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Thucydides 6.59.4 Again

Konrad H. Kinzl

Rheinisches Museum für Philologie 116 (1973) 91-95





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C.W. Fornara in a recent article1 put forward a new interesting interpretation of Thuc. According to Fornara ‘these words must mean “those of the Alcmeonids who were in exile”’; and therefore ‘to [Thucydides], not all but only some [Fornara’s italics] of the Alcmeonids had gone into exile during the Peisistratid tyranny’. Fornara goes on: ‘surely the implied antithesis to “those who were in exile” is “those who were not”. We are obliged to assume, with an author like Thucydides, that his qualification intends some significant distinction’.

This interpretation, if accepted, could throw new light on the political situation in Athens during the last years of the Peisistratid tyranny, and may in fact lead to a new assessment of the rôle of at least part of that chameleonic clan, the Alkmeonidai, in Peisistratid Athens.3

K.J. Dover4 proposed a completely different interpretation of this passage, which was rejected by Fornara, mainly on linguistic grounds (and especially because of Dover’s failure to furnish parallels from Thucydides to support his view):5 ‘not “those of the Alkmeonidai who were in exile”, but “among the exiles, the Alkmeonidai”’.6





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I should like to illustrate the philological situation first by the following [seemingly] trivial experiment (the preposition U(PO/ is replaced by a preposition demanding a case other than the genitive):7


(a) SU\N


It is obviously example (b) which illuminates Dover’s interpretation of the passage. But it is indeed difficult to see why Thucydides should have chosen a partitive genitive, in order to say ‘the Alkmeonidai among the exiles’. The partitive genitive designates the sum from which a part has been removed. It may be argued that exiles by definition form only a part, and that this is also reflected by Thucydides’ use of FUGA/DES and FEU/GONTES with the partitive genitive of the undivided group.8

Furthermore, the historical implications of Dover’s translation are, to say the least, puzzling: there were in addition to the Alkmeonidai other exiles, but these exiles did not participate in the expulsion of Hippias which was brought about only by the Lakedaimonians and ‘the Alkmeonidai among the exiles’.

Possibility (c), a partitive genitive *A)LKMEONIDW=N specifying who these exiles were, was advanced by Classen and Steup9. This seems to be the position taken by Fornara too.10 Classen-





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Steup quote 13 instances in which Thucydides ‘Völkernamen zu FUGA/DES und FEU/GONTES im Genetiv hinzutreten läßt’11 — whereas there is only one exception to this usage (6.43). Therefore our passage, ‘wo wir statt eines Ethnikons ein Patronymikon haben’, must be explained in the same way.12

Taking this understanding of the text as their starting point, Classen-Steup appear to arrive at a historical interpretation of the passage which is similar to that advocated by Fornara: ‘at that time the Alkmeonidai were not exiled one and all [the italics are mine], as they had been in an earlier time, and were shortly after again, as a result of their being E)NAGEI=S KAI\ A)LITH/RIOI TH=S QEOU=’.13 This is circular. Since FUGA/DES and FEU/GONTES always appear alonG with a partitive genitive, this construction cannot have a strongly partitive meaning. In 1.113.1, *BOIWTW=N TW=N FEUGO/NTWN (see n. 12), the emphasis has surely been put on the aspect of exile; Thucydides here wishes to talk about the action of the ‘exiled Boeotians’ — rather than about ‘those of the Boeotians who were in exile’ (implying the antithesis ‘those who were not’). Accordingly the obvious translation of 6.59.4, *A)LKMEONIDW=N TW=N FEUGO/NTWN, can only be ‘the exiled Alkmeonidai’.14





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In this context it is legitimate to raise the question how else Thucydides should have expressed this simple fact, considering that — in his personal usage at least — FEU/GONTES had to be construed with a genitive. Or, to approach the problem from the opposite side: would Thucydides indeed have used this construction, if he had intended to say what Fornara thinks he said?

