Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 1999.04.01

Heinz-G?nther Nesselrath (ed.), Einleitung in die griechische Philologie.   Stuttgart and Leipzig:  B.G. Teubner, 1997.  Pp. xvi, 773.  ISBN 3-519-07435-4.  DM 86.  

Reviewed by James P. Holoka, Foreign Language Department, Eastern Michigan University (
Word count: 3503 words

This is the companion volume to Einleitung in die lateinische Philologie (1996), edited by Fritz Graf. Together they replace an earlier Teubner publication -- the Einleitung in die Altertumswissenschaft -- edited by A. Gercke and E. Norden, which first appeared in 1910 and then, in partially or completely revised (and expanded) editions over the next quarter century or so. The individual chapters of "Gercke-Norden" -- written by such eminent authorities as K.J. Beloch, E. Bethe, H. Dessau, P. Kretschmer, M.P. Nilsson, M. Pohlenz, J. Vogt, and Gercke and Norden themselves, among others -- often grew to monograph length. Certain segments enjoyed separate publication histories, including translation: for example, Wilamowitz-Moellendorff's masterly, succinct Geschichte der Philologie appeared in second (1921) and third (1927) editions of Gercke-Norden, then in English as History of Classical Scholarship (Baltimore 1982)1 and most recently in a 1997 German edition.2 Also familiar in English versions are Paul Maas's contributions on Textual Criticism (Oxford 1958) and Greek Metre (Oxford 1962) and Viktor Ehrenberg's often reprinted The Greek State (New York/Oxford 1960).

EGP is divided into twenty-nine sections by twenty-six authors3 spread through eight chapters. A detailed sixty-four-page index contributes greatly to its ease of use.

Chapter I: Geschichte der Texte

Section 1: "Tradierung der Texte im Altertum; Buchwesen" (3-16). Tiziano Dorandi speculates about ancient authors' methods of composition and provides basic information about the creation of dictated or self-written transcriptions, the physical materials of book production (writing instruments, tablets, papyrus rolls, codices, etc.), and methods of publication (ekdosis). Also treated are libraries, public and private, with separate discussion of Hellenistic, Roman, and Christian collections. Dorandi then outlines the consequences of the (4th/5th-cent.) transition from the book roll to the codex for the transmission of literary texts.

Section 2: "Handschriftliche ?berlieferung in Mittelalter und fr?her Neuzeit; Pal?ographie" (18-44). Herbert Hunger traces the vagaries of text transcription and transmission after the fall of the Roman Empire in the West. The effects of political developments in the East and the West are indicated; in particular, periods of efflorescence in the Byzantine "book culture" are identified. Also sketched are Italian humanism as a "Bridgehead to the East" and the subsequent proliferation of manuscripts elsewhere in western Europe. The story is carried up to the appearance of editiones principes, the printing house of Aldus Manutius, and early efforts to ensure the literary inheritance of antiquity through the establishment of sound texts. The concluding survey of developments in paleographic study features sixteen illustrations of manuscript hands and type sets.

Section 3: "Textkritik" (45-58). Kenneth Dover states the purposes of textual criticism, discriminates direct text tradition (through papyri and manuscripts) from indirect (generally through quotation of one author in another), then discusses obstacles to construction posed by textual variants, corruptions, lacunae, and interpolations. Next, he deals with the devising of "genealogical" stemmata of texts on the basis of telling gaps, shared errors, manuscript hands, watermarks, etc., and includes an illustrative diagram. Dover closes with a judicious and sobering estimate of the kinds of expertise -- linguistic, literary, historical, philosophical, etc. -- needed by the competent textual critic, and of the circumspection that should attend efforts to improve a text through conjecture. "Textual criticism is not a game in which there is a prize for ingenuity... One takes into account absolutely every factor that may prove to be significant" (56).

Section 4: "Papyrologie" (59-71). Dieter Hagedorn first defines the subdiscipline (like epigraphy, in the first instance, denotative of a material rather than a category of intellectual endeavor). He identifies types of published papyri -- documentary, literary, and "semi-literary" -- and methods of analysis applied by modern editors. This is followed by assessment of the value of papyrological evidence for the major disciplines: classical philology and ancient history. As witnesses to the diffusion of literary texts in small and mid-sized towns of middle and upper Egypt, they carry sociological implications vis-?-vis political, socioeconomic, religious, legal, and cultural conditions of life. Further, the documentary texts in particular illuminate linguistic change over a period of a millennium or so. Finally, a review of specialist literature in the field includes tools now becoming available in CD-ROM format and via the World Wide Web.4

