Metrical Book-Summaries on Two Byzantine Manuscripts

Book 1 (“Alpha”) Summarized with one line of Greek in dactylic hexameter, on the Venetus A and the Escorialensis 4

Each Byzantine manuscript of the Homeric Iliad that the Homer Multitext has digitized represents a complex juxtaposition of many complementary texts. Each contains a text of the poem, in Greek, along with other texts that contain commentaries, summaries, biographies of Homer, or other additional materials. The editors of the HMT divide these texts into two categories: primary texts, which stand alone, and secondary texts, which refer explicitly to primary texts. The text of the Iliad is a primary text, of course, but so is a biography of Homer or a summary of another, lost epic poem such as the Ilioupersis (the “Sack of Troy”). The inter-linear scholia constitute a secondary text, because each note, or “scholion”, refers to a word, phrase, line or passage in the primary text.

One of the most interesting secondary texts that appears on several of these manuscripts is the collection of one-line summaries of each book of the Iliad, from Book 1 (“Alpha”), to Book 24 (“Omega”). After some thought, we have decided to consider these a secondary text, since they accompany and refer to the poetic text. Each of the summaries is written in Greek and in dactylic hexameter, the same poetic meter as the Iliad itself. With this posting on the Homer Multitext Blog, we are pleased to announce a publication of the metrical summaries from two manuscripts, the Venetus A (Marcianus Graecus Z.454 [=822]), and the Escorialensis 4 (Escorialensis ω.I.12 [513 = Allen E4]).


XML version (with stylesheet for in-browser display) HTML version Downloadable archive containing XML, stylesheets, and associated files.

This publication consists of an XML document that contains the following fields for each book-summary for each manuscript: a label a CITE-URN that identifies a region-of-interest on a digital image of a manuscript page the text of the metrical summary a translation of the metrical summary The CITE-URN is a canonical reference to a defined section of an image; these concise strings can be resolved to show the image data itself, which is exposed through the CITE Image Service.

Of the twenty-four pairs of summaries, no two are completely identical in every respect. The Venetus A and E4 follow different conventions for punctuation, for example. But eighteen of the twenty-four books are substantially similar from one manuscript to the next.

Six of the summaries have more significant differences in the texts preserved on the Venetus A and the E4.

For Book Γ (3), the two manuscript have:

Venetus A Text: γάμμα δ’ ἄρ. ἀφ’ Ἑλένης. οἴοις μόθος ἐστὶν ἀκοίταις· Translation: And then Gamma is from the point of view of Helen; the pitch of battle is only for husbands. Escorialensis 4 Text: γάμμα δ’ ἄρ’ ἀμφ’ Ἑλένηι· οἴοις μόθος ἐστὶν ἀκοίταις· Translation: And then Gamma is around Helen; the pitch of battle is only for husbands.

The one-letter difference between the prepositions ἀφ’ and ἀμφ’ is intentional, because the scribes used the correct case for the object-nouns (genitive in the VA and dative in the E4).

In both Books Δ (4) and Θ (8), the summaries consist of the book number (i.e. “Delta”, “Theta”), which serves as the grammatical subject of the sentence. In these two instances, the predicate of the sentence is either in the nominative or the accusative. We read the VA says that “Delta [contains] an assembly [accusative] of the gods,” while E4 says that “Delta [is] an assembly [nominative] of the gods.” Interestingly, in Book 8 this usage is reversed even though the words in 8 are the same as in 4, an “assembly of the gods” (ἀγορ- θεῶν): VA has “Theta [is] an assembly [nominative] of the gods,” and E4 has, “Theta [contains] an assembly [accusative] of the gods.”

The summaries for Book Ζ (6) are subtly different. We translate both of them: “And then Zeta is the fond discourse of both Andromache and Hektor.” The Greek for each is: VA - ζῆτα· δ ὰρ. Ἀνδρομάχης τὲ καὶ Ἕκτορός ἐστ’ ὁαριστύς· E4 - ζῆτα· δ’ ἄρ’ Ἀνδρομάχης καὶ Ἕκτορός ἐστι ὀαριστύς.

Venetus A · folio 89 verso The most obvious difference is in VA’s τὲ καὶ … ἐστ’, versus E4’s καὶ … ἐστι. The result is equally valid dactylic hexameter. More interesting is the presentation of the word ὀαριστύς on the Venetus A.

We see what looks like an intentional space between ὁ and αριστύς, but the scribe is meticulous about using breathings, so we conclude that he intended this to be one word. The word is, as we have translated it, ὀαριστύς, “fond discourse”. It should properly have a smooth-breathing, as it does on the E4, but the scribe of VA has written a very clear rough-breathing. Did the scribe, unfamiliar with this exclusively epic word, guess wrong at the (no longer pronounced in the 10th century) breathing?

In Book Η (7), between E4 and the Venetus A, the words translated here “one-on-one” are reverse: μόνος μόνωι (in E4) versus μόνωι μόνος (in the Venetus A). The two versions are equally correct, grammatically and metrically.

Taken together, these differences, while minor, do not seem to us likely to be attributed to “scribal error”. It seems more likely that we have two different presentations of traditional material, with its own tradition that includes a certain amount of variation. The differences in Books 4, 6, 7, and 8 might suggest that the scribes were not in fact looking at a written source, but knew this material – perhaps as aids to navigating the 24 books of the poem reduced to a jingle committed to memory. This is purely speculation.

Katie Phillips, a Sophomore at Furman University, is editing the metrical summaries on the Escorialensis 3, which we will look forward to adding to our publications, and to our analysis of this interesting secondary text on the Byzantine witnesses to the Iliad.

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