Chapter 12. Libraries and Bibliophiles

The mention of Larensius’ rich library at the beginning of Book I does not fill out the portrait of the host of the banquets, a rich Roman bibliophile and philhellene. The library also plays an essential role in Athenaeus’ work. The link that unites text, banquets, and library is a link of analogy, of condensation, of mirroring, and of structural homology. [1]
Larensius’ library has its place in the history of great collections of books in the ancient world; Athenaeus makes it into the present culmination of a line that originated with the “libraries” of Polycrates of Samos, Peisistratus and Euclid in Athens, Nicostratus of Cyprus, and that had subsequently passed through Aristotle’s Lyceum, Alexandria, and Pergamon (1.3a–b). [2] Such a genealogy thus brings us from Athens to Rome through Alexandria and Pergamon; from the libraries of cities, philosophical schools, and Hellenistic kingdoms, to the private library of an imperial high official. Athenaeus tells us nothing of the public libraries founded in Rome since the initiative of Asinius Pollio in 39 BC, arising out of the inspiration of Julius Caesar. And in that version of his text (admittedly abbreviated), the author does not even mention the role played by the great private libraries in the spread of the Greek literary and philosophical heritage in Italy from the time of the victorious generals of the Republic. [3] Larensius’ library however, by virtue of its very existence, is the sign that the Urbs was now one of the sites where the intellectual heritage of Hellenism was concentrated.
Larensius’ love of books is not an isolated case. If the correspondence between Cicero and Atticus documents how it was possible to build up a good library of Greek texts at the end of the Republic, [4] imperial literature also presents us with some noteworthy examples of book collectors, ridiculous ones like Trimalchio or the “bibliomaniacs” mocked by Seneca and Lucian, [5] or exemplary like Pliny the Younger and Pliny the Elder. [6] A chapter of Vitruvius’ De Architectura shows how the location of the library was one of the preoccupations of those who dealt with the building of houses (6.7). Some of Larensius’ and Athenaeus’ contemporaries in Rome were famous for their libraries: that of Serenus Sammonicus, a member of Iulia Domna’s circle, contained 62,000 rolls, at least in the form in which his son transmitted it to the emperor Gordian II. [7] The physician Galen, one of Athenaeus’ characters, also owned an imposing collection of books, which went up in flames, together with other libraries in the Forum and Palatine areas during the fire of AD 192.
Athenaeus insists that it is the ancient Greek books that bring glory to Larensius. This does not preclude his owning a collection of Latin texts distinct from the Greek ones, as was the habit in Rome both in private collections and in public institutions. [8] Those private libraries could be open to a circle of people who were friends or had intellectual connections with the owner. In the first century BC Philodemus’ library at Herculaneum and Lucullus’ at Tusculum provide the best examples for the pre-imperial period. [9] The lending or exchange of books, and the cultured conversations that were devoted to them, could be the focus of a social life that also included the pleasures of the table: thus Seneca sharply criticizes the presence of big libraries in the dining rooms of the Roman houses of his time, which had no other reason to exist than to give the appearance of their owner’s high culture. [10] However, the links between library and dining room are not totally arbitrary: even in the Museum of Alexandria, where the famous library was lodged, scholars took their meals in common, [11] perpetuating a model known from the Athenian philosophical schools, for example Aristotle’s Lyceum. [12] . Moreover, it seems that the library in Pergamon, which may have imitated the organization of that at Alexandria, also included a symposium hall, within the sanctuary of Athena Polias. [13] In his lively account of a banquet offered by Herodes Atticus in a villa at Cephisia, Aulus Gellius mentions how the famous professor asked for the first volume of Epictetus’ Discourses, as edited by Arrian, and how an extract was read aloud, in order to give a lecture to a young, braggart Stoic philosopher (Attic Nights, 1.2.6–7): here again, there is a proximity between the dining room and the library, between symposium conversation and books.
The library plays a central role in Larensius’ circle and in the text of Athenaeus, even if we have no indication as to its placement within the domus, to its personnel of slaves and freedmen, or to the role played in it by Athenaeus himself. However, all of Larensius’ guests share a substantial interest in ancient Greek books, and their meeting evokes the characteristics of a reading club for bibliophiles. Larensius’ library was open to the members of that circle, and one can imagine a game of exchanges and lending of books, as well as the tireless search for rarer works. [14] For example, in Book 13, Larensius admits he has not yet succeeded in putting his hands on the work of Hieronymus of Rhodes that cites a decree on women, but promises his interlocutor to send him the book as soon as he has managed to find it (556b).
Of course, all the deipnosophists have their own personal library, even if such libraries were perhaps less impressive than that of their Roman patron. Cynulcus, for example, after having embarrassed Ulpian with a question on the feast of the Phagēsia, gives him the answer citing Clearchus of Soli’s treatise On Riddles from memory and concludes: “And if you don’t believe me, my companion, since the book is in my possession, I shall not deny it to you” (7.276a). Larensius could immediately have taken the rolls [15] in his library, seeing that he shows familiarity with the work of Clearchus, indispensible reading for whoever wanted to perpetuate the tradition of classical symposia and their social games (10.448c).