Section 5: "Epigraphik" (72-83). Georg Petzl defines the field as devoted to inscriptions written in Greek characters (Linear B, discussed elsewhere, is noted as a special subcategory) particularly on stone and metal. The chronological terminus post quem is approximately 800 B.C.; the terminus ante quem is less firmly fixed (Age of Justinian? Fall of Constantinople?). Petzl first explains the value of inscriptional evidence for our knowledge of the history of writing, philology, and Greek language and literature, as well as for a host of political, social, economic, cultural subject areas. Next, he outlines methodology -- the epigrapher's management and description of find-sites, and the preservation, recording (by photographs, impressions, rubbings, squeezes), documentation, editing, and publication of inscriptions. He concludes with a historical sketch of the discipline, the major corpora, special anthologies, bibliographical tools, and pertinent scholarly journals.

Chapter II: Geschichte der griechischen Philologie

Section 1: "Griechische Philologie im Altertum" (88-103). Nigel Wilson first speculates about pre-Alexandrian philology: school-aids like the collections of rare or obsolescent Homeric words, the allegorical explications of Theagenes of Rhegion, and the proto-philological bits in Aristophanes, Plato, Isocrates, and Aristotle. Turning to Hellenistic philology, he discusses the importance of the Library of Alexandria as locus of scholarly activity, and isolates the guiding principles of the philologists who worked there, synopsizing the work of, for example, Zenodotus, Callimachus, Aristophanes of Byzantium, and Aristarchus as known from the later scholars who drew on them. A final subsection describes philology in late antiquity, touching also on the productions of Jewish and Christian writers, and the origins of scholia (as influenced -- or not -- by the running biblical commentary known as catena).

Section 2: "Griechische Philologie in Byzanz" (104-116). In this pr?cis of his Scholars of Byzantium (2nd ed.: London 1996) Wilson describes the "dark centuries" from the late sixth through the late eighth, noting the continuing traditions of Atticism and grammatical work, and then the "renaissance" of the ninth century, during which the career of Photius marked the beginning of a long and continuous tradition of classical studies in Byzantium. Then comes the "middle Byzantine" era (tenth through twelfth centuries), marked by the influence of the learned emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus, the collaborative work that resulted in the encyclopedic lexicon known as the Suda, and the careers of Michael Psellus, Eustathius, and his contemporaries. Wilson concludes with a look at developments and major figures (especially, Maximus Planudes, Demetrius Triclinius), between 1204 and the fall of Constantinople.

Section 3: "Griechische Philologie in der Neuzeit" (117-132). Ernst Vogt stresses the usefulness of a familiarity with the history of modern classical scholarship for an informed sense of the parameters of the discipline and the techniques and achievements of its practitioners. His treatment of renaissance humanism highlights the importance of Byzantium in the transmission of Greek learning to Italy and the west, the consequences of the availability of printed editions, and the nature of northern European humanism. Vogt then summarizes the course of Greek philology from the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries, with compact biographical notices in two subsections ("From Bud? to Montfaucon" and "From Bentley to Porson"). He tracks the emergence of the discrete discipline of classical studies in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with attention to the nutritive intellectual milieu of Winckelmann, Herder, Lessing, Goethe, Schiller, and von Humboldt, and the decisive contributions of C.G. Heyne and F.A. Wolf to the infant "Wissenschaft vom Altertum." Also outlined are the careers of leading nineteenth-century German philologists and the creation of basic research tools such as corpora of inscriptions, compilations of fragments, papyrological collections, and technical journals. A separate subsection is devoted to Wilamowitz. The concluding summary of twentieth-century developments focuses first on the "Crisis of Historicism" and then on such breakthroughs as oral poetry theory and the decipherment of Linear B. Also registered is the effect of the broader currents in literary theory associated with M.M. Bakhtin, R. Barthes, G. Genette, and J. Derrida.

Chapter III: Geschichte der griechischen Sprache

Section 1: "Vom Mykenischen bis zum klassischen Griechisch" (136-155). Klaus Strunk, opens his sketch of Mycenaean Greek with a discussion of physical remains -- tablets, seal stones, and vases -- bearing Linear B script. He then inventories the phonological, morphological, semantic, and onomastic information derived from these texts and notes the relative synchronic uniformity of the language. There follows a discussion of the dialect-groups of early Greek, their origins, interrelations, and distinctive traits. Finally, Strunk outlines "literary dialects" -- viz., Ionic, Aeolic, Attic, and Doric -- and characterizes the poetic language (Kunstsprache) of Homer, early lyric poets, and dramatic and prose authors of the classical era.

