(Don’t) judge a book by its cover

(Don’t) judge a book by its cover

As some of you may have seen from our Twitter announcement over the summer, Joel and I are publishing our second book together, under the title Homer’s Thebes: Epic Rivalries and the Appropriation of Mythical Pasts. In our earlier announcement, we tweeted a picture of what its front cover will look like; and, given the interest in it, Joel invited me to write this guest post on his blog. I am delighted to take him up on the offer, even though I know that his blog is more accustomed to dealing with weightier matters than what appears on a book’s cover…

With the possible exception of writing acknowledgements, I find choosing a cover image for a book arguably the most pleasurable, and most difficult, of the final tasks that needs accomplishing before I can happily pack off my manuscript on its merry way to the press. Even if we are told otherwise (in the famous axiom not to judge a book by its cover), how a book looks can play a decisive role in its purchase; after the subject matter and author, it’s the one thing that may determine whether I buy book a book or not. If I look on my bookshelves, for example, the dust jackets that stand out for me are: the famous image (from the so-called François vase) of Ajax carrying the dead body of Achilles that emblazons Greg Nagy’s 1979 classic The Best of the Achaeans (and Michael Lynn-George’s equally ground-breaking Homeric criticism Epos: Word, Narrative and the Iliad); the contemplative Regarding Penelope by Nancy Felson; the highly wrought, yet seductive, Medea of James Clauss and Sarah Iles Johnston; the satirical depiction of famous classicists playing characters from Aristophanes (!) on Martin Revermann’s Comic Business; and the striking pose of Gertrude Eysoldt captured in the role of Electra that advertises Simon Goldhill’s Who Needs Greek?. The arresting contemporary nature of this image (though the photograph dates back to 1903) hints at Goldhill’s thesis of the continuing legacy of Victorian attitudes to, and contests over, the Classics that shape and inform our own implicated relationship with the subject.

 

As these examples suggest, aesthetic looks isn’t the only desideratum when it comes to choosing a book cover. For sure we want something that looks good; but it’s equally, if not more, important for that image to say something about the book itself (a picture is worth a thousand words, right?), though perhaps not in an obvious or straightforward way. Let me explore this issue by reflecting on my own choice of three covers that I’ve had the pleasure to be able to choose.

The image I chose for my first book—Entering the Agon: Dissent and authority in Homer, Historiography and Tragedy (Oxford, 2009)—is in many ways very traditional. It’s the famous image (on the black-figure amphora by Exekias) of Achilles and Ajax playing dice. But it’s an image that worked for me not only because of its beauty—though hats off here to the team at OUP who extended the pot’s gleaming background (which sets off the black figures) to cover the entirety of the book’s cover in a fiery golden afterglow. Figure4This image also spoke to my book’s subject matter: namely, the idea of contest (agōn) and its representation in ancient Greek literature. In truth, I had a hard time finding an image that worked for me. I wanted some kind of ancient Greek artistic representation; perhaps because it was my first book (the “book of the thesis”), I felt it needed to be unambiguously classical. It should have been easy, right, to find an image from the whole corpus of ancient Greek ceramics, right? Wrong. I could find none of the scenes of debate in epic, history and tragedy, which were the core focus of my argument, that had been illustrated, not even—as one may have expected—the quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon that starts off the Iliad with such a bang. There is a fresco, highly fragmented, from Pompeii’s House of the Dioscuri (on exhibition at the National Archaeological museum in Naples), which shows Achilles going for his sword; and of course there are later Renaissance paintings depicting the quarrel (such as Giovanni Battista Gaulli’s baroque rendering). But I could find none from the world of ancient Greek ceramics or friezes—perhaps because, as Robin Osborne pointed out to me, Greek artists simply were less interested in illustrating literary stories than in creating their own. (It is striking that the wall paintings from Pompeii *do* look like illustrations of early Greek literary narratives, including the moment Euripides’s Medea ponders killing her children.) What Exekias’s scene of gaming heroes gave me was a hint not only of the formalisation of contest, but also of the prominence of Achilles (who in my argument institutionalises contest in the arena of debate) and, moreover, of his pairing with Ajax (whose story in Sophocles’s tragedy formed one of my chapters).

