In some classical journal — it may have been Mnemosyne — I recently ran across a review of a title guaranteed to confuse just about every non-classicist and some percentage of classicists, too: The Fragments of the Methodists, Volume I. If I’m not mistaken, these are fragmentary medical texts, and the Methodists were rivals of the Dogmatists and the Empiricists.
Sunday: October 2, 2005
Sunday: September 18, 2005
In the thirty years since I first heard of them, I’ve had the vague impression that
siculate lunate sigmas, like adscript iotas for the traditional subscripts and use of capital V and small u for both vowels and consonants in Latin texts, were the coming thing, and that more and more editions were using them. When I went to look for some examples a few nights ago to show my students, I was surprised how difficult it was to find any. Of a dozen or two texts from the last half-century, a mixture of Oxford, Teubner, and Budé editions, only Sandbach’s Oxford Classical Text of Menander uses them. Have they gone back out of style? Is this a fad convention that never really caught on? Or was my selection unrepresentative? If so, can someone give some other examples? I don’t doubt that siculate sigmas are abundant in the pages of ZPE and the Oxyrhynchus Papyri and similar collections, but they are far rarer in standard reading texts than I had thought.
Finding one text was easy, even if a second has proved elusive. I began my sigma-hunting with Menander because of something that happened to me in graduate school. A neighbor in my apartment building was a third-world immigrant who had gone to the best prep school in his home country, where he had taken (I think it was) 8 years of Latin and 4 of Greek. Though studying other subjects in the U.S., he had decided to brush up both languages, and sent away for the Oxford texts of Vergil and Menander. When they arrived, he consulted me in a panic, wondering if he should send them both back as defective, since the Menander had a lot of Latin Cs where he expected Greek sigmas, and the Vergil had vowels for consonants and consonants for vowels. Vrbs antiqua fuit on the first page of the Aeneid particularly distressed him: “Verbs ahn-tee-kwa foo-it ? Verbs ? What is this Verbs ?”
Update: (10/2, 8:15am)
I’ve changed ’siculate’ to ‘lunate’ above, since it seems to be more familiar. In fact, I’m starting to wonder whether I remembered it wrong, since ’siculate’, “sickle-shaped”, might well describe the traditional end-of-word small sigma. The few dictionaries at hand don’t seem to recognize the usage.
As for examples, the only other texts I’ve found so far that use lunate sigmas are Diggle’s Oxford Classical Text of the Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta Selecta (1998) and his Cambridge editions of Euripides’ Phaethon (1970) and Theophrastus’ Characters (2004). There are certainly plenty of texts of authors surviving only (or primarily) in papyri that do not use them, e.g. Cunningham’s Teubner Herondas. Time for a more thorough check? I’ve just about finished unpacking my books, so it wouldn’t be too strenuous.
Friday: August 26, 2005
I’ve been leafing through Fulke Greville’s Caelica, partly as congenial bedtime reading, partly to try to find a favorite passage from years ago. It turns out to be lines 69-74 of poem LXXXIII:
The ship of Greece, the streams and she be not the same
They were, although ship, streams and she still bear their antique name.
The wood which was, is worn, those waves are run away,
Yet still a ship, and still a stream, still running to a sea.
She lov’d, and still she loves, but doth not still love me,
To all except myself yet is, as she was wont to be.
The reference to Heraclitus and the impossibility of stepping in the same stream twice (or even once) is fairly obvious, but “the ship of Greece” is more obscure. The reference is to a story told in Plutarch’s Life of Theseus 23:
The ship on which Theseus sailed with the youths and returned in safety, the thirty-oared galley, was preserved by the Athenians down to the time of Demetrius Phalereus. They took away the old timbers from time to time, and put new and sound ones in their places, so that the vessel became a standing illustration for the philosophers in the mooted question of growth, some declaring that it remained the same, others that it was not the same vessel. (Bernadotte Perrin’s Loeb translation)
This was the subject of an interesting thread on the Classics list that started seven years ago tomorrow: scroll down to “Argo puzzler”. (The person asking about the ship was under the impression that it was Jason’s, not Theseus’.) When I tracked down the passage just now, I found that I had remembered it almost, but not quite, word for word, after something like twenty years. (When I quoted it in 1998, it was from memory.) Which words had I dropped? “They were” in the second line, which don’t seem to add much to the thought or the rhythm.
Saturday: August 20, 2005
One of the books in the classics section at U.N.C.’s library is Un Dialogo sul Management. What ancient author and work are the subject of this book? I will leave that as a not-too-difficult puzzle for my readers. Suggestions may be placed in the comments, though there is no prize for a correct answer except the glory.
What puzzled me was the last word of the title: is ‘management’ really a concept that cannot be expressed clearly and succinctly in Italian? I would think that any subject that can be expounded in ancient Greek or classical Latin (I don’t want to give away too much here) and named in modern English should also be nameable in Italian, though I don’t know the language well enough to offer any suggestions.