The most consequential argument however lies in the fact that there is not the slightest indication that Thucydides’ words are polemical, as far as the exile of the Alkmeonidai is concerned. This is all the more conspicuous by reason of the fact that Thucydides otherwise appears to take pains to make it clear where he intends to be polemical. At the outset of the entire digression 6.54-59 he leaves no doubt about the polemical character of his account, as well as what his main points are: it was Hippias who held the actual political power; heroic patriotism was not the real cause of the tyrannicide.15 If it had been the intention of Thucydides to rectify the tradition about the exile of the Alkmeonidai represented or reflected by Herodotos’ statements,16 it is most surprising that he did not tell us so. It is even more surprising that he should have been clumsy enough not to choose an expression which unmistakably conveys the idea of the antithesis between ‘those of the Alkmeonidai who were in exile, and those who were not’.

Since the interpretation ‘those of the Alkmeonidai who were in exile’ (antithetical to ‘those who were not’) cannot be upheld, we are compelled to draw the inevitable conclusion that Thucydides does not transmit a version about the exile of the Alkmeonidai which contradicts Herodotos (n. 16). It is thus impossible to detect a conflict of Thucydides vs. Herodotos from the wording of Thuc.







1     Charles W. Fornara, Two notes on Thucydides, II, Philologus 111 (1967) 294f.

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2     Thuc. 6.59.4:

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3     I have dealt with this subject in passing in a paper delivered to the Annual Convention of the Classical Association of Canada, May, 1971, and am currently preparing a more thorough discussion of this complex question. Prof. Fornara too has indicated that he would ‘discuss elsewhere’ (l.c. 295) the implications of his interpretation.

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4     Thucydides, Book VI, edited by K.J.Dover (Oxford 1965); Gomme, Andrewes, Dover, A historical commentary on Thucydides, vol. 4 (Oxford 1970) 336; 487.

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5     Fornara incidentally too fails to show that Thucydides would have indeed used this grammatical figure, if he had wished that his words should be taken the way Fornara does.

To prove — or disprove — an interpretation on the basis of parallel grammatical figures — or their absence — admittedly poses a tedious task, since there are only word concordances, but no concordances of grammatical figures.

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6     Gomme, Andrewes, Dover (n. 4) 336. In an addendum (l.c. 487) Dover cautiously replies to Fornara’s article by noting that ‘on the analogy of 31.3, TOI=S QRANI/TAIS TW=N NAUTW=N KAI\ TAI=S U(PHRESI/AIS, it would seem that “the Alkmeonidai among the exiles” is linguistically possible’.

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7     Other possibilities, e.g. SU\N *LAKEDAIMONI/WN KAI\ *A)LKMEONIDW=N TOI=S FEU/GOUSI, need not be mentioned because of the obvious nonsense that would result as soon as we try to re-transform the whole passage into Thucydides’ text.

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8     An admittedly cursory examination of books III through VI of Thucydides does not produce a striking parallel which could serve as proof for the philological probability of Dover’s interpretation (but cf. n. 5).

For FUGA/DES and FEU/GONTES with the partitive genitive, see below on possibility (c).

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9     Thukydides, erklärt von J. Classen, bearbeitet von J. Steup, vol. 6, fifth edition (Dublin & Zurich 1967) at 6.59.4 and Anhang (on 6.19.1) p. 257.

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10     ‘The partitive must yield a further qualification’ (Fornara [n. 1] 294f.). Cf. however the statement made in the preceding paragraph: ‘whether *ALKMEWNIDW=N be a partitive genitive (Classen-Steup) or TW=N FEUGO/NTWN be a limitative apposition with *ALKMEWNIDW=N, these words must mean “those of the Alcmeonids who were in exile”’.

It may be noted that if ‘TW=N FEUGO/NTWN [were] a limitative apposition with *ALKMEWNIDW=N’ (thereby correlating to example [a] in our experiment) there is no evidence that Thucydides would have used this construction if he had wished that his words be taken the way Fornara does. On the other hand, there are examples which do not seem to support Fornara’s view: *LHMNI/OUS DE\ KAI\ *I),BRI/OUS TOU\S PARO/NTAS (4.28.4); *A)MFIPOLITW=N KAI\ *A)QHNAI/WN TW=N E)NO/NTWN (4.105.2); TH\N ME\N OU)=N A)/LLHN PO/LIN TW=N *TORWNAI/WN KAI\ TOU\S *A)QHNAI/OUS TOU\S E)MFROUROU=NTAS (4.110.2). Furthermore, there are passages in which Thucydides apparently avoids the use of this type of grammatical figure, in order to achieve a clearly partitive meaning: CE/NWN O(/SOI PARH=SAN (4.90.1); *A)QHNAI/WN O(/SOI H)=SAN E)N *BOIWTOI=S AI)XMA/LWTOI (5.35.5); O(/SOI CU/MMAXOI PARH=SAN (6.67.2).