 

The second book I needed to choose an image for presented a rather different challenge. This was for an edited volume entitled: New Worlds out of Old Texts: Revisiting Ancient Space and Place (Oxford, 2016). Figure7The book derived from an interdisciplinary project that I had led called Hestia, which investigated representations of space and place in Herodotus, as well as the spatial construction underpinning his Histories. At the heart of the book was a discussion of the different disciplinary approaches that we undertook, spread over three chapters (which I co-authored with different team members), exploring: digital annotation and mapping (with Leif Isaksen and Jessica Ogden), geographical spatial theory (with Stefan Bouzarvoski), and philological close reading (with Chris Pelling). Our resulting book included other contributors working in this space (pardon the pun), who had presented at our conference in Oxford, and who, like our team, represented an array of disciplines—not only Classical Studies, but also archaeology, digital humanities, and the history of thought. The image I wanted, then, needed to respect these different disciplinary approaches while at the same time hinting at ways in which they might be combined and intertwined (for interdisciplinary research). And, of course, it needed to be in some way spatial, to suggest the complexity of trying to represent and unpick spatial entities and relations. A web-designer friend (a shout-out here to Richard Rowley of Agile Collective) put me on to London-based artist Emma McNally, whose work attempts to “portray essence not as substance… but rather as the result of a process of reciprocal determination, where individual lines, markings, and trajectories are brought to significance through their interrelations with those around them” (https://www.flickr.com/people/emmamcnally/). After getting her approval (she was very happy for us to use her work provided that she got a copy of our book: gold armour for bronze, as Homer would say!), I chose her scratches, traces, spaces. This work on graphite (“a medium that lends itself perfectly to [a] sort of rhythmic making and unmaking. It is a material for palimpsest”: ibid) seemed to me to perfectly capture the spatial palimpsests that many of us were striving to reveal and more closely examine in our texts, while also being provocatively new and overtly relational. Emma later informed me that the very same artwork was used by Ridley Scott as a navigation map in his latest Alien prequel Convenant. If it’s good enough for Ridley…!

Figure8

All this brings me to the last image—the one that Joel had invited me to write about in the first place… Our book, Homer’s Thebes, sets out to argue that the Iliad and Odyssey (mis)represent heroes and themes from the Theban tradition to set out and realise the unique superiority of these texts in performance. In arguing this, we are attempting to view the Homeric poems in a new light, by emphasizing a non-hierarchical model of “reading” them and the Epic Cycle together within the framework of oral-formulaic poetics and artistic rivalry. With this in mind, we wanted an image that suggested Homer in some way (epic poetry, heroes, etc.) but that wasn’t a straightforward classical take on that. From a very early stage I was convinced that a cubist painting of some kind would work, with that central idea of taking something familiar (for us, reading Homer; for Homer’s audience, the Troy story and the siege of Thebes) and, by viewing it from different perspectives, producing a radically different picture (a Troy story that emphasises internal conflict among the Achaeans, for instance). For me, cubist works echo the type of violent reception and adaptation that our book is about. But here we ran into a significant problem that meets anyone looking to reuse a contemporary image, whether that is a museum photograph of an ancient artefact or a modern painting in a gallery’s collection: copyright. For all the cubist paintings that I could find that seemed to dialogue with our approach, the answer kept coming back from our publishers that we couldn’t use them because of the copyright and/or the costs involved. Out went The Thebaid by Wyndham Lewis, along with his Composition; we fared no better with Barbara Hepworth’s Two Heroes; we couldn’t even use Le Poète by Picasso, even though I had sourced it from Wikipedia.

