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M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

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M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby Ahab » Tue Jul 12, 2011 5:21 pm

Does anyone know what happened to West's edition of the Iliad? It doesn't appear to be available for purchase at any online site.
I know that there were some critical reviews of it when it was first published, but was it really so bad that it would go out of print so soon?
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby cb » Thu Jul 14, 2011 7:42 am

hi, it's definitely still for sale online as per usual, e.g. on amazon - don't search for "west iliad", search for "west ilias". cheers :)
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby Ahab » Thu Jul 14, 2011 12:48 pm

Thanks for the suggestion, but I have tried that.
Amazon itself does not carry it in stock. But it does indicate that the vol. I hardcover is available used for $296.99 from one 3rd party vendor.
While the paperback is listed as 'Out of print - limited availability'.

The vol. II hardcover is available for $774.03 (one in new condition and one used). There is also one used copy available for $2117.31!
The paperback is only availabe used from 6 vendors ranging in price from $19.95 to $124.80.

I should not have stated in my first post that West's edition is not at all availabe online. But it is becoming very scarce and I have not heard any news of a reprint soon appeaaring. :(
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby Ahab » Thu Jul 21, 2011 11:18 pm

Just a follow up for those who may be interested in West's edition.
I did manage to find a site that is still selling new copies. It is located here:
https://www.degruyter.com/cont/glob/neutralMbwEn.cfm?rc=36212.

Both volumes are available in paperback.

Nice to find out that I was mistaken in assuming it had gone completely out of print. :D
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby Scribo » Mon Jul 25, 2011 6:14 pm

Incidentally, what's so good/bad about this edition? ML West is an absolutely phenomenal scholar.
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby Paul Derouda » Mon Jul 25, 2011 11:03 pm

It's an excellent edition. First of all, he has collated a huge number of new papyri, about 700. I think the "controversy" (if there is one) is about it being a bold edition. West's interpretes the scholia in a new way (the relative role of Aristarchus and Didymus) and has his own ideas about orthography. He isn't afraid to bracket lines and to transfer them to the critical apparatus. He rejects a "multitext" edition and basically thinks that there was one original Iliad which was written down; he doesn't believe that all variant readings are of equal value - on the contrary, in each case in principle only one of them can really be original (though probably on this point his critic's, Gregory Nagy's, views are more controversial than West's - though this will not be obvious the casual reader of Nagy's critique). The issues involved are really quite complicated, so I'm not even trying to get into any detail, and I couldn't do it anyway. You could start by reading two reviews in the BMCR and West's reply:

http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2000/2000-09-12.html
http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2001/2001-06-21.html
http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2001/2001-09-06.html

There is also a more favorable review by Richard Janko somewhere... I have also skimmed through West's "Studies in the Text and Transmission of the Iliad" and some of his and other people's articles in papers on related subjects.

After all this reading (and despite difficulties it's passionating, delving deep into the Homeric question), I was left with an even increasing admiration for ML West, a phenomenal scholar indeed... As far as I can say (and I can't call this an informed judgement ), West's Iliad is excellent and its critiques are flawed.
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby Scribo » Tue Jul 26, 2011 8:58 am

Sir, you have done me a great favour.
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby Qimmik » Mon Mar 18, 2013 11:08 pm

I'm reading the Iliad in West's edition. (I've read it four times previously in Greek, but I'm not a professional scholar.) While I recognize that West is a great scholar whose knowledge of ancient Greek is unrivalled today and who has made many important contributions to ancient Greek studies, some aspects of his Iliad trouble me.

Specifically, West approaches the editorial task with a very strongly held view of the origins of the Iliad: he believes it was composed in Ionia in writing about 650 BCE by someone who was both a master of the oral tradition and literate. While this is certainly a plausible and defensible theory, it isn't shared by many scholars, and it strikes me that too little is known about how the Iliad came into being to reach such a definitive conclusion.

Consistent with his ideas about the origin of the Iliad, West edits it treating it like any other ancient text that we know was composed in writing by an identifiable author, such as Thucydides or Plato. West normalizes grammatical forms, based on what he thinks a seventh-century Ionian would have written in light of epigraphic evidence and comparative philology (but doesn't do this consistently: for example, his text isn't psilotic and doesn't Ionicize all the forms that are believed to be Atticisms; a thoroughly consistent text printed as a seventh-century Ionian would have written it would be unreadable today). He introduces conjectures of his own and of other scholars, many of who lived before the nature of oral poetry began to be understood. He brackets lines on the basis of his own ideas about what the supposed author was trying to say. In other words, West's text is a very personal one that reflects his ideas, which may well be valid, but may subsequently be shown to be wrong.