The contribution made by those scholars to the banquet takes the form of grammata, books taken out of their linen or leather bags. The term strōmatodesmos (or strōmatodesmon) describes, in its primary sense, what contained the necessary gear for the couch; the sack had to have a certain capacity, since Cleopatra hid in one of them to penetrate unnoticed into the palace of Alexandria and meet Caesar. [16] We must therefore imagine our deipnosophists arriving at Larensius’ not with a simple bookcase (capsa or scrinium), but with sacks full of papyrus rolls, necessary to the smooth progress of their meetings. The best tribute they could pay to their host was to make him discover books that he did not yet know. That seems to be the key to understanding those patrons who were learned and gourmets at the same time: Larensius turns his Roman table into Cockaigne (or Lusitania: 8.331b–c), while his guests restrict themselves to bringing their own logaria, their small speeches, and the books on which they are based. Indeed, it is precisely from the books that they extract the materials with which they contribute to the banquet, for example to the discussion on fish (7.277b–c). [17] Even the sparkling conversation and the flowering of quotations that it generates participate in that spirit of interchange (see 3.96d; 6.271b; 15.692d).
Our sophists are all on the lookout for rare books. Ulpian, the word-hunter, devotes himself to his favorite activity in every place: in the street, in the baths, and in bookshops (1.1d–e). One can also suppose that his companions also frequented Rome’s bookshops and libraries: “From which library, O most erudite grammarians, came those most venerable authors, Chrysippus and Harpocration, who slandered the names of noble philosophers by virtue of their homonymy?” asks Ulpian (14.648c). And it is with his pornographic library under his arm that Myrtilus is depicted by Cynulcus while he makes incursions into taverns and inns in gallant company: it is nevertheless true that among those nefarious books we find Aristophanes of Byzantium, Apollodorus and Gorgias of Athens, Ammonius and Antiphanes, who are all recognised sources on Athenian prostitutes (13.567a).
Aulus Gellius’ Attic Nights allow us to complete the picture traced by Athenaeus, assuming that between the reigns of Antoninus and Hadrian on the one hand, and those of Marcus Aurelius, Commodus, and Severus on the other, there was no significant line of discontinuity in the activity of letterati. Aulus Gellius’ characters also frequent Rome’s bookshops, where it might happen that other clients ask for their advice, for example on the authenticity and the edition of a text—the bookseller specializes in ancient books, seeing that in his shop one could find Fabius’ Annacls (5.41). There one meets true and fake scholars, sitting in bookshops, reading out loud and discussing textual criticism and interpretation of difficult texts (13.31; 18.4). One also meets authentic scholars, for whom it is of crucial importance, even at the height of the summer heat, to succeed in finding a treatise by Aristotle, borrowing it from the library of the temple of Hercules of Tivoli (19.5 and 9.14.3). Aulus Gellius and his friends also obviously frequented the great libraries of Rome: the Ulpiana (11.17.1–4), that of the Domus Tiberiana, rebuilt by Domitian (13.20), and that of the Temple of Peace (16.82). Neither do they neglect provincial libraries, like that of Patras, which owned a very ancient copy of the Odyssey by Livius Andronicus (18.9.5–6).
This search for books runs through the Deipnosophists from top to bottom, and Larensius’ guests do not miss a chance to mention the lucky occasions when this or that extremely rare work came into their hands. Such discoveries are shared and transmitted during the table conversations. “I came upon another treatise of Chrysippus of Tyana, entitled The Book of the Breadmaker,” says Arrian as he begins his list of breads (3.113a). Among the extant Dinner-Party Letters of Hippolochus and Lynceus of Samos, Athenaeus had the luck to come upon those by Lynceus describing the feasts of Antigonus and Ptolemy and he wants to share their content with Timocrates: “We shall not give you the letters themselves; but since the one by Hippolochus can only rarely be found, I will describe to you what is written in it, for your delectation and pastime” (4.128a–c). Indeed, our bibliophiles like sharing things, and Athenaeus’ text becomes a library of rare texts that are abundantly, if not directly, cited: “Matron the Parodist—says Plutarch—describes with much grace an Attic banquet: considering how rare it is, I shall not hesitate, my friends, to bring this text back to your memory” (4.134d). The same goes for the treatise by Moschion on the amazing boat of Hiero of Syracuse (5.206d). [18] And Democritus of Nicomedia recalls the way in which he acquired in Alexandria the small treatise (sungrammation) by Menodotus in which a problem related to one of Anacreon’s compositions found its solution (15.673d): a solution that Hephaestion had adopted and published in a treatise which appeared under his name, and which Democritus had later discovered in the shop of a Roman bookseller. Such an expert book collector had no difficulty comparing texts and identifying a plagiarist. The same Democritus also mentions his discovery of a book by Polycharmus of Naucratis with the title Aphrodite, where one could find everything one might wish to know on the “crown of Naucratis” (15.675f).