Just as I was beginning to despair, and I thought that we would have to give up on this idea of a cubist-style makeover for our Homer, I had the inspiration to look for works by modern Greek artists. I knew that ever since the twentieth century, Greek writers and painters alike have been grappling with the problem of their country’s complicated (and often times suffocating) classical legacy. And thus I had the fortune to come across the work of Nikos Engonopoulos. He’s the painter most famous in Greece for revisiting classical themes in a distinct modern style (tending towards surrealism). Having found a number of post-classical images that I thought that we could use, I contacted the person responsible for his website and who owns the copyright to his works, his daughter Errietti Engonopoulou. Like Emma, Errietti could not have been more accommodating, and immediately allowed us to use a high-resolution image of the image that we decided on.

I present to you Engonopoulou’s 1939 oil on canvas The poet and the muse. We hope that you like it as much as we do.

Figure9

Give Me The Books! Legacy Hunter, Bibliophile Edition

Cicero to Atticus, 1.20 12 May 60

“Now, so I might return to my own affair, Lucius Papirius Paetus, a good man and my fan, has set aside as a gift for me the books which Servius Claudius left. Because your friend Cincius informed me that it is permitted thanks to the Lex Cincias for me to take them, I told him happily that I would accept the books if he brought them to me. Now, if you care for me and you know that I care for you too, please endeavor through your friends, clients, guests even your freedmen and slaves if necessary, to ensure that not even a page is lost.

For I seriously need both the Greek books—which I have an idea about—and the Latin ones—which I know that he left. Day-by-day I find rest for myself in these books in whatever time is left for me from my political work. I will be really, really thankful if you would be as diligent in this as you are usually in the affairs which you understand concern me deeply. I also entrust to you Paetus’ personal business, concerning which he owes you the greatest thanks. And I not only ask but I even implore you to visit us soon.”

7 Nunc ut ad rem meam redeam, L. Papirius Paetus, vir bonus amatorque noster, mihi libros eos quos Ser. Claudius reliquit donavit. cum mihi per legem Cinciam licere capere Cincius amicus tuus diceret, libenter dixi me accepturum si attulisset. nunc si me amas, si te a me amari scis, enitere per amicos, clientis, hospites, libertos denique ac servos tuos, ut scida ne qua depereat. nam et Graecis iis libris quos suspicor et Latinis quos scio illum reliquisse mihi vehementer opus est. ego autem cottidie magis quod mihi de forensi labore temporis datur in iis studiis conquiesco. per mihi, per, inquam, gratum feceris si in hoc tam diligens fueris quam soles in iis rebus quas me valde velle arbitraris, ipsiusque Paeti tibi negotia commendo, de quibus tibi ille agit maximas gratias, et ut iam invisas nos non solum rogo sed etiam suadeo.

 

Cicero might be a bit of a bibliomaniac. We have posted earlier about his letter to his brother, asking for books. He describes returning home as a reunion with his books. (Vergerio riffs on this) Petrarch seems to have contracted a similar disease. (Really, he was incurable.)

Antiquity had an apocryphal moral argument about Cicero earning his life in exchange for burning his books.

And although Mark Tully is all about giving books, he’s not much into lending them:

Letters to Atticus, 8

“Beware of lending your books to anyone; save them for me, as you write that you will. The greatest excitement for them has gripped me, along with a contempt for everything else.”

libros vero tuos cave cuiquam tradas; nobis eos, quem ad modum scribis, conserva. summum me eorum studium tenet, sicut odium iam ceterarum rerum.

A Stomach Ache: Cicero Writes His Brother About Books

Cicero, Letters to Quintus 25

“I believe that you will anticipate that I didn’t lose those books without some kind of a stomach ache…”

puto enim te existimaturum a me illos libros non sine aliquo meo stomacho esse relictos.

Cicero, Letters to Quintus 24

“Concerning the issue of supplementing your Greek library and trading books in order to acquire Latin ones, I would really like to help get this done, since these exchanges are to my benefit as well. But I don’t have anyone even for my own purposes whom I can trust with this. The kinds of books which are helpful are not for sale and they cannot be procured without a deeply learned person who has a serious work ethic.”

