Martin West
In memoriam
Herewith the next installment of my series of commentaries on early epic fragments (for details see the preface to the first volume, The Theban Epics, which appeared in 2014). The following volume, dealing with the Cypria, will be the longest so far, and the present volume easily the shortest, and it will be worth the while briefly to consider why this should be. The number of fragments that can be assigned to the Aethiopis even on the most generous estimate (which I do not share) is extremely small, although we do have Proclus’ prose summary of its contents to establish a narrative framework. The world will have to wait, however impatiently, for my general views on the origins and reliability of that summary until they appear, as their most logical position requires, in the later volume embracing the Titanomachy, first poem of the Epic Cycle. Until then, there are reliable introductions to this issue available in, for instance, the relevant monographs by Burgess and West as listed in my bibliography. The considerations which make the so-considerably lost epic worth studying in a separate, if small, monograph are twofold. First, the possibility, long entertained by a number of scholars, that its contents in some way influenced the plot of parts of the Iliad, Second, the possibility that certain vase paintings reflect the versions of events displayed in the Aethiopis. This latter interface between art and literature, looming large also in the case of Stesichorus, has always fascinated me, and the chapter devoted to it here may be regarded as a down payment on a larger and future study of the more general issue. The former consideration brings us to the topic known as Neoanalysis. This already-controversial topic has been further complicated by the advent of the oral theory in Homeric studies, and scholarly opinions have veered for and against (and back again) in a not-altogether predictable manner. My first chapter here endeavors to give a dispassionate account of the history of the debate, its present state, and the balance of probabilities as they strike me.
As with my previous volume on the Theban epics, earlier drafts of this book were read and improved by Hugh Lloyd-Jones and Rudolf Kassel. Appropriately, given the above mentioned relevance of vase paintings, a draft was also read and improved by John Boardman. Martin West, who looked at a final draft of the Theban volume, was prevented by his sudden and untimely death from so benefiting the present book. I have, of course, profited from the relevant portion of his monograph on the Epic Cycle, and my occasional disagreements over details will disguise from the percipient neither this fact nor my sense of this loss to the classical and, indeed, academic world at large. I dedicate this book to his memory. [1]


[ back ] 1. Given the large number of forthcoming studies on the issue of (Neo-)neoanalysis, I shall be returning to the topic and its significance for the Aethiopis in a not altogether inappropriate place: the end of the commentary on the Cypria mentioned above.