In my view, a good and useful text of the Iliad would hew more closely to the medieval manuscript tradition, because that is the Iliad we have and we don't know very much about where or when it came into existence. Information about what scholars think were the original forms of words, to my way of thinking, belongs in a commentary or in a work such as Chantraine. The Homeric poems are unlike other texts, and in my view, a good text of the Iliad would not attempt to substitute editorial judgment for the evidence, i.e., the medieval manuscript tradition, at least not unless absolutely necessary. (I'm not against supplementing the paradosis to a lesser degree by papyri, and, where justified, readings of ancient scholars such as Aristarchus and ancient quotations that resolve genuine problems, but these sources should be used very sparingly because, in the end, despite everything that has been written about the work of the Alexandrians, we just can't be sure what they were up to: whether they were working from manuscripts or just making things up based on their preconceptions).

It's possible that a text such as West's after some time will come to look like one of those 19th or early 20th century texts that translated the Iliad into Aeolic (I'm thinking of Fick) or printed digammas in the probably mistaken assumption that they were pronounced in "Homer's" day (Van Leeuven), before Parry et al. showed how different linguistic stages could be incorporated into the poem.

That said, West's critical notes are very scrupulous and complete, so that you can always tell what is in the medieval manuscript tradition by digging in the apparatus. (Van Thiel's edition, which offers a text more along the lines I would prefer, with minimal editorial intervention, provides a stripped-down apparatus that doesn't give as much information about the evidence.) But you shouldn't have to dig in the apparatus to discover the actual evidence.
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby Paul Derouda » Tue Mar 19, 2013 2:42 pm

Basically, you would like to have van Thiel's conservative text with West's superior apparatus. I think it's largely a matter of taste but your opinion is very legitimate.

The main problem with van Thiel's text is that it doesn't bracket or otherwise take account of what seem to be post-Aristarchean interpolations. (This has been discussed at least in reviews of his Odyssey by Richard Janko and by Michael Apthorp, as well as Apthorp's monograph "Manuscript evidence for interpolation in Homer".)

Anyway, maybe you'd like to join the discussion on related subjects under the thread "Sleeping under the portico" (and has veered seriously off-topic).
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby Scribo » Tue Mar 19, 2013 3:16 pm

Basically, West produced a critical edition on the Ilias...in line with textual criticism's theories and practices? I do agree with a lot of what you're saying but some points.

"He introduces conjectures of his own and of other scholars, many of who lived before the nature of oral poetry began to be understood."

Every edited text is like this, that is to say from personal theorising. As for oral poetry...well two things 1) Undoubtedly the texts are part of an antique oral tradition and continued to exist in one, regardless of this fact they eventually ended up as texts and are thus subject to the same tools as every other text. They're not magical. 2) I don't think its worth talking about our understanding of oral poetry overall, let's face it we haven't so much adopted oral poetics as established a silly model of privileged comparision with the Slavic stuff. There's a reason anthropologists etc think our understanding of oral poetry is facile...

"That said, West's critical notes are very scrupulous and complete, so that you can always tell what is in the medieval manuscript tradition by digging in the apparatus. (Van Thiel's edition, which offers a text more along the lines I would prefer, with minimal editorial intervention, provides a stripped-down apparatus that doesn't give as much information about the evidence.) But you shouldn't have to dig in the apparatus to discover the actual evidence."


I don't see the problem here, he marshals the evidence and produces a text. You can check the results for yourself. You shouldn't be reading with just one version of the text anyway unless you're reading for pleasure.

Anyway yes it has its problems, but is still a phenomenal work.
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby Qimmik » Tue Mar 19, 2013 3:35 pm

Yes, exactly. A more conservative text such as van Thiel's with West's apparatus. I recognize the problem with van Thiel's failure to bracket weakly attested lines that seem to be interpolated (and Janko suggests that even West doesn't bracket enough of them), but I think West's text veers much to far in the direction of his own personal preferences. My particular gripe is West's delight in "restoring" philologically reconstructed forms that aren't found in the paradosis. (But, as I mentioned, he doesn't do this consistently, and a text that reads just as he thinks it would have in mid-seventh century Ionia would be unreadable today, with no word division, no double consonants, no breathings, no omicron upsilons or epsilon iotas, with qoppas, psilotic, etc.).

West's interventions in the text proceed from his view that the Iliad was composed in writing by a single individual in the middle of the seventh century. Consequently, he edits the Iliad in the same way that he would edit Thucydides or Plato, excising verses he thinks don't belong, reconstructing forms he thinks were changed over the course of the Iliad's transmission (based on his understanding of the history of the text), and going to far as to insert into the text conjectures of his own and other modern scholars (many of whom did not understand the oral nature of the Homeric poems as well as we think we do). My discomfort with West's text is precisely that he edits the Iliad in the same way as he would edit other texts with a better understood history.

As I mentioned, West is a very great scholar, and his views are certainly defensible and deserve to be considered, but, quite frankly, I personally think we just don't know enough about the origins and history of the Iliad for him to treat the text as radically as he does. The medieval paradosis is the main source of evidence for the text of the Iliad, and it's the most reliable. It's relatively uniform--in better shape than tragedy and comedy, for example. We know too little about papyri (what was their source?), ancient scholarship (were they working from manuscripts or just conjecturing?) and ancient quotations (did they look up the passages they quoted or did they rely on their memory?). To my Wolfian way of thinking, a good text of the Iliad presents a lightly edited version of the medieval paradosis, and the rest belongs in the apparatus, commentaries or treatises.

