Zenodotus in his own words? On the nature of the Zenodotean ΕΚΔΟΣΙΣ of Homer’s Iliad
Place of Publication
Table of Contents
Long after their initial composition, the texts of the Iliad and Odyssey of Homer were characterized by an enduring cycle of textual fixity and plasticity. As witnessed by the ―wild‖ papyri of Egypt and the marginalia of medieval manuscripts, these dynamics extended beyond the Hellenistic Age in both lay and scholarly circles. One of the most seminal figures in the scholarly reception and transmission of Homer was Zenodotus of Ephesus, the first head of the Library of Alexander and the first corrector (δζμνεςηὴξ) of these texts. While his work of correction and the editions which he produced remain markedly nebulous, a good deal of information has been passed on to posterity by way of later scholars (most notably Aristarchus of Samothrace) who were familiar with, and responded to, Zenodotus‘ editions. However, the impression left by these critics and their actual testimony of Zenodotean readings are problematized by their own scholarly biases and agenda and by the somewhat arbitrary and inconsistent nature of the preservation and transmission of Homeric criticism in general. An attempt to reconstruct the Zenodotean critical program and the editions he produced depends first on deciphering the scholia which refer to Zenodotus (in the case of the Iliad, especially those populating the Venetus A manuscript). An exploration of Zenodotus‘ edition of the Iliad begs the question of what form his recension took and what information was transmitted in or alongside it. While it remains unclear whether Zenodotus himself composed an autograph text or produced a commentary to accompany his edition, it is evident that scholars of antiquity had (or believed themselves to have) at their disposal a significant number of his critical and interpretive comments inaccessible to us today. This did not prevent the same scholars from conjecturing explanations for a Zenodotean variant or from otherwise misrepresenting Zenodotus‘ views on the text. Thus, in order to reconstruct Zenodotus‘ edition we must compensate for the imperfect, often unbalanced, nature of his text as reported in the scholia and critically examine the potentially inaccurate and polemical comments of his later critics. A close reading of the scholia alluding to Zenodotus‘ work yields a complex, if incomplete, picture of his critical program which suggests that his disparate, sometimes inconsistent, critical choices stemmed from a more coherent methodological approach to Homer than one might expect. While Zenodotus‘ editorial decisions may have troubled the sensibilities of many ancient and modern scholars alike, it is clear that his reading of Homer was much more sophisticated than most previous appraisals would suggest; upon further inspection readings and interpretations of Zenodotus which are frequently dismissed as ignorant or absurd prove more ambiguous and/or more subtle than first thought. Through his correction of the text Zenodotus was attempting to fashion an idealized, consistent Homer as author, an end which the Homeric epics‘ tortuous history of production, performance, and transmission made impracticable. This point is further driven home by a thorough analysis, presented as a translation and commentary, of those scholia, specific to Book One of the Iliad, relating to Zenodotus‘ edition.