The Cypria

  Davies, Malcolm. 2019. The Cypria. Hellenic Studies Series 83. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.


This is the third installment in my series of commentaries (which began with The Theban Epics [2015] and continued with The Aethiopis [2016]) on the fragments of the Epic Cycle. There is now, of course, an excellent introduction to the whole topic in the form of the late Martin West’s The Epic Cycle (Oxford 2013), which displays his genius at full stretch, especially his inerring ability to select the essentials, seeing the wood for the trees raised to a very fine art. Nevertheless, it seemed to me that there was still room for a more detailed commentary on the Cypria (and, indeed, the remaining fragments of the Epic Cycle), one that paid particular attention to the work done by others up to the present day and to the evidence of artistic representations of the stories enshrined in the poem. I only hope that this greater attention to the trees has not entirely obscured the wood.

The presentation of material is indeed more complex in this volume than in the other two. In The Theban Epics there were fragments without a late prose summary, while The Aethiopis contained Proclus’ prose summary and the narrative of the mythographer Apollodorus, but hardly any fragments as such. The present volume presents both fragments and Proclus’ summary, divided into conveniently short sections, and juxtaposed with the equivalent passages of Apollodorus (as in The Aethiopis), which may in some cases add details not in Proclus but deriving (without explicit indication) from the Cypria.

As with the two volumes mentioned above, earlier drafts of the present volume were read and improved by Hugh Lloyd-Jones and Rudolf Kassel.

At the end of the preface to my book on the Aethiopis, I promised a follow-up on that topic in the present volume, and I have supplied this at the end of chapter 5, largely because I wished to provide an account and critique of recent work on the topic, too recent for me to have given it due attention in the relevant volume. There is indeeed a “special relationship” between Aethiopis and Iliad, a relationship all the more striking because so little, perhaps none, of the former’s actual words have survived.

My next volume will contain a commentary on the fragments of the remaining Trojan epics (Ilias Parva, Iliupersis, Nostoi, and Telegony). In view of the recent proliferation of relevant studies I have changed the plan announced in the preface to my book on the Aethiopis and have decided to include a survey of such studies within a general work on the Cycle.