And by the way, I am reading for pleasure, but I use both van Thiel and occasionally even Allen along with West. I use mainly West, despite my reservations, because he provides the best apparatus.
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby Qimmik » Sun Mar 24, 2013 2:37 pm

By the way, West's Iliad was originally published by the Leipzig publishing house B.G. Teubner, as part of their Bibliotheca Teubneriana series of Greek and Latin texts, which goes back 150+ years. Sadly, Teubner ran into financial difficulties (I'm told they didn't manage the reunification or their East and West German branches very well) and divested itself of its Classics titles, including the Bibliotheca Teubneriana, selling them to Saur in Munich. But after a few years, Saur sold them again to de Gruyter, a major publisher of academic books based in Berlin (I think). Although Amazon doesn't carry West's Iliad, you can order it on-line directly from De Gruyter: http://www.degruyter.com/

You can order van Thiel's Iliad, the un-West, from amazon.uk: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Homeri-Ilias-Iterum-recognovit-Helmut/dp/3487137062/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1364135103&sr=8-1-fkmr0 , and also his Odyssey: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Homeri-Odyssea-Bibliotheca-Weidmanniana-Homer/dp/3487094584/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1364135265&sr=1-1

It's ironic that the Oxford editions of the Iliad and the Odyssey, which are nearly 100 years old now and which are notoriously unreliable, list for about $100 each (although they're hardcover books and you can get them cheaper from Amazon or used). It's part of Oxford's (and Cambridge's) project to throttle the Classics by raising the prices of basic texts out of the reach of anyone who doesn't own a house in the Hamptons.
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby Ahab » Thu Mar 28, 2013 12:34 am

Thanks for all that information regarding West's Iliad. I was completely unaware of the financial difficulties Teubner had to deal with.

De Gruyter does offer some of their books through Amazon. Shame they don't do it with West's text since it is more cumbersome to order through their website than Amazon's. I've run into a couple of problems when ordering from them. Seems they are still having issues with the major "upgrade" they did to their website last year. :(


Rather off-topic to this thread, but I thought I'd go ahead and post this link: http://www.klincksieck.com/

Looks like a revised edition of Chantraine's Grammaire homérique is being published.
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby Paul Derouda » Thu Mar 28, 2013 10:32 am

Ahab wrote:Rather off-topic to this thread, but I thought I'd go ahead and post this link: http://www.klincksieck.com/

Looks like a revised edition of Chantraine's Grammaire homérique is being published.

That's good news! The price is typically high. Note that this is just the volume 1. For me at least the volume 2 (syntax) is much more useful, but I guess we'll have that too. My copy of vol 1 is from the first impression of 1942 and has its quaint charm though: the pages have been cut open with a knife, the book is dirty and dusty and smelly in a nice antiquarian way, and the Greek font is difficult to read like they used to be in the Good Old Times...
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby Scribo » Thu Mar 28, 2013 11:05 am

Yes, yes, nasty OxBridge (working together as a conglomeration of course!) trying to throttle the Classics! How so very clever though, of them to hide this via constant access drives, sponsoring the Classics in school, producing textbooks, summer courses and what not on one end, handing out fellowships and positions on the other...so....delightfully insidious I don't believe I haven't seen it before....Actually you'll find its just economics and the usual stuff.

The Oxford texts are reasonably priced, much more reasonably than the Teubners, £16 for a hardback volume is pretty damn good, even if they're reprints. In fact you can even occasionally get hold of these softback student editions for cheap, they last ages, since like 2008 or so no problem with constant reading. Surprising for softbacks....

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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby Ahab » Thu Mar 28, 2013 12:14 pm

Nice pics, Scribo. I had no idea Oxford put paperback versions of their classical texts.

As you indicated, even the hardcover editions of the Oxford Iliad can be had for about $35 each on Amazon. That doesn't strike me as being unreasonable.
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby Qimmik » Thu Mar 28, 2013 4:23 pm

constant access drives, sponsoring the Classics in school, producing textbooks, summer courses and what not on one end, handing out fellowships and positions on the other...so..


You're referring to the Universities. It's their Presses that are the culprits. I'm sure it's is just economics, and the high prices aren't limited to Classics. I was being facetious.

But why is Lewis & Short, a book that was typeset 130 years ago, now priced at USD$250?

I'm American but my copy of one of the volumes of the OCT Homer series still has a sticker on it that reads Price 12/6.
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby Scribo » Thu Mar 28, 2013 11:10 pm

Qimmik wrote:
constant access drives, sponsoring the Classics in school, producing textbooks, summer courses and what not on one end, handing out fellowships and positions on the other...so..


