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Department of the Classics, Harvard University

Alexandrian Sappho Revisited

Author(s): Dimitrios Yatromanolakis
Source: Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, Vol. 99 (1999), pp. 179-195
Published by: Department of the Classics, Harvard University
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To Alexandra

T HESappho's
aim of this
article is to reconsider the editorial reception of
poems by the Alexandrians in the third and second
centuries B.C.,1 that is, to focus on that determinative stage when the
first known scholarly enterprise towards a definitive textual fixation of
Sappho's poetry took place.2 What we indirectly know about Alexandrian editorial activities on the poems of Sappho is based on sources
* I would like to thank Dr. R. A. Coles of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, for kindly

letting me examine P.Oxy. XXI 2294. I am especially grateful to Gregory Nagy, Peter
Parsons, and Christiane Sourvinou-Inwood, who read various drafts of this paper, and
from whose thought-provoking suggestions I have, as always, greatly profited. Thanks are

also due to Maura Henrichs for her comments and advice. My gratitude equally goes to
Charles Segal for suggestions on the final draft. To Albert Henrichs I owe a special debt
for his unstinting advice and invaluable criticism.

1 The following bibliography will be throughout cited by author's name only: D. A.

Campbell, Greek Lyric 1 (Cambridge, Mass. 1982); E. Contiades-Tsitsoni, Hymenaios

und Epithalamion. Das Hochzeitslied in der friihgriechischen Lyrik (Stuttgart 1990);
J. M. Edmonds, "Sappho's Book as Depicted on an Attic Vase," CQ 16 (1922) 1-14;
C. Gallavotti, "Auctarium Oxyrhynchium," Aegyptus 33 (1953) 159-171; A. S. F. Gow
and D. L. Page, The Greek Anthology. The Garland of Philip and Some Contemporary
Epigrams (Cambridge 1968); J. T. Hooker, The Language and Text of the Lesbian Poets

(Innsbruck 1977); A. S. Hunt, "[P.Oxy.] 1800. Miscellaneous Biographies," in The

Oxyrhynchus Papyri 15 (London 1922) 137-150; G. M. Kirkwood, Early Greek Monody.
The History of a Poetic Type (Ithaca 1974); E Lasserre, Sappho. Une autre lecture (Padua
1989); E. Lobel, ampcoxiqg por. The Fragments of the Lyrical Poems of Sappho (Oxford
1925); D. Page, Sappho and Alcaeus. An Introduction to the Study of Ancient Lesbian
Poetry (Oxford 1955); A. Pardini, "La ripartizione in libri dell' opera di Alceo. Per un
riesame della questione," RFIC 119 (1991) 257-284; M. Treu, Sappho. Lieder7 (Munich
1982); E. M. Voigt [= V], Sappho et Alcaeus (Amsterdam 1971); U. von WilamowitzMoellendorff [ = Wilamowitz] Die Textgeschichte der griechischen Lyriker (Berlin 1900).
2 Here I do not touch on the issue of the reception of Sappho in the Hellenistic era. I
examine the diverse receptions of Sappho's poetry from the sixth century B.C. to late
antiquity in a forthcoming book entitled Sappho in the Making.

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180 Dimitrios Yatromanolakis

whose significance is hard to determine, and, for this reason, these

sources should be examined as critically as possible. The editorial

reception of Sappho by the Alexandrian scholars is closely related to
questions regarding the number of books their edition included, and the
(alleged) partial generic classification of Sappho's oeuvre by them; it is,
thus, these questions that will primarily concern us here.


It seems that Sappho's poems were arranged by the Alexandrians in

books mainly according to their meter, in contrast to the works of other

poets, such as Pindar and Bacchylides, which were classified according

to literary genre or occasional context. Along with Sappho's poetry, the

poems of Alcman, Alcaeus, Ibycus, and Anacreon are usually quoted

by their book numbers. The evidence about the number of books of
Sappho is scant as well as perplexing.3 In analyzing this evidence we
should attend to the possibility that the Alexandrian scholarly edition
(assuming that there was only one, possibly by Aristarchus4) was not
necessarily the only edition that existed in later antiquity.5
3 The bibliography on this issue includes Wilamowitz 71-73, Lobel xiii-xvi, Page
112-119, 125-126 (on the distribution of the epithalamia). Cf. also C. Gallavotti, Saffo e
Alceo. Testimonianze e frammenti 13 (Naples 1962) 9-11. The testimonies to the various
books of Sappho are conveniently collected in Voigt T 226-236.
4 Unfortunately there is no evidence for Sappho. We only know that for Alcaeus an

edition by Aristarchus replaced an earlier one by Aristophanes (see Sappho T 236 V).
However, this does not necessarily entail that Sappho's poems were similarly edited
twice; although Aristophanes was well known for his edition of lyric poetry, it is not cer-

tain how many of the lyric poets he edited (R. Pfeiffer, History of Classical Scholarship:

From the Beginnings to the End of the Hellenistic Age [Oxford 1968] 184-185). Thus,
M. Williamson's conviction (Sappho's Immortal Daughters [Cambridge, Mass. 1995] 40;
cf. B. C. MacLachlan, "Sappho," in D. E. Gerber ed., A Companion to the Greek Lyric
Poets [Leiden 1997 (Mnemosyne Suppl. 173)] 166, influenced by Hooker 11) that Sappho's poems went through two Alexandrian editions, may or may not be right.

