Department of Classics
410 Blegen Library
PO Box 210226
Cincinnati, OH 45221-0226
Phone | (513) 556-3050
Fax | (513) 556-4366
In the past few years UC Classics has been well represented at the Archaeological Institute of America/American Philological Association (AIA/APA) conference each winter. This year we will have twelve speakers from UC Classics presenting their scholarship.
Natalie Abell: "Establishing a Middle Ground: Social Practice and Intercultural Interaction at Bronze Age Ayia Irini, Kea, Greece"
Recent studies of interaction in the Middle and Late Bronze Age (MBA-LBA) Cyclades have been primarily concerned with explaining the hows and whys of “Minoanization,” the process by which Cycladic islanders adopted aspects of Cretan culture. Although such studies have become increasingly theoretically sophisticated, culture change in the Bronze Age Cyclades is still often viewed as the result of unilateral action or influence from Crete, while diachronic analyses that emphasize variation between Cycladic communities are rare. This paper takes a different perspective, focusing on changes in both Minoanizing and non-Minoanizing ceramic production and consumption patterns at Ayia Irini on the island of Kea.
During the MBA and earlier LBA, Ayia Irini was a major exchange hub that linked culturally distinct regions – the Cyclades, Crete, and mainland Greece. An analysis of changes in ceramics in use at Ayia Irini during this period suggests a complex picture of interaction and influence. Minoanizing pottery and technology were employed at Ayia Irini already in the earlier MBA, a period usually considered to precede Minoanization. During the height of Minoanization, Keian potters continued to manufacture non-Minoanizing vessels, while both Minoanizing and non-Minoanizing ceramics were imported from the Cyclades and mainland Greece. Ultimately, the local repertoire of drinking and eating vessels, although partially Minoanized, was in no period wholly comparable to Cretan or other Cycladic assemblages. It is argued that the idiosyncrasies of the Keian ceramic repertoire were not merely an inevitable consequence of the geographical situation of the site at the intersection of regional exchange networks. Rather, it is suggested that Ayia Irini was a kind of middle ground, where people from different cultural backgrounds were able to join in notionally shared drinking and eating practices and, perhaps, associated values. Participation in such events would have served to reinforce social bonds and to promote trade between locals and non-locals. The adoption of Cretan ways of doing things at Ayia Irini, when situated in this context, may be viewed not just as a reaction to growing Cretan cultural or political power, but as part of active Keian strategies to promote interaction with Cycladic islanders and mainlanders as well.
Mitchell Brown: "Who Sees? A Narratological Approach to Propertius 3.6"
Propertius’ Elegy 3.6 has been a source of puzzlement and controversy among Classicists for centuries due to complications in the manuscript tradition and the complicated voice of the narrator. I intend to support an older reading of the poem that has fallen out of style in the last few decades using a narratological approach.
The first 14 lines of the poem are clearly in the voice of the narrator, who is questioning his slave Lygdamus about the scene inside his mistress’s house. The controversy begins at line 15, where there are more remarks about the mistress and then a long quotation of her from lines 19-34. Lines 15-18, which introduce the quotation, and thus also lines 19-34, could be uttered by either the narrator or the slave Lygdamus. Philimore, in his 1907 text, prints lines 15-18 as questions, indicating that the lover is still the speaker and that the lines (including the quotation) are repetitions of information that the Lygdamus has just reported. This view was later supported and defended by Camps and Richardson later in the 20th century. Reitzenstein also believes that the lover does not yield the floor to the slave, but theorizes that the quotation of the mistress (19-34) should be taken as imagined by the lover rather than a repetition of what Lygdamus just reported. Butrica has found both of these views to unsatisfactory and has argued that in fact Lygdamus interrupts and begins speaking in line 15. Thus the speech from of the mistress is being quoted by a witness and the entire poem is a dialogue between the lover and his slave. Finally, Kathleen McCarthy, in a 2010 article, accounts for this change in tone with a theory that at line 15 the narrative voice changes from the lover who is present in the story to the omniscient narrator who is withdrawn from the world of the poem.