De bibliotheca tua Graeca supplenda, libris commutandis, Latinis comparandis, valde velim ista confici, praesertim cum ad meum quoque usum spectent. sed ego mihi ipsi ista per quem agam non habeo. neque enim venalia sunt, quae quidem placeant, et confici nisi per hominem et peritum et diligentem non possunt.

Bonus Quotes from Cato, Dicta Catonis

“Read books”

“Remember the things you read”

Libros lege.

Quae legeris memento.

 

Books–Loyal, Forgiving Friends

Cicero, Letters to Friends 175 to Varro

“Know that since I got back to the city, I have renewed my relationships with my old friends—by which I mean my books. It is not as if I avoided their presence because I was judging them, but because they filled me with shame. For I believe that since I submitted myself to events with the most turbulent and faithless companions, I had insufficiently obeyed my books’ commands.

But they have pardoned me. They welcome me back into that ancient communion and they tell me that you were wiser than I was because you persisted in this practice. But this is how I have achieved an understanding with them and why I think I am right to hope that should I see you again it will be easy for me to manage whatever is happening and whatever threatens in the future.”

scito enim me, postea quam in urbem venerim, redisse cum veteribus amicis, id est cum libris nostris, in gratiam. etsi non idcirco eorum usum dimiseram quod iis suscenserem sed quod eorum me suppudebat; videbar enim mihi, cum me in res turbulentissimas infidelissimis sociis demi<si>ssem, praeceptis illorum non satis paruisse. ignoscunt mihi, revocant in consuetudinem pristinam teque, quod in ea permanseris, sapientiorem quam me dicunt fuisse. quam ob rem, quoniam placatis iis utor, videor sperare debere, si te viderim, et ea quae premant et ea quae impendeant me facile laturum.

Image result for ancient roman books

Why, Salvete Amici!

Books As Dining Room Decoration

Seneca, On the Tranquility of the Mind 9

“For pursuits in which expense is still most respectable it is reasonable as long as it is moderate. What’s the worth of countless books and libraries when their owners are barely able of reading the titles in a lifetime? This mob of books overwhelms a learner instead of teaching—and so it is much better to turn yourself over to a few authors rather than to get lost among many.

Forty thousand books burned at Alexandria—let another worship this as the most beautiful monument to regal wealth as Titus Livius did (and he says that this was the most outstanding evidence of the elegance and care of kings). But this is neither elegance nor care but instead studied luxury—no, not even studied since they produced it not for the sake of learning but as a spectacle. This is the same way many who are ignorant even of a child’s level of literacy have books not as tools of learning but for dining-room decoration.

So, let a number of books be gathered which is enough, but none for show.”

Studiorum quoque, quae liberalissima impensa est, tamdiu rationem habet quamdiu modum. Quo innumerabiles libros et bibliothecas, quarum dominus uix tota uita indices perlegit? Onerat discentem turba, non instruit, multoque satius est paucis te auctoribus tradere quam errare per multos. Quadraginta milia librorum Alexandriae arserunt. Pulcherrimum regiae opulentiae monumentum alius laudauerit, sicut et Liuius, qui elegantiae regum curaeque egregium id opus ait fuisse. Non fuit elegantia illud aut cura, sed studiosa luxuria, immo ne studiosa quidem, quoniam non in studium, sed in spectaculum comparauerant, sicut plerisque ignaris etiam puerilium litterarum libri non studiorum instrumenta, sed cenationum ornamenta sunt. Paretur itaque librorum quantum satis sit, nihil in apparatum

Mouse Meets Frog: Both Die Terribly

Aesop, Fabula 302

“There was a time when all the animals spoke the same language. A mouse who was on friendly terms with a frog, invited him to dinner and led him into a storehouse of his wealth where he kept his bread, cheese, honey, dried figs and all of his precious things. And he said “Eat whatever you wish, Frog.” Then the Frog responded: “When you come visit me, you too will have your fill of fine things. But I don’t want you to be nervous, so I will fasten your foot to my foot.” After the Frog bound his foot to the mouse’s and dragging him in this way, he pulled the tied-up mouse into the pond. While he drowned, he said “I am being mortified by you, but I will be avenged by someone still alive!” A bird who saw the mouse afloat flew down and seized him. The Frog went aloft with him too and thus, the bird slaughtered them both.