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11     Thuc. 1.26.3, 113.2 bis, 4; 3.85.2; 4.52.2, 75.1, 76.3; 6.7.1, 3,64.1; 7.57.8; 8.1OO.3. Classen-Steup (n. 9) 257.

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12     Classen-Steup (n. 9) 257. Cf. the same commentary, on 1.113.1, *BOIWTW=N TW=N FEUGO/NTWN, where Steup argues that considering Thucydides, usage in the other cases (n. 11), here too *BOIWTW=N must be a partitive genitive depending on FEUGO/NTWN (Classen on the other hand regarded this passage as an example for the anticipation of a noun, followed by its article and attribute, as in 1.1.1 PARASKEUH|= TH|= PA/SH|).

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13     ‘Damals waren die Alkmeoniden nicht wie in einer früheren Zeit und kurz darauf wiederum als E)NAGEI=S KAI\ A)LITH/RIOI TH=S QEOU= samt und sonders verbannt’ (Classen-Steup [n. 9] on 6.59.4).

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14     The peculiarity of the German language to allow the forming of almost any compound facilitates translating our passage into this language, and I should like to illustrate my understanding of the text by suggesting the German translation ‘Exilalkmeoniden’ (this term incidentally would not preclude the existence of ‘Exilalkmeoniden’ and ‘Nichtexilalkmeoniden’ at the same time).

I should not pass in silence the fact that in the Budé edition of L. Bodin and J. de Romilly (vol. 4, third edition, [1963]) the passage has been translated as ‘par les Lacédémoniens et les Alcméonides bannis [my italics]’. The Loeb translation reads ‘by the Lacedaemonians and the exiled Alcmaeonidae [my italics]’.

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15     Thuc. 1.20.2 proves that Thucydides’ main objective was to demonstrate this. Cf. F. Jacoby Atthis 158ff.; G. Gottlieb Das Verhältnis der außerherodoteischen Überlieferung zu Herodot (Bonn 1963) 14ff.; K. von Fritz Die griechische Geschichtsschreibung (Berlin 1967) 1, 594.

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16     Hdt. 1.64; 5.62; 6.123.

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17     To digress briefly into history, we should remind ourselves that most of the accepted dogmata concerning Athenian internal politics in the second half of the sixth century do not do justice to the intricacy of the [Page 95, continuation of n. 17] problem. The truth appears to lie somewhere between Berve’ ‘Einzelpersönlichkeit’ (cf. e.g. H. Berve, Miltiades, Hermes Einzelschriften, 2 (1937); id., Die Tyrannis bei den Griechen [Munich 1967]) and the more conventional concepts of party politics (cf. e.g. Walker, CAH[1] 4, 167ff.; Munro, CAH[1] 4, 13.ff.; Robinson, AJP 60 (1939) 232ff.; McGregor, in: HSPh Suppl. 1 (1940) 71ff.; Gomme, AJP 65 (1944) 321ff. [= More essays in Greek history and literature (1962) 19ff.]). It has become necessary to reconsider these views on the basis of a thorough reexamination of our few and problematical sources (I have dealt with some aspects of the relationship Philaidai-Peisistratidai-Alkmeonidai in Miltiades-Forschungen (Vienna 1968) 50ff. [cf.E.Will, RPh 44 (1970) 314f.; N.G.L.Hammond, CR 85 (N.S. 21) (1971) 141f.]; cf. n. 3). In this context the fact that Fornara has drawn our attention to the undeniably strong possibility of some members of the Alkmeonidai clan’s remaining in Athens through 511/10 (cf. P.J.Bicknell, Historia 19 (1970) 130f.) should be honoured as a welcome contribution.

I am grateful to Dr. E. F. Bloedow (Ottawa) for valuable criticism.

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