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This issue's letters and comments.


I am loath to point to a textual error in his otherwise excellent article, but Pat Smith’s translation of Propertius 4.9.57 does not match the text he quotes.

Mr. Smith quotes the text as magno Tiresias aspexit Pallada vates. This is indeed the standard text of Propertius, adopted ad loc. by Heyworth in the current Oxford edition (2007), by Barber in the previous Oxford edition (rev. ed. 1960), by Fedeli in the Teubner (1984), and by Goold in the Loeb (rev. ed. 1999). It does not, however, mean “the seer Tiresias beheld the great Pallas”: In the Latin, magno is not an adjective modifying Pallada, with which it agrees in neither case nor gender, but an ablative of price: magno (sc. pretio), “at great cost.” Thus Goold’s Loeb translation: “At great cost did the seer Tiresias set eyes on Pallas.”

Whence “the great Pallas,” then? It seems to me that this is not so much a fault of Latinity on the part of the author, but rather an instance of the confusion of textual variants.

The textual variant magno has won the favor of most modern editors because it more closely approximates the sense of the parallel line of Callimachus’s “Bath of Pallas,” (Hymns 5.102: μισθῶ τοῦτον ἰδεῖν μεγάλω, “this man sees [the god] at a great price”). But this is not the text of the line transmitted by the MSS of Propertius. Rather, magno is attested first in the 1608 edition of Jean Passerat and subsequently in the 1618 edition of Jan Gebhard. (Noted variously by modern editors: Barber and Fedeli ascribe the correction to codd. Passeratii et Gebhardi; Heyworth assigns the siglum ς, commonly used to indicate Renaissanceera conjectures of ambiguous authorship.)

If we consult the manuscripts, we see that the archetype in fact had magnam… Pallada in this verse—that is, “great Pallas,” as in Mr. Smith’s translation. It is likely that this would have been the text of Propertius known to Politian, and it was the text that he himself adopted in his Miscellanies: the I Tatti edition of Politian by Dyck & Cottrell quotes the couplet with the reading magnam at the beginning of Miscellany 80 and translates it accordingly, “great Pallas.”

It seems that Mr. Smith mistakenly adopted one version of the text (with magno) from the standard critical editions of Propertius while basing his translation on the other (with magnam, as is found in the manuscript tradition and in the I Tatti edition of Politian). Such confusions of variants are not unheard of—indeed, a glance through modern editions and translations of the Classics shows that they are sometimes made by even the greatest of textual critics.

None of this should this detract from the virtues of Mr. Smith’s essay, which offers much insight to philologists and jurists alike. Smith’s reading of the Miscellanies invites us to restore the political to a place of prominence in Politian’s thought—a challenge to the school of thought which would divorce Politian’s philological scholarship from the more civic humanism of previous generations.

Politian thus stands as a rebuke to the scholars of our own time. His talents as a writer and poet are sorely lacking in the academic humanities and in legal writing today, and work in both fields suffers from endemic hyper-specialization. Smith rightly offers Politian as a model for the unity of philology and jurisprudence—one might say the harmony of pen and sword.

Yours faithfully,
Flavius Clemens Grammaticus

The author replies:

Patrick Smith

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