A wicked plot between friends is thus a danger to them both”

ΜΥΣ ΚΑΙ ΒΑΤΡΑΧΟΣ
ὅτε ἦν ὁμόφωνα τὰ ζῷα, μῦς βατράχῳ φιλιωθεὶς ἐκάλεσεν αὐτὸν εἰς δεῖπνον καὶ ἀπήγαγεν αὐτὸν εἰς ταμιεῖον πλουσίου, ὅπου ἦν ἄρτος, τυρός, μέλι, ἰσχάδες καὶ ὅσα
ἀγαθά, καί φησιν „ἔσθιε, βάτραχε, ἐξ ὧν βούλει.” ὁ δὲ βάτραχος ἔλεγε• „ἐλθὼν οὖν καὶ σὺ πρὸς ἐμὲ ἐμπλήσθητι τῶν ἀγαθῶν μου. ἀλλ’ ἵνα μὴ ὄκνος σοι γένηται, προσαρτήσω τὸν πόδα σου τῷ ποδί μου.” δήσας οὖν ὁ βάτραχος τὸν πόδα τοῦ μυὸς τῷ ἑαυτοῦ ποδὶ ἥλατο εἰς τὴν λίμνην ἕλκων καὶ τὸν μῦν δέσμιον. ὁ δὲ πνιγόμενος ἔλεγεν• „ἐγὼ μὲν ὑπό σου νεκρωθήσομαι, ἐκδικήσομαι δὲ ὑπὸ ζῶντος.” λούππης δὲ θεασάμενος τὸν μῦν πλέοντα καταπτὰς ἥρπα-σεν. ἐφέλκετο οὖν σὺν αὐτῷ καὶ ὁ βάτραχος καὶ οὕτως ἀμφοτέρους διεσπάραξεν.
ὅτι ἡ τῶν φίλων πονηρὰ συμβουλὴ καὶ ἑαυτοῖς κίνδυνος γίνεται.

Note 1: ὁμόφωνα τὰ ζῷα, “common animal language”: It is unclear whether, in these halcyon days before the fall from linguistic harmony, a Frog would squeak or a Mouse would croak when in the other’s company.

Note 2: ἐμπλήσθητι τῶν ἀγαθῶν :”you will have your fill of good things”. If the Mouse knew his Pindar (῎Αριστον μὲν ὕδωρ, 1.1), he would suspect that the Frog will do what in fact does, which is to fill his lungs with water. This illustrates that good things are in fact relative. A Mouse and Frog will hold different things dear.

This fabula (and more!) appears in our book on the Homeric Battle of the Frogs and Mice. This is a periodic reminder that it exists: Here is Bloomsbury’s Homepage for the book.

BM

Mirabile Lectu! The Book That Was Born a Blog

 “As soon as the opportunity arrives, give yourself over to your studies or to leisure”

ut primum fuerit occasio, relinque teque studiis vel otio trade

Pliny Letters, 1.9

Way back in 2014, Erik and I sat down to read the Commentary to the Iliad by Eustathius, the Archbishop of Thessaloniki, and before reading more than a few words, we ended up starting on the Homeric Batrakhomuomakhia.

[here is the publisher’s homepage]

Anyone who knows either of us or who spends time in our classes would not find this all that surprising–we (and especially I) tend to leap from topic to topic with fury and swoon under the emotional influence of texts and languages both living and dead. At the time, Erik was thinking about teaching high school and I was moving into my post-tenure malaise.

