Aristotle Poetics: Editio Maior of the Greek Text with Historial Introductions and Philological Commentaries.

Author:Pormann, Peter E.
Position:Book review

Aristotle Poetics: Editio Maior of the Greek Text with Historiai Introductions and Philological Commentaries. Edited by LEONARDO TARAN and DIMITRI GUTAS. Mnemosyne Supplements, vol. 338. Leiden: Brill, 2012. Pp. xiii + 536. $226, 162 [euro].

Non omnia possumus omnes. In 1887 David S. Margoliouth published a volume with the title Analecta Orientalia ad Poeticam Aristoteleam (London: Nutt), which comprised (1) the Arabic translation of Aristotle's Poetics as extant in a single manuscript, Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France, MS 2346 (fonds arabe); (2) the definition of "tragedy" contained in the Book of Dialogues by Severus Bar Sakko (d. 1241); (3) the summary of the Poetics contained in al-Shifa' by Avicenna (Ibn Sina, d. 1037); (4) an excerpt from Avicenna's cUyun al-hikma, as contained in a commentary by Fakhr al-Dln al-Razi (d. 1209); and (5) a paraphrase of the Poetics contained in the Cream of Wisdom by Bar Hebraeus (d. 1286). In one fell swoop Margoliouth thus edited the majority of the evidence extant in Syriac (items 2 and 5) and Arabic (items 1, 3, and 4) for the textual transmission of Aristotle's Poetics, the only item missing being the so-called middle commentary on this text by Averroes (Ibn Rushd, d. 1198). In the same year Margoliouth applied, unsuccessfully, for the chair of the Laudian professor of Arabic in Oxford, to which he was appointed two years later. In 1911 he published The Poetics of Aristotle, Translated from the Greek into English and from Arabic into Latin, with a Revised Text, Introduction, Commentary, Glossary and Onomasticon (London, etc.: Hodder and Stoughton), in which he attempted to use the full range of the Syriac and Arabic evidence to improve the edition of the Greek text. Nobody could have been better placed than Margoliouth to do this: he gained a double first in Classics at Oxford, where he also won Hertford and Ireland scholarships, the Gaisford prize, and the Craven and Derby awards (all for various achievements in Classics), and the Houghton Syriac prize; he became a tutorial fellow at New College, Oxford, teaching Classics for eight years (1881-89); and, as Laudian professor of Arabic, his credentials in this area were impeccable as well.

And yet, his 1911 edition and translation must be largely seen as a disappointment. How could such an accomplished Classicist, Syriacist, and Arabist like Margoliouth have failed in significantly improving the Greek text of Aristotle's Poetics by using all...

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