Sunday, May 08, 2022



Aristophanes, Birds 1271-1273 (tr. Stephen Halliwell):
O Peisetairos! Blessed! O wisest of men!
Illustrious! Most wise! Most brilliant too!
O three-times-blessed! [faltering] What's next?

ὦ Πισθέταιρ᾽ ὦ μακάρι᾽ ὦ σοφώτατε,
ὦ κλεινότατ᾽ ὦ σοφώτατ᾽ ὦ γλαφυρώτατε,
ὦ τρισμακάρι᾽ ὦ — κατακέλευσον.
Critical apparatus from N.G. Wilson's edition in the Oxford Classical Texts series:
There is no discussion of this passage in N.G. Wilson, Aristophanea: Studies on the Text of Aristophanes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).

Nan Dunbar (student edition) ad loc.:
This string of vocatives has (not surprisingly) caused confusion in the paradosis, and edd. disagree whether the repetition of ὦ σοφώτατ᾽ (1271, 1272) is a scribal error, having in one or other line ousted something else from the text, or Ar.'s device to make the herald's greeting sound too excited and spontaneous to be polished. The question is complicated by uncertainty over the meaning of imper. κατακέλευσον in 1273; in Σ it is variously glossed by σιωπὴν κήρυξον, 'call for silence', and παύσασθαι παρακέλευσαί μοι, 'tell me to stop', implying that the herald himself cannot think how to end his stream of + voc., although running out of superlatives. Both explanations see a reference to orders given by boatswains to rowers. As the only other ex. of the verb in class. Gr., at Ra. 207 κατακέλευε δή (Dionysos to Charon when beginning to row), seems from Charon's response to mean give the tempo to rowers, the herald here could be appealing to Peis. either to steady his (already faltering) rhythm by providing more vocatives, or helpfully to give him the cue to end the greetings and begin his message. On either interpretation Ar. himself probably indicated the herald's limited resources by the inelegant repetition of ὦ σοφώτατ᾽ in 1271-2. Alternatively the herald may be asking Peis. to order silence from the excited Chorus, who have begun to flutter about and utter cries when the herald carrying a golden crown begins to pour out praises of Peis.; in that case Peis. does so by a wordless gesture while asking the herald for his message. But even then the repeated ὦ σοφώτατ᾽, although comically artless, would not be strange: his σοφία (cf. 1274-5) is the stated reason for mankind's honouring Peis. With ὦ τρισμακ. beginning 1273, not 1272, its reinforcement of the initial ὦ μακάρι᾽ aptly shows the herald's effort to create a climax just before he decides that he must stop. The encomiastic vocatives piled up here mix congratulation of Peis. on his triumph (over the Olympians) with praise of the mental powers which have produced it. ὦ μακάρι᾽ . . . ὦ τρισμακάρι᾽. 'Blessedness' is normally reserved for the gods, and exceptionally predicated of humans at some peak of good fortune, e.g. on marrying (1721-2n.), winning an athletic victory (Pi. P. 5.20-1), or having outstanding offspring (Nu. 1206-8). The congratulation on his σοφία (cf. Nu. 1206-7) prepares for the citation explaining the award of the golden crown (1274-5n.). ὦ γλαφυρώτατε. The adj., lit. smooth, occurs first here of mental qualities, presumably = subtle, astute, from its regular association with σοφός vel sim. ὦ κατακέλευσον. For + imper. cf. 661 n.; for ὦ κατακέλευσον see above on 1271-3.

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