5 It is only an a priori assumption that all the subsequent generations of readers of

Sappho's poetry indulged in it by obtaining a copy of a Sapphic edition which reproduced
the book division and structure of the "ancestral" Alexandrian edition. Hephaestion and
several grammarians, metricians, and lexicographers of the first and the second (and even
the fourth) centuries A.D., for example, could certainly have enjoyed access to a copy of

such an edition, but others might not have: should we assume that less "official" editions
and collections of Sappho, used in environments very different from the working place of

grammarians and scholars, were not available during these centuries? A response to such

a question should take into account evidence which suggests the possibility of parallel

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Alexandrian Sappho Revisited 181

What exactly do we know about the Alexandrian books of Sappho?
Occasional references to book numbers in late sources suggest that the
edition of Sappho prepared by the Alexandrians included at least eight
books of poems. Indeed, references up to the eighth book of Sappho
occur. Two or more of these books contained a number of epithalamia,
probably added at the end of the books in question on account of their
metrical identity or affinity.6 But in recent times, especially after D. L.
Page's treatment of the subject, a nine-book edition of Sappho has been
postulated.7 Since the evidence adduced by the modern defenders of
this view seems equivocal, a re-examination of all the available literary
and papyrological references to the total number of Sappho's Alexandrian books will prove helpful.


Our earliest source is an epigram of the first century B.C. by Tullius

Laurea, who has been identified with Cicero's freedman (AP 7.17).8
The speaker here is imagined to be Sappho, involved in dialogue with a
hypothetical passerby who happens to walk past her Aeolian tomb. It is
in lines 5-7 that she refers to nine books of poetry written by her: ijv 8&

ji MoiodioV &drci1; X(dptv, v G)p' cX? dxtrl; I & xiovo; vOo; jtji

Ofica natop' wvvcd6t, I yv~cj cxt c(;'Aio oKOtrov CKcplyov ... ("but if
you judge me by the divine Muses, from each of whom I set a flower

beside my nine [books], you will know that I escaped the gloom of
Hades ...,").9 Moreover, the Suda holds that Sappho wrote pcEX&v lkvptiKOV Ptiac 6', and that, additionally, she composed epigrams, elegiacs,
existence of other "editions" of Sappho in later antiquity. That matter will be further
explored below.
6 See fragments 27 and 30 V (the latter was the last poem of the first book of Sappho),

and also fr. 44 V (the last poem of the second book); but on the performative function of
fr. 44 V views are divided. Wilamowitz believed that "in allen Biichern Sapphos Gedichte

auf Briute zahlreich gewesen sind" (72).

7 Page 112-114; followed by, e.g., Campbell xiii, and id. "Monody," in The Cambridge History of Classical Literature 1: Greek Literature, ed. P.E. Easterling and
B. M. W. Knox (Cambridge 1985) 203; Pardini 261-262; M. Williamson, "Sappho," in
The Oxford Classical Dictionary,3 ed. S. Hornblower and A. Spawforth (Oxford 1996)

8 For Laurea, see Gow and Page 2.461-463.

9 The translation is by Campbell, in Sapph. test. 28, p. 29.

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182 Dimitrios Yatromanolakis

iambics,10 and solo songs (s.v. Xapco, 4.322 Adler = Sappho T 235 V).
Rather frustratingly, a papyrus fragment of the late second or early third

century A.D. from Oxyrhynchus (P.Oxy. 1800 fr. 1 = Sappho T 252 V)

breaks off where a reference would be made to the number of Sappho's

books (... yE]lypacqDv 8 pup4[ioa -vac. c. 7-8 litt.-] I ptlKci,

EvycEt [ ] I ev).11 Do these sources support the view that the Alexan-

drian editors divided-or adopted a division of-Sappho's poems into

nine books?

To begin, the evidence of Tullius Laurea's epigram is not as straight-

forward as it first looks. Page (p. 113), in trying to dismiss Lobel's

warning about the possibility that Laurea was deceived by the ambiguity of the letter 6'-which could equally stand for the numbers eight

and nine-seems entirely convinced about Laurea's authority: "He

must have been aware of the truth: if not he could have discovered it

instantly; he was not likely to publish the number nine if all the world
knew that the proper number was eight." This reasoning, however, is by

no means compelling, since in his epigram Laurea's primary aim may

have been to associate the poetic fame of Sappho with the Muses (an

association already made by Dioscorides AP 7.407 and Antipater of

Sidon AP 9.66),12 and possibly a contemporary (non-Alexandrian)

10 For Sappho's iambics there is interesting evidence in Julian's letter to Alypius (Ep.

10, p. 12 f. Bidez-Cum.): "H6rl giv iryXzavov AvXtlvo;e 7fi; v6oou, Til veFoypaxpiav
Or e n(EXRFGtX(X;.... EX-E ytp Mcxi r d" & 6iaypr8to a&4tTo( Ev p6Ov Xtov, ic KaTE-

igololoa; a irb lcpooseEi rob0; i6ap3ou;, o^10 9xjv vEi6ovraq (ilv Boun6Dxtov car'&
,rv Kuprvatov notrrivy, &XX' oiou; 1i Kaxl 1 axnp0' poi0vrax toi t; lvot; (v.1. v6jiot;)


11In his editio princeps (1922), Hunt prints yE]lypaqpEv 8 Pupk[ta EvvEa LEV] I
XhvptCa sEXEtYEO[v 86E aR aXXov?] I Ev, and offers the following comments: "Cf. Suid.

s.v. VaRlcp)0oV 4paE &8 JtFvEX XkplCOv))V PtpkXia 0'... ( . Kai lctypQtaa Kat 1(EXydia Kai
tidgou; cal igov(oSag. The suggested restoration assumes what is quite uncertain, that
the non-lyrical poems were included in a single book. 0o of EXTyEtlo[v is very doubtful,
only a very small vestige remaining which would also suit a, but sExyEta[Xov 8& would
not fill the line, and the epigrams &c. ought not to have been ignored" (146). Cf. Voigt's

pupX[[a Evvia 4(gv] hptlr&, 9?xEyiT[v &8" ai (XXov?] 9v.... V. Di Benedetto ("Sulla

di Saffo,"
SCO 32
[1982] 224-226)Note
has argued
for the
the reading
Ev. Another
is xLyFlto[v...].
that after
word pupx[ia
the lacuna
allows various different supplements such as xcr(o or ivvia.
12 See also "Plato" AP 9.506 and Antipater of Sidon AP 7.14. Cf. AP 9.521, 9.571.7 f.,
Plut. Amat. 18 (cited by Campbell, in Sapph. test. 60, p. 49).

