About the Author
My area of expertise is archaic and classical Greek literature, especially Homer’s epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey, and the relationships between them and other archaic poetic traditions (Hesiod's poems and the Epic Cycle in particular), as well as their legacy during the classical period in the works of poets (for instance in choral lyric poetry or in tragedies) and prose writers (orators, historians and philosophers). I also study the first historians, Herodotus et Thucydides, as well as Demosthenes (and Aeschines).
Here is a list of the main articles and books I've published (with their English abstracts), linked to their online versions when possible:
« Les sentences (γνῶμαι) dans la littérature grecque archaïque et classique (d’Homère à Thucydide) », Thèse de doctorat, Histoire et civilisations (études grecques), sous la direction de Pierre Vidal-Naquet, Paris, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, décembre 2000, 681 p.
This work is a study of the maxims (γνῶμαι) upon which the Greek literature, from the first poets to philosophers and historians, invites its audience to meditate. The role of those maxims in the elaboration of the moral, political, juridical and philosophical tradition is very important. If, for the Ancients, Homer was the master of the γνώμη, if the “mythical” explanations of the world were also “gnomic”, so are the first philosophers, often poets themselves, only known through sententious fragments. The maxims are also central in the Histories of Herodotus, who builds, side by side, an historical argument and a web of poetical explanations. They are one of the keys to the sophists’ art of persuasion. Thucydides reinvents them according to different criteria et rejects their poetic origin. As for Aristotle, he imagines a science devoted to them, the “gnomology”. The enduring quality of those maxims is remarkable, as well as the role they play in the history of ideas in ancient Greece. Once put into words, the γνῶμαι seem to become set as so many unchanging formulas. But their meaning and significance change as time goes by, ensuring their relevance, even when the beliefs and values which had given birth to them became, if not suppressed, at least discussed, or even disputed. One must consider how those maxims, even though neither the words nor the formulas have changed, may have been used to explain very different realities, so distant sometimes that the latest could appear to make a clean sweep of the past.
« Réalités et vérités dans la Théogonie et les Travaux et les Jours d’Hésiode », Mètis, N. S. 4, 2006, p. 139-164 (DOI: 10.4000/books.editionsehess.3420).
From the very start of his two great poems, Hesiod lets us know that he will tell us the truth. Yet that statement only raises new questions. And, first, what is that truth which Hesiod sometimes calls ἀληθέα and sometimes ἔτυμα? “Poetic”, it is expressed by means of a literary composition: is it not, then, necessarily a “fiction” while being at the very time truthful? Divine in the Theogonia, human in Works and Days, the truth in Hesiod’s poems presents, paradoxically, two faces, depending on whether it resides in the time of gods or that of men, in the story of Prometheus and Pandora or in the myth of the races of mankind.
« Priam ou la force de l’âge », Mètis, N. S. 7, 2009, p. 137-170 (DOI: 10.4000/books.editionsehess.2467).
At the beginning of the Iliad’s third Book, Hector suggests to his brother Paris that he settle the war by fighting Menelas in a duel. The challenge is sent and the Atrid accepts it, on condition that Priam, and not his sons, whom Menelas does not trust, serves as its judge. However, Menelas does not call upon the old king’s wisdow, but asks for “Priam’s strength”: Πριάμοιο βίην. That formula sounds strangely when used to describe Priam, as, in Greek, the word βίη means the physical, often martial and violent strength which is entirely absent from old men, who have lost it. It is almost an oxymoron and deserves our attention.
« Il(s) frappai(en)t à la ronde : Remarques sur la signification de l’adverbe ἐπιστροφάδην dans les épopées homériques », Revue des Études Grecques, tome 121, 2008/2, p. 421-442 (DOI: 10.3406/reg.2008.7980).