You're referring to the Universities. It's their Presses that are the culprits. I'm sure it's is just economics, and the high prices aren't limited to Classics. I was being facetious.

But why is Lewis & Short, a book that was typeset 130 years ago, now priced at USD$250?

I'm American but my copy of one of the volumes of the OCT Homer series still has a sticker on it that reads Price 12/6.


Yes, sorry. I think it might have something to do with the anti OxBridge feeling one always gets in England.

I don't know too much about economics post archaic Greece I'm afraid - god knows who the bribe guzzling basileus' are in this situation. I suspect it has something to do with supply and demand. Which is fair enough, though I really do wish things were cheaper. I literally can't afford books unless I'm lucky enough to stumble across them at heavy discounts. I do agree that in some cases its ridiculous, dictionaries and what not. These are hardly uber specialised works like the LFGe or Ernout and Millet... something does need to change in the way printing is handled.
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby Qimmik » Fri Mar 29, 2013 2:40 am

I do worry about how Classical Studies is going to sustain itself as an academic discipline. I don't how younger scholars can accumulate a library. True, many texts are available on line, but they're older texts that are out of copyright and they typically don't have critical apparatuses, which are essential for anyone doing serious academic work.

The OCT texts have a pathetically anachronistic note on the back cover about how they are designed to allow undergraduates to accumulate a library to last a lifetime. That was true 40-50 years ago, when I was an undergraduate, but at today's prices . . . . Ultimately, I didn't pursue an academic career, and, though not wealthy, I'm in a situation where I can buy most books that I covet, but I feel for younger scholars starting out today, especially when I see how much books I bought 50 years ago cost today.
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby Scribo » Sat Mar 30, 2013 12:12 am

Ha, sustainment and all that is another discussion all together. Unfortunately I'm tempted to answer, simply, it won't. As for young scholars and libraries, we can't. Everything I have is a gift, donation, prize, or purchased ridiculously cut price. I have the most impressive personal library of any young Classicist I know and its still...paltry.
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby Qimmik » Tue Apr 09, 2013 2:23 pm

The latest outrage in my perusal of West's text of the Iliad: the bracketing of most of the wolf simile in 16.158 ff.

Janko (Commentary, vol. 4, p. 338): "This simile, expanded to suit the gravity of the moment, is one of Homer's best . . . "

Yes, Wilamowitz rejected it, too, but he thought the Iliad was a wretched patchwork.
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby Paul Derouda » Tue Apr 09, 2013 6:24 pm

He calls the simile "a somewhat lurid rhapsodic interpolation, probably" in the Making of the Iliad. I don't have access now to his Studies book were he'll have a full treatment. Anyway, this judgement seems to be made on rather subjective linguistic criteria. I'm not running to West's defence here, though many prominent scholars have found this passage suspicious. Again whether you prefer that this kind of suspicion is indicated by bracketing or just in the apparatus or commentary is largely a matter of taste. I prefer bracketing, because although I'm not sure whether I agree on this particular instance, I generally think it's good to be explicitly reminded of linguistic or other abnormalities in the text, and because in the commentary or apparatus no one will notice anyway. Also, I like in general a firm stand against sloppy anything-goes-Oralism. :)

(Though the old analytic "everything is an interpolation by inept editors" is hardly better)

Anyway, whether these lines stand or not has no bearing on West's main argument. In this respect the question is analogous to that of the Doloneia, though most scholars agree that the Doloneia is an interpolation.

As for Janko's commentary, in general I like it very much, I think it's probably the best of the six.
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby Qimmik » Tue Apr 09, 2013 9:04 pm

many prominent scholars have found this passage suspicious.


Wilamowitz, Leaf and Heyne -- but they were extreme analysts who found much of the Iliad suspicious. They were of the 'everything is an interpolation by inept editors' school, and, like West, thought they could detect interpolations just by resorting to their own powers of divination. Apart from concordance interpolations, where a weakly attested verse has clearly found its way into some of the manuscripts from elsewhere, we can never be sure what is interpolated in the Homeric poems and what is not. We don't have reliable evidence for any process by which passages could be interpolated into the text. We may find some passages "lurid," but how can we say that the original audiences for the poems (whoever they were) shared our tastes? Janko certainly doesn't share West's distaste for the lurid.

An editor of the Iliad shouldn't impose his or her arbitrary tastes on the text without hard evidence. Suspicions that aren't backed up by the slightest shred of hard evidence belong in the apparatus or a commentary, not in the text, especially a text that is clearly designed to be the standard edition to replace Monroe and Allen.

Plenty of Shakespeare is "lurid," too, so should we excise it?
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby Paul Derouda » Tue Apr 09, 2013 9:23 pm

Well, I don't think West's case is very strong here. Even he adds "probably". I'm not defending his athesis here.

Anyway, I haven't read West's discussion of this passage in his Studies, so I don't know his exact grounds. I'm not sure he has a distaste for lurid, it's more like he just notes a change in tone. I at least don't think anything that's interpolated is necessarily always for the worse.

