Some Further Reading

This is a bibliography for English speakers with either limited or no Greek.

Until 2016, there were just two book length studies in English of the Greek fragmentary tragedies:

Shards From Kolonos: Studies in Sophoclean Fragments, edited by Alan H. Sommerstein (Bari: Levante-Editori, 2003)

Lost Dramas of Classical Athens, edited by Fiona McHardy, James Robson, David Harvey (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2005)

Because these are collections of essays by different scholars, many of the topics are specialized, but the first two chapters of Lost Dramas (by Rudolph Kassel and David Harvey respectively) very usefully survey the history of the reception of fragments. This book also contains David Wiles’ version of Euripides’ Hypsipyle.

More recently, however, a very valuable addition to the literature is The Lost Plays of Greek Tragedy, Volume 1: Neglected Authors, by Matthew Wright (London: Bloomsbury Press, 2016), which focuses on the Greek tragedians (through to 322 BCE) who have passed into obscurity. It provides the first complete English translation of the surviving fragments of these neglected playwrights’ works. This is a very great service, but it also demonstrates the paucity of evidence concerning tragedy by anyone other than Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, since the neglect of others started at an early date. Wright also reflects in an illuminating way on the allure and the challenge of fragments.

The best short survey of the fragmentary Greek plays remains Martin Cropp’s “Lost Tragedies: a Survey” in Justina Gregory (ed.) A Companion to Greek Tragedy (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2005), 271-292.

Easily the best editions of some specific fragmentary Greek tragedies, for those with little or no Greek, are in the Aris & Phillips Classical Texts series. These are:

Sophocles: Selected Fragmentary Plays, Volume I, edited by. A. H. Sommerstein, D. Fitzpatrick and T. Talboy (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2006)

Sophocles: Selected Fragmentary Plays, Volume II, edited by. A. H. Sommerstein and T. Talboy (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2011)

Euripides: Selected Fragmentary Plays Volume I, edited by C. Collard, M. J. Cropp and K. H. Lee (Warminster: Aris & Phillips, 1995)

Euripides: Selected Fragmentary Plays Volume II, edited by C. Collard, M. J. Cropp and J. Gilbert (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2004)

All of these have very valuable general introductions about the relevance of the fragmentary plays and the problems of reconstruction, as well as detailed introductions to and commentaries on the specific plays. The original Greek text and English translation is on facing pages.

A great addition to the Aris & Phillips series is Euripides: Cyclops and Major Fragments of Greek Satyric Drama, edited by Patrick O’Sullivan and Christopher Collard (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2013). The ‘major fragments’ of the title come from Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, as well as the supposed founder of the genre, Pratinas, and various others. To have all the important surviving evidence for this genre brought together in a single volume like this is enormously helpful.

The Loeb Classical Library, published by Harvard University Press, contains more of the fragmentary Greek plays, with facing page English translations, but the introductions to specific plays are less thorough and notes are relatively sparse. The relevant volumes are:

Aeschylus III Fragments. Edited and translated by Alan H. Sommerstein (2008) – a long-awaited replacement of the Weir-Smyth edition.

Sophocles Fragments. Edited and translated by Hugh Lloyd-Jones (1996).

Euripides VII Fragments: Aegeus-Meleager. Edited and translated by Christopher Collard and Martin Cropp (2008).

Euripides VIII Fragments: Oedipus-Chrysippus. Edited and translated by Christopher Collard and Martin Cropp (2008).

Aristophanes Fragments. Edited and Translated by Jeffrey Henderson (2008)

Fragments of Old Comedy (three volumes). Edited and translated by Ian C. Storey (2011)

Menander II. Edited and translated by W. G. Arnott (1998).

Menander III. Edited and translated by W. G. Arnott (2000).

The series also includes some fragments from the Latin dramatists, in rather outdated editions with much less in the way of suggested possible reconstructions, in the following volumes:

Remains of Old Latin, volumes I and II, both edited and translated by E. H. Warmington (1935, 1936).

Some of the extraordinary range of lost Greek comedy is contained in Broken Laughter: Selected Fragments of Greek Comedy by S. Douglas Olson (Oxford: OUP, 2007). This is a fascinating book, but unfortunately Olson has consigned the English translations to the rear end of the book, making comparison between the translations and the original texts
inconvenient and awkwardly separating the translations from the commentaries.

A wonderful book for anyone interested in the whole history and context of ancient Greek comedy is The Birth of Comedy: Texts, Documents and Art from Athenian Comic Competitions, 486 – 280 edited by Jeffrey Rusten (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011). This nearly 800-page book contains English translations (without the Greek) of many significant fragments from the lost plays as well as scholia, testimonia and other relevant ancient documents. However, it is not organized in a way that helps any potential reconstructions (for which the fragmentary material is, in any case, mostly too thin). For background, though, it’s unbeatable.

There is also one book length study in English of satyr drama (nearly all of which is lost): Satyr Drama: Tragedy at Play, edited by George W. M. Harrison (Swansea: The Classical Press of Wales, 2005). But almost all the essays included concentrate on the one extant (and in some ways atypical) satyr play, Euripides’ Cyclops, and/or on Euripides’ extant pro-satyric drama, Alkestis. From my point of view, therefore, it is a major disappointment.

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3 Responses to Some Further Reading

  1. So anything by Menander would fit the criteria??? Especially, a newer paperback edition. I have the old 2 vol Random House edition ed. Eugene O’Neill. This does not contain any small fragments.

  2. Only ‘Dyskolos’ counts as complete. There’s quite a lot missing from ‘Samia,’ but enough is left to get a good idea of the whole. All other Menander plays can be called fragmentary, with up to a half of the text surviving but maybe in very lacunose condition. Quite a lot of Menander was discovered on papyrus in the second half of the twentieth century, long after the Random House edition was published. The penguin edition of Menander’s plays (translated by Norma Miller and first published 1987) is a good introduction to his surviving work.

  3. Thanks for responding. Something more about the RH edition. I thought I saw a revised edition, at one time. There have been a couple of Penguin editions. I have the old one that also contains Theophrastus’ Characters. Thought the Oxford paperback would be very up to date too. Thanks again..

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