Larensius could not but enjoy such conversations. As for us, modern readers of Athenaeus, we discover in them an unsuspected library. If we are familiar with Homer, Hesiod, some lyrics, the three great tragedians and Aristophanes, the Attic orators, Plato and Aristotle, some Alexandrians poets, and some imperial prose-writers (among whom Lucian stands out because of his lively wit), Athenaeus brings to the surface a library of forgotten authors: in our vision of Greek literature, we need to find a place for the Archestratus’ Gastrologia (1.4e, and passim), the Hesiod or the Theognis of the gourmets (7.310a); for the Dinner-Party Letters of Hippolochus of Macedonia and Lynceus of Samos (4.128a–c); for the treatise of Callixeinus of Rhodes on Alexandria, from which Athenaeus quotes a spectacular description of the parade organized by Ptolemy Philadelphus in Alexandria (5.196a–203e); for the treatise of Herodotus of Lycia On Figs (3.75e) or for those of Euthydemus of Athens On Salted Fish (3.116a) and On Vegetables (3.74b); for that of Harmodius of Lepreon on Customs and Traditions of Phigaleia (10.442b) or that of Chameleon of Heraclea On Drunkenness (9.461a). These are some titles among many others from the library of Athenaeus, which is also one of our main sources for comic, historical, and lyrical fragments.
Athenaeus, like the characters he stages in his work, shows a special familiarity and care for the book as the frame enclosing a quotation, or as a witness of the use of a word, attributable to an author, identified by a title, and recognizable thanks to some material traits, for example the number of volumes (rolls) that compose it, or its incipit. The erudition deployed by Athenaeus in the area of bibliography puts him in a peculiar position among the scholars and compilers of the imperial period. In Aelian, for example, one could search in vain for a similar precision in the description of the books, the control of their titles and their attribution, in the indications that make it possible to identify a copy or a work. Diogenes Laertius is closer to our author, even if his project is entirely different: bibliography appears as an important component of the lives of Greek philosophers. Athenaeus could be compared to Galen too, who provides us with many insights on his library, on the writing and “publishing” of his own treatises, on his methods as commentator of Hippocrates. The recently discovered treatise Peri Alupias (On the Absence of Grief) offers a lively account of Galen’s scholarly activity in Rome, of his unending quest for rare and ancient texts, in the imperial libraries as well in the bookshops. He was able to evaluate the authenticity of texts, checking their titles in the catalogues of the library of Alexandria or making his own judgment on stylistic criteria. He did not hesitate to copy rare texts and he devoted an important part of his time to correcting and editing manuscripts, in order to have a better text: he had his own copies of Aristotle and Theophrastus, of Platonic and Stoic philosophers such as Clitomachus or Chrysippus. He had in his collection a copy of the Aristarchean edition of Homer’s epics as well as an edition of Plato established by Panaetius. Galen also produced his own reference books, such as an epitome of Didymus’ lexicon of the vocabulary of Attic comedy. He also wrote a synopsis of Plato’s dialogues and a lexicon of the Attic words in prose writers and authors of comedies (58 book-rolls). All these precious editions, his personal “work in progress”, along with many other personal belongings, were burnt during the AD 192 fire. [19]
Galen’s interests and scholarly activity, obviously, were close to those of Ulpian, Cynulcus, and Larensius’ other guests. As a commentator, Galen mirrors the practices of an “intensive reader”, that is, a reader focusing on few texts, but devoting himself to in-depth interpretation. But he appears too like an “extensive reader”, like Athenaeus and his characters, who browsed such a large number of books in their lexicographical and antiquarian quest. Naturally, one cannot assert that Athenaeus had in his hands every book whose “factsheet” he gives or from which he quotes an excerpt; but even if his bibliographical information comes from secondary sources, it is significant that he chose to present it again within his own work.
The bibliographical references are of course essential, when one takes care, like Ulpian, to root words within literary quotations that testify to their usage, form, and meaning. However, Athenaeus’ concern goes far beyond the accuracy of the quotations, and shows his expert interest in books, for their history, for all the intellectual problems linked to the verification of their authenticity. A librarian’s and a book collector’s concern, which could make one think about the involvement of Athenaeus in the organization of Larensius’ library, but also about the links between the Deipnosophists and that library.