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Alexandrian Sappho Revisited 183

nine-book edition of Sappho's poetry with each of them.13 Apart from
uncertainties of authorship of the three epigrams that have come down
to us (perhaps) under Laurea's name,14 we cannot readily assume that
by his time Laurea's nine Sapphic books coincided with the number of
books edited by the Alexandrians. One could take into account the fact
that, although Hephaestion describes the employment of the asterisk in

the Alexandrian copies of Sappho, Anacreon, and Alcaeus (Sign. 3,

p. 74 Consbruch), this metrical mark does not occur in papyrus fragments of Sappho.15 Even if, over time, certain editorial signs, such as
the asterisk, were superseded by others,16 does this exclude the possibility that some of our papyrus fragments come from "collected poems"
editions that were not direct descendants of the Alexandrian ones?17

More importantly, if, by the time of Laurea, several epigrams written in

a linguistic form that recalled "Sappho" had already started being

attributed to her,18 they could have formed a new "unit" of poems, pos-

sibly appended to the Alexandrian books, or counted by Laurea as a

further Sapphic book. The fragmented phrase ycFt qw[ ] Iv in P.Oxy.
1800 fr. 1 quoted above may suggest such a possiblity.19 To my mind, it
13 Nine was not a fixed number for the Muses in antiquity (see West on Hes. Th. 60),
but appears as early as Homer (Od. 24.60) and Hesiod, and commonly later.
14 Note that his epigrams have been classified by Gow and Page under the general cate-

gory "Doubtful Claimants" (2.423). Moreover, the suggestion that TiXkto; Acup~ag

might be linked with Cicero is a modem one (see Gow and Page 2.462). For the problem
of his transmitted name and his identification, see 461-462.

15 Even after Lobel's early report (xvi; see also R. L. Fowler, "Reconstructing the
Cologne Alcaeus," ZPE 33 [1979] 28 and cf. K. McNamee, Sigla and Select Marginalia
in Greek Literary Papyri [Brussels 1992] 13 n. 19) that no employment of the asterisk
was made in papyrus fragments of Sappho and Alcaeus, this holds true. For the asterisk in
Pindar and Bacchylides, see E. G. Turner, Greek Manuscripts of the Ancient World. 2nd
ed. rev. and enlarged by P. J. Parsons (London 1987) 12.

16 But it should be noted that two papyrus scraps assigned to Anacreon (P.Oxy. LIII
3695 fragments 6 and 19, dated to the first century A.D.) employ the asterisk (see M. W.
Haslam's comment on fr. 6.3 in The Oxyrhynchus Papyri 53 [London 1986] 3).
17 In a learned article, Pardini implicitly suggests that (all) the papyrus fragments of

Alcaeus must reflect the Alexandrian editions, and adduces mainly papyrological evidence in support of this view (259-260). However, most of his papyrological evidence is
not decisive, since it comes from commentaries on the poet, which, as it would be
expected, followed the Alexandrian, established edition.
18 For Hellenistic epigrams attributed to Sappho, see below.
19 Thanks to Mata Dova for her thoughts on this point. Cf. D. L. Page, Further Greek

Epigrams (Cambridge 1981) 181 and Ovid Heroides: Select Epistles, ed. P. E. Knox
(Cambridge 1995) 280.

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184 Dimitrios Yatromanolakis

would be methodologically precarious to extract from Laurea's literary

epigram historical information about the Alexandrian editorial activities
relating to the poems of Sappho.20

Furthermore, it seems likely that the Suda partly depended for its

lemma on Laurea's epigram, whose lines 2, 3-4, and 7-8 it quotes

under the lemmata Mtrivvloiac,21 Xr16cjj8v, and vivuiog respec-

tively.22 The obscure information that the Suda provides about Sappho's
oeuvre is probably due to the frequent tendency of its compiler to collect and assemble all the material that might have been available to him,
even if this material was entirely inconsistent. For example, Sappho's

alleged elegiac poems may coincide with those referred to by the

Oxyrhynchus papyrus.

The argument for a nine-book Alexandrian edition of Sappho, therefore, seems to be based simply on one literary source of dubious relevance; it cannot be taken for granted that Laurea's xnap' ivve&x8t refers
to a descendant of the edition of Sappho produced by the Alexandrians.

I suggest that we should instead be attentive to the fact that although

references to the first, second, third, fifth, seventh, and eighth Sapphic
books occur,23 mention of a ninth book, or evidence about its content, is


20 Even Page admits "that we cannot be sure that Tullius Laurea was referring exclusively to the lyrical poems of Sappho" (114, his emphasis).
21 For the attestation of Mtvru-, instead of Muvth-, see Gow and Page 2.462 (on Laurea's first epigram, 1. 2).

22 That was suggested by Lobel (xiv), who was only aware of the lemma MtruX-rvaia.
Of course the information of the Suda may have been also based on earlier encyclopedic
sources and other treatises.

23 See Page 114-116 and Voigt T 226-236. The evidence of Photius (Bibl. 161) for the
eighth book provides the following pieces of information: the twelve books of Sopater the

Sophist included various excerpts, and particularly the second book consisted of passages

a) i~ ... .Fov oImyrpi8a HagtiXrl;g icntrogiv npoorou X6you, b) ' _Fov 'Aprgtovo; roi
M&yvrTro; WTv ar' &petdilv yuvatii tn EnpaygaElu4LEVO)V lytygdaTov, c) fK TOv Ato-

yTvou; roi3 Kuvtuo anoEqygaircov, d) 6 XX1ov 8taP6ptov, &Xk y Kaai &nbt 6y86ou
rfi; Xantpo3;.
an subject
of anLyra
of Sappho
not by That
M. Edmonds,
Mass. 1928] 1.180 n. 1), seems rather unlikely. To those who might ask why Sopater
excerpted only Book 8 of Sappho and whether the Tales of Feminine Virtue (or Tales of
the Exploits of Virtuous Women) could have some bearing on the content of this book, I
have no answer to give.