My goal is not add another interpretation to the mix, but to defend an old one in a new way. Since the controversy of 3.6 revolves around the question of who is relating the information, a systematic narratological approach is necessary. Up to this point, two different debates about the poem have been lumped into one. By applying the narratological theories of both Gérad Genette and Mieke Bal, I will separately answer the questions of “who sees” and “who speaks” in 3.6 and trace the paths of both focalization and narration within the poem. With this approach, I intend to show that Reitzenstein’s idea that the lover is speaking the whole time and is imagining the scene inside his mistress’s house, rather than repeating the report of Lygdamus, is the correct reading. In the transition from lines 14 to 15, I argue for no change in narration but a change in focalization. For the first 14 lines, the lover has been asking Lygdamus questions about his mistress and thus has focalized on her and her house through the slave. Lygdamus is the object focalized on the first level, but also the focalizer of events inside the house on the second level. Up to line 14, the lover sees the events inside the mistress’s house through his slave’s eyes. At line 15 there is a noticeable change in style. Butrica has rightly pointed out that, rather than the choppy and short questions of lines 9-14, the next four lines feature balance and enjambment. Since a change in speaker is awkward and unlikely here, the only plausible explanation is a change in focalization. The lover is no longer seeing his mistress’s activities through Lygdamus’ eyes and instead imagines the scene and her ensuing speech according to his own wishes. He fantasizes that his mistress is obsessive about him and jealous, putting himself in a position of power. 3.6 is not about the lover’s success in resolving the quarrel, but rather his delusion in thinking that his mistress is as hurt by their split as he is.
Emily Egan: "Even Better Than the Real Thing: Hybrids and Painted Floors at the Palace of Nestor "
For over a century, the painted plaster floors of Mycenaean palatial megara have been a subject of scholarly interest. First discovered at Tiryns by Schliemann and Dörpfeld, and subsequently uncovered at Mycenae by Tsountas and at Pylos by Blegen and Rawson, these floors are remarkably uniform, each having been painted with a large grid composed of squares embellished with intricate patterns and motifs. Given these formal similarities, considerable debate has ensued over how the paintings should be interpreted, and more specifically, over what type of floor covering they were meant to represent: carpets or cut stone? This paper re-visits this unresolved question with regard to the well-preserved, yet enigmatic painted floors from the megaron at the Palace of Nestor at Pylos. Using new evidence gleaned from close examination of the painted patterns and of the techniques employed by the Pylian artists, it is argued that the paintings on these particular floors, rather than attempting to imitate realistic surface treatments constructed from a single material, were instead deliberately designed to emulate a variety of materials simultaneously, creating fantastic, hybrid surfaces that would have intensified the viewer’s visual experience in this important suite of rooms. This use of hybrids, which is not evident in the painted floors of the other palatial megara, showcases the ingenuity of the Pylian artists and offers a new lens through which the link between decoration and use of space at Pylos can be viewed.
Steven Ellis: "Explorations into the complexity of foodways of non-elite Roman urbanites"
Studies of Roman foodways have enormous potential to delineate variety and explore complexity in the standards of living for the full spectrum of the Roman social structure. And there can be no shortage of evidence. An abundance of information on Roman comestibles overflows from literature, epigraphy, art, and archaeology. Even so, studies on Roman food have arguably been limited to (albeit important, and complex) issues of large-scale trade, mass-production, ritualized dining, and the privileged consumption habits of the elite; healthy is our knowledge of shipwreck cargoes and granaries, and of luxurious public banquets and exclusive dinner parties with recipes for flamingoes and dormice. But what did the non-elite Roman urbanites eat? And what can we know of the systems – the infrastructure, from procurement to waste – of retailing in food and drink?