If one accepts at face value the numbers provided by Gulick, Athenaeus cites around 800 authors and 2,500 works; if one takes into account the fact that a great part of those works came in the form of several papyrus rolls (or volumes), the library of Athenaeus undoubtedly represents a considerable collection. [20] By “library of Athenaeus” I do not mean the library of Larensius, nor the one made up of the books that our author was able to consult directly, but the intellectual space deployed by the countless quotations, direct or indirect, contained in his work: those quotations presuppose a stable order, a classification, an organization, that assign to each author a given time and origin, and a place in the typology of knowledge, literary genres, and disciplines.
The insistence of Athenaeus on books, even when he draws nothing else from them than a quotation or some specific piece of information, is omnipresent within the Deipnosophists, whether it be a question of testing, or at least suggesting, through concrete details, that the author has really had in hand the books he cites; or a question of providing the readers, who presumably share the same cultural preoccupations as Athenaeus and his characters, a set of objective data that allow them to identify the books cited (for example, in order to acquire them for their library), or to verify that the copy that they own is complete (i.e. that it does not lack a single roll). Neither should we disregard the production of specific meanings within the very dialogue of the deipnosophists: the extent and precision of their quotations throw light on their polymathy and their memory, especially if the quoted book is rare, or if the quotation of it offers a paradoxical view. The precise, verifiable bibliographical reference, on the other hand, also serves to verify authenticity within that polyphonic archaeology of Greek language and customs.
The bibliographical information, understood in the broad sense as everything that will contribute to defining the origin of a quotation and the status of the author from whom it comes, thus acquires a certain autonomy in relation to the actual development of the conversation. Digressive by nature, it creates an autonomous level of knowledge. For example, when he has in mind to introduce a quotation from Aristophanes’ Wealth concerning plates of fish that turn into silver plates in the presence of divinity, Athenaeus provides the following information: “Aristophanes the comic, who according to Heliodorus of Athens in his treatise on The Acropolis, which is made up of fifteen books, was from Naucratis” (6.229d–e). The reader is provided with five items: the mention of a literary genre that helps identifying Aristophanes, a secondary source, Heliodorus of Athens, the title of his work, the number of rolls it encompasses, and last, a surprising mention of Aristophanes’ homeland, Naucratis, based on Heliodorus’ authority. Such a smattering of information shows the erudition of Athenaeus as well as his interest for everything related to his own homeland, Naucratis. Moreover, mentioning the number of rolls of some particularly voluminous works fits well too with the syndrome of collection and accumulation that characterizes the Deipnosophists, but it is also a way of underlining the breadth of reading of Athenaeus and his characters, and the wealth of their libraries: citing Book 116 of the Histories by Nicholas of Damascus, Athenaeus notes that this polubiblos work contained a hundred and forty four books (6.249a). [21] The standard form of quotation, however, contains at least three items: the name of the author (with complementary elements of identification like the ethnonym or the literary category), the title of the work, and the volume in the case of works that were made up of multiple volumes. [22] Of the twelve quotations from Nicholas of Damascus, eight indicate the volume they come from: those references show that the quotations chosen by Athenaeus come from Books 103–116, either because he only had access to those fourteen rolls, or because he chose to limit himself to those, using Nicholas of Damascus as the continuator of Poseidonius. [23]
Athenaeus also takes care to mention the edition he cites, in particular for comedies, which were often subject to revision. Consequently he makes clear whether he is citing the first or the second edition of a play, [24] with the term diaskeue describing even more precisely a revised edition (10.429e; 14.663c). Athenaeus also knows that two different titles can in reality refer to two editions of the same comedy. [25] Even if he draws those details from an indirect source, Athenaeus nevertheless shows his familiarity with that dramatic corpus and with the bibliographical problems it entails.
Another characteristic of Hellenistic bibliography is the care taken to adduce bibliographic details that will allow the identification of the author among possible homonyms, and also to locate him within the typology of literary genres and intellectual disciplines. “Poseidonius the Stoic” makes it possible to identify with certainty the philosopher and historian used plentifully by Athenaeus, and avoids any confusion with a certain Poseidonius of Corinth (1.13b), author of a versified Art of Fishing. [26] Theophrastus of Eresus is presented as the disciple of Aristotle (9.387a), in the same way as Clearchus of Soli (6.234f). Poets are described as authors of epic, dithyrambs, or iambic poetry. The comics are placed within the history of the genre. [27] Mnesimachus, for example, is a poet of middle comedy (9.387a), while Sciras, who came from Taranto, belongs to Italic comedy (9.402b). If the quotations are extracted from books, those books in turn find their place in a library whose great subdivisions have been defined and organized by Alexandrian erudition.
That literary erudition also manifests itself in the chronological and historical indications that allow us to situate this or that author. Such indications are few in number. [28] Thus, we learn that Callias of Athens preceded Strattis by little (10.453c), or that Anacreon and Sappho were not contemporaries, contrary to what is stated by Hermesianax (13.599c).
