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In Homer the Classic , I use the Greek term koinē —spelled hereafter simply as Koine—in referring to the base text representing a consensus of convergent variants derived mostly from koinai or “common” manuscripts in the process of collation, and I show that such a Koine is a remarkably close approximation of the classical Athenian version of the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey (Nagy 2009:3, 9-21, 444-447). This classical Athenian version, as I argue in Homer the Classic , was only minimally multiform because the performance traditions of Homeric poetry were strictly regulated by the Athenian State throughout the fifth century BCE and even beyond (Nagy 2009:354-356). Relevant is the fact that the word Koine in the Athenian usage of that era means “standard” as well as “common” (Nagy 2009:7-9). And this Koine, as reestablished by Aristarchus, became the historical basis of the so called medieval vulgate textual tradition of the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey (Nagy 2009:66-71).

This Koine, however, did not represent the text of the real Homer for Aristarchus. As I argue in Homer the Classic (Nagy 2009:13-14), Aristarchus thought that such a Koine was merely the base text from which an earlier text of the real Homer could be reconstructed—by way of extensive analysis and debate in his hupomnēmata “commentaries.” The text of the real Homer as Aristarchus saw it was latent in the relative multiformity of the khariesterai or “more refined” texts, but this multiformity could be displayed only in the background, that is, only in his commentaries. By contrast, the text of the Koine was overt in the relative uniformity of the koinai texts, and this uniformity could be displayed in the foreground, that is, in the base text. The text of the real Homer could take shape only through a process of further selection, emerging from a background of relative multiformity in the khariesterai texts, while the Koine text had already achieved its shape through a process of consensus, evident in the foreground of relative uniformity in the koinai texts. For Aristarchus, an accurate picture of this consensus was the basis for reconstructing the text of a genuine Homer that transcended this consensus. In other words, the Koine as a consensus of koinai texts was the basis for reconstructing this supposedly genuine Homer through the variants provided by the khariesterai texts.

I return here to a point I made earlier about the base text of Aristarchus: that it approximated such a Koine text. In the light of this observation, it is important to highlight the fact that Aristarchus kept out of this base text the special forms he found in the khariesterai texts, privileging the consensus emerging from the forms he found in the koinai texts.

A small percentage of variant readings as reported by scholars like Aristarchus from the khariesterai or “more refined” manuscripts of Homer is preserved in medieval scholia, that is, in learned notes written into the medieval manuscripts of the Homeric text. A most informative collection of such scholia is found in a medieval manuscript commonly known as the Venetus A, now located in the Biblioteca Marciana at Venice and originally produced in a scriptorium at Byzantium in the tenth century BCE. The images of this important Homeric manuscript, as also of other manuscripts, are published online in the Homer Multitext project (Dué and Ebbott 2009+; for more about this important manuscript and about its relevance to the Homer Multitext project, see the essays edited by Dué 2009).

Questions & Answers

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RAW Reply
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Bob Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, Online humanities scholarship: the shape of things to come. OpenStax CNX. May 08, 2010 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11199/1.1
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