Vituperation of Cyclic Poets, and the Unreliability of Scholia

The following, taken from the Scholia Vindobonensia, illustrates one of the central problems with scholia: some are incredible storehouses of information and textual elucidation, while others are either wildly inaccurate or hopelessly absurd. Much of the Scholia Vindobonensia consists of straightforward explication, but the following is a preposterous ad hoc explanation which reflects the Scholiast’s lack of familiarity with early Greek poetry:

“Cyclicus is used here as a pronominatio, that is, as a name used in place of another name, which is sometimes used for praise, sometime for blame, so that by the same force of the word we can understand either sense. Here, however, we can understand the word to be meant as vituperation. A cycle (cyclus) is a line drawn around, but not brought back to the same point. In this way, Horace means that the Cyclic poet never touches on the matter at hand, but has rather gone around and around it, thus diverging farther and farther from the subject with every turn.”

cyclicus est pronominatio, id est, nomen pro nomine positum, quod fit aliquando pro laude, aliquando pro vituperatione, ut in ipsa vi vocabuli possimus utrumque notare. hic vero fit, ut vituperationem possimus ibi notare. vocatur enim cyclus linea circumducta, non ad idem reducta. et per hoc notat eum non rem tetigisse, sed circa ipsam rem ivisse; et semper magis ac magis discedit ab ipsa re.

Diomedes Out for Justice: Euripides’ fragmentary Oeneus and Calydonian Speech

Either after the end of the Trojan War or the completion of the second Seven Against Thebes, Diomedes is recorded by some as returning to Calydon (from where his father Tydeus had been exiled only to perish fighting around Thebes with Eteokles and Polyneikes). Diomedes returns to his ancestral land to restore the throne to the line of Oeneus (which had been pushed out by Agrios). According to this tradition, Diomedes restores Andraimon, the father of Thoas (who appears in the Iliad) to the throne.

Euripides’ play Oeneus on this subject is lost, but we do have a passage where Diomedes’ arrives:

“Dearest field of my father’s land, Hail,
Kalydon, from where Tydeus fled the shedding of kin-blood
that son of Oineus, my own father
who settled at Argos and took as wife a child of Adrastos”

ΔΙΟΜ. ῏Ω γῆς πατρῴας χαῖρε φίλτατον πέδον
Καλυδῶνος, ἔνθεν αἷμα συγγενὲς φυγὼν
Τυδεύς, τόκος μὲν Οἰνέως, πατὴρ δ’ ἐμός,
ᾤκησεν ῎Αργος, παῖδα δ’ ᾿Αδράστου λαβὼν

This fragment doesn’t tell us much about the myth that we didn’t already know. But the story doesn’t go so well for elderly Oeneus. Diomedes takes him from Calydon to the Peloponnese where he is ambushed and killed by the surviving descendants of Agrios. The name Agrios—“wild one”—appears rather blandly in the Iliad. But outside that epic he is listed as the father of Thersites, thus a cousin of Diomedes.

According to the epic tradition, Achilles eventually kills Thersites and Diomedes makes the former go through a purification. Thersites is famous in book 2 for his destructive speech. Diomedes proves himself to be a capable speaker increasingly through the Iliad. And, his relative Thoas is quite good himself:

The use of Thoas here is intriguing. He is listed in the catalogue as the leader of the Aitolians (2.638) but he is also marked out for being exceptional in speech (Iliad 15.281-4):

“Then Thoas the son of Andraimon spoke among them.
Of the Aitolians he was the most knowledgeable with the spear
And best at running. But few Achaeans could surpass him in the assembly
Whenever the young men used to make a contest of words.”

Τοῖσι δ’ ἔπειτ’ ἀγόρευε Θόας ᾿Ανδραίμονος υἱός,
Αἰτωλῶν ὄχ’ ἄριστος ἐπιστάμενος μὲν ἄκοντι
ἐσθλὸς δ’ ἐν σταδίῃ• ἀγορῇ δέ ἑ παῦροι ᾿Αχαιῶν
νίκων, ὁππότε κοῦροι ἐρίσσειαν περὶ μύθων•

What was in the water in Calydon? Oh, just to keep things interesting, Odysseus marries into the family too! With the bad blood in this town, family holidays must have been interesting…

Panyassis fr. 12 (19 W)

“Mortals have a fine gift equal to fire: wine, a defense against evil and companion of any song.”



οἶνος γὰρ πυρὶ ἶσον ἐπιχθονίοισιν ὄνειαρ

ἐσθλόν, ἀλεξίκακον, πάσης συνοπηδὸν ἀοιδῆς.


Panyassis. Say it out loud.


A Greek epic poet not named Homer.