More on Polybius and tables of contents

In a comment on my post about Polybius and his discussion of tables of contents versus prefaces at the start of his books, Ted Janiszewski has kindly pointed out that Walbank’s remarks about the passage are online.  In fact at the PACE site, the text of Polybius with facing translation are available, with notes.  This does not work well in IE8, but displays is fine in Firefox.  It’s here.  So I’m going to excerpt what Walbank has to say; it is indeed of great interest in working out what Polybius means. 

The key words in all this are prographai and proekthesis.  The meaning of these words determines what Polybius is saying.  My current understanding is that prographai are lists, tables of contents, listing the subjects covered; and that a proekthesis is a part of the book itself — indeed a term used in orations –, in which the author sets forward the subject(s) which his argument will address.  But am I right? 

Here again is the text of the opening words of book 11, with the rather superficial Loeb translation of W.R.Paton, who reads prographai as “prologues”, and proekthesis as “summary”.  I then include Walbank’s remarks (corrected slightly for typos).  Note how Walbank uses Birt (whom I need to make available in another post), as everyone does. 

Ἴσως δέ τινες ἐπιζητοῦσι πῶς ἡμεῖς οὐ προγραφὰς ἐν ταύτῃ τῇ βίβλῳ, καθάπερ οἱ πρὸ ἡμῶν, ἀλλὰ καὶ προεκθέσεις καθ᾽ ἑκάστην ὀλυμπιάδα πεποιήκαμεν τῶν πράξεων

Some will perhaps inquire why in this work I do not, like former authors, write prologues but give a summary of the events in each Olympiad. 

 ἐν ταύτῇ τῇ βίβλῳ: probably, as Büner-Wobst suggests, the epitomator’s words, since βίβλος (βύβλος) must mean a book, not the whole work. Birt (Buchwesen, 142 n. 1) proposed adding καὶ ἐν ταῖς πρὸ ταύτης; but this is unconvincing. Orelli’s ἐν ταυτῇ τῇ πραγματείᾳ or Büner-Wobst’s ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ συντάξει gives the required sense. 

 καθάπερ οἱ πρὸ ἡμῶν: if, as this suggests, προγραφαί preceded the books of previous historians, they have rarely survived. The prefaces to Xenophon’s Anabasis, ii–vii, summarize the contents of the previous book, and are not προγραφαί at all; but one can form some impression of a προγραφή from FGH, 577 F 1 (= P. Oxy. 665), which is probably the προγραφή to a work on Sicilian history (Philistus?), and from FGH, 115 F 103 and 217, which are either προγραφαί or epitomes of books xii and xlvii of Theopompus’ Philippica. Examples survive in Diodorus. 

ἐγὼ δὲ κρίνω χρήσιμον μὲν εἶναι καὶ τὸ τῶν προγραφῶν γένος· καὶ γὰρ εἰς ἐπίστασιν ἄγει τοὺς ἀναγινώσκειν θέλοντας καὶ συνεκκαλεῖται καὶ παρορμᾷ πρὸς τὴν ἀνάγνωσιν τοὺς ἐντυγχάνοντας, πρὸς δὲ τούτοις πᾶν τὸ ζητούμενον ἑτοίμως ἔνεστιν εὑρεῖν διὰ τούτου· 

I indeed regard a prologue as a useful kind of thing, since it fixes the attention of those who wish to read the work and stimulates and encourages readers in their task, besides which by this means any matter that we are in search of can be easily found. 

 εἰς ἐπίστασιν ἄγει κτλ: cf. xiv. 1 a 1, εἰς ἐπίστασιν ἄγουσι τοὺς ἐντυγχάνοντας καὶ διὰ τὸ πλῆθος καὶ διὰ τὸ μέ γεθος τῶν γεγονότων. 

θεωρῶν δὲ διὰ πολλὰς αἰτίας καὶ τὰς τυχούσας ὀλιγωρούμενον καὶ φθειρόμενον τὸ τῶν προγραφῶν γένος, οὕτως καὶ διὰ ταῦτα πρὸς τοῦτο τὸ μέρος κατηνέχθην· 

But as I saw that for various fortuitous reasons prologues were now neglected and had degenerated in style, I was led to adopt the other alternative. 

 ὀλιγωρούμενον καὶ φθειρόμενον: ‘they are held in little account and get destroyed’. This is a general characteristic of προγραφαί, and not something which has recently come about as Paton’s translation implies: ‘as I saw that . . . prologues were now neglected and had degenerated in style’. φθειρόμενον refers, not to style (so Pdech, Mthode, 510 n. 78), but to the loss of προγραφαί (see above, 1 a n.). 

τῆς γὰρ προεκθέσεως οὐ μόνον ἰσοδυναμούσης πρὸς τὴν προγραφήν, ἀλλὰ καὶ πλεῖόν τι δυναμένης, ἅμα δὲ καὶ χώραν ἐχούσης ἀσφαλεστέραν διὰ τὸ συμπεπλέχθαι τῇ πραγματείᾳ

For an introductory summary is not only of equal value to a prologue but even of somewhat greater, while at the same time it occupies a surer position, as it forms an integral part of the work. 