The University of Cincinnati’s excavations at Pompeii of a large, non-elite neighborhood (two city blocks: VIII.7 and I.1) are shedding new light on this field; here we have discovered a working-class district of modest houses, shops, workshops, and hospitality outlets. This unusual range of data – with 20 shops in total, most of which retailed in food and drink, and spanning multiple periods of habitation – produces very detailed information for the types of commodities the shops produced, imported, and sold, the fluctuations of their economic portfolios, and their competitive or contributive relationships to their (rival) neighbors. The excavation of their kitchens – particularly their waste pits and drains – demonstrates striking dissimilarities between one neighbor and the next in the quality and variety of food being consumed by the non-elite: for example, one restaurant retailed a patently fancier menu than the others, with a wider array of fruits, vegetables, cereals, and seafood, more and younger cuts of meat, and even delicacies (like dormice) and imported goods, including the extraordinary discovery of a butchered leg-joint of a giraffe (!). Some outcomes of this study are that the consumption habits of non-elites were of a higher standard than is often presumed, and interestingly varied between one neighbor and the next. The results help us to move beyond the banal and typically binary divisions that are so often cast between the rich and poor, as well as to demonstrate the complexity in non-elite diets and what this can contribute to our understanding of retail economies, urban infrastructures, and Roman foodways at large.
Allison Emmerson: “Finding the First Pompeii: Excavations into the Earliest Urban Activity at the Porta Stabia”
The development of pre-Roman Pompeii has been a topic of debate for over a century. Particular attention has been paid to the structure of the so-called “altstadt,” the area of irregular streets surrounding the forum on the southwestern side of the city, and more recently, to the growing number of finds of walls in pappamonte, a local tuff used exclusively during earliest urbanization. The pappamonte structures, which have been encountered across the Pompeian plateau and some of which presage the orientation of the Roman period city, have been dated to the 6th century B.C.E, during which time a defensive wall in the same material was erected along almost identical lines to the final city wall. This evidence challenges the traditional idea that Pompeii grew gradually north and east from the altstadt to reach its final form.
The research activities of the Pompeii Archaeological Research Project: Porta Stabia (PARP:PS) can now shed significant light on Pompeii’s earliest urban development. The project, directed by Steven Ellis (University of Cincinnati), has excavated forty trenches over two neighboring insulae — I.1 and VIII.7 — which flanked the Porta Stabia and abutted the public zone of Pompeii’s two theaters. The results presented here for the first time remain preliminary, but indicate the original phases of development in this neighborhood and carry implications for the city as a whole. Notably, the discovery of a 6th century B.C.E. pappamonte structure flanking the first iteration of the via Stabiana further calls into question the altstadt theory. Moreover, the project has revealed that this structure was spoliated, with its pappamonte blocks reused, in a subsequent phase of construction in the 4th century B.C.E. The 5th-4th centuries B.C.E. have been seen as a period of substantial contraction or even complete abandonment of Pompeii, but the presence of such buildings suggests the duration of urban activity in this neighborhood and throughout the city. Structures lining the via Stabiana in the 4th century B.C.E. indicate the route’s continued or renewed use as a major thoroughfare connecting Pompeii to other urban centers in the southern Bay of Naples in a period prior to the rebirth of large-scale architectural projects.
Lauren Ginsberg: Panel Organizer for "After 69 CE: Epic and Civil War in Flavian Rome"
Roman literature’s fascination with civil war has become a fertile field of study. Over the past two decades, important groundwork has been laid for investigating the grotesque poetics and paradoxical narratives through which Rome confronted its strife-ridden tendencies. While literary responses to Pharsalus and Actium have attracted the most attention, recent interest in the civil wars of 69CE has prompted reconsiderations of the historiographical narratives of those wars. In addition, thanks in part to Boyle and Dominik’s landmark Flavian Rome, as well as to surging interest in imperial epic, the Flavian era and its literature are emerging as important fields of study in their own right. However, the theme of civil war in Flavian epic, despite its undeniable presence, has received comparatively little investigation.
