An Interpolation Family in the Poetics
The ms. tradition of the Poetics is a mine, quite unexpectedly, when it comes to composition on literary matters: four independent witnesses — Parisinus 1741 (A), Riccardianus 46 (B), and mediaeval translations into Latin by William of Moerbecke and Arabic by Abū-Bishr Mattā made with the help of a Syriac interlinear (not to mention the recentiores which still could prove of some stemmatic value, as for instance Par. gr. 2038, Vat. gr. 1400, Berol. Philipp. and Mon. 493) — allow in most cases for a safe reconstruction of an archetype. Common errors suggest that this text differed from the autograph in some twenty passages, largely interpolations, ranging from a couple of words to a number of phrases. Several intrusions prove to be typologically close. All of them correct what was deemed to be inaccurate or loose argumentation by inserting syntactic complements or references adding cohesion. As a result, both the style and context go largely neglected. The first paragraphs of ch. 6, central to the Poetics, suffered most. This text also came down to us in a Syriac translation having a heavily glossed uncial ms. as its source. Insertions in ch. 6 cause ‘harmonising’ additions to the following text of the treatise. The ‘family of interpolations’ under discussion is tentatively attributed to a professor of Aristotelianism of late antiquity (the most suitable candidate seems to be Themistius): a school-room copy diffused by his pupils became the common ancestor of both the extant Greek mss. of the Poetics and the reconstructed Greek sources of the mediaeval translations. A fresh collation of the Syriac text together with the evidence of variae lectiones in the oldest independent Greek mss. offer a glimpse into the workings of his mind.
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