The care put into bibliographic identification sometimes leads Athenaeus to cite the first lines of a text. This indication, typical of the practice of Alexandrian librarians, made it possible to identify short compositions that were part of larger collections and that did not necessarily have individual titles. When he has the idea to cite some verses by Simonides on a memorable goat’s cheese, Athenaeus begins by quoting the arch ē of that iambic poem (14.658c), and does the same for a poem by Pindar (Olympians 13) and for a skolion (13.573f–574a). For an ode of Alcaeus, he indicates the beginning and the end of the composition (3.85f). The same precaution applied to comedies, where homonymous plays and problems of attribution could make the identification of a text difficult (8.342d: Antiphanes’ Citharoede, which was probably to be distinguished from the Citharist by the same author, also quoted by Athenaeus at 15.681c). In the case of Archestratus’ work, known under four different titles, and attributed to an author from Syracuse or Gela, only the beginning of the text made a secure identification possible, together with the detail that it is an epic poem (1.4d–e). This bibliographic practice also appears in the case of prose texts, such as a speech by Lysias (5.209f; 13.611e), or the Hypomnemata of Hegesander of Delphi (11.479d).
If we can acknowledge that a library constitutes an ordered container, a general space of classification and an ordering of the works of Greek literature within which one could move with the help of the appropriate map (like Callimachus’ Pinakes), then it becomes crucial to situate every word and quotation in its place, in a determined text, itself integrated in turn within an author’s corpus, which belongs to a literary genre, to a philosophical school, or to a specific discursive field. Bibliographical references are instruments of navigation in that common space that is the library of a learned community, namely the totality of known books, accessible or esoteric, present or not in material libraries. They offer stable points of reference, making possible the access to a text or to one of its loci, wherever that text may be found.
The abundance of bibliographic indications present in the Deipnosophists can be explained by the fact that this ordered container has cracks: the circulation of ancient Greek books, the constitution of Roman private libraries by virtue of acquisitions from unspecified providers, the deviations detected with respect to the great Hellenistic libraries (Alexandria, Pergamon), which still represented the norm. All those factors demanded of bibliophiles increased vigilance, specific research, and at times the realization of the impossibility of determining the author or the title of a work, in particular when indirect sources attribute the same quotation to different books.
Athenaeus takes care to voice his uncertainties, and there are indeed many occasions where he mentions such incidents of tradition: is it a question of damaged rolls? Of lost or inverted titles? Of several copies of a single text under the name of different authors? Or doubts that already appear in the various bibliographical “aids” that were at the disposal of the author? Or confusions created by the indirect sources and the lexica used by Athenaeus? Three authors, for example, are indicated for the Treatise on Agriculture from which Athenaeus extracts a list of figs: Androtion, Philip, and Hegemon (3.75d). The satirical drama Agen is attributed to two authors, Python, about whom it is not known whether he was from Catania or from Byzantium, and Alexander the Great himself (2.50f; the bibliographic “index card” is repeated at 13.586d). The habit of sacrificing pigs to Aphrodite is documented through an historical work from which Athenaeus quotes one sentence. But is that work by Callimachus or by Zenodotus (3.95f–96a)? In some cases, Athenaeus takes a position in favor of a given attribution, but also mentions the other one, perhaps for the benefit of his bibliophile readers who could be driven to look for the book in a library or in the shop of a bookseller: “As Chameleon of Pontus says in his treatise On Pleasure (which however is also attributed to Theophrastus)” (6.273c). Or else, even while attributing the text to an author, Athenaeus suggests that that attribution is debatable: “Pherecrates, or whoever wrote the Cheiron” (9.388f); “Polemon, or whoever the author of the text entitled The Book of Greece was” (11.479f). The problem was traditionally raised by ancient poetic texts. When he cites the Cypria, Athenaeus mentions, not without a certain carelessness, the traditional problem of the identification of their author: “whether it is a Cypriot, or Stasinus, or whether he bears the names he likes most” (8.334b–c), or whether it is Hegesias, Stasinus, or Cyprias of Halicarnassus (15.682d–e).
A close and exhaustive examination of all those bibliographical anomalies would make it possible to trace an evocative picture of the state of textual transmission at the time of Athenaeus, and of the doubts and discussions that had arisen regarding it. [29] Every literary genre raised specific problems. Comedies, abundantly cited, often had a double attribution, perhaps the result of homonymy that at some point had caused confusion. Thus a quotation from the Skeuai, [30] mediated by Chameleon, is attributed to Aristophanes and to Plato (14.628e; see also 14.642d). The tradition of Hippocratic treatises also raises specific problems: Athenaeus thus mentions alternative titles under which the treatise On Diet circulated: On Acute Diseases, On Barley-gruel, or A Response to the Cnidian Maxims (2.45e–f).
