“Work in Progress” colloquium
27 January 2023
The Centre hosts the following two talks:
1. Giulia Colli (Pisa), ‘How to Rewrite Greek Tragedy: Oedipus’ parting words in the end of Euripides’ Phoenician Women’
2. Enrico Prodi (UCL), ‘Commentary by excerpts: Didymus’
The talks will be chaired by Chiara Meccariello (Exeter).
Please register at this link (whether you are planning to attend in person or online): https://forms.gle/dARYUHzX1a9iA2EU9
1. Tragic endings are a very problematic issue, as our understanding of how ancient authors conceived the end of their plays rests on uncertain data and is likely to be influenced by our modern literary taste. In addition, final lines are often liable to textual corruption and omission. These objective limitations, together with the increasing awareness that the tragic texts have been widely interpolated by readers and actors, has led critics to question the authenticity of the extant endings. This critical trend has led radical intervention (e.g. Ritter expunged all of Sophocles’ endings), but tragic endings have been shown, beyond reasonable doubt, to be a favourite target of interpolators.
The finale of Euripides’ Phoenician Women has surely been tampered with additions and rewriting by ancient actors who wanted to create an intertextual as well as intervisual connection with the other famous plays by Sophocles on the Theban saga. Oedipus’ parting lines (1758-63) in particular are very similar to the last lines delivered by the chorus at the end of Oedipus the King (1523-30), which have also been suspected of interpolation. An investigation of the language, content, and dramaturgy of these closing lines will allow us to shed light on the agenda and poetics of interpolators, as well as on the relative chronology of these two texts. I will argue that Oedipus’ parting lines are likely to be the result of adaptation of Sophocles’ model to a new context, since they fit less into the dramatic action and show a systematic use of patchwork technique with less meaningful variation.
2. Didymus ‘Khalkenteros’ was one of the most prominent commentators of Greek texts in the late first century b.C. and early first a.D. Material from his commentaries survives in the scholia to many works of poetry, but a papyrus published in 1904 gives us a large chunk of a complete work: a commentary of Demosthenes. Almost half of the text consists of quotations, mostly from historical sources. The paper investigates Didymus’ use of, and explicit reflection on, excerpts.