Interpreting a Classic: Demosthenes and His Ancient Commentators

Interpreting a Classic: Demosthenes and His Ancient Commentators

Interpreting a Classic: Demosthenes and His Ancient Commentators

Interpreting a Classic: Demosthenes and His Ancient Commentators


"Craig Gibson's "Interpreting a Classic, starting from the papyrus fragments of Didymus on Demosthenes' Fourth Philippie, shows just how rewarding such recondite material can be. In Gibson's hands old-fashioned philological "Wissenschaft becomes the high-level instrument for a beautifully argued step-by-step detective investigation (complete with translation and his own commentary) of one strand in the ancient academic pursuit of truth. As Gibson says, 'At stake was nothing less than the correct interpretation of a classic, ' and this has clearly been his own guiding principle too. I cannot think of another book on so recherche a topic that so successfully combines meticulous scholarship with clarity, elegance of exposition, and an infectious enthusiasm for solving recalcitrant textual problems."--Peter Green, author of "Alexander to Actium: The Historical Evolution of the Hellenistic Age

"Desmosthenes was '"the orator, ' in the view of subsequent writers, and reading his speeches was a part ofeducation and culture for the rest of antiquity. But ancient readers, like modern ones, needed help to interpret and situate these speeches, which were intended for an audience who knew the issues, the circumstances, and the langauge. The result was commentaries, philological and historical, designed for readers of Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine times...In "Interpreting a Classic, Gibson brings this material together and uses it to write the history of an important episode of reading the classics..."Interpreting a Classic makes a significant contribution to our understanding of scholarship in antiquity and of ancient readers."--Kent Rigsby, Professor of Classics at Duke University and editorof the journal "Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies


This is a book about ancient writers and readers who shared an interest in the orations of the Athenian statesman Demosthenes. There has been no full modern discussion of the nature of this branch of the ancient reception of Demosthenes; it is a story that has been told only in part and with various aims. In addition, the texts themselves have never been assembled in one place, translated into a modern language, and provided with explanatory notes. This book is intended to address these gaps in the scholarship.

Part I consists of three chapters. Chapter 1 describes the physical form of the commentaries and discusses their transmission. A diachronic history of their transmission would have been preferable, but the fragmentary nature of our evidence and the lack of securely known names, dates, and cultural contexts for the commentators make that a difficult if not impossible project. Therefore, the chapter is largely descriptive, relying on a series of illustrative snapshots from a rich history of ancient responses to Demosthenes. Chapter 2 considers the role of Didymus and the sources, agenda, and readership of the commentaries. Chapter 3 argues that Didymus's On Demosthenes (P.Berol.inv. 9780) may be a series of excerpts from a lost original commentary, made by someone with interests primarily in classical Athenian history.

Part II presents the ancient philological and historical commentaries on Demosthenes, together with their Greek texts (except that of the lengthy P.Berol.inv. 9780) and detailed notes. The translations are intended . . .

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