Greek text critical marks as described by Diogenes Laertius

I’m reading through the first volume of Diogenes Laertius Lives of the Philosophers.  In book 3, devoted to Plato, we find the following interesting excursus, which I copy from a version present on Wikisource here.

65. The right interpretation of his dialogues includes three things: first, the meaning of every statement must be explained; next, its purpose, whether it is made for a primary reason or by way of illustration, and whether to establish his own doctrines or to refute his interlocutor; in the third place it remains to examine its truth.

And since certain critical marks are affixed to his works let us now say a word about these. The cross × is taken to indicate peculiar expressions and figures of speech, and generally any idiom of Platonic usage; the diple[65] (>) calls attention to doctrines and opinions characteristic of Plato; 66. the dotted cross (⨰) denotes select passages and beauties of style; the dotted diple (⋗) editors’ corrections of the text; the dotted obelus (÷) passages suspected without reason; the dotted antisigma (Ꜿ) repetitions and proposals for transpositions; the ceraunium the philosophical school; the asterisk (∗) an agreement of doctrine; the obelus (−) a spurious passage.

So much for the critical marks and his writings in general. As Antigonus of Carystus says in his Life of Zeno, when the writings were first edited with critical marks, their possessors charged a certain fee to anyone who wished to consult them.

65. A wedge-shaped mark >, used in early papyri to denote a fresh paragraph.

It is always good to see the actual basis for some of the remarks that get made in text critical handbooks.  Here at least, we have an explicit statement of what marks indicate what.


5 thoughts on “Greek text critical marks as described by Diogenes Laertius

  1. Earlier than this ( reign of Augustus) is Aristonicus gramm. On Critical Signs of the Iliad (de signis Iliadis) and On Critical Signs of the Odyssey (de signis Odysseae); not translated as far as I know; M.L. West’s general remarks in *Studies in the text and transmission of the Iliad* p. 65 are helpful.

  2. Thank you very much for these references, which I need to look into, then, and perhaps get bits translated from. I certainly was not aware of these works. Do you have any suggestions for editions?

  3. The fragments are collected in two 19th century editions, the more important is L. Friedländer, Aristonici Περὶ σημείων Ἰλιάδος reliquiae emendatiores. Göttingen: Dieterich, 1853 (repr. Amsterdam: Hakkert, 1965) (reprinted again since 1965).
    Both are in TLG, so I just read them there. They are re-edited in Erbse’s edition (H. Erbse, Scholia Graeca in Homeri Iliadem [scholia vetera],) of the scholia of the Iliad, but you have to find them individually. There is a lot of them (93,371 words for the Iliad, TLG says, 37,000 for the Odyssey). No one is translating them, as far as i know, but i will ask around.

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