On the other hand, I think the evidence against the Doloneia is very strong. It's in all the manuscripts, but really I think not bracketing it would be serious mistake. I mean it's all about where you draw the line; maybe with this simile you're right, it's just much too subjective.

I know there's a whole monograph on the Doloneia by someone of the Oralist school I think (Casey Dué I think), I haven't read it yet but for fairness's sake I intend to...

If I think the Doloneia is an interpolation, it doesn't mean I don't like it. It's just a statement of what I believe about the history of the text.
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby Qimmik » Tue Apr 09, 2013 10:04 pm

there's a whole monograph on the Doloneia by someone of the Oralist school I think (Casey Dué I think)


I've read it and don't find it wholly convinging, but it does make a clear and strong case for "hard Parryism," and it argues that Book 10 represents another side of epic warfare--the night-time ambush--with its own specialized vocabulary and themes, and even its own weapons and clothing (non-metallic animal disguises), that doesn't get much play in the Iliad because the fighting is mostly out in the open in the day but finds more parallels in the Odyssey. There doesn't seem to be any way to distinguish book 10 from the rest of the Iliad on linguistic grounds (apart from language appropriate to night-time ambush warfare). And what really leads most people, myself include, to reject Book 10 is what we perceive as unheroic nastiness that seems out of keeping with the rest of the Iliad--we resist including that sort of thing in the Iliad we love, but that's a very subjective reaction, and who's to say that the "original audience" would react the same way?

But I don't think that bracketing any part of the Iliad, apart from very clear, demonstrable instances of interpolation, is appropriate in drawing up a text, because we have only the vaguest ideas about the processes by which the Homeric poems came into existence and about their early history. With minor exceptions, we can't tell what's interpolated and what isn't with so little concrete information about the history of the text. So, in my view, editors have no business tampering with the paradosis, expecially since the paradosis is relatively uniform and, unlike, say, tragedy, in relatively good shape, with few passages in need of radical surgery. In the case of the Homeric poems, suspicions and theories about interpolation belong in the apparatus and commentaries, not in the text itself.

The wolf simile is just one instance of what I think is the wrong approach on West's part. On the other hand, he offers a very good apparatus, noting even tiny variants in diacritical marks, and very full testimonia (though it's a little hard to separate the wheat from the chaff).
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby Ahab » Thu Apr 11, 2013 1:31 am

Paul Derouda wrote:He calls the simile "a somewhat lurid rhapsodic interpolation, probably" in the Making of the Iliad. I don't have access now to his Studies book were he'll have a full treatment.


Fortunately I do have access to his Studies book. Here is his discussion of the question:
West wrote:Hentze pointed out that the simile was intended to illustrate the Myrmidons’ courage and eagerness for the fight, and that 160-3, where the description untypically moves on to a second scene and the purpose is lost sight of, might be an interpolation. Leaf adds that the lines contain several strange expressions, ‘and one cannot but feel a reluctant suspicon that the directeness of the Epic style would be better preserved by the excision of 158-64 altogether. We thus get rid of the ἡγήτορες ἠδε μέδοντες (164), so that it is the whole body (πάντας 156) which is compared to the herd of wolves, as it should be.’ So also, but more decidedly, Wilamowitz (1916), 125. The excision re-unites οἳ δέ in 156 with its verb ῥώοντο in 166.

I have bracketed 165 in addition. Patroclus’ preparations have been described separately (130-54), and he then, apart from 165, disappeares until 219. The Myrmidons are pictured rallying about their usual leader, Achilles (155, 166, 168, 198 ff.) Patroclus’ appearance beside Achilles in 165-6 is awkward. If 165 is removed together with 156-64 we get a perfectly seamless join:
..................................... οἳ δὲ λύκοι ὥς
ὠμοφάγοι, τοῖσίν τε περὶ φρεσὶν ἄσπετος ἀκή,
ῥώοντ’. ἐν δ’ ἄρα τοῖσιν ἀρήϊος ἵστατ’ Ἀχιλλεύς
ὀτρύνων ἵππους τε καὶ ἀνέρας ἀσπιδιώτας.


I share your preference for bracketing.

Of course, as Qimmik has pointed out, we are never going to know if West is right about this (unless there really is an afterlife:-) ).
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby Qimmik » Thu Apr 11, 2013 12:11 pm

West's explanation illustrates perfectly his willfully self-indulgent tampering with the text of the Iliad. He's rewriting it to make it what he thinks is a better poem. It drives me crazy.

A great edition, but a perverse text. And to my mind it's a shame that a text like this will from now on be treated as the reference text to replace Munroe and Allen.
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby Paul Derouda » Thu Apr 11, 2013 4:36 pm

Thanks, Ahab.

