Anthology for Classical Greek

OCR Anthology for Classical Greek, AS & A Level 2019-2021, ed. S. Anderson, R. Colborn, N. Croally, C. Paterson, C. Tudor and C. Webster, Bloomsbury 2018, ISBN 978-1-3500-1260-8, Paperback, £26.99

This book is a follow-on volume to the Bloomsbury OCR Anthology for AS & A Level 2017-2019. The same format has been followed, and there is no doubt that this is another excellent volume, containing all the texts set by OCR for AS & A Level for 2019-2021. The result is quite a hefty tome, almost 500 pages, and therefore not cheap (presumably £26.99 or a little more; the 2019-2021 volume had not yet found its way onto Amazon at the time of writing), but, as said about the previous volume, it is of course a one-stop shop for all the set texts.

The texts set for 2019-2021 are sections from Herodotus book 7, Plato Phaedo, Xenophon Anabasis book 4, Homer Iliad books 18 and 9, Euripides Medea and Aristophanes Peace. On the OCR scheme AS candidates must study one prose and one verse selection, and A Level candidates two prose and two verse selections (the OCR scheme is laid out in detail on the OCR website).

The pattern for each author is an Introduction, varying in length from 12 pages for Xenophon to 29 pages for Homer, the set text or texts, a commentary, and a very full and clearly presented vocabulary (in the case of Homer, for whom a larger vocabulary is required than for most other authors, there is a separate vocabulary for each of the two prescribed texts). The Introductions are very informative, and the commentaries are exemplary, not hesitating to use the academic language of textual analysis but always explaining what the terms mean. The commentaries do vary in style, mostly giving considerable help with points of language, though the commentary on the Euripides selections is somewhat different from the others in concentrating on literary rather than linguistic interpretation. The various editors are all experienced teachers, and it is clear that they know the right level at which to pitch their commentaries and their introductory remarks.

With such a uniformly excellent book I hesitate to quibble about anything at all, but I suppose part of the job of a reviewer is to find a few things to quibble about. After hunting for some while I can find only a very few such things:

-       In the Introductions to both Euripides and Aristophanes there are descriptions of the organization of the drama festivals in Athens (pp 343-345 and 432-435). The accounts are somewhat different and mainly complementary, though there is also the occasional inconsistency. Perhaps some coordination of the two accounts might have helped students – though on the other hand students might find it interesting to spot the inconsistencies and to be aware that scholarly debate often leaves areas of doubt.

-       In the Introduction to Homer, in the section headed The rhythm of epic poetry: dactylic hexameter (pp 230-232), a few points might be noted: firstly, at the foot of p 230 in the paragraph on the vowel length before a mute and a liquid it is correctly stated that the vowel can be scanned short, but two lines later it is incorrectly stated that these combinations of consonants ‘do not lengthen the preceding syllable’ (the italics are as in the text; ‘often do not’ would have been better). But then, on p 232, line 3 of Iliad book 18 is quoted in full, and in this line there are two instances of a mute + liquid preceded by a long vowel, which was perhaps worthy of a note. On p 231, in the section on Metre, it is correctly stated that ‘the sixth foot . . . is always made up of two syllables’, but in the metric diagram below an extra short syllable has crept into the sixth foot. And the description of cola on p 232 was to me not very clear, and the metrical diagram did not seem to help much.

-       In the Introduction to Aristophanes, p 440, under Speaking, chanting and singing the metrical scheme for the iambic trimeter and the trochaic tetrameter would have been clearer with bar lines added, showing the trimeter and tetrameter pattern.

-       Typing errors are rare indeed. I noticed, on p 78, that the 4th paragraph has not been inset; on p 93, line 3, that a gap has appeared in the first word; on p 344 line 14 that ‘Eleutheria’ is incorrectly written for ‘Eleutherai’ (or Eleutherae); and that on p 431 in the last line ‘this’ should read ‘his’.

All minor points, and certainly not detracting from the overall excellence of the whole book. My own most recent experience was of teaching Homer to about this level, and my students and I would very much have welcomed commentaries of this quality.


John Thorley