We got to know each other a few years before. I used to have students read Greek with me in the summer. Erik–who was not my student and had graduated before I was a faculty member at UTSA–joined and quickly demonstrated that (1) he knew Latin a lot better than me and (2) he cared a lot more about scholarly minutiae than I typically did.

I cannot say with strong enough force that the time we spent together over the next few years changed the way I taught, read, and thought about the ancient world. By the time we sat down to read Eustathius, Erik was in my mind an intellectual model and a true friend.

During the early years of this blog, I struggled a bit to find a partner who had the time, energy, and interest to make it into something more than it was. Erik showed pretty quickly that he had these qualities, but also a different vision–as is clear from his essays on varied subjects.

As I begin from the first page, I pray that the chorus
comes from Helikon for the sake of the song
I have just set down on the tablets at my knees;
a song of limitless strife–the war-rousing work of Ares–
because I hope to send to the ears of all mortal men
how the mice went forth to best the frogs
in imitation of the deeds of the earth born men, the giants.
Or so the tale went among men. It has this kind of beginning.

When I asked Erik if he wanted to read the “Homeric Battle of Frogs and Mice” instead, it was an easy sell. We used to spend time in my office once of twice a week, using multiple monitors and just spreading all the texts we could around the place, Sometimes we would get through two lines in two hours. Sometimes we would do ten times as much. At first, we just thought we were posting translations, as we did. But, over time, as we realized we needed a commentary in English to finish our work and that we might as well write the commentary we needed, the posts changed. And, as a result, the blog changed too.

1 ᾿Αρχόμενος πρώτης σελίδος χορὸν ἐξ ῾Ελικῶνος
2 ἐλθεῖν εἰς ἐμὸν ἦτορ ἐπεύχομαι εἵνεκ’ ἀοιδῆς
3 ἣν νέον ἐν δέλτοισιν ἐμοῖς ἐπὶ γούνασι θῆκα,
4 δῆριν ἀπειρεσίην, πολεμόκλονον ἔργον ῎Αρηος,
5 εὐχόμενος μερόπεσσιν ἐς οὔατα πᾶσι βαλέσθαι
6 πῶς μύες ἐν βατράχοισιν ἀριστεύσαντες ἔβησαν,
7 γηγενέων ἀνδρῶν μιμούμενοι ἔργα Γιγάντων,
8 ὡς λόγος ἐν θνητοῖσιν ἔην• τοίην δ’ ἔχεν ἀρχήν.

So, in a way, the story of the book that came out today (“The Homeric Battle of the Frogs and Mice”, Bloomsbury 2018) is the story both of how a book came from a blog and how a blog became a book. At our wildest fancy, we thought we would pitch it to some open source repository or present it more completely on the website.

But we were afforded the otium to pursue and complete this project. We built up several documents in Dropbox and spent hours apart adding and subtracting to the comments and what we thought should be in the introduction…While kids and pets were sleeping or eating, we typed away at additional bits or did extra word searches. We had help from excellent libraries at the University of Texas at San Antonio, the Center for the Anthropology of the Ancient World at the University of Siena, and Brandeis University. We tested the commentary online and with graduate students at UT Austin and Brandeis.

“Clearly, something must be published – ah, it would be best if I could just publish what I have already finished!

Est enim plane aliquid edendum — atque utinam hoc potissimum quod paratum est!

Pliny the Younger

And]along the way, I think we had a pretty good time. After we had completed the book’s parts, we had a few conversations with the classics acquisitions editor at Bloomsbury. She was interested in the project, and, believe it or not, the blog and twitter feed’s following. That meeting was in the spring of 2016.

During the summer I left Texas for Boston (to return to teach at my undergraduate alma mater, Brandeis University) and Erik continued his teaching at a local high school with a serendipitously similar name. Ah, we no longer have those long Monday afternoons staring at ancient Greek! But we have the memory and this book. Imperfect as it may be, I feel incredibly lucky to have been a part of it.