Every book collector also had to take on the question of homonymous authors, a factor creating considerable confusion. Diogenes Laertius even made it the concluding remark of some of his Lives of the Philosophers. [31] This explains the care taken by Athenaeus in specifying the identity of the authors he cites through a geographic qualification, reference to a literary genre, or an established intellectual discipline. This does not prevent him from citing side by side in the same sentence Plato the philosopher and Plato the comic (for example 2.48a; 7.314a). In some cases, however, the ambiguity cannot be resolved: when Plato the comic alludes to Philoxenus’ Banquet, is it Philoxenus of Cythera or Philoxenus of Leucas (4.146f)? However, the bibliophiles had at their disposal specialized aids that allowed them to avoid the traps into which ignorant collectors must have invariably fallen. One such aid is the treatise On Homonymous Poets and Writers by Demetrius of Magnesia (13.611b), a first-century BC scholar and a friend of Atticus, cited by Cicero, criticized by Dionysius of Halicarnassus, and abundantly quoted by Diogenes Laertius. [32] And a similar work by Heraclides of Mopsus allows Athenaeus to obtain the list of all the authors named Polemon (6.234c–d). Ulpian, as we have seen, consults his companions on Chrysippus and Harpocration, asking them in which library have they found those homonyms of famous authors (14.648c).
Larensis’ guests could have doubts on the authenticity of some texts, doubts that were inspired by the philological criticism of the great centers of knowledge in the Hellenistic world. They also show their mastery of that philological tradition when they mention the critical judgments of the grammarians, nevertheless justifying their choice to quote a suspect text: for example, Hesiod’s Marriage of Ceyx, “since, even though the grammarians have withdrawn from the poet the paternity of that work, it nevertheless seems to me to be ancient” (2.49b). They can also contest the authenticity of a passage, for example those verses in Hesiod, reported by Euthydemus of Athens in his book On Salted Fish, which are more reminiscent of the style of a cook than of the more musical of poets, and which allude to places that Hesiod could not have known: Parion, Byzantium, Tarentum, and Campania. For the grammarian Leonidas, those verses are in all probability by Euthydemus himself. “Whose the verses are, dearest Leonidas, it is up to you most excellent grammarians, to decide. But since now the conversation shifts to salted fish...,” answers Dionysocles (3.116a–d).
More recent authors do not escape such investigation: Athenaeus cites Theophrastus’ Monarchy, dedicated to Cassander, adding an aside: “If this treatise is authentic, since many hold that it is by Sosibius” (4.144e). The corpus of Attic orators also poses problems, and Athenaeus voices the doubts of the learned tradition on the authenticity of such-and-such a speech by Lysias (6.231b: On the Golden Tripod; 13.586e and 592e: Against Lais; see also 13.586e–f and 592c: Against Philonides), by Hyperides (13.566f: Against Patroclus) or by Demosthenes (13.573b and 586e: Against Neaera). [33] The suspicion is expressed, but does not discourage the quotation.
Everything indicates that Athenaeus and his characters mastered the great works of reference of ancient bibliography. Democritus testifies in a noteworthy way to this recourse to bibliographic finding aids in a library of imperial times when he tries to verify the existence of a comedy by Alexis, The Master of Debaucheries, cited by the Peripatetic Sotion of Alexandria (8.336d). [34] Now, Democritus had never come across that comedy, despite the breadth of his reading (according to his own account, he had read more than eight hundred plays of Middle Comedy), and neither did he find mention of it in Callimachus’ Pinakes, nor in the supplement and the corrections by Aristophanes of Byzantium, nor in the catalogues of the librarians of Pergamon. It was therefore an unobtainable book, whose existence, however, Democritus never doubts: in a way he is even proud to have found mention of this comedy, which had escaped the best Hellenistic bibliographers. Their catalogues were thus still required reading for a second-century scholar who had much on his hands given all the identification problems related to a specific book. [35]
Athenaeus testifies to the use of the hundred and twenty rolls of Callimachus’ Tables of Those who Distinguished Themselves in the Fields of Culture, and of the Works Written by Them. The work was more than a catalogue: it was a systematic bibliography of literary genres and fields of knowledge, with all the information necessary to identify books and situate their authors. Perhaps through indirect sources, Athenaeus thus refers to the sections devoted to the “various treatises” (6.244a; 14.643e–f), to the speeches (15.669d–e), and to the laws (13.585b). In Callimachus he finds bibliographies: for example, a list of works on pastry (14.643e–f), or on authors of Banquets, which opened by mentioning Chaerephon, accompanied by the beginning of the text and by the number of verses (6.244a; see also 13.585b, on Gnathaena). [36] Other bibliographies appear in Athenaeus: for example, one on the authors of treatises on fishing, in prose or in verse (1.13b), on tragic dance (1.20d), on cookery books (12.516c), on the comedies bearing the names of famous courtesans (13.567c–d).