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Alexandrian Sappho Revisited 185


Current evidence allows us to advance an alternative working

hypothesis about an eight-book division of the Alexandrian edition of
Sappho's poetry. But before we proceed in this direction, let us further
consider the contradictory testimony of the Suda compiler, who claims

that Sappho 'ypa~Xe . K i irntypCXgiptaxai iK ~XEyei KCiX ic36po(;

cal cgov8ia(x (cf. T 252 V). As we have already seen, Suda's reference

to nine books of lyric poems (gpe'v Xv)ptKc&v 33Ptpia 0') may have
partly rested on Laurea's epigram. Similarly, the Suda compiler's mention of Sappho's epigrams, elegiacs, and iambics was likely to be based
on information originating from ancient biographies of Sappho and
other literary figures, such as those preserved in P.Oxy. 1800.24 The text
of fr. 1.34-35 of this papyrus is not devoid of problems, but a reference
to Sapphic elegiacs seems almost certain.25 From the Palatine Anthology we gather that, in the Hellenistic period, at least two (if not three)
epigrams had been ascribed to Sappho,26 a fact that explains their mention in later biographies. Epigrams and elegiacs can be viewed as representing two sides of the same coin, namely epigrams on elegiacs;27 they
may have been registered and juxtaposed for the same reason as the

nine Sapphic lyric books-which included monodic songs-and the

solo songs (jtov8iat)28 have been. Another possibility is that 9Xeycia

24 The papyrus contains biographies of Sappho, Simonides, Aesop, Thucydides,

Demosthenes, Aeschines, Thrasybulus, Hyperides, Leucocomas, and Abderus. See Hunt


25 See n. 11.

26 AP 6.269, 7.489, 7.505 (= "Sappho" 1-3 Page, Further Greek Epigrams [Cambridge 1981] 181 ff.).

27 But see also a different (?) case in Suda s.v. ItgCovvi8; (4.361 Adler): i 'in' 'Apre-

tato(o vaugaXia, 8t' iXhEyEia;- [... ] ~ntcypdggiata, nata&vE...; cf. the lemma MFXavtincin6l, Kpirovo; (3.350 Adler) ~ypaw &5 F86tpd4gov w tpia picx oxra .. . Kcai. i~typcttaca 'cca 97you icKac "Xa RcXGio'a.
28 I do not agree with A. Lardinois ("Who Sang Sappho's Songs?," in E. Greene ed.,
Reading Sappho. Contemporary Approaches [Berkeley 1996] 152-153, and 170) that it is
possible to trace in the Suda's "distinction" between lyric songs and solo songs allusions
to the possible performance of Sappho's songs. One needs only to compare the lemma in
question with other lemmata (on poets such as Anacreon or Corinna) to understand some

of the Suda's lexicographical principles. Furthermore, I wonder whether the word

gov(8iat, in the context of Byzantine linguistic usage, might not be taken in the sense
"threnodic poems"; for the long tradition of Byzantine verse and prose glov8Gial as
threnodic compositions, see D. Hadzis, "Was bedeutet 'Monodie' in der byzantinischen

Literatur?," in J. Irmscher ed., Byzantinistische Beitriige (Berlin 1964) 177-185, and

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186 Dimitrios Yatromanolakis

were implicitly identified in the mind (or sources) of the Suda compiler
with some threnodic songs of Sappho, like the Adonis lament (fr. 140
V).29 Support for such a view can be provided by a passage from an

unedited Byzantine poem attributed to "Manganeios Prodromos."30

Probably written in 1145, this poem (52) is replete with references and
allusions to classical Greek literature. In lines 110-111 the text reads as

follows: M6vr XarpL ooG v)vgog o0 o Ugnxapifyv mxQ gooItx- I

1vz6iax yxp Oprilviylrt arvcipcv Fvciyta ("Only Sappho with her

wise name was not there with the Muses; for she was here in mourning,

singing elegies ..."). It would be tempting to think that, if similar literary references had been considered much earlier as possible testimonies
to the range of Sappho's oeuvre, they could have found their way into
Byzantine sources of encyclopedic character, and, hence, might have
influenced a late-tenth-century lexicon like the Suda.
The inclusion of iambics in Sappho's poetic corpus remains the only
element in the Suda entry to be accounted for. For the iambics the available evidence is thin, more so than for any other meter employed by

Sappho. The few clues, however, that can be deduced from this evidence are relevant to our discussion. An (apparently) iambic line generally attributed to Sappho (fr. 117 V) is quoted by Hephaestion (4.2,

p. 13 Consbruch): * tXuipot; & v4gxpat, yatptro 8' 6 ydo'ppog; this

most probably represents either & vgx?pa, xaipotl, yatpXoT 6' 6 yigL-

ppo; (Lobel), or, I would argue, Xaipot; (a)i) v~ogpa, XatpXo 86' 6

ydg&ppo;. Besides, apart from a passing reference to the "iambic" manner of some of Sappho's poems in Philodemus,31 the Emperor Julian

(Ep. 10) praises robg iudgLoug ... oi'ou); i KcaXl wanp0o po5Xerat Toit
ipvot; (v.1. v6igot;) pkO`TEtV,32 and uses exactly the same metrical
term as does the Suda. The content of most of the Sapphic poems that
H. Hunger, Die hochsprachliche profane Literatur der Byzantiner 1 (Munich 1978)

29 Note that there is a varia lectio OxvyE(iav for the most likely Oxuye~ in Suda's
lemma. For elegies by Sappho, cf. Ov. Her. 15.5-7 ... elegiaflebile carmen.
30 A critical and hermeneutical edition of "Manganeios Prodromos" is under preparation by Professors Elizabeth and Michael Jeffreys. I am most grateful to Panagiotis Roilos
for drawing my attention to the passage in question, and to Prof. E. M. Jeffreys for very

kindly permitting me to quote it (in both the original and in translation) from her and
M. Jeffreys's forthcoming edition.