So the grounds for the bracketing here are mostly just stylistic. I agree that this is very, very subjective. Qimmik is right that an innocent reader might be misled since he probably woudln't be able distinguish this from say an obvious concordance interpolation. West's text is clearly for a reader who thinks for himself. But I think less advanced readers will be attracted to other editions anyway - the OCT Is available for free online, the Loeb has a translation, van Thiel takes just one volume etc. Clearly what attracts readers to West will be the extensive critical apparatus.

Qimmik's right to say that we don't know much about the origin of the text. But I think many of the analysts' and West's insights of grammatical, stylistic and plot inconsistencies are real, whether or not West's explanation of them is correct. I think pointing these out is important, because they are real phenomena that can help us to understand the origin of the text, even if it's difficult to be sure of them in many individual cases. Anyway, the present climate especially in the american oralist school is such that if West didn't do this no one would, which I think would be a pity for the study of the Homeric question in general. In Nagy's review of West it was noted that he lacks engagement with oral poetry - but I think that hard core Oralists lack engagement with the Homer, even if they have succeeded in bringing in a more cross disciplinary approach. Because really almost all those scholars who did the really hard technical work on Homer like Chantraine were analysts...

As for the Doloneia, I think the argument that a different subject matter calls for a different vocabulary etc. and is only to be expected is circular. And I think we can say the Doloneia has very different outlook from the rest of the Iliad without passing a judgment (in the same way I think it's wrong to say that the Odyssey isn't as good as the Iliad because it's outlook is different - but it would be wrong to say the difference isn't there). I think strong arguments have been made about the language of the Doloneia being different, although I'm not capable of telling them from memory. But the most important ground for athetising the Doloneia is that it's the only section of any lenght in the Iliad that can be excised without trace - nothing before it anticipates it and nothing afterwards refers back to it, although references backwards and forwards are otherwise common.
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby Ahab » Fri Apr 12, 2013 10:06 pm

Paul,
Thanks for the interesting post.
Pretty much agree with what you have written.

Wanted to add to your list of available editions of the Iliad the one which is online at the Chicago Homer website. It is an amalgam of the Perseus and van Thiel's edition per the website description:

"We collated the Perseus texts of Homer with the electronic version of Helmut von Thiel's (sic) text, and where the texts diverge, we followed that text in most instances. Von Thiel's (sic) edition has a marked preference for the readings of the vulgate text, on the sensible ground that this is the text that was read through much of antiquity."

I've actually copied that text and have it (along with several others) on my iPad for reading. (Which is, according to the website, legal as long as the copy is for private use only.)

As you indicated, West's edition currently has a big stumbling block against its adoption as the new standard edition that has nothing to do with the quality (or lack thereof) of West's scholarship : it is not very easy to obtain. Fortunately van Thiel's edition is now back in print. Interestingly, I think Janko mentions somewhere (though I can't at the moment recall where) that he prefer's Leaf's edition.

By the way, I just received West's latest work The Epic Cycle in the mail yesterday. Looking forward to having an opportunity to read it over the weekend. :)
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby Qimmik » Tue Apr 23, 2013 5:09 pm

If you're looking for West's edition of the Iliad and can't make De Gruyter's website work, you can probably order it through Schoenhof's in Cambridge, MA (if you're in the US): http://www.schoenhofs.com/

or, in the UK,

Thornton's: http://www.thorntonsbooks.co.uk/

or Blackwell's in Oxford: http://bookshop.blackwell.co.uk/jsp/editorial/shops/SHOP52.jsp

or Heffer's in Cambridge (which seems to have been acquired by Blackwell's).
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby Scribo » Tue Apr 23, 2013 7:41 pm

Heffers is crap, though indeed part of Blackwells since my Oxon discount works there, but seriously their secondhand prices are absolutely bloody ridiculous. I don't even bother visiting the store when I'm in Cambridge nowadays because I know I can expect to pay a stupid price.
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby Qimmik » Sat May 18, 2013 2:20 pm

West's Iliad is finally emerging in the Amazon family:

You can order West's edition of the Iliad online through Amazon's German affiliate:

http://www.amazon.de/Homerus-Rhapsodiae-Bibliotheca-Scriptorum-Teubneriana/dp/3598714319/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1368886571&sr=8-4&keywords=west+ilias

http://www.amazon.de/Homerus-Rhapsodiae-Bibliotheca-Scriptorum-Teubneriana/dp/3598714300/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1368886796&sr=8-5&keywords=west+ilias

And, I see it now shows up on Amazon's US site!

http://www.amazon.com/Ilias-vol-Rhapsod ... west+ilias

The second volume through a third-party vendor in Italy, though:

http://www.amazon.com/Ilias-Rhapsodiae- ... west+ilias

Try other Amazon sites, too--search for: west ilias
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby Lucretius2327 » Sun Oct 05, 2014 5:38 am

I had just returned home from a symposium at the University of Michigan — in honor of the recently deceased Kweku Garbrah — where I heard Martin West speak of his work on the text of the Iliad. I found on TextKit very useful (and very humbling) information about West's approach and Homeric textual criticism in general. I very much look forward to engaging with the experts and scholars on this site — since I am, admittedly, something of a dilettante — and to helping novices progress in their ability and love of Homer, Greek, and Latin.