From Statius’ fraternas acies to Valerius Flaccus’ Colchian civil war to Silius Italicus’ strife-ridden Saguntum episode, the prominence of civil war in Flavian epic is clear, whether inspired by Actium’s literary legacy, the rapid canonization of Lucan, or the historical crisis of 69CE. This Flavian poetic response to civil war deserves its own treatment as the next chapter in the study of Roman civil war literature, and the time is ripe for such an investigation. Our panel’s four papers, covering all three major Flavian epics, incorporate diverse approaches both to the literary strategies used to narrate civil war and to the shifting significance of writing about civil war after its brutal reemergence in 69CE. The following discussion will highlight complementary ways in which the papers engage with questions of central importance to the topic of civil war in Flavian epic.
Flavian epic's representation of civil war is inherently bound up in the era's reception of Lucan's Bellum Civile, from its pervasive imagery of cosmic disintegration and a universe at war with itself (Panelist#2) to Lucan’s role in reinvigorating the wars of the Republic as central to historical epic (Panelist#4). Furthermore, the transgressive nature of civil war is often symbolized by a focus on discrimina, whether the violation of natural boundaries (Panelist#2) or the blurring of conceptual distinctions central to a society's identity (Panelists#1&3). Similarly, civil war often confuses the differences between self and other, either as a state negotiates the difficulty of dividing itself into two (Panelist#1) or as one confronts an enemy eerily like oneself (Panelists#3&4).
The indistinguishability between oneself and one’s enemy also serves to problematize the nature of virtus in civil war, turning traditional acts of heroism into a cause for regret rather than praise (Panelists#1,3&4). Attempts to minimize the cost of human life, whether a leader's restraint of his furor-driven troops (Panelist#4) or an envoy’s attempts to negotiate terms of peace (Panelist#1), therefore become an alternative mode of heroism. This theme of amelioration took on particular significance for civil war narrative in the early Principate with Augustus' pax et princeps rhetoric, but the outbreak of civil war in 69CE reopens the question of a leader's participation in and ability to quell civil strife (Panelists#1,3&4). The trauma of civil war’s reemergence left its indelible mark on the literature that follows (Panelist#3). While several authors recognize that the upheaval of civil war offers an important opportunity for change (Panelists#2&4), whether or not that change is worth the crimes of civil war lingers as an open question throughout the Flavian era.
A brief introduction will situate the session within the wider context of Flavian epic and Roman civil-war narrative, and the session will conclude with a half hour of synoptic discussion, led by the moderators, that encourages panelists and audience members to delve further into these themes. There will, in addition, be a short question period following each paper. By examining the representation of civil war through the lens of Flavian epic, our panel pushes the boundaries of current studies in Flavian literature and offers a significant new contribution to the study of Roman literary representations of civil war, paving the way for future dialogue.
Kyle Helms: "Propertius and Ovid on Pompeii’s Walls: Elegiac Graffiti in Context"
As research on ancient graffiti presses forward, their complexity and diversity continues to impress. Among the graffiti preserved at Pompeii, the appearance of literary texts has not gone unnoticed (Gigante 1979, Milnor 2009), but research opportunities remain. This paper presents two case studies of Pompeian graffiti that preserve epigrams containing combinations and modifications of verses from Propertius and Ovid. Several contexts are crucial to understanding these graffiti: the context of the verses in their source texts, their physical contexts and nearby graffiti that interact with them (graffiti in dialogue: Benefiel 2010, 2011), and their typological context as graffiti, that is, as exhibiting characteristics found elsewhere in this medium, like playfulness (cf. Castrén 1972, Bagnall 2011: 7-26). This paper combines this contextual approach with other methodologies used in studying inscribed and literary epigram (Baumbach, Petrovic and Petrovic 2010, Bing 2009). I argue that these graffiti can reveal some of the ways that Pompeians read and interpreted elegy, used canonical elegy to create new poems, and interacted with one another on the city’s walls in a kind of learned play.