Section 2: "Von der Koine bis zu den Anf?ngen des modernen Griechisch" (156-168). The late Robert Browning traces the formation of koine Greek in the Hellenistic era, its peculiarities of phonology, morphology, syntax, and vocabulary. He then describes linguistic developments during Roman imperial and Byzantine times, with a separate sketch of Atticism. Finally, after noting the difficulties -- owing to general lack of sources for the period 600-1100 -- that obstruct a precise delineation of the emergence of modern Greek, Browning describes the "new Kunstsprache" that appeared as an amalgam of various regional dialects in fourteenth-century Constantinople.

Chapter IV: Geschichte der griechischen Literatur

Section 1: "Griechische Literatur bis 300 v. Chr." (171-245), by Enzo Degani, includes subsections on archaic- and classical-era epic, lyric, anonymous poetry, folk narrative, philosophy, scientific writing, history, drama, oratory, and lesser known genres like dithyramb, mime, epyllion, and the skolion.

Section 2: "Hellenismus" (246-268), by Richard Hunter, has subsections on dramatic and "para-dramatic" poetry, satiric and iambic poetry, epic and epyllion, catalog and didactic poetry, hymn and encomium, epigram, and history.

Section 3: "Kaiserzeit" (269-293), by Heinz-G?nther Nesselrath, focuses on rhetoric; such "light literature" as Lucian, prose romance, anecdotal miscellanies, and fictional epistolography; historical, biographical, and related forms; philosophy; poetry; and Greek-language Judaic and Christian writings.

Section 4: "Sp?tantike" (294-315), by J?rgen Hammerstaedt, covers secular literature from Constantine to Theodosius II; Christian literature from Constantine to the Council of Chalcedon in 451; secular literature from Marcian to Justinian I; and Christian literature in the same time span.

Section 5: "Abriss der byzantinischen Literatur" (316-342), by Athanasios Kambylis, begins with a rather extensive introduction to Byzantine philology, the nature and the temporal and spatial boundaries of "Byzantine literature," language and meter, generic subdivisions, and problems of discrimination among theological, "high" secular, and popular forms of literature. The following six chronological segments are: early Byzantine (324-c. 650), the "dark centuries" from 650 to 800, the pre-Macedonian era (c. 780-c. 850), Macedonian proper (c. 850-1000), post-Macedonian (1000-c. 1080), the era of the Comneni (1081-1204), the era of the "successor states" (1204-1261), and the Palaeologan renaissance of 1261-1453.

Section 6: "Griechische Metrik" (343-362), by Richard Kannicht, begins with a super-succinct chronicle of the study of Greek meter (from Gorgias of Leontini to Martin West in one page!). After presenting the fundamentals and key terminology of Greek prosody, Kannicht then classifies the meters of Greek poetry within three principal divisions: standard stichic or "spoken" verse patterns (dactylic hexameter, elegiac couplet, iambic trimeter, choliambic, trochaic tetrameter, catalectic and acatalectic iambic tetrameter, and anapestic tetrameter); epodes and asynarteta; and lyric or "sung" meters, subdivided into those constructed in repeating metra (e.g., dactyls, anapests, cretics, dochmiacs) and those not (dactylo-epitrites and aeolo-choriambics). This chapter-section, though (chiefly for reasons of scale) it does not supersede Paul Maas's brilliant Greek Metre, is clear and competent.

The authors of this chapter, the longest the volume (40% of its contents), have produced a terse literary history without addressing theoretical issues or the varieties of interpretive appreciations. They devote less space to purely literary or "higher" criticism of the ancient authors and more to ancient testimonia and authoritative editions and collections, though they do catalog especially influential works of modern secondary literature. The author-by-author coverage is typically not as full as in the corresponding entries in the third edition of the Oxford Classical Dictionary (Oxford 1996), but does offer a coherent chronological narrative and much fuller bibliographical assistance. The inclusion of late antique and Byzantine developments is a distinct advantage over most histories of Greek literature.

An eye-popping three-foot by sixteen-inch fold-out "Synopse der griechischen Literatur," prepared by Henning L?hken, is packaged in a sleeve inside the back cover of the volume.

Chapter V: Geschichte der griechischen Welt

Section 1: "Archaische und klassische Zeit" (365-401). Despite the section title, Gustav Lehmann begins with brief treatments of Bronze Age Greek civilization from the arrival of Greek-speakers around 2000 B.C. through the Mycenaean era, the "Dark Age" of 1200-800, and the origins of the Greek polis system. He then outlines the great era of Greek colonization, early struggles among the city-states (for instance, the Lelantine War), and the widespread appearance of tyranny. Next, he characterizes the anomalous "World of Sparta" in the seventh and sixth centuries. Further subsections are devoted to the evolution of democracy at Athens from Solon to Cleisthenes, the Persian Wars, and the Athenian Sea League and the radical democracy of the fifth century. The chapter closes with segments on the Peloponnesian War, the subsequent period of Spartan dominance, and the quest for hegemony in the fourth century prior to the Battle of Chaeronea.

