Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend a conference on organized at Corpus Christi College in Oxford and I would like to give some feedback here, as the conference was very inspiring. The programme was divided into 5 sections and gave a broad, but also detailed view on the concept of “commentary” from Antiquity up to now.
Section 1: section one started with papers on general issues linked to the writing of a commentary. In particular the challenges encountered and the scopes aimed at while commenting on fragmentarily preserved ancient texts were thematized.
Section 2: here the focus was on the evidence from Antiquity. The presentations showed different examples of ancient commentaries which have been transmitted. Examples of philosophical, scientific and philological/literary commentaries were discussed and their similarities and differences were highlighted.
Section 3: the emergence of a new kind of commentary in the Renaissance period was discussed here and the works of Renaissance scholars like Lambinus were presented and analysed.
Section 4: in section four the 18th/19th Centuries were in the center of the discussion. The changes the tradition of commentary-witting underwent in those days and the works of great scholars like Jebb and Page were analysed and discussed.
Section 5: the day ended with a section on the form of the modern commentaries and their relations to their historical background. For instance Fränkel’s commentary on Aeschylus’ Agamemnon was discussed as well as more recent projects of the participants.
For Demetrios the approach the speakers took is relevent from several points of view. First Demetrios’s work is also a commentary. It belonged most probably to the philological/literary commentaries. And the analysis of common features and/or differences with other kinds of commentaries from Antiquity is very helpful to understand Demetrios’s work and to place it in the tradition of commentary-writing. However, as Demetrios’s work is fragmentarily transmitted, the remaining pieces should also be explained and commented. Therefore the considerations about the task of modern commentators touched on difficulties, questions and issues which I also encountered during my work on Demetrios. Finally as Sir Richard C Jebb was a good defender of Demetrios during the controversy about Schliemann’s discoveries at the end of the 19th century, seeing other parts of this scholarly activity illuminated was an interesting complement.