First, from the north wall of Pompeii’s Basilica come CIL 4.1893-1894. These graffiti contain two couplets, Ov. Am. 1.8.77-78 and Prop. 4.5.47-48, written in what appears to be the same hand and presented on the wall as a single text — a kind of elegiac pseudo-cento. The verses are not arbitrarily paired. In addition to the latter being the likely model of the former, both couplets derive from anti-amator speeches of scheming lenae, suggesting that Pompeians, like modern scholars (cf. Sara Myers 1999), read such passages as common generic units. Also intriguing is the presence of CIL 4.1895 nearby. While 1893-1894 preserve verses written to the detriment of amatores, 1895 preserves what seems to be a response drawn from Ovid’s Ars Amatoria (1.475-476), arguing that even obstinate women will eventually yield, like rocks to persistent water. Thus, these graffiti appear to be a literary case of the increasingly well- documented phenomenon of graffiti in dialogue.
The second case study considers CIL 4.1520, a graffito from an elite private residence, the Casa degli Scienziati (VI.14.43). This graffito, like 1893-1894, is also combination of Propertius and Ovid. Here, Prop. 1.1.5 is modified and combined with Ov. Am. 3.11b.35 to produce a new epigram, actually attested elsewhere at Pompeii (CIL 4.9847; cf. Kruschwitz 2006). 1520 also contains features similar to those of 1893-1894, including a correspondence in the contexts of their source texts, and an apparent literary playfulness. Additionally, the nearby CIL 4.1527 may be in dialogue with 1520, as it seems to correctly identify a prominent Virgilian instance of a motif present in 1520, namely, the amatory antithesis regarding the attractiveness of fair skin versus dark skin. In sum, as we continue to try to understand ancient graffiti, the elegies scratched into Pompeii’s walls have much to add to the conversation.
Joanne M.A. Murphy, Sharon R. Stocker, Jack L. Davis, and Lynne A. Schepartz: "Late Bronze Age Tombs at the Palace of Nestor, Pylos"
The aim of this paper is to present a detailed summary of the results of our recent reexamination of the Late Bronze Age tombs excavated in the area of the Palace of Nestor at Pylos by Carl W. Blegen: three tholoi, seven chamber tombs, and one cist grave. New light can now be shed on the chronology of the construction and use of each. The various tombs range in date from MH III/LH I to LH IIIC late, although it appears that the tholos tombs and chamber tombs were not used intensively at the same time. Grave goods point to more wealth being invested in burials during MH III/LH I to LH II, less in LH IIIA. Most non-ceramic imports in the tombs date to LH I – II; there are few ceramic imports with burials of any period. In LH IIIA at least three new chamber tombs and a cist grave were built. Instead of the earlier pattern, featuring burials in jars, the dead then were laid on the floor in extended or contracted positions. The presence of more drinking vessels in the tombs and dromoi point to a change from display and consumption of wealth to activities involving the living. In LH IIIB the numbers of tombs decreased, then increased slightly in LH IIIC. Analysis of the human bones verifies that the tombs contained fairly equal numbers of adult males and females, but that infants and other subadults are poorly represented. We infer from this that higher status Pylians made important social distinctions based on age.
The object of our study has been to examine burial customs in the context of social and political developments at the Palace at Nestor itself. We argue that innovations in burial ritual reflect changes that occurred in the course of the Late Helladic period in the way that power was defined and expressed in the community associated with these graves.
Kristina Neumann: "Using Google Earth to Visualize an Ancient City’s Influence: Roman Antioch"
Understanding how the relationship between a city and its region changed with incorporation into the Roman empire is a topic of rising importance within post-colonial scholarship, yet discussion on communities in the east has been greatly limited by the quality of the available textual and archaeological data. This paper proposes an alternative approach to traditional methodology through an examination of the Roman annexation of Antioch on the Orontes, an understudied city and the provincial capital in northern Syria. Instead of reattempting a synthesis of disparate historical data for Antioch or defaulting to a regional narrative of Syria, I have mapped the distribution of archaeological material related to the city through time and space with Google Earth in order to indicate changes in its political, economic and social relationships during the first three centuries of Roman control.