Section 2: "Hellenismus" (402-417). This section, also by Lehmann, opens with clarification of terminology and chronology, then turns to the rise of Macedon under Philip II. Lehmann summarizes the conquests of Alexander the Great, then dedicates the chapter's longest subsection to the struggles of the diadochi and an overview of the Hellenistic states in the third century. Finally, there is a very concise account of Rome's impingement on and ultimate subsumption of the Hellenistic kingdoms.

Section 3: "Kaiserzeit" (418-434). For his presentation of the Roman Imperial-era Greek world, Walter Ameling departs from the more rigidly chronological tracking favored in Lehmann's narratives. He begins by noting that the various major and minor Hellenistic states were not related to or incorporated within the Roman Empire in a uniform fashion. He also typifies the internal distinctions -- both social and civil -- among the inhabitants of the Hellenistic states. Sub-subsections differentiate among client kingdoms and provinces (both provinciae senatus and provinciae populi Romani), and identify the various tricky and long-standing difficulties confronted by Rome along the eastern frontier of the Empire. Ameling concludes with relatively full scrutiny of specific regions: Greece proper, Asia Minor, Syria, Judea, and Egypt.

Section 4: "Sp?tantike" (435-454). Edgar Pack commences his review of the approximately three centuries from Diocletian through Justinian with pointed reflections on the "continuities between 'decadence' and innovation." Three main section-topics follow: the sociopolitical system (centers and internal substructures of the imperial court; military affairs and civil administration both overarching and city-specific); Christianity and the Church as (re-)organizational agents; external threats and the split of the empire into eastern and western segments with divergent fates.

Helpful in reading this chapter are three fold-out maps inside the back cover: I - Mainland Greece (and some islands), II - Mainland Greece and the Aegean, III - The Eastern Mediterranean and Persian Empire.

Chapter VI: Griechische Religion

In this chapter (457-504), Fritz Graf handles Greek religion under seven headings. (1) The Unity of Greek Religion: Graf isolates defining traits of Greek polytheism, the nature of our evidence about it, and the history of its study since 1829.5 (2) Fundamentals: discussed here are matters of terminology; forms of ritual; notions of the holy and its locales (natural and man-made); priests, officials, and seers. (3) Myth: Graf examines the complicated issue of definition (both ancient and modern), categorization, function, as well as relations between myth and religion. (4) The Festival Calendar: this segment offers general remarks followed by a sketch of Greek time-reckoning and rather detailed classification of the types of festivals. (5) Religion beyond the Polis: here are covered such pan-Hellenic phenomena as divination, healing, and mystery cults. (6) The Gods: in this part, there are subsections on the nature of Greek polytheism, categories of divinities -- Olympians, chthonic spirits, minor deities, collectives (the Fates, nymphs, muses) -- abstractions, and foreign gods (for example, Cybele, Bendis, Sabazios, and later Isis). (7) Bibliography.

Chapter VII: Griechische Philosophie und Wissenschaften

Section 1: "Philosophie" (507-560). Friedo Ricken begins his outline of Greek philosophy with a brief definition of terms and an account of the periodization conventionally adopted in modern times and popularized by E. Zeller.6 He then allots twelve pages to the pre-Socratics, four to the Sophists and Socrates, eight to Plato and Platonism (up to Plotinus), nine to Aristotle and (very briefly) Theophrastus, fourteen to the Hellenistic philosophies (the lion's share to Stoicism), and five to Neoplatonism from Plotinus through Porphyrius, Iamblichus, Proclus, and John Philoponus. Many minor figures are mentioned, and for each of the major ones, there are succinct accounts of life, works, and influence.

Section 2: "Wissenschaften" (561-582). Alfred St?ckelberger opens the section with remarks on the origins of scientific thought in the pre-Socratics (special stress on cosmology and theory of the elements) and its further adumbration in the works of Plato and Aristotle. He then summarizes developments in mathematics, astronomy, geography, biology, medicine, physics (theoretical and applied), and chemistry/alchemy, with attention to achievements and advances in all periods from classical through Roman imperial.

