Representing Citations in the Deipnosophists of Athenaeus

A new project (Representing Citations in the Deipnosophists of Athenaeus), directed by Monica Berti in collaboration with Virgilio Costa, aims at investigating the Deipnosophists of Athenaeus in order to

(1) carry out a systematic survey of the citations preserved in the fifteen books of Athenaeus’ work,
(2) build a fully comprehensive repository of the quotation schemes used by Athenaeus when alluding to his source of information.

The Deipnosophists (Δειπνοσοφισταί, or “Sophists at Dinner”, in fifteen books), written by Athenaeus of Naucratis in the early 3rd century AD, is the fictitious account of several banquet conversations on food, literature, and arts held in Rome by twenty-two learned men. This complex and fascinating work is not only an erudite and literary encyclopedia of a myriad of curiosities about classical antiquity, but also an invaluable collection of quotations of ancient authors, ranging from Homer to tragic and comic poets and lost historians. Since the large majority of the works cited by Athenaeus is nowadays lost, this compilation is a sort of reference tool for every scholar of Greek theater, poetry, historiography, botany, zoology, and many other topics.

Despite the importance of the Deipnosophists, we still lack a comprehensive survey of Athenaeus’ citations, and many classicists have expressed the need of such a research (see, e.g., G. Zecchini, La cultura storica di Ateneo. Milano: Vita e Pensiero, 1989; Athenaeus and His World. Reading Greek Culture in the Roman Empire, ed. D. Braund & J. Wilkins. Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2000; Ateneo. I Deipnosofisti, ed. L. Canfora. Roma: Salerno Editrice, 2001; Athénée et les fragments d’historiens, ed. D. Lenfant. Paris: De Boccard, 2007). The results of this investigation will enable us not only to better understand the ways of transmission of ancient literature at the time of Athenaeus, but also to make a definitive list of authors and works mentioned by him, and to draw a complete collection of citation schemes adopted in the stratified and multiform architecture of the Deipnosophists.

The primary goal of this project is to analyze the quotations of the learned banqueters with a twofold purpose: 1) to provide an inventory of all authors and works cited in the Deipnosophists; 2) to build a repository of quotation schemes used by Athenaeus when alluding to his sources of information. For this reason, the first step of the project is the realization of a TEI-compliant XML version of the Deipnosophists. The text will be based on the editions of Meineke and Kaibel, and it will be autoptically checked whenever necessary.

Given that the Deipnosophists is a mine of thousands of citations (whose exact number is still uncertain), the aim of this project is to provide a case study for drawing a spectrum of quoting habits of classical authors and their attitude to text reuse. Athenaeus, in fact, shapes a library of forgotten authors, which goes beyond the limits of a physical building and becomes an intellectual space of human knowledge. By doing so, he is both a witness of the Hellenistic bibliographical methods and a forerunner of the modern concept of hypertext, where sequential reading is substituted by hierarchical and logical connections among words and fragments of texts (cf. G. Genette, Palimpsests. Literature in the Second Degree. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997; G.P. Landow, Hypertext 2.0. The Convergence of Contemporary Critical Theory and Technology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997; J.D. Bolter, Writing Space. Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print. Second edition. Mahwah, NJ: Lea Publishers, 2001).

Quantity, variety, and precision of Athenaeus’ citations make the Deipnosophists an excellent training ground for the development of a digital system of reference linking for primary sources. In this sense, this project is consistent with the work that is currently being developed by the Technological Working Group of the Center for Hellenic Studies, in order to propose a machine-actionable but technologically independent notation for citing texts (see N. Smith, “Citation in Classical Studies.” In Digital Humanities Quarterly, 3:1, 2009).

Athenaeus’ standard citation includes (a) the name of the author with additional information like ethnic origin and literary category, (b) the title of the work, and (c) the book number (e.g., Deipn. ii 71b). He often remembers the amount of papyrus scrolls of huge works (e.g., vi 229d-e; vi 249a), while distinguishing various editions of the same comedy (e.g., i 29a; iv 171c; vi 247c; vii 299b; ix 367f) and different titles of the same work (e.g., i 4e). He also adds biographical information to identify homonymous authors and classify them according to literary genres, intellectual disciplines and schools (e.g., i 13b; vi 234f; ix 387b). He provides chronological and historical indications to date authors (e.g., x 453c; xiii 599c), and he often copies the first lines of a work following a method that probably goes back to the Pinakes of Callimachus (e.g., i 4e; iii 85f; viii 342d; v 209f; xiii 573f-574a).

Last but not least, the study of Athenaeus’ “citation system” is also a great methodological contribution to the domain of fragmentary literature, since one of the main concerns of this field is the relation between the fragment and its context of transmission. Having this goal in mind, the textual analysis of the Deipnosophists will make possible to enumerate a series of recurring patterns, which include a wide typology of textual reproductions and linguistic features helpful to identify and classify hidden quotations of lost authors.

This project is meant as a tool coherent with the work on Greek fragmentary historians, which is being conducted at the University of Rome Tor Vergata (see the series “I frammenti degli Storici Greci”, ed. in chief E. Lanzillotta). Moreover, it is also an effort to develop the model devised by the Perseus Project for representing fragmentary texts in a digital library of classical sources (see M. Berti et al., “Collecting fragmentary authors in a digital library”. In Proceedings of the 2009 Joint International Conference on Digital Libraries (JCDL ’09). Austin, TX. New York, NY: ACM Digital Library, 2009, 259-262).

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