31 Philod. De poem. 2 fr. 20 i.10-11 (p. 155 Sbordone) iai tampo rtva ltagltx6^
32 Cf. n. 10 above.

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Alexandrian Sappho Revisited 187

Julian (and Pseudo-Julian) explicitly refer to or quote suggests familiarity with the epithalamia. In particular, Julian paraphrases fr. 34 V in a
way reminiscent of a wedding song (Or. 3, 109c), while in Epistle 183
(p. 242, 20 ff. Bidez-Cum.) Pseudo-Julian refers to the Sapphic greeting XcapE irohl,33 which is employed in the epithalamian 116 V. From
the existing evidence, one could think that the iambics referred to by
the Suda coincided with some kind of epithalamian meter; alternative

suggestions, however, such as that Sappho used the iambic meter in

some songs which have not been preserved, or that some later iambic

poems--concerned with themes similar to those generally associated

with Sappho-were ultimately attributed to her, might not be excluded.

In conclusion, it becomes clear that the Suda compiler depended on

several different sources relating to the Sapphic corpus of poems. His

"informants" seem to have claimed that some of these poems were

composed in elegiac meter, others in iambic; apart from that, certain

epigrams were believed by some to be composed in Sappho's style;

and, of course, the poet was well known for her Jgovp8onat. All these

scattered pieces of information about Sappho's literary production,

along with the alleged existence of nine books of gEtirl, had to be

included in the Suda entry. Does this not imply a kind of oversimplification of methodological criteria and a reliance on disparate data?


Another ancient source can now be drawn into our discussion about

the number of Sapphic books edited by the Alexandrians. In his fourthcentury commentary on Virgil Georg. 1.31 Servius refers to a certain

book of Sapphic epithalamia (= Sappho T 234 V): generum vero pro

marito positum multi accipiunt iuxta Sappho, quae in libro qui

inscribitur 'Ert0acA'cpta ait (... ). It has most often been thought that

the book in question must be identified with the last book of the
Alexandrian scholars' edition.34 This last book has been envisaged as a
separate one, easily differentiated on the basis of its subject matter and
metrical diversity from the other eight, and referred to only by its title
33 Note that he repeats Xaipe twice in the same sentence, as Sappho usually does:
Xaipe, vi~tcpa, Xaipe, rztCie yd(lgpe, nit6~ a (fr. 116; cf. fr. 117).

34 See, e.g., Page 116.

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188 Dimitrios Yatromanolakis

and not by a number.35 Since several epithalamian songs were apparently included in other books, this entails, according to Page's widely

accepted theory, that "Sappho's epithalamian poems were arranged

according to two different principles: those whose metres qualified
them for inclusion in the metrically homogeneous books (esp. the first
four books) were added at the end of such books; the miscellaneous
remainder were put together to form a separate book."36 Further evidence in favor of this view has been adduced from Sappho fr. 103 L-P
(= P.Oxy. XXI 2294, published by Lobel in 1951),37 the so-called "new
bibliographical fragment."38 This second-century A.D. papyrus fragment
contains ten incipits of Sapphic poems (1. 3 ]. &8 (8&Ka) K(ax) ~K6tlrgl
6 (cp&trog) [). Lines 14-17 have been interpreted as referring to the
one hundred and thirty-odd lines of Book 8 (1. 14 JgEX&v] il oait(ot)

pA[ ] "book 8, 13(0) lines," as tentatively supplemented by Lobel,39

and adopted by Page 117), and to the heading of a new book, entitled
'EcntOa]X6'tcta (1. 17). To support and elucidate his interpretation of
these lines, Page offered the following reconstruction (119):
15 6got6'gerpot 8E] Jer&th T lV npCOtlv [n7C&oat

16 to 8 0 bD0t8ai (x)] <ppovrat intyiypCa[nrat

17 8E oituog-'NttOx]c cc -35 Pardini 261-262. In the current state of evidence, I would not agree with Pardini's
view that, whenever an Alexandrian book of poems bore a title, it could not be referred to

by a number (261-262, 264-265, 268, 279). At least the case of Alcman's nap0~veta
'agaara, as they are called by Stephanus of Byzantium in his lemma 'EpaixXni (... 0g
o 1at iX ov nrap' "'AXiq&vt -v &P X toi &xrepo Tv nwap0Eveiowv oa~rov), cannot be
disputed on the grounds that oagta is not a technical term like gCLXo; (Pardini 264). Such
a consistency in sources so late cannot be expected: for example, Phot. Bibl. 161 (...
and6 6by6ox X6you fi;g lanrpoOg) is another case where the more technical term itipiov
is not employed. I would think that the possibility that the Alexandrians used a title such

as napOFveta Xi1FI in the context of a whole series of gXiX and that a book of napODveta C~Xil could be also referred to in sources as 'AXiiga&vo;g te-O&v a', cannot be


36 Page 126.

37"[P.Oxy.] 2294. Bibliographical details about a book of Sappho," in The

Oxyrhynchus Papyri 21 (London 1951) 23-26.
38 I here refer to Lobel-Page's edition (Poetarum Lesbiorum Fragmenta [Oxford 1955])
because it provides a fuller text than that printed by Voigt (= fr. 103; Voigt prints lines
1-3 and 14-20 in her apparatus offontes fragmenti).
39 In his 1951 editio princeps, p. 26.

