CJ 110.4: Ian Plant “Thucydides, Timotheus and the Epitaph for Euripides” 385-396

tl;dr A careful review of the sources for the epigram and the text itself, concluding that it was not by either of the authors it’s attributed to, but a later (mid-4th cent) composition, which may or may not have been actually inscribed on a memorial erected then.

undergraduates could read this, but the topic is fairly advanced

stakes: provides some further support for our understanding of 4th-century Athenian ideology of cultural, if no longer political, supremacy and the popularity of Euripides

This is a straightforward and interesting analysis of what we can know about an epigram commemorating Euripides that is variously attributed to Thucydides the historian and a late-fifth century lyric poet named Timotheus.

Plant starts by recounting our sources for the epigram (the Life of Euripides, the Greek Anthology and the much later Athenaeus) and going through the implications of the linguistic differences between their versions of the text. In this context we get interesting information on the tradition of the epigram (I was unaware, for instance, that book 7 of the Greek Anthology records nine different sepulchral epigrams for Euripides!).

More interesting to me was the analysis of the epigram itself, with its echoes of Pericles’ Funeral Oration that likely led to the attribution to Thucydides.

Finally, Plant examines the evidence that the epigram was part of the ideology, traced to Isocrates in the 380s and continuing through the Hellenistic era, of Athenian cultural dominance. Here we get a sense of the popularity of Euripides (and the other tragedians) during this period, and the physical and textual traces of this.

Plant concludes that the epigram was probably never actually inscribed on a memorial, and that its ideology dates it too late to have been written by either of the late-fifth-century authors to whom it was attributed in antiquity.