The materials used in this study are limited to coins minted at Antioch and found through excavation and in hoards across the Mediterranean, as well as all local and foreign coins recovered from Antioch itself dating from Antiochus III to late antiquity. This material is charted in Google Earth according to geographical location (origin and find spot), period, material, quantity and type of coin. The maps can be manipulated by each of these criteria, thereby revealing otherwise hidden patterns in artifact distribution. This data is then studied in more detail as compared to the entirety of the coin assemblage from individual sites and whole regions, with proper consideration for the vagaries of survival and historical context. Drawing upon the principle that coins did not circulate where the authority guaranteeing their value was not accepted, this paper focuses on the distribution of coins as proxy for ancient interaction. Previous scholars have undertaken similar projects, but none have applied the technology proposed here.
This research tool reveals an overall contraction of Antioch’s political authority with its incorporation into the Roman empire, but a continued and evolving influence in selected regions and cities of the east. The political disturbances of the third century C.E. once again altered the scope of Antioch’s authority, eventually accomplishing a greater integration of the city into the empire. Although every city is subject to its own unique circumstances, this case study demonstrates the potential of this method for better understanding intergovernmental relationships in the ancient world.
Emilia Oddo: "Do Sherds Speak by Themselves? The Case of the Neopalatial Assemblage from Myrtos-Pyrgos’ Cistern 2"
The role of pottery in archaeology is often limited by researchers to its stylistic analysis, with the aim of reconstructing a chronology essentially based on manu- facture with special reference to fabric, ware, and form. Although such an analysis is essential, pottery can offer much more than that. Its role in reconstructing the behavior of ancient societies must foremost be inferred through an analysis of its archaeological context, starting with stratigraphy. In turn, stratigraphy can rein- force, reject, or modify chronology based on style.
This paper aims to present in summary the assessment of the large and unpub- lished pottery assemblage dumped in Cistern 2 at the site of Myrtos-Pyrgos, Crete, during the Neopalatial period. The material in question has been affected by a postexcavation selection, one biased toward diagnostic fine decorated ware. How- ever, this has not limited the assemblage’s potential to contribute to the under- standing of its formation. The detailed examination of the cistern’s stratigraphy was the starting point in addressing the nature and circumstances of the deposi- tion of this dump. Pivotal to this analysis has been the identification of cross-joins (which were plotted on archaeological sections) and observations regarding wear on the sherds’ surfaces and breakage points. Both reveal a constant pattern of de- position throughout the cistern, which suggests that this assemblage was formed during a single depositional episode. As a result of this stratigraphical analysis, the originally proposed date for this assemblage is reconsidered.
Bice Peruzzi: "Central Apulian funerary practices and the creation of Peucetian identity between the 5th and 3rd century BCE"
The archaeology of Apulia has been an archaeology of tombs from its inception. Since the end of the 17th century, in fact, the spectacular Apulian red-figure vases (the Darius vase, for example) from the necropoleis of Ruvo, Ceglie, and Canosa have dominated scholarly discussion; thus, most of traditional archaeological literature has been focused on iconographic and stylistic issues, while broader analyses of Apulian funerary customs are still rare.
This paper, instead, applies a context-based approach to the study of burial practices in Apulia, using as case studies grave assemblages from Peucetia (central Apulia) dated between the 5th and the 3rd centuries BCE. The material culture of the tombs provides insights into ancient behaviors surrounding death and permits a reconstruction of the more ephemeral aspects of the funerary rituals. The data indicates that in Peucetia, the most poignant moment in the burial was the ritual at the tomb; this is illustrated, for example, in tomb decoration, such as the frieze of mourning women in the Tomb of the Dancers in Ruvo. Moreover, it appears that Peucetians devoted particular care to the display of the assemblages inside the tombs, with many artifacts hanging from iron nails along its sides, which could have been visible only during the brief period when the tomb was open. In contrast, no evidence of grave marker or “cult of the dead” survives, and many burials were displaced even within a few years from the interment. Peucetians have left no written records, and their settlements are scarcely excavated, thus their tomb culture is our best evidence on their worldview. Funerals were a locus for the survivors to communicate the deceased’s status, wealth, and adherence to prescribed social behaviors. Although the identity of the deceased could be manipulated during the funerary rituals for political or economic reasons, anthropological research has shown that extensive changes in burial practices usually correspond to periods of major social reorganization. Therefore, understanding how the Peucetians wanted to present themselves to their community at the moment of death is the starting point of any future study on the organization of Peucetian society.
