant reading.”

A Renaissance book-wheel

In discendo autem solet esse plerisque impedimento id quod magno adiumento esse debuerat, multa videlicet cupiditas discendi; qua fit ut dum omnia pariter complecti volunt, nihil tenere valeant. Ut enim superfluus cibus non nutrit sed stomachum quidem fastidio afficit, reliquum vero corpus aggravat atque infirmat, ita multa rerum copia simul ingesta memoriae, et facile in praesenti elabitur et in futurum imbecilliorem vim eius reddit. Semper igitur multa legant disciplinae studiosi, sed pauca quotidie deligant quae decoquere eorum memoria possit; sicque tria aut quattuor plurave, ut cuiusque vis erit aut otium, pro eius diei praecipuo lucro seorsum reponant. Alia vero legendo id consequentur, ut quae iam didicerunt meditatione salvent, quae vero nondum, quotidie magis familiaria sibi legendo faciant.

Arrius the ‘Ellenic Aspirant

Catullus, 84

“Arrius would always say ‘khonvenience’ when he meant to say ‘convenience,’ and ‘hevil plots’ instead of ‘evil plots.’ He really thought that he was speaking after quite the grand fashion when he put all of his energy into his, ‘hhhhevil plots.’ I imagine that his mother, his uncle, and his maternal grandparents all spoke that way.

Then, he went to Syria, and everyone’s ears took a break. They heard these phrases now with a lighter, softer inflection. They no longer had a dread fear of such phrases, when suddenly, we received some terrible news: the Ionian Sea, after Arrius had gone there, was now no longer ‘Ionian,’ but ‘Hionian.'”

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Chommoda dicebat, si quando commoda vellet
dicere, et insidias Arrius hinsidias,
et tum mirifice sperabat se esse locutum,
cum quantum poterat dixerat hinsidias.
credo, sic mater, sic liber avunculus eius.
sic maternus auus dixerat atque avia.
hoc misso in Syriam requierant omnibus aures
audibant eadem haec leniter et leviter,
nec sibi postilla metuebant talia verba,
cum subito affertur nuntius horribilis,
Ionios fluctus, postquam illuc Arrius isset,
iam non Ionios esse sed Hionios.


Earliest Studies in Greek Epic

J.E. Sandys, A History of Classical Scholarship, Vol. I, Chapter 2:

The Study of Epic Poetry

Homer and the Rhapsodes – Solon

“The earliest poems of Greece supplied the Greeks with their earliest themes for study, for exegesis, and for Homer and literary criticism. From about 600 B.C. we have definite proof of the recitation of the Homeric poems by rhapsodes in many parts of the Greek world, — at Chios, at Delos, at Cyprus, at Syracuse, at Sicyon, and in Attica. The recitations in Attica were probably connected with the festivals of Dionysus at Athens and with a similar festival at Brauron; and, by an ordinance of Solon, the date of whose archonship is 594 B.C., the rhapsodes were required to recite consecutive portions of the Homeric poems, instead of selecting isolated passages. The effect of this ordinance would be not merely to cause the competition to be more severe, but also to promote on the part of the audience, no less than on that of the reciters, a more consecutive and more complete knowledge of the contents of the poems themselves. Moreover, the competitions between rhapsode and rhapsode, like the contests between poet and poet in an earlier time, would excite in the audience a faculty for discriminating not only between the competing reciters but also between their competing recitations, and would thus give an early impulse to a widely diffused and popular form of literary criticism.

Peisistratus – Hipparchus

The above tradition regarding the Athenian legislator Solon has its counterpart in a legend relating to the Spartan legislator Lycurgus. The date of Lycurgus is uncertain, one account placing him in 776 B.C., at the beginning of the Olympic era, and another a century earlier. According to Plutarch, Lycurgus met with the Homeric poems in Crete, and brought a copy back with him to Greece. Plutarch’s authority for this may possibly have been Ephorus, a historian of the fourth century B.C. Even on Attic soil, Solon has a rival in Peisistratus, whose rule at Athens began m 560 and ended in 527 B.C. According to the well-known story, he is said to have been the first to collect the scattered poems of Homer and to arrange them in order. The story is not found in any earlier author than Cicero, or in any extant Greek writer earlier than Pausanias (fl. 174 A.D.); but the question whether it was Solon or Peisistratus who did a signal service to the Homeric poems was apparently familiar to a Megarian historian of the fourth century B.C. The story about Peisistratus, it need hardly be added, has been much discussed. Accepted unreservedly by some eminent scholars and rejected entirely by others, it has sometimes been accepted in a limited sense by those who hold that the story need only imply the restoration of a unity which in process of time had been gradually ignored. The festival of the Panathenaea, at which the Homeric poems were in after times usually recited was celebrated with special splendour by Peisistratus, who is even sometimes called the founder of the festival; and, according to a dialogue attributed to Plato, it was one of the sons of Peisistratus, namely Hipparchus (527 – 514 B.C.), who ‘was the first to brmg into this land the poems of Homer, and who compelled the rhapsodes to recite them successively, in regular order, at the Panathenaea, as they still do at the present day. The story is inconsistent with the statement that the poems of Homer were recited at Athens in the time of Solon, but it is possibly true that the recitations at the Panathenaea in particular were introduced by Hipparchus. It was on the invitation of Hipparchus that Simonides of Ceos lived at Athens from about 522 to 514 B.C., and it is interesting to notice that it is in Simonides that we find the earliest extant quotation from Homer in a line which he ascribes to ‘the man of Chios’, — οἵη περ φύλλων γενεὴ τοίη δὲ καὶ ἀνδρῶν. [As the generations of leaves, so too the generations of humans.]”

That Ancient Greek Makes Me Crap!

