“HONORATUS ACHILLES”: THE HERO OF TWO “POETICS”

The famous crux in Horace AP 120 “scriptor †honoratum† si forte reponis Achillem” cannot possibly be healed by altering the MSS text. Given the fact that the scholia to Persius cite the verse with honoratum, and among many conjectures none has deserved the palm branch, one can hardly suspect that Horace actually has written anything else. Unsuccessful until now have also been all the attempts to explain honoratum as predicative attribute. The only seemingly plausible interpretation honoratum = “fama celebratum” pointed out by Jeep and accepted by Ehlers in TLL was refuted by Brink as superfluous to the Horatian thought. It could, however, still be rescued, if the “honor” paid to Achilles actually meant his celebrity among the writers, his lasting poetic reputation, honoratum, accordingly, being slightly concessive. This meaning is strongly supported by the opposition honoratum — inexpertum (v. 125) and by the appositive scriptor (“writer” = “if you are going to write”). The only problem, then, is to find another “rough”, “irascible”, “inexorable”, that is to say, another virtually Homeric Achilles in the stage poetry. This is demanded by reponere which doubtlessly (cf. the commentary by Porphyrio) means “to restage” viz. a play. Neither Aeschylus nor Sophocles and Euripides and the minor poets, who brought Achilles on stage, seem to meet the Horatian description. But Aristotle’s Poetics 1454 b 11–15, where the reading Ἀγαθῶν is confirmed by the Syro-Arabian branch of transmission, proves that the same Achilles-type, “irascible”, “indolent” etc., was represented by Homer and Agathon. In characterizing Achilles Horace closely resembles Aristotle (and this is just one of many resemblances); it seems probable that he had the relevant locus in mind when he talked of “restaging the honorable Achilles”, who was indeed poetized in Homeric manner by at least one great playwright of the past.

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