You are here

A Byzantine Scholar at Work: Demetrius Triclinius and Responsion between Separated Strophes in Greek Drama

Almut Fries

This paper explores a so far neglected aspect of the metrical work of Demetrius Triclinius (ca. 1280-1335), who famously was the first scholar since antiquity to understand the principle of strophic responsion in Pindar and the lyrics of Greek drama and used his expertise (to good or bad effect) as a basis for textual criticism.

In contrast to ordinary choral song (where strophe and antistrophe follow immediately upon another), it can be shown that Triclinius recognised responsion in stanzas that are separated from each other only towards the end of his career (and under certain conditions) – arguably after renewed study of the old metrical scholia to Aristophanes, which often comment on the phenomenon. To expose the learning process of a past master is interesting in itself, but in the case of Triclinius, whose influence on the dramatic texts has lasted to the present day, it is of particular importance to consider his scholarly development and not, for example, to judge his final recension of Aristophanes by the standards of his early work on Euripides (and vice versa). Triclinius’ treatment of separated responsion also confirms the relative chronology of his editions of the four Attic dramatists, which by other criteria (and with some insecurities remaining) had been established by Turyn (1957), Smith (1975) and Günther (1995).

My argumentation is based on Triclinius’ metrical scholia and the textual and colometrical changes he applied to the divided odes in tragedy (Eur. Hipp. 362-72 ~ 669-79, Or. 1353-65 ~ 1537-48, [Eur.] Rhes. 131-6 ~ 195-200, 454-66 ~ 820-32, Soph. Phil. 391-402 ~ 507-18, OC 833-43 ~ 876-86) and Aristophanes (Nub. 700-6[9] ~ 804-13, 949-58 ~ 1024-33 and 1345-50 ~ 1391-6 are taken as examples). After proving that Triclinius did not understand the section on separated strophic responsion in Hephaestion’s Handbook on Metre (ed. Consbruch 1906), which he studied prior to setting to work on the dramatic texts (his annotated copy survives), I proceed to show that there is no evidence of such understanding either in his first edition of the Aristophanean triad (Wealth, Clouds, Frogs), the famous codex Laurentianus 32.2 (L) of Euripides and his separate edition of the Euripidean triad (Hecuba, Phoenissae, Orestes), all of which date to between ca. 1315 and 1323. However, the metrical scholia in his final edition of eight plays by Aristophanes, which belongs to the mid- to late 1320ies and is represented by two mid-14th-century copies, mark a significant advance in that Triclinius did recognise separated responsion on several occasions, together with the ancient metrical scholia or even against them. Likewise, he correctly analysed, and partially emended, the two divided odes in Sophocles, for which he had no precedents to go by (cf. Janz 2004: 204, 214; Turnebus 1553: 111 – still the only printed edition of the relevant material in OC). The recension, which again does not survive in autograph, was probably completed not long after Aristophanes.

Only the most salient case of separated responsion will be discussed. An example of the progress Triclinius made in the course of his career is his final scholium on Ar. Nub. 949: ‘... an introductory passage of choral song, which has the function of a strophe – for it also has an antistrophe in the section beginning with ‘O (...) high-towering wisdom’ (1024)’. The ancient metrical scholium on Nub. 949 had noted the differing colometry in the transmission of strophe and antistrophe, which no doubt was the reason why the younger Triclinius failed to see that the stanzas belong together.

Despite his limitations, Triclinius deserves our praise for realising that Greek lyric poetry cannot be fully appreciated without knowledge of its metrical structure, for persevering in the study of those rhythms and for making the fruits of his research available to others. In this he ranks with the best of scholars – and like any good scholar he learnt over time.

Session/Panel Title

Receptions of Classical Literature in Premodern Scholarship

Session/Paper Number


© 2020, Society for Classical Studies Privacy Policy