The adverb ἐπιστροφάδην, “turning this way and that way, all around”, is rarely found in Homeric poetry. There are only two examples in the Iliad: Diomedes in the Doloneia was killing Rhesos and his Thracians left and right (τύπτε δ’ ἐπιστροφάδην: XXI.20); Achilles during his aristeia was hitting the Trojans left and right (τύπτε δ’ ἐπιστροφάδην: XXI.20). Two others in the Odyssey describe with the same formulas (τύπτον δ’ ἐπιστροφάδην: ΧΧΙΙ.308 and κτεῖνον δ’ ἐπιστροφάδην: XXIV.184) the slaughter of the suitors by Ulysses and his three companions. In his book Odysseus Polytropos, Pietro Pucci connects those instances and shows how, thanks to the formulaic composition, Ulysses, at the end of his adventure, imitates the iliadic heroes: while he avenges himself, the man of a thousand tricks becomes a champion of strength. However, there is a fifth instance of that word for us to explain: in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes (210), it describes the flight “in all direction, whirling” and full of trickery of the young god who has just stolen Apollo’s cattle. Here ἐπιστροφάδην does not belong to the realm of martial strength: βίη, but to that of its rival, craft: μῆτις. How, then, can we reconcile those seemingly contradictory uses of the same adverb?
« Les silences d’Homère », Revue des Études Grecques, tome 126, 2013/2, p. 289-344 (DOI: 10.3406/reg.2013.8139).
The Iliad and the Odyssey often keep silent: first, about each other; but also about many Trojan War episodes, which we know thanks to the surviving fragments of the Epic Cycle and the rest of the ancient Greek literature; about the most wondrous and fantastic aspects of those stories and their characters; last, about the lessons which lie at the heart of the Hesiodic tradition, but which seem strangely absent, at least explicitly, from the Homeric compositions. To explain Homer’s silences in those matters, many critics call upon the poet’s ignorance. Taking sides, more or less strongly, in the debates which are still going on today about the “Homeric question” and setting in time both the world painted by the Homeric epics and the creation of those works itself, they establish what Achilles’ poem did, or did not, know about Memnon, Penthesilea or Neoptolemus; what the Odyssey knew about the Iliad and vice versa; what the Cyclic poems are “worth” and what role they play in that scheme of things; what Homer and his heroes understood about the concepts of justice and morality; last, what sophistication one can, or cannot, expect to find in compositions created in such and such manner at such and such time. Yet, there is another possible explanation for all those silences. Rather than make them out to be the products of Homer’s many supposed forms of ignorance, why not consider that they may be deliberate and proceeding from essentially “literary” intentions? That explanation, which, without denying the oral and traditional origins of the Homeric compositions, relies on their profound originality, on the level of both content and form, also allows us to better understand their relationship to each other, as well as to the Epic Cycle and to the Hesiodic poems.
« Achille au Chant XXIV de l’Iliade : lion exécrable ou héros admirable ? », Revue des Études Grecques, tome 127, 2014/1, p. 1-27 (DOI: 10.3406/reg.2014.8329).
In book 24 of the Iliad, as the poem ends, the status of its greatest hero, Achilleus, is not yet definitive. He has just proven, during the funeral games celebrating Patroclus, that, unlike Agamemnon, he knew how to distribute prizes fairly and how to distinguish himself among the Acheans as a just king. However, the problem created by his outrageaous and savage treatment of Hector’s body remains whole and endangers his glory. He has not yet become the “best of the Acheans”. And that is the achievement the last book of the Iliad must confirm to ensure Achilleus’ glory.
Démosthène : Contre Aphobos I & II, Contre Midias, collection « Commentario », Paris, Belles Lettres, 2017, CXII + 650 p. (with Matthieu Fernandez).
At a very young age, Demosthenes (384-322 BC) lost his father, a rich Athenian businessman, who, on his deathbed, entrusted his son, his daughter and his wife to three of his closest friends and relatives: Aphobos, Demophon et Therippides. Unfortunately, those guardians took almost all the inheritance for themselves, so that Demosthene, when he came of age, had to sue them to recover what should have been rightfully his. In doing so, he clashed with Meidias, who was supporting his opponents, and became his sworn enemy. The hatred between the two men came to a head fifteen years later, when Meidias struck Demosthenes in Dionysos’ theater for all to see.
Collected together for the first time, the speeches Against