A long time ago, I translated all of Sappho's poems. In doing so, I had to reconstruct some parts of the texts, and do some amateur level criticism. One example of such work lies in the poem sometimes referred to as in the question title, whose first line goes φαίνεταί μοι κῆνος ἴσος θέοισιν (That [man] seems to me equal to the gods). The second stanza goes:

Καὶ γελαίσας ἰμέροεν. τό μ’ ἦ μάν
Καρδίαν ἐν στήθεσιν ἐπτόαισεν.
Ὠς γὰρ εὔιδον βροχέως σε, φώνας
οὖδεν ἔτ’ ἴκει,

Or rather, this is the version I like best. The other version has line 3 read:

ὠς γὰρ ἔς σ' ἴδω βρόχε', ὤς με φώνας

(and l. 4 with εἴκει). Now the reasons I prefer the reading given first are two:

  1. I do not like that tmesis. For some reason, it feels unnecessary to split the verb in two and put that pronoun in the middle for syllable quantity. Of course, another solution to this (which is my invention) would be ἐσϝίδω, with a digamma for the quantity. This doesn't address the other reason though.
  2. Catullus's version of this has aspexi, which is indicative, and not some form of subjunctive.

Trouble is, the only source I found with this reading is Wharton, which has no critical apparatus or commentary, whereas everywhere else I see the second reading (e.g. Bibliotheca Augustana, The complete poems of Sappho, Edmonds and Campbell). So I was wondering: why did Wharton put this version forward, and what is experts' opinion about how likely this is to have been the original version?

Extra references

Cox's edition of Sappho was formerly on the English Wikisource, and is another edition with εὔιδον, and also seems to have no critical apparatus and no comments on this reading.

This edition of Longinus On the sublime reports the text as:

amended text in the above link

that is with ἔς σ' ἴδω, and adds this critical note:

critical note to the poem in the above link

It is Longinus's work following a Paris manuscript.

PS: Little self-advertising

I have recently opened a blog where, among other things, I will post, very very slowly, all of my work on Sappho. For now, the only Sappho I've posted is precisely this poem, alongside Catullus's version. Any views and/or comments are welcome!

  • I've added some tags I thought were relevant - ping me if you need others. Also, could you add an English name of the poem? The reason I ask is because someone might offer some insight based on another translation (i.e. someone who doesn't understand Greek). Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 9:07
  • @Gallifreyan Is there a tag for lyric-poetry or the likes? That would be a good addition to this question. Edited question to add a title to the poem (Greek and English) and an English translation of its first line.
    – MickG
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 9:23
  • 2
    Welcome to Literature, MickG, and thanks for this great question! I hope you find a satisfying answer :)
    – Shokhet
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 13:22

1 Answer 1


To begin with, we must remember that the famous Sappho 31 is preserved only in (Pseudo-)Longinus's On the Sublime, a first century work whose authorship is disputed.

Wharton, in his preface, says:

I have not concerned myself much with textual criticism, for I do not arrogate any power of discernment greater than that possessed by a scholar like Bergk. Where he is satisfied, I am content. (pg. xi)

It is certainly incongruous, then, that Bergk's Poetae Lyrici Graeci (pg. 600-601) does not agree with this reading in its proposed text. (Note, however, some counter-examples below.) In fact, it does not even honor this reading with a mention in its apparatus criticus:

Bergk's reading:

ὥς σε γὰρ ϝίδω, βροχέως με φώνας
οὐδὲν ἔτ' ἴκει

He mentions two other readings for this line:

Blomfieldius & Ahrensius:

ὡς γὰρ σ' ἰδω βρόχεως...


ὡς ἴδω γάρ σε βρόχε', ὥς...

So where does the "εὔιδον" reading come from? I found that it is cited in Merrill's Commentary to Catullus 51 (Harvard University Press, 1893).

Strangely enough, the Slovak Wikipedia article on Sappho also gives the "εὔιδον" reading, citing Bergk's Teubner edition. In addition, Bernardakis' commentary to Plutarch's Amatorius cites the same reading from Bergk, though I cannot find it. It is possible that Bergk emended the text between editions, but I am not in a position to verify that.

Roberts, in the 1907 Cambridge University of Press edition of Longinus' De Sublimitate, follows the text of Bergk almost exactly:

ὥς σε γὰρ ἴδω βροχέως με φωνᾶς οὐδὲν ἔτ̓ εἴκει

The Loeb edition (1995), reviewed by Russell, is very close to this as well:

ὥς γὰρ <ἐς> σ' ἴδω βρόχε' ὥς με...

Obviously, the "<ἐς>" suggests the editor's suggested addition. I unfortunately don't have access to the latest Teubner edition, but the overwhelming consensus seems to be in favor of the reading without εὔιδον. Given the many divergent readings of this line, it is likely that it was bungled very early in its manuscript tradition: it was, after all, a relatively obscure work.

  • This isn't really conclusive: the Bernardakis example definitely makes me think that Bergk once used "εὔιδον." It would be very telling if we could find if it was in an earlier or later edition.
    – brianpck
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 16:34
  • So the tmesis I don't like is a suggested addition. Maybe I can accept Bergk's reading. Btw, Blomfeldius and Ahrensius have a reading that doesn't scan, which prompted that addition, I believe. For the record, I seem to remember the English Wikisource having a section with Greek and English, where the εὔιδον was present. Also, this section is now unfindable. Is it possible to follow this line in the manuscript traditions, at least to some degree?
    – MickG
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 16:46
  • 1
    I would be very interested in seeing the original manuscripts. Conspicuously absent from my answer is something downstream from that: an actual critical edition with εὔιδον. I simply can't find it, even though I've found numerous uncited references, all of which seem to refer to Bergk. I don't have access to a good research library right now, unfortunately.
    – brianpck
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 16:53
  • 2
    According to this, a Paris manuscript has the poem (in Longinus's work, of course) written continuously, and the line in question seems to be in Blomfeldius and Ahrensius' reading. It emends the text to Bergk's reading. Critical note. Amended text.
    – MickG
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 17:39
  • @MickG Good find!
    – brianpck
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 17:46

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