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Alexandrian Sappho Revisited 189

Obviously, this is consistent with Page's general hypothesis that the
Alexandrian books of Sappho were nine, and that the ninth coincided
with the book of epithalamians.
Although a few reactions against this interpretation of Sappho fr.
103 appeared soon after it was proposed,40 they did not receive much
attention.41 More recently, Francois Lasserre has put forward a new the-

ory about the "bibliographical fragment," which in a way contests

Page's arguments.42 Already in his 1955 review of Page's book,

Lasserre had expressed the opinion that the figure 131-139 as it occurs
in the papyrus should not be taken as referring to the total number of
verses included in Book 8.43 Mainly for that reason, in his recent work
he advances the view that fr. 103 is a commentary on Book 8-a book
consisting of 10 odes-and that the length of the first ode of that book

was between 131 and 139 verses. This long ode, a choral hymenaeal
song according to Lasserre, was prefixed to the remaining nine epithalamian songs on account of its stylistic superiority. Lasserre's reconstruction of the fragment, with ample exempli gratia supplements, reads
as follows:

E1' 6r ,I CwcnpoI' ;] JEx[)V '0

Y-rixot WV ~ YPph(PIacv Iv tC K[E(pXXip

XXXXo16]xi E I K(c(ai) K6dO1;0 6 a ['rx(o;) "8. (lines 1-3)

Ei; tdlv 60686] 6 aniX(o6) p2 .]
OWK ltClypc(PPE Oat-c aci 8] LECX -7rv TcpdvrilV [te-rcayEkvc t 0vvxa c&axi ~ictt]qPpov'cn t lEttyFypct[Jtvc
40 F. Lasserre (in a review of E. Lobel and D. Page's Poetarum Lesbiorum Fragmenta
[Oxford 1955] and D. Page's Sappho and Alcaeus [Oxford 1955] in AC 24 [1955] 470);

Treu 167-168; Kirkwood 265 n. 65.

41 Even some contradictory arguments in Page's reconstruction have passed unnoticed:

compare, for example, Page's contention that, concerning the meter of the nine last incip-

its, the evidence does not exclude 3 cho ba, with his remark that it is not easy to understand why fr. 128, the first line of a poem composed in the same meter, was not included
in his reconstructed register of the first lines of the poems of book 8 (Page 118 n. 1).
42 See mainly the first chapter of his book, pages 18-35.

43 Cf. also Treu and Kirkwood (above, n. 40).

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190 Dimitrios Yatromanolakis

CIl iT 8 ctpocOiCOI ]oo])] pupOx] o io KW P3 [t]lto[v KX~ KcXXLtov

'xo0oC OKtax trv] .Tp6ncovy t[outj]gEcov .k[ao^ov (lines 14 ff.)44

This is indeed a brave effort, but rather ill-founded. A re-examination

of the original papyrus shows that what Lasserre read from wellproduced photographs is far from true. Most of his readings are
speculative,45 especially in the crucial line 14, where the letter C as

deciphered by Lasserre (EiS eTi ~8iv] oa r(cov) pX[. ]) seems highly

improbable;46 moreover, his idea about the supreme choral hymenaeal

song composed by Sappho (further discussed in his chapter 2) is hardly
provable. All the same, aside from its various shortcomings, Lasserre's
theory may serve as a starting point for our discussion.
That the eighth book of the Alexandrian edition of Sappho should

have been so short (131-139 lines, as Page thought), while the first
book is known to have consisted of 1320 lines, that is, 330 Sapphic
stanzas, appears to be a far-fetched assumption chiefly for two reasons:
the claim is not born out by the surviving text of the papyrus, and a
book of such length would be intolerably short compared to the capacity of an ordinary papyrus roll (c. 1300-1500 lines).47 Besides, given
the small number of the incipits, one can form another, more probable,
view about the general nature of the fragment, that is, that it represents

a collection of some incipits of Sapphic songs.48 Along these lines,

44 Lasserre provides the following translation of his reconstruction: "<Commentaire au

livre VIII des> Chants <de Sappho>. Furent 6crits, au total, xxxx vers, et 10 odes. Et de
chacune, voici le premier vers. [ ...... ] <Commentaire h 1' ode> 1, de 13(0) vers. <Cette
ode n' a pas de titre. En revanche, les neuf qui ont 6t6 plac6es> apres la premiere lui font
suite sous le titre "Epithalames". <Cette ode a 6t6 plac6e en tete> du livre parce qu' elle
est et meilleure <et plus belle,> quant au style, que tous les autres poemes." (pages 20,
24, and 26).
45 For example, in line 1, apart from ]. [(.) ] .0 [, nothing is visible. In line 20 all that

Lasserre reports is uncertain (Lobel read ]pont... [..].e. [, but ]port.... [..]..e. [ may

not be excluded).

46 I agree with Lobel and Page, who read either i. or ! but, as far as I can see in the

original, 11 seems more likely than t.

47 One might argue that such a short book could only stand as an appendix to a previ-

ous one. For details about the number of lines that can fit into a papyrus roll, see
J. Irigoin, Histoire du texte de Pindare (Paris 1952) 38-40, and J. Van Sickle, "The Bookroll and Some Conventions of the Poetic Book," Arethusa 13 (1980) 7-16.
48 Gallavotti and Treu raised this question. Gallavotti (165) is, however, sceptical about
the authenticity of the poems collected: "Ma e strano che quei dieci versi non ci arrechino
una parola o un' immagine nuova, che non conoscessimo gid da altri frammenti di Saffo;

questa coincidenza di usuale frasario, proprio all' inizio di dieci odi, mi fa dubitare se,

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Alexandrian Sappho Revisited 191

Treu has argued that the fragment refers to "eine Liederauswahl ...
die fUir die Feier eines Hochzeitsfestes geeignet sein k6nnte."49 This

suggestion certainly presupposes that the original collection of ten

songs later became the subject of critical commentary, as our papyrus

shows. There would be no reason to dissent from Treu's inventive inter-

pretation-which, if accepted, would hold much importance for the

transmission of Sappho's songs-were it not vunerable to the objection
that it is difficult to argue convincingly that all the included incipits
belonged to wedding songs.