Seneca, De Tranquilitate Animi

“Still nothing lightens the spirit as much as sweet and faithful friendship. What a good it is when hearts have been made ready in which every secret may be safely deposited, whose understanding of yourself you worry about less than your own, whose conversation relieves your fear, whose opinion hastens your plans, whose happiness dispels your sadness, and whose very sight delights you!”

Nihil tamen aeque oblectaverit animum, quam amicitia fidelis et dulcis. Quantum bonum est, ubi praeparata sunt pectora, in quae tuto secretum omne descendat, quorum conscientiam minus quam tuam timeas, quorum sermo sollicitudinem leniat, sententia consilium expediat, hilaritas tristitiam dissipet, conspectus ipse delectet!

BM

Say Something Once, Why Say it Again? A New Edition of the Odyssey

So, a few days ago I received in the mail the first Classical text I have ever pre-ordered (by almost a year): M. L. West’s new Teubner edition of the Odyssey:

Even before I received it, I knew I would have some issues with it. West has long been a proponent of a strictly textualist view of Homer–which means his goal in editing the Iliad or the Odyssey is to restore the epics to something closer to what the ‘original’ ‘author’ had in mind. Even with modern authors, I think we emphasize individual agency, creativity and genius to the detriment of cultural contexts and audience reception far too much. For the Homeric epics, which arise from oral performance tradition and which have undergone generations of transformations in the textualized forms, the peril of overemphasizing the importance of an ‘author’ is even greater.

So, West’s final great work was going to ruffle my feathers–indeed, he announced many of his intentions in his Making of the Odyssey. What I was looking forward too, however, was an edition with an updated apparatus criticus integrating new Papyri and manuscripts unavailable to Von der Mühll when he edited the text. In the accumulation of testimonia as well as readings, West’s edition does not disappoint. The text is quite readable.

But there are some problems. Minor: he uses iota adscripts instead of subscripts and offers a more liberal application of the nu-moveable. These are merely aesthetic annoyances for me….

The major problem is that West excises many repeated lines or passages that have almost always been included in editions and relegated them to the apparatus if there is some papyrological or testimonial justification for doing so. In addition, he brackets lines that are not typically bracketed. So, West eliminates some lines that Von der Mühll preserves, e.g. 9.30 and labels others as spurious (e.g. 9.55). But really takes it further.  (See the group discussion on these issues for more examples and some fine defenses and explanations).

West, of course, does this because he thinks many lines have been repeated by the process of transmission and that the writerly Homer would never have repeated so much. West is welcome to this opinion–and it is not alone in it. But the relegation of some many lines is quite striking and renders the text useless alone (in my opinion). I cannot imagine using this with undergraduates or advising a casual reader of Homer to use this instead of the old Teubner or even Allen’s OCT.

The editorial choices will change some interpretation as well. Some are idiosyncratic but have support (such as West’s decision to go with the double accent ἄνδρά μοι ἔννεπε instead of the common and more widely accepted ῎Ανδρα μοι ἔννεπε for 1.1). Others may alter what the text means, as when he goes with ἄνθρωποι, μήδε σφιν ὄρος πόλει ἀμφικαλύψαι instead of ἄνθρωποι, μέγα δέ σφιν ὄρος πόλει ἀμφικαλύψαι for Od. 13.158. In his reading, the infinitive ἀμφικαλύψαι becomes negative command–thus Zeus is ordering Poseidon not to drop a mountain on the Phaeacians.

There are many issues like this throughout the text. I will probably highlight some now and then. But when I started posting about it on twitter, a dozen or so people joined in with enthusiasm, expertise, and bibliographies! I have storified the several conversations as a group review of West’s edition. Check it out–I learned a lot from those involved and we inadvertently illustrated how useful twitter can be.

 

 

Show Us Your Books: Compounds for Dystopian Travel

Recent reports allege that TSA agents will be asking travelers to show them their books starting this summer.