Callimachus also offers information that can be biographical, like the name of Lysimachus’ philosophy master (6.252c), or bibliographical, like an alternative title for a comedy by Diphylus (11.496e–f). Aristophanes of Byzantium, who had revised Callimachus’ Pinakes, is also cited in relation to questions of lexicography, which shows how the librarian-like treatment of books allowed one to deal with the form and substance of the texts (9.408f; 410b–c). Athenaeus knows of the existence of other manuals, such as Collections of Books, by Artemon of Cassandrea (12.515d–e). By the same author, Athenaeus also cites On the Usefulness of Books, although the title of this work might simply refer to a section of the previous one (15.694a). This author should perhaps be identified with Artemon of Pergamon (around 100 BC), mentioned in the scholia to Pindar. [37] Artemon was in any case representative of Pergamene bibliographic science, and Athenaeus cites him in order to contest, based on an argument of chronological impossibility, his attribution of a historical treatise to Dionysius Skytobrachion. Athenaeus also cites him for his typology of skolia: indeed, Artemon’s second book was devoted to the various sorts of convivial songs. That manual may have integrated bibliography and literary history, designed as it was to serve the bibliophiles who wished to put together their own library. Tradition has preserved the titles of other similar works, not cited by Athenaeus: On the Acquisition and Selection of Books, by Herennius Philo (a contemporary of Hadrian), and On the Knowledge of Books, by Telephus of Pergamon, where the author noted the books that were worth acquiring. [38]


[ back ] 1. For an earlier discussion of my thoughts on this question see Jacob 2000.
[ back ] 2. Here Athenaeus’ inspiration is a reconstruction of the history of libraries that can be found in many other authors of the imperial period. Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 7.17.1–2; Isidorus of Seville, Etymologies 6.3.3–5; Tertullian, Apology 18.5. Those authors may all refer to the same source (perhaps Varro’s On Libraries?). On this tradition see Canfora 1990 and Jacob 2000.
[ back ] 3. On the history of libraries in Rome see Langie 1908; Wendel 1955; Fedeli 1986; Blank 1992:152–78; and Pesando 1994.
[ back ] 4. See Cicero, Letters to Atticus 1.7; 1.10.4; 1.20.7; 2.6.1; 4.4.1; 4.5.4; 4.8.2; see also Tusculan Disputations 2.9; 3.7; Letters to his Friends 16.20.
[ back ] 5. Petronius, Satyricon 48.4; Seneca, On Tranquility of Mind 9.4–7; Lucian, The Ignorant Book-Collector.
[ back ] 6. Pliny the Younger, Letters 1.8; 2.17.
[ back ] 7. Scriptores Historiae Augustae, Gordianus 18.2. According to the Suda (s.v. “Epaphroditus”), Nero’s freedman, who was also Epictetus’ master, owned a personal library of 30,000 books. See also Isidore of Seville, Etymologies 6.6 on the library of Pamphilius of Caesarea, which also contained ca. 30,000 volumes (3rd century AD). We have no way of verifying those numbers, but it is nevertheless interesting to compare them to the ones we have for the library of the Serapaeum of Alexandria: 42,800 rolls according to Tzetzes, Prolegomena On Comedy 32 (ed. Koster).
[ back ] 8. See Cicero, Letters to His Brother Quintus 3.4.5; Petronius, Satyricon 48.4; Sidonius Apollinaris, Letters 4.11.6; Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars 44; Isidore of Seville, Etymologies 6.5.2. Athenaeus cites only three Latin works: 4.160c (Varro and Roman grammarians); 4.168e (the History of Rome by P. Rutilius Rufus, which was, however, written in Greek); 6.273b (Cotta’s treatise on the Roman constitution). See Zecchini 1989:236–39.
[ back ] 9. Plutarch, Life of Lucullus 42; see also Cicero, On Moral Ends 3.7–8.
[ back ] 10. Seneca, On Tranquility of Mind 9.5.
[ back ] 11. Strabo, Geography 17.1.8.C.793–94. One should also recall in Athenaeus the description of the ship of Hiero of Syracuse, the Alexandris, with its study room (scholastērion) furnished with a library and five couches (5.207e–f).
[ back ] 12. The will of the scholarch Strato leaves the library as inheritance to his successor (with the exception of the books he had written himself), as well as all the tableware necessary for meals in common, the couches, and the drinking cups (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers 5.62).
[ back ] 13. Callmer 1944:151.
[ back ] 14. As has been highlighted by Anderson 1974:2174–76, Athenaeus’ scholarly erudition goes well beyond the corpus of classical authors read and studied in the schools of the Second Sophistic.
[ back ] 15. The work probably contained more than one, since Athenaeus refers to the first: 14.620c. See fr. 64 and 91 (Wehrli).
[ back ] 16. Plutarch, Life of Julius Caesar 49.