Nevertheless, we now have some evidence-again from papyriwhich could favor such a "performative" understanding of the possible
function of incipits-lists of lyric poems. Fr. S 286 SLG (= P.Mich. inv.
3498r) is such a list, containing about twenty-eight first lines of songs
by Sappho, Alcaeus, and Anacreon. Its first editor, R. Merkelbach,50
identified several of them with fragments already known, but provided
no explanation of the reason why all these incipits were being collected
together.51 This is not the place, however, to pursue this issue further.52
What is presently of interest for us is that Sappho fr. 103 most probably
represents a collection of incipits of Sapphic poems, and not a table of
contents of Book 8. More importantly, since, as far as one can tell from
the papyrus, in line 14 fi is a more likely reading than T and a repetition
of the number of poems collected (i.e., 6b&xi] r) sounds redundant (cf. 1.

3 ]. 8E (6'ia) K(ai ) KatI~i;g 6 (np(orog) [), I would tentatively read

lines 14-17 in the following way:

piuttosto che una scelta delle odi piui belle, non sia l'indice di poesie da ritenere spurie nel

libro degli Epitalami, o nel precedente"; Treu (168-169) rightly does not share
Gallavotti's scepticism.
49 Treu 168. Treu opts for t in line 14. See, however, n. 46 above.

50 "Verzeichnis von Gedichtanf'ingen," ZPE 12 (1973) 86.

51 Recently P. J. Parsons edited an important list of epigrams (P.Oxy. LIV 3724),
mostly by Philodemus, whose overall subject is erotic as well as sympotic ("[P.Oxy.]
3724. List of Epigrams," in The Oxyrhynchus Papyri 54 [London 1987] 65-82). Parsons
(65-66) refers to all the other similar lists known so far (our fragment included), that is,

Suppl. Hell. 976 (ii BC) and the extensive one P.Vindob. G 40611 (iii BC). The function
at least of P.Oxy. LIV 3724 might be different from that of fr. S 286 SLG, since, as Par-

sons believes, P.Oxy. 3724 looks like the working papers of an intended anthology of
erotic and sympotic epigrams (p. 68).
52 I hope to discuss this possibility in detail elsewhere.

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192 Dimitrios Yatromanolakis

14 uo~0] .1 orix(or) PX[ ]

15 7c'cot xi (c8i] jct't& i] v Tcp'trijv [61iOItdlE16 rpoi53 ElOt(?) Kcai] ppovCrat i Entycypc[Yjitvcat

17 Wa o{rS; -inOiXa gg54

This reconstruction would seem plausible,55 especially in view of D.H.

Rh. 4.1, p. 270 Us.-Rad., where there appears a possible reference not
to a book entitled "Epithalamia," but to odes called epithalamian (rtv&

0W Xo{om
ici napxpx
mapicfpo t-ii xSa().
i;a8; a6XU;
In such
a case, the incipits
provided by the papyrus would appear to be selected from Book 8.56
Needless to say, the possible existence of a collection of Sapphic poems
that occurs in a second century papyrus supports our initial argument
about the circulation-public or private---of several "editions" of Sappho in later antiquity.57

53 I.e., 3 cho ba (cf. Page 118 n. 1). Note that Voigt's metrical analysis, as it stands, can
lead to various misunderstandings, and should have been preferably reserved for her
fontes fragmentorum apparatus (= TEST). For example, when suggesting that the first
line of fr. 103 V may be gl2c or ^hipp2c, Voigt (partly influenced by Treu's views) presup-

poses that a supplement such as Lobel's &e]aare--perhaps along with Treu's viv at the
beginning of the line-should be considered very likely. Contiades-Tsitsoni takes Voigt's
metrical indications for granted, and thus believes (90-91) that the incipits of fr. 103 V
come from different books of the Alexandrian edition of Sappho.
54 "from book eight, 13(0) lines; all the odes after the first are in the same meter (?),
and are transmitted under the title 'epithalamia'."
55 Page's argument that the horizontal strokes below and above the end of the word

iat0ea]Xitcta and the position of the word in mid-column, indicate that this is a new
heading, is not based on firm evidence from papyri (Page oddly deemed his argument
"evidence" [118]). Parsons is rightly cautious in not excluding any possibility about the
function of the word "epithalamia" (in Contiades-Tsitsoni 74-75). Despite the fact there
is no systematic collection of evidence, I wonder whether there can ever be any observable uniformity of scribal or scholarly habit in this kind of matter, where observation can

be both helpful and misleading (cf. Parsons, op. cit.).

56 For a recent, interesting discussion of the possible subject-matter of these incipits,
see Contiades-Tsitsoni 75-90.

57 Even if a construction such as `6xai] in 1. 14 were considered possible (but see

above, for some objections), this would not alter my general arguments about both the
function of Sappho fr. 103 and the parallel existence of collections of Sappho's poems
along with the scholarly Alexandrian edition.

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Alexandrian Sappho Revisited 193


To sum up, the whole argument for the existence of a separate book

inscribed 'EntaOoX6jctta rests only on Servius' comment on Virgil

Georg. 1.31, the significance of which is elusive.58 In this connection, it

seems noteworthy that Dionysius of Halicarnassus, and also perhaps

Sappho fr. 103, refers to "odes entitled epithalamia" (intiah(citot

oijto ~ntypcapgEvat 68'ai [D.H. Rh. 4.1], and ... pEpovrtat intyEypc[ggivat I Kca o tro;- icnt0ca]jX6t [fr. 103.16-17],59 as tenta-

tively reconstructed above); a possible interpretation would be that only

certain odes were classified as "epithalamia," rather than an entire

book. It should also be pointed out that the two purported Alexandrian

principles of arranging the epithalamian odes-namely, by including

some of these odes at the end of metrically homogeneous books and by
grouping all the rest together in a separate book60-is just an interpretative model which remains problematic. The expression "miscellaneous
remainder" applied by Page to those epithalamian poems whose meter,
in his view, did not permit their inclusion in-or being appended toother books, runs counter to the basic fact that, since we know either
nothing or very little about the metrical structures of books six, seven,

and eight, we cannot be certain whether a number of Page's epithalamian "remainders" were not actually included there.

