Sunday, March 22, 2020



Martin L. West (1937-2015), Studies in Aeschylus (Stuttgart: B.G. Teubner, 1990), pp. 371-372:
More recently we have been advised by H. Neitzel:
Wer mit Dawes Sammlung von Konjekturen zu Aischylos (Leiden 1965) vertraut ist und die Geschichte der Kritik am Agamemnontext kennt, weiss, in welche Irrgänge sich die Interpreten zuweilen verloren haben. Sieht man von der Korrektur offensichtlicher Schreibfehler ab, so konvergiert die Wahrscheinlichkeit der Erwartung, durch Eingriffe in die Uberlieferung könne das Richtige getroffen werden, schon bei der Veränderung nur eines einzigen Buchstabens gegen Null.54
Here again we encounter the notion that once we have corrected a limited number of obvious copying errors, the text of Aeschylus lies before us as sound as we can expect to get it, wanting only sympathetic interpretation to disclose its secrets. Neitzel's argument, if I follow him correctly, seems to be that because tens of thousands of bad conjectures have been made and a relatively small number of good ones, the modern emender has an overwhelming statistical probability against him. This is like saying that because most violinists cannot play Paganini's Caprices adequately, no violinist should undertake to play them, as his chances of success are statistically very slight. The implied premise is that the violinist (or the textual critic) has no idea whether he is an expert practitioner of his art or an ill-equipped pretender. If a scholar is well attuned to Aeschylus and possesses an accurate knowledge of the poet's style and of all the relevant technicalities, and if he is able clearly to identify the nature of a given textual problem, and finds a solution which satisfies the three criteria for a true reading55, then his chances of success are at least fair, and not diminished in the least by the quantity of the rubbish that Wecklein and Dawe have raked together.

54) Gnomon 59 (1987) 481. He proceeds to illustrate his conclusion by arguing against the necessity for two particular conjectures that are widely accepted; as if this would indicate that conjectures in general are unnecessary.

55) I refer to those formulated in my Textual Criticism and Editorial Technique, 48.
Martin L. West, Textual Criticism and Editorial Technique Applicable to Greek and Latin Texts (Stuttgart: B.G. Teubner, 1973), p. 48:
Sometimes this is a matter of choosing between transmitted variants, sometimes it is a matter of going beyond them and emending the text by conjecture, or adopting an emendation already proposed. We will consider these alternatives separately; the requirements which a satisfactory solution must fulfil are the same in both cases.

1. It must correspond in sense to what the author intended to say, so far as this can be determined from the context.

2. It must correspond in language, style, and any relevant technical points (metre, prose rhythm, avoidance of hiatus, etc.) to a way in which the author might naturally have expressed that sense.

3. It must be fully compatible with the fact that the surviving sources give what they do; in other words it must be clear how the presumed original reading could have been corrupted into any different reading that is transmitted.

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