Chapter VIII: Griechische Kunst

Section 1: "Archaische Zeit" (585-608). Wolfram Martini's discussion begins with painted vases, sculpture, and architecture of the Geometric and Orientalizing eras. He then takes up the Archaic era proper (620-480 B.C.) in about the same degree of detail. The section is enhanced by seventeen b/w illustrations of vases and sculptures, and four architectural plans/elevations.

Section 2: "Klassik" (609-634). Adolf H. Borbien opens with rather detailed remarks on centers of artistic production; consumers and patrons; and finer points of periodization. He then takes up in turn sculpture, large-scale painting, vase-painting, and (more briefly) architecture, tracking developments chronologically within each category. There are ten b/w illustrations of sculpture, two of vase-paintings.

Section 3: "Hellenismus" (635-658). Robert Fleischer begins by advising against the familiar three-period systematization based on stylistic notions of early, flowering, and late periods. Following more recent studies, he prefers a three-part system keyed to political developments only: the era of the diadochi (323-ca. 275), the heyday of the Hellenistic kingdoms (ca. 275-ca. 150), and the period of Roman domination (ca. 150-30). Fleischer then portrays the major individual states (Ptolemaic Egypt, the Seleucid Empire, Pergamum, Antigonid Macedon and Greece, Commagene) and proceeds generatim to architecture, sculpture (noting tendencies to classicizing and archaizing and the importance of copying), and such lesser (or less-attested) forms as terra-cotta, wall-painting, mosaic, metalworking, seal-stones and cameos, and ceramics. Sixteen b/w illustrations.

Section 4: "Kaiserzeit" (658-677). Dietrich Willers starts with observations on the value of the rich available archaeological and literary evidence for our understanding of the adaptation of Greek artistic forms to the new conditions and requirements of Roman imperial civilization. He then discusses public monuments and urban planning, with emphasis on victory memorials (e.g. at Actium) and triumphal arches, emperor-cult (e.g. the Ara Augusti in Miletus), and, more generically, theaters, gymnasia, baths, amphitheaters, and shrines. Next he highlights aspects of Roman-era urban planning in four cities: Corinth, Nicopolis, Ephesus, and Athens. Concluding subsections center on sculpture, including both idealizing and actual portraiture, sarcophagus and grave reliefs, and finally wall-paintings and mosaics. Five architectural plans and site-drawings.

Section 5: "Sp?tantike" (678-693). This section, also by Willers, parallels the preceding one, but concentrates on the fourth through sixth centuries. Specific topics include (under architecture and urban planning) the residence of Galerius at Thessalonica, buildings in Constantinople, and Christian edifices both at the imperial capital and elsewhere. Sculpture again embraces both idealizing work and portraiture, as well as historical reliefs and sarcophagi. Concluding the section are discussions of wall-painting and mosaic; gold, silver, and ivory objets d'art; and textiles. Four b/w illustrations.

Section 6: "Griechische Numismatik" (694-707). Herbert Cahn's exposition is divided into sections on Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic. In each, he outlines the state of the evidence -- the survival and location of coins and coin hoards -- and the information that evidence provides about the types of coinage, distinctive styles, and their evolution, with due regard to both technical details and aesthetic matters. Twenty-seven coins are illustrated in both obverse and reverse.

Within the constraints of a one-volume reference tool, EGP is a remarkable accomplishment. In its breadth and continuous manner of presentation within subject areas, it is more readable than lexicon-style handbooks like, say, the Oxford Classical Dictionary. But in its degree of detail and the sheer extent of its bibliographical guidance, it also surpasses any available single-volume ancilla to Greek studies. Together with the companion volume on Latin philology, it constitutes a wonderfully comprehensive and current, yet not overwhelming, Vogelperspektive of the disciplines of classical studies. Professional scholars and graduate students will find it an invaluable aid to study. In an English translation, it could admirably serve a similar purpose for undergraduates and interested laypersons.


1.   Translation by A. Harris, with an introduction and 669 footnotes by H. Lloyd-Jones.
2.   Stuttgart/Leipzig: Teubner; with introduction, expanded bibliography, and index by A. Henrichs.
3.   Most of the contributors are German-speaking; two chapter sections originally in Italian and five in English are translated into German by J. Hammerstaedt (I.1) and the editor (I.3, II.1-2, III.2, IV.1-2).
4.   E.g., the "Duke Database of Documentary Papyri" and the "Heidelberger Gesamtverzeichnis der griechischen Papyrusurkunden ?gyptens."
5.   The year of publication of C.A. Lobeck's fundamental Aglaophamus sive de theologiae mysticae Graecorum causis libri tres.
6.   In his Philosophie der Griechen in ihrer geschichtlichen Entwicklung (final editions 1919-1923).

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