One may wonder why there should be only epithalamian poemsand not non-epithalamian ones as well-which did not metrically fit in
the other books and were separately put in the "miscellaneous remain-

der" category. Generally, it would appear b- -jectionable that an

Alexandrian book entitled Epithalamia should have collected all the
existing wedding songs; and, inasmuch as it is virtually certain that

some epithalamians were added at the end of at least Book 1,61 the
58 It is perhaps not accidental that Edmonds interpreted it in the following way:
"Servius used an edition in which the Epithalamia formed a book to themselves" (9).
Kirkwood has independently suggested that "[t]here is evidence that in some edition a
book was entitled Epithalamia, but it may have been in an edition where arrangement
was throughout by type rather than meter" (p. 103). Both Edmonds and Kirkwood are
thinking of a non-Alexandrian edition.
59 For the use of qpperat in the sense "it is transmitted," see the survey of I. C. Ruther-

ford in his "For the Aeginetans to Aiakos a Prosodion: An Unnoticed Title at Pindar,
Paean 6, 123, and its Significance for the Poem," ZPE 18 (1997) 9-12.
60 See above, p. 188.
61 Cf. n. 6.

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194 Dimitrios Yatromanolakis

"first" principle of arrangement seems unquestionable. Page and others

do not explain what the reasoning behind the arrangement of a book
under the title "Epithalamia" that included a part (even if a considerable one) of the epithalamian odes might have been. The old distinction

between the "normal" and "abnormal" fragments of Sappho cannot

constitute such a factor;62 and even the metrical structure of some of the

so-called "abnormal" epithalamians is not very different from that of

the fragments of other books.

My discussion so far suggests that the established view that the

Alexandrian edition of Sappho's poetic corpus included nine books
must be considered indefensible. As I have already mentioned, Tullius
Laurea may arguably be referring to a contemporary "collected poems"
edition, devised in such a way as to include poems allegedly attributed
to Sappho, or he may be counting the latter poems as an extra book. I
would tentatively suggest another resolution, which would accommodate all the existing, fragmented evidence. The largest (or a large?) part

of Book 8-the last book of the edition produced by the Alexandrians--contained wedding songs (that would be in accordance with Sappho fr. 103, as reconstructed above). This part was later extracted from
the original book for performative or other (e.g., scholarly)63 purposes.
While the eighth book of the Alexandrians was available as originally
arranged, perhaps by the first century B.C. another collection of epi-

thalamian songs was also circulated under the general title 'Ent-

In thetomeantime
and possibly
other compositions,
Sappho, thus
to the formation
of another
book unit, which gradually came to be considered Sapphic.
As I noted earlier, we cannot be sure whether there was only one
edition in circulation throughout the Hellenistic age and late antiquity.
Even at the time of Aristophanes of Byzantium and Aristarchus there
may have been more than one edition or collection available to the public. When the well-versed metrician Hephaestion speaks in the second

century A.D. about stanza forms in Sappho, he uses the phrase Ev toig
tnahc toiX g &vxrtypdcpot;, which perhaps alludes to early collections of
62 Among others, Hooker (39-55) and A. M. Bowie (The Poetic Dialect of Sappho and

Alcaeus [Salem, NH 1981]) have seriously challenged this distinction, which was
defended by Lobel (xxv-xxvii; see also his 'A2ai'ov pd. The Fragments of the Lyrical

Poems of Alcaeus [Oxford 1927] ix-xviii) and was much favored by Page.

63 Himerius (who often refers to Sappho) appears to be alluding only to her epithalamian songs.

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Alexandrian Sappho Revisited 195

Sapphic poetry that were still extant in his day.64 And further back in
time, it would not seem unlikely that Aristotle had access to one of the

very early collections when he quoted Sappho and Alcaeus.65


64 Heph. Poem. 1.2, p. 63 Consbruch = Sappho T 228 V.

65 For the possible existence of Athenian "editions" of Sappho, see Edmonds 9-12,
Lobel xiii-xiv, G. M. Boilling, "Textual Notes on the Lesbian Poets," AJP 82 (1961) 152,
Hooker 11, and Lasserre 29-30. E. Pohlmann believes that the preservation of Sappho's
poems was partly due to old Lesbian collections of them (Einfiihrung in die Oberlieferungsgeschichte und die Textkritik der antiken Literatur 1: Altertum [Darmstadt 1994] 15).

* It was only during the page proofs of this article that I came across a review of
F Lasserre's Sappho by G. Liberman (RPh ser. 3, 63 (1989) 229-237). In a brief "Note
additionelle" (p. 237), Liberman offered the following view in regard to Sappho fr. 103:
"[1]es dix incipit presentes comme appartenant au livre VIII sont la premiere partie de ce
livre; la seconde partie, quantitativement la plus importante, est regroupee sous le titre

itt0a]XAjtta. De la le fait que deux temoignages (cf. Page, Sappho and Alcaeus,

p. 112s.) donnent 'a cette meme collection 9 livres, cependant qu' aucun temoignage ne
mentionne un livre IX et que le fragment bibliographique laisserait supposer que le livre
VIII comprenait les tpithalames et 6tait donc bien le dernier de la collection sapphique

[...]: le groupe design6 par int0aMtjta a 6t6 consider6 comme independant (cf.

Servius ... )." Liberman did not develop or elaborate his thought further, but I am glad to
see that he too questions the belief in a nine-book division of the Alexandrian edition of
Sappho's poetry.

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Minat Terkait