[ back ] 17. See 13.555a, where a quotation from Antiphanes mentions banquets in which everyone brought their part, and where blows were given and received for a prostitute; 13.572c, on the misfortunes of a young man who came to the banquet without any other contribution than himself; 8.362d, on the eranoi, those banquets to which the guests contributed by bringing the food; 6.270d, where Cynulcus mentions his contribution.
[ back ] 18. See also 15.672a.
[ back ] 19. Boudon-Millot and Jouanna 2010.
[ back ] 20. The way books were counted in ancient libraries consisted in calculating the number of rolls, not the number of works. It is certain that a library of 2,500 works, which probably contained works as long as that of Nicholas of Damascus (144 rolls), and several copies of the same texts, could approach the 62,000 “volumes” of Serenus Sammonicus.
[ back ] 21. See also 1.5a–b: “Timalchidas of Rhodes, who wrote a treatise in epic verse in eleven books, or perhaps more” (Athenaeus refers only to Books 4 and 9). Is it because he suspects that the eleventh book is not the last? Other references in Athenaeus to the total number of rolls in a work: 2.60d–e (Cephisodorus); 6.229e (Heliodorus of Athens); 7.312e (Sostratus); 13.597a (Hermesianax of Colophon); 15.673e (Adrastus).
[ back ] 22. The number of lines of a text (the stichometric indications), while a criterion of identification used in library catalogues, is an instrument of control in the process of copying or editing a text, but is never used as an instrument of internal orientation in a text, and Athenaeus himself does not use that form of localization.
[ back ] 23. As Zecchini 1989:117–20 suggests.
[ back ] 24. 4.171c: first edition of Aristophanes’ Clouds; 7.299b and 8.345f: second edition of the Clouds; 9.367f: first edition of Magnes’ Dionysus; 14.646e: second edition of the Dionysus; 6.247a–c: quotation from the two editions of Diphylus’ Synoris; see also 9.373c (Menander) and 10.413c (Euripides).
[ back ] 25. See 3.110b; 6.247c; 8.358d; 10.429c; 11.496f. See also 9.373f–374e: Athenaeus (or his source) refers to a pinax relating to representations of drama where it is highlighted that the comedies of Anaxandrides have been preserved even though they had not been victorious.
[ back ] 26. One should however note the various ways in which Athenaeus refers to the former: “Stoic”, “philosopher”, of Apamea, of Rhodes, or even “my Poseidonius”.
[ back ] 27. Athenaeus shows his good knowledge of the Alexandrian scholarship on the comic genre: Lycophron, Eratosthenes, Antiochus of Alexandria.
[ back ] 28. See also 2.51a, 71a–b; 4.128a, 183e; 5.218b–c; 11.470f; 15.698a.
[ back ] 29. On this question one can refer to multiple contributions in Braund and Wilkins 2000, especially those by E. Bowie on elegiac and iambic poetry, by K. Sidwell on fifth-century comedy, by G. Zecchini on Athenaeus and Harpocration, by F. Walbank on Polybius, and by C. Pelling on the use of the historians. See also Zecchini 1989.
[ back ] 30. The meaning of this title is unclear. “Costumes” (Kaibel)? “Goods and Chattels” (Gulick)?
[ back ] 31. See e.g. 2.103–4 (Theodore); 5.83–85 (Demetrius); 5.93–94 (Heraclides); 6.81 (Diogenes); 9.17 (Heraclitus); 9.49 (Democritus).
[ back ] 32. Cicero, Letters to Atticus 4.11.1–2; 8.11.7; 8.12.6; 9.9.2; Dionysius of Halicarnassus, On Dinarchus 1; Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers 1.38, 79, 112, 114; 2.52, 56, 57; 5.3, 75, 89; 6.79, 84, 88; 7.31, 169, 185; 8.85; 9.15, 27, 35–36, 40; 10.13. It is significant that Diogenes Laertius does not include Demetrius of Magnesia in his list of homonymous authors called “Demetrius” (5.83–85). Demetrius of Magnesia was also the author of a treatise On Homonymous Cities. See RE 4.2.2814–17 (Schwartz); FHG 4.382.
[ back ] 33. Athenaeus thus testifies to the critical debates on the constitution of the corpus of the Attic orators, where Dionysius of Halicarnassus and Caecilius of Calacte pursued the work of Callimachus. See Dover 1968:15–22.
[ back ] 34. See Arnott 1996:819–22.
[ back ] 35. See also Dionysius of Halicarnassus, On Dinarchus 1.
[ back ] 36. There is no other mention of this Chaerephon in the Deipnosophists. Callimachus’ entry is one testimony among others concerning that famous parasite.
[ back ] 37. See FHG 4.342, FGrHist 32.T.6, and Kommentar 510; RE 2.2.1446ff. (Wentzel); R. Goulet, s.v. “Artemon”, in DphA 1.434, p. 615ff.
[ back ] 38. The very rare testimonia are collected in RE 15.653ff (Gudeman) and RE 19.369–79 (Wendel).