John Ryan: “Hipparchus Philologus”
Hipparchus’ second century BC commentary on Aratus’s Phaenomena has been acknowledged as the earliest extant ancient commentary, and yet scholarship has neglected its value as a locus for early discussion of reading strategies that we find practiced in the later commentary tradition. Instead, the focus has been on its value for reconstructing the history of astronomical knowledge (Neugebauer 1975; Lloyd 1987; Evans 1998) and, most recently, the commentary’s function of establishing a method of “doing” and “writing” science (Tueller and Macfarlane 2009). Regarding the Phaenomena, which had acquired a reputation for astronomical accuracy and precision, Hipparchus targets not the poem itself, as is often assumed, but its readership: in criticizing how previous commentators read the poem as an astronomical treatise, his treatment of the Phaenomena amounts to a call for critical reading within the scientific community (1.1.3-7). In order to achieve his primary goal—the creation of a critical, strictly scientific Aratean commentary unconcerned with literary merit—Hipparchus must distinguish Aratus’ text and meaning from contemporary astronomical knowledge in the second century BC. I argue that he establishes two source texts written by Eudoxus of Cnidus in order to fix Aratus’ authorial intention independently of his own insight into celestial phenomena.
According to Hipparchus, the deceptive charm of Aratus’ poetry persuaded previous commentators to accept astronomical claims made in the Phaenomena (1.1.7). Accordingly, Aratus’ reputation for accuracy and precision became an editorial and interpretive tool (1.3.3). Focusing on the commentator Attalus of Rhodes as his primary target, Hipparchus criticizes both his procrustean interpretive strategy and his attempts to “save” Aratus’ astronomy through emendation and convenient selection of textual variants. Attalus assumes that the Phaenomena provides a precise, accurate account of the celestial phenomena, and edits and interprets accordingly. Denying this assumption, Hipparchus establishes Eudoxus’ works as source texts, with which he might access Aratus’ authorial intention (boulema). In order to demonstrate the relationship between Eudoxus’ and Aratus’ work, Hipparchus cites a series of parallels, in structure and in detail, marking common errors as particularly compelling evidence (1.2.1-22).
Hipparchus establishes Aratus’ text and meaning through philological means: He invokes manuscript tradition, internal parallels (think Homerum ex Homero) and technical terminology in the field of astronomy, all to establish a concrete text and meaning (e.g., 1.4.9) that can be checked against his own knowledge of phenomena based on astronomical observation (theoria). In cases where the author’s intention cannot be established in this way, Hipparchus appeals to his source text as a criterion for determining intention. Whereas Attalus determines what Aratus “wants” to say by what actually appears to happen in the sky (e.g., 2.2.42), Hipparchus establishes Aratus’ meaning as static and fixed, divorced from his own knowledge of celestial phenomena.
Hipparchus summarizes his point in one passage marking the transition between commentary on the Aratean tradition and his own model for astronomical precision (2.3.19-31). Attalus has interpreted Aratus’ doubt regarding the sign in which the belt of Perseus rises as evidence of Aratus’ precision and accuracy (or knowledge): Aratus, he claims, expresses doubt as to whether the belt rises in Bull or Ram in order to acknowledge observational complications in the matter. Hipparchus responds, however, that this is a nonsensical explanation of the text. Rather, Aratus’ doubt is an index of his ignorance and the disagreement of his two Eudoxean source texts. Thus Hipparchus simultaneously undermines Aratus’ reputation as an expert astronomer and exposes Attalus’ attempt to access Aratus’ intention through that very reputation. Hipparchus offers a more philologically sound method for determining authorial intent.
Hipparchus’s commentary constitutes early evidence for developing theories of the nature of texts in antiquity. Astronomical literature, on account of its phenomenological content, affords an opportunity for this sort of reflection on the nature of a text in a way that a fictional narrative like the Iliad does not.