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Durham University

Department of Classics and Ancient History

Staff

Publication details for Prof. Barbara Graziosi

Graziosi, Barbara & Haubold, Johannes (2015). 'The Homeric Text'. Ramus 44(1-2): 5-28.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

Two major editions of the Iliad appeared at the end of the twentieth century: Helmut van Thiel's for Olms (1996), and Martin West's for Teubner (1998-2000). They are radically different in their methodological assumptions, and hence in the texts they offer. Helmut van Thiel trusts the direct transmission, i.e. the best medieval manuscripts. He takes the position that ancient variants reported in the Homeric scholia are usually ‘suggestions’ of ancient scholars (for example Zenodotus) ‘towards the improvement of the text, or…deliberations about it’, and that they are therefore of little significance when constituting the text. He also insists that modern editors not indulge in conjectures of their own. What they should do, rather, is represent the medieval transmission as faithfully as possible. He concedes that this is a modest aim, but one which he considers appropriate, given what can and cannot be known about the Homeric text. According to him, ‘laurels in textual criticism are not to be won from the text of Homer’. Martin West would surely disagree: his edition offers a dazzling display of editorial ambition. He does not trust the medieval manuscripts, and sees his task as that of exposing and mending their shortcomings. In order to restore what he thinks was the original wording of the Homeric text, West makes use of weakly attested ancient variants; and, above all, employs his own critical acumen to weed out corruption and modernisation.