From the Etymologicum Magnum

Biblos: [“book”] comes from “throwing [ballesthai] lives [bious] in to the same place, or, from buô [“to pack full”], which means the same as sphalizô.”

Βίβλος: Διὰ τὸ τοὺς βίους βάλλεσθαι ἐν αὐτῇ·  ἢ παρὰ τὸ βύω, τὸ σφαλίζω.

 

Some Useful Book compounds for summer travel

[N.B.: I made up three of the following. Can you guess which?]

βιβλιογράφος: “writer of books”

βιβλιοδέτης: “Book-binder”

βιβλιοθήκη: “Book-case”

βιβλιοκλέπτης: “book thief”

βιβλιολάθας: “Forgetter of books”

βιβλιοπόπτης: “book-peeper’

βιβλιοπώλης: “book-seller

βιβλιοπωλεῖον: “book-store”

βιβλιοφυλάκιον: “safe-place for books”

βιβλιοφύλαξ: “book guard”

φιλοβίβλος: “book-lover”

κενοβιβλία: “bereavement of books”

Some other useful words

ἀναγιγνώσκω: “to read”

ἀναγεύω: “to give someone a taste”

ἀναγώρισις: “recognition”

ἀνάγνωσμα: “a passage read aloud”

ἀναγνώστης: “a reader”

 

From the Etymologicum Magnum:

Biblioaigisthos: Andreas the Doctor was called this by Eratosthenes because he wrote his books in secret.*

Βιβλιαίγισθος ᾿Ανδρέας ὁ ἰατρὸς ἐκλήθη ὑπὸ ᾿Ερατοσθένους, ὅτι λάθρᾳ αὐτοῦ τὰ βιβλία ἔγραφεν.

*Likely based on the mythological figure who plotted against his cousin Agamemnon while the latter was at Troy

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A Letter To a Miserly Father on Learning and Books

Libanius, Letter 428

To Heortios

“I am probably intervening by telling a father to care for a son he has decided to ignore, but after I saw Themistius crying I welcomed seeming like this rather than neglecting it. He was saying nothing harsh, but that some amnesia regarding him had overcome you. If you were not well off, I would think it proper for you to gather money from your friends to help your son. But since you do well and are among the wealthiest men, I am advising you to spend some of your wealth on your most worthy possession.  Poverty, perhaps, is also not completely useful to a young man. But now this argument is not about his stomach, but how he will get books: without them, he will be like someone trying to learn archery without a bow.”

Ἑορτίῳ

Περιεργάζομαι μὲν ἴσως πατέρα παρακαλῶν ἐπιμελεῖσθαι παιδὸς ἀμελεῖν ἐγνωκότα, δακρύοντα δὲ ἰδὼν Θεμίστιον μᾶλλον ἐδεξάμην ἐκεῖνο δόξαι ἢ τοῦτο παριδεῖν.

ἔλεγε τοίνυν τραχὺ μὲν οὐδέν, ὡς δὲ λήθη σέ τις αὑτοῦ λάβοι, ἐγὼ δέ, εἰ μὲν ἠπόρεις, ἠξίουν ἄν σε παρὰ τῶν φίλων ἀγείροντα τῷ παιδὶ βοηθεῖν· ἐπεὶ δὲ εὖ ποιῶν ἐν πρώτοις εἶ τῶν εὐπόρων, παραινῶ τι τῶν ὄντων εἰς τὸ τῶν ὄντων σοι τιμιώτατον ἀναλῶσαι.

ἴσως μὲν γὰρ οὐδὲ πεῖνα σφόδρα νέῳ χρήσιμον, ἔστι δὲ νῦν οὐ περὶ τῆς γαστρὸς ὁ λόγος, ἀλλ᾿ ὅπως ᾖ τῷ νεανίσκῳ βιβλία· ὧν ἀπόντων ὅμοιος ἔσται τῷ πειρωμένῳ τοξεύειν ἄνευ τόξου μανθάνειν.

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