Cyril Connolly, Enemies of Promise:

“Godfrey’s relaxation was reading Homer, he adored the Odyssey, for the Homeric world was one in which he was at home and the proverbs of ‘the wily Odysseus’, to the disgust of the able but Philistine Highworth, were never off his lips. ‘Oh, babababarbaba, babababarbaba,’ he would storm; ‘for God’s sake stop spouting Greek – I can’t understand a fellow with guts like you Godfrey wanting to quote that filthy Greek all the time – and as for you, Cyril, you’re worse, – nine bloody beanrows will I have there and a hive for the honey bloody bee – my God it makes me crap.'”

[Enemies of Promise, Chicago : The University of Chicago Press, 2008 : pp. 184-5]

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Prospectus of The History of Classical Scholarship

J.E. Sandys, A History of Classical Scholarship, Vol. I

“History of Classical Scholarship

The history of Classical Scholarship corresponds to the last of the four and twenty subdivisions ‘Philology’ suggested by Wolf; and is the first of the studies classical  introductory to ‘Philology’ in the scheme proposed Scholarship by Haase, and also in that elaborately carried out in the encyclopaedic work known as Iwan Müller’s Handbuch der klassischen Altertümswissenschaft (1886 f). A knowledge of the general course of the history of Classical Scholarship in the past is essential to a complete understanding of its position in the present and its prospects for the future. Such a knowledge is indispensable to the student, and even to the scholar, who desires to make an intelligent use of the leading modern commentaries on classical authors which necessarily refer to the labours of eminent scholars in bygone days. And the study of that history is not without its incidental points of interest, in so far as it touches on themes of such variety, and such importance, as the earliest speculations on the origin of language, the growth of literary and dramatic criticism at Athens, the learned labours of the critics and grammarians of Alexandria and Rome, and of the lexicographers of Constantinople. It also has its points of contact with the Scholastic Philosophy of the Middle Ages, with the Revival of Learning and the Reformation of Religion, and with the foundations of the educational systems of the foremost nations of the modern world.

Subdivisions of the Proposed Work

The volume now offered to the public is the first instalment of a History of Classical Scholarship from the sixth century B.C. to the present day. That history may of the proposed be most conveniently distributed over the following twelve divisions of the subject, but the dates of the limits assigned to each division must be regarded as only approximate.

I. The Athenian Age, from 600 to 300 B.C.

II. The Alexandrian Age, from 300 B.C. to the beginning of the Christian era.

III. The Roman Age of Latin Scholarship, from 168 B.C. to 530 A.D

IV. The Roman Age of Greek Scholarship, from the beginning of the Christian era to 530 A.D.

V. The Byzantine Age, or the Middle Ages in the East, from 530 to 1350 A.D.

VI. The Middle Ages in the West, from 530 to 1350 A.D.

VII. The Revival of Learning in Italy from 1350 A.D. to the death of Leo X in 1521, with the subsequent history of scholarship in Italy.

The modern history of scholarship in (VIII) France, (IX) Holland, (X) England, (XI) Germany, and (XII) the other nations of Europe and the United States of America.

The time to be traversed will ultimately extend to as much as two thousand five hundred years, and in the sequence of the centuries the narrative will pass from one home of learning to another, from Athens to Alexandria and Pergamon, from Pergamon and Alexandria to Rome, and from Rome to Constantinople. It will also range over the vast expanse of the Middle Ages in the West, as well as in the East of Europe, pausing for a time in Italy at the date of the death of Dante (1321). On some future day it may invite us to visit the studious haunts of Petrarch at Vaucluse and Arqua; to linger for a while in Florence and in other famous cities of Italy; and then to turn to the chief centres of scholarship in the northern lands which were successively reached by the Revival of Learning. For three centuries of this survey our interest will be mainly fixed on Athens, for three on Alexandria, for more than five on Rome; then, for eight centuries, it will be first concentrated on Constantinople, and afterwards diffused over the West of Europe. Rather less than six centuries will thus await our study at some not far distant time. In any future review of the period of exactly two centuries that divides the death of Dante from the death of Leo X, our attention will be almost exclusively confined to Italy, and, in the final period of little more than 380 years, we shall look forward to tracing the progress of scholarship in Italy and in other lands from the close of the Italian Renaissance down to the present day.

In that final period, even more than in the far earlier ‘Ages’ of the present volume, a history of scholarship must necessarily to a large extent consist of notices of the lives and works of individual scholars. In the case of the more important names, some estimate of the value of their services will naturally be expected. In the case of names of minor importance, the briefest mention must suffice; and, in a work so limited in compass as compared with the wide extent of the subject, many will unavoidably be omitted altogether. Every endeavour will however be made to give accurate details as to the dates connected with those who are mentioned in these pages. Names of special importance in the annals of literature or scholarship will also find a place in the chronological tables, in which an attempt will be made to give a brief conspectus of the more than nineteen centuries over which the present volume extends. The reader may remember that Cicero, in his Orator, tells us that his friend Atticus, in composing a comprehensive work extending over seven centuries, had succeeded ‘by a strict observance and specification of dates, without omitting any notable event, in including within the compass of a single volume the annals of seven hundred years’. Elsewhere he makes the author modestly ask, ‘what his work could possibly contain, that was either new or particularly useful to Cicero’, and himself vouchsafes a reassuring reply as to its ‘utility’, and as to its containing ‘much that was new to him’. I trust that the reader, whether in using the present work he finds much or little that is new to him, will at any rate find in its chronological tables, unpretentious as they are, the same kind of utility that Cicero found in the liber annalis of Atticus: — ut explicatis ordinibus temporum uno in conspectu omnia viderem[1].”

[1] Cicero, Orator 120, Brutus 14 f. For a conspectus of the periods covered by these tables, and the pages on which they will be found, see p. xi supra.

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