τούτῳ μᾶλλον ἐδοκιμάσαμεν χρῆσθαι τῷ μέρει παρ᾽ ὅλην τὴν σύνταξιν πλὴν ἓξ τῶν πρώτων βυβλίων· ἐν ἐκείνοις δὲ προγραφὰς ἐποιησάμεθα διὰ τὸ μὴ λίαν ἐναρμόζειν ἐν αὐτοῖς τὸ τῶν προεκθέσεων γένος

I, therefore, decided to employ this method throughout except in the first six books to which I wrote prologues, because in their case previous summaries are not very suitable. 

 πλὴν ἓξ τῶν πρώτων βυβλίων: for the reading in M (resembling according to Hultsch) Mai read ‘and Cobet’; but there were special reasons for not giving προεκθέσεις καθf ἑκάστην ὀλυμπιάδα to books i–vi. i and ii were introductory, vi was an account of the constitution, army, etc., and iii-v dealt exceptionally with a single Olympiad. iii could have had a προέκθεσις to Ol. 140, but instead P. chose to prefix an introduction to the whole work (cf. iii. 1. 5 n.), just as he had included a προέκθεσις of the προκατασκευή in i. 13. 1–5. The προγραφαί, now lost, were a substitute, giving the contents of the first six books (cf. 1 a n.). 

This is very interesting indeed.  Walbank is taking the same view of prographai that I was tending towards; that these are “lists of contents”. 

But there is a reference out to book 14, which also has an introductory section.  The first part is ignored by Paton, so is from me (in brackets).  proekthesis appears again, this time translated differently.  Walbank again has a note. 

Ὅτι φησὶν Πολύβιος περὶ ἑαυτοῦ καὶ περὶ τῆς τῶν βίβλων ὑποθετικῆς ἐξηγήσεως· Ἴσως μὲν οὖν ἐπὶ πάσαις ταῖς ὀλυμπιάσιν αἱ προεκθέσεις τῶν πράξεων εἰς ἐπίστασιν ἄγουσι τοὺς ἐντυγχάνοντας καὶ διὰ τὸ πλῆθος καὶ διὰ τὸ μέγεθος τῶν γεγονότων, ὡς ἂν ὑπὸ μίαν σύνοψιν ἀγομένων τῶν ἐξ ὅλης τῆς οἰκουμένης ἔργων· 

[This says Polybius about himself and the meaning of the subject in his books]. Perhaps it is true that in all Olympiads the syllabus of events arrests the attention of the reader, owing to their number and importance, the actions of the whole world being brought under one point of view. 

αἱ προεκθέσεις τῶν πράξεων: ‘the introductory surveys of events’. 

εἰς ἐπίστασιν ἄγουσι: ‘arouse the attention of the reader’; cf. xi. 1 a 2. 

Here proekthesis is “introduction”.  So I think we’re proceeding on the right lines. 

The other point of interest in all this is the reference to examples in FGH.  There is a CDROM of the “New Jacoby” from Brill, doubtless at a price that one had better not ask.  But as I far as I know, the FGH is not accessible online, even though early volumes must be out of copyright.  Does anyone have access to FGH, 577 F 1 (= P. Oxy. 665), FGH, 115 F 103 and 217? 

Fortunately POxy665 we can access here, in vol.4, p.80 of the Oxyrynchus Papyri (1904).  Even better, there is a plate (plate I).  The right hand column is the fragment in which we are interested. 


P.Oxy.655 a table of contents in a 2nd century papyrus history of Sicily

This is transcribed as follows:

P.Oxy.655 transcription

Selected details from the book:

Fr. (a) 10·5 x 4.6, Fr. (b) 10·5 x 4·6 cm.

These fragments, which belong evidently to the same column, of which they formed the upper and lower portions respectively, are notwithstanding their small size of no slight interest and importance. They contain an abstract or summary of events in Sicily, the different items, which are stated in the concisest manner, being marked off by paragraphi and further distinguished from each other by the protrusion of the first lines into the left margin.

The papyrus was a regular literary roll, written in a fine uncial hand, which bears a very strong resemblance to that of the Oxyrhynchus papyrus of the Prooi/mia Demografika/ (facsimile in P. Oxy. I, p. 54), and also to that of the Bacchylides papyrus, to which it presents a still closer parallel than was provided by the Demosthenes MS. We should assign it, like the Demosthenes, to the second century A.D.; an earlier date is not at all likely. Probably this is part of an epitome of a continuous history of Sicily, and it may well be that, as Blass thinks, the work epitomized was the lost History of Timaeus.

The period to which the fragments refer seems to be that immediately following the general overthrow of the tyrannies in the Sicilian cities which took place about the year 465 B.C. (Diod. xi. 68.5). This period is indicated by the frequent mentions of conflicts with the Xenoi, by whom are meant the mercenaries settled in the cities by the tyrants as a support of their rule. …

The fragments also supply information of an expedition of Agrigentum against Crastus, and an engagement subsequently occurred at the latter place between the Agrigentines and forces from Himera and Gela, which may be supposed to have come to the assistance of Crastus. …

So … this, then, is an example of prographai, as they existed in the 2nd century, for a historical writer.

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