Two points from Professor West's talk on his work in the Odyssey:

Odyssey I. 346-7
"Mother Dear, Why then do you grudge the trusty singer to sing in the way he pleases?"

μῆτερ ἐμή, τί τ’ ἄρα φθονέεις ἐρίηρον ἀοιδόν / τέρπειν ὅππηι οἱ νόος ὄρνυται;

In this passage West reads: τί ταρ αὖ, cf. 23. 264 δαιμονίη, τί ταρ αὖ με μάλ’ ὀτρύνουσα κελεύεις | εἰπέμεν· "Dear One, Why urging me so strongly do you bid me to speak?"

Professor West took exception to τ’ ἄρα. He considered it to be unacceptable as Greek — an unprecedented collocation of particles.

As entertaining as this was, the highlight of the talk was his assertion that by adopting μηδέ σφιν rather than μέγα δέ σφιν (at Odyssey 13. 158) He had saved an ancient peoples from destruction: namely, the Phaeacians from destruction by Poseidon as punishment for returning Odysseus to Ithaca. With the insertion of the negation Zeus forbids (rather than encourages) his brother to destroy them by covering their city with a mountain — Poseidon, the Earthshaker — god of earthquakes.

A very worthwhile event, notwithstanding Professor West's idiomatic approach to Homer.
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby jeidsath » Wed Nov 05, 2014 6:18 pm

He's rewriting it to make it what he thinks is a better poem.


And to do it, he is forced to claim that all of the other editors that interpolated anything over the many centuries -- between the time when God verbally inspired Homer to write down the original on his golden tablets, until now -- must be expunged. This is contradictory. The worship of the original autograph was forgivable in Martin Luther (another book, but the same thing), though he was a contemporary of Erasmus and should have known better, but we're all post-Protestant now so we can at least be beyond that.

What I would truly love is an digital Iliad that includes variants in some sort of wiki style changelog (but easier to read). And even more, I would love the Scholia printed around and alongside. We have the technology, it can be done.
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby Qimmik » Wed Nov 05, 2014 7:47 pm

"He's rewriting it to make it what he thinks is a better poem."

I've come to regret my intemperate remarks about Prof. West's edition of the Iliad. I do think he brackets some passages that shouldn't be bracketed--the Myrmidon wolf simile, for example--and some of his spellings make me uneasy--eo for eu, attested in Ionian inscriptions but not in any source for the text of the Iliad, so far as I know, and tar--but the more I use it, the better I like it, especially in comparison to van Thiel (although I like van Thiel's disinclination to normalize spellings).

"he is forced to claim that all of the other editors that interpolated anything over the many centuries -- between the time when God verbally inspired Homer to write down the original on his golden tablets, until now -- must be expunged."

I dont' think you really understand what the problem is. I would certainly want an editor to produce an "original" text of the Iliad if we could be assured that a specific individual created an original written text at a specific place and time, just as I would prefer to see a clean text of Thucydides shorn of interpolations, if that were possible. But the problem in Homer's case (in contrast to Thucydides) is that there doesn't seem to be any evidence that a standard, fixed text existed before cir. 150 BCE. I really can't blame West, however, for subscribing to the theory that such a text existed and that he can get close to it.

At any rate, you can take or leave his bracketing--the text is there to read. West's text (disrearding brackets) is probably close to the Iliad that most readers knew from about 150 BCE on, and why isn't that good enough when there is undertainty about what existed before then? As far as we can tell, there were no episodes that were winnowed out--rather, a large number of individual lines that circulated in various copies have disappeared (based on the evidence of the oldest papyri, as I understand it), and it's impossible to tell whether their disappearance was the loss of precious material or (more likely) an improvement.

"What I would truly love is an digital Iliad that includes variants in some sort of wiki style changelog (but easier to read). And even more, I would love the Scholia printed around and alongside. We have the technology, it can be done." It has been done. But it's not something anyone would want to use as a reading text. And what's the point, anyway?
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby jeidsath » Wed Nov 05, 2014 11:25 pm

I would certainly want an editor to produce an "original" text of the Iliad if we could be assured that a specific individual created an original written text at a specific place and time, just as I would prefer to see a clean text of Thucydides shorn of interpolations, if that were possible.


It's not possible, as you say, and the great problem is that so much work and erudition is wasted pretending that it is, by people who all know better. The pursuit of textual perfection is ubiquitous and the results are unfortunate.

It has been done. But it's not something anyone would want to use as a reading text. And what's the point, anyway?


Something like the Homer Multitext project, but focussed on making usable digital documents instead of burying us in a sea of xml? And not just for Homer? For one thing, it would reduce the work of creating an apparatus down to the work of a few weeks (not that people would really need an apparatus anymore). That, more than anything, would bring the cost of critical texts down to a reasonable level. And it would be very easy to create reading texts based on any criteria that you could dream up, as long as the underlying data is accessible.
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby mwh » Thu Nov 06, 2014 2:09 am

jeidsath wrote:It's not possible, as you say, and the great problem is that so much work and erudition is wasted pretending that it is, by people who all know better. The pursuit of textual perfection is ubiquitous and the results are unfortunate.

Not to be nasty, Joel, but couldn’t the same be said of attempting to read Homer aloud in the same way that Homer did?

Nobody thinks it possible to reach the “original” text, and nobody “pretends” that it is. Some people try to get as close as is possible. Is that really so bad?

At base, however, I think I’m in sympathy with you. What matters, it could be argued, is the text in its various states of being throughout antiquity—and in Homer’s case, what people thought the words meant.
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby jeidsath » Thu Nov 06, 2014 3:00 pm

I suppose that I am really responding to West's and Nagy's discussion in Bryn Mawr about his edition. I was very impressed by Nagy, but not so much by West. West complains, among other things, that he should be allowed to use his judgement and not be held to any mechanical standard. I disagree. If that's what he wants, he should write a commentary, or even a Loeb text. A critical edition is good and useful when it is about presenting the evidence of the textual tradition. If the editor has stepped in and tried to be a reader alongside me, making the the same sorts of judgements that I make as I read, it is overly intrusive.

As far as reading Homer aloud -- and I take the jab in good fun -- my only real interest in making all of the recordings is fluency, and being able to read prose and poetry with enjoyment. And I do mean read, not translate. I stick to a standard (Vox Graeca) because it's actually far easier that way. I will probably write up an essay about methods when I complete my first year of studying Greek, but I have the suspicion that how you read a language aloud is much like it sounds in your head as you read quietly. And if you mumble, or have bad cadence, or bad vowel quantities, or colliding vowel qualities when you read aloud, it probably becomes just as much a jumble inside your head when you read silently. And your brain is going to have to work extra hard to extract meaning from that jumble.

One of the hardest things to pick my way through, as a new Greek learner, is the vast amount of pretension going on among academics. Who is C2 level in ancient Greek, able to pick up a book, or (let's imagine) follow a conversation? Who is following a mechanical translation method? And who can't do either, but rely on other people's work to sound erudite? Possession of a degree or teaching position is no use in differentiating them.

But reading aloud at least destroys self-pretension about one's own Greek skills. This is ἀπερείσι’ ἄποινα. And frankly, in Homeric studies, I am terribly unimpressed by copious numbers of written discussions of how to scan a line, and the paucity of audio. Come on, get on YouTube and belt it out.
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby Niedzielski » Thu Nov 06, 2014 4:35 pm

When you say that a critical edition is good and useful when it is about presenting the evidence of the textual tradition you are making an aesthetic judgment on the value critical editions, and you disagree that he should be allowed to use his judgment and not be held to any mechanical standard. Then you go on about the pretensions of academics. Do I have this correct?
Last edited by Niedzielski on Thu Nov 06, 2014 9:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Postby Qimmik » Thu Nov 06, 2014 5:27 pm

One of the hardest things to pick my way through, as a new Greek learner, is the vast amount of pretension going on among academics. Who is C2 level in ancient Greek, able to pick up a book, or (let's imagine) follow a conversation? Who is following a mechanical translation method? And who can't do either, but rely on other people's work to sound erudite? Possession of a degree or teaching position is no use in differentiating them.


I'm not sure what you're complaining about, but ancient Greek texts were written about 2600 years ago in a culture and an institutional framework that was quite alien from ours, and they have been transmitted to us by very haphazard processes that have left them in many if not most cases in a deplorable state. Understanding them to the extent we are able to do so is the result of about 5 or 6 centuries of modern scholarship (not to speak of ancient and Byzantine scholarship). For me, the accumulation of scholarship enhances my experience of engaging with ancient Greek texts, and I would feel very impoversihed without at least some of it.

As far as sitting down, picking up a book and reading ancient Greek, personally I can do this to some degree, with some authors, and not without having to read some sentences over a few times before I think I understand them, but I always need to have a good dictionary handy, and I like use annotated editions because they illuminate the text for me.

After all, even ancient Greek readers required help in reading some authors--that's why some texts were equipped with scholia, and why other commentaries circulated in antiquity. You might also want to consider what a highly educated native speaker of ancient Greek, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, wrote about Thucydides (On Thucydides 51) in the 1st c. BCE, only 400 years or so after Thucydides:

εὐαρίθμητοι γάρ τινές εἰσιν οἷοι πάντα τὰ Θουκυδίδου συμβαλεῖν, καὶ οὐδ᾽ οὗτοι χωρὶς ἐξηγήσεως γραμματικῆς ἔνια.

"The number of those who can understand all of Thucydides is very limited, and even they can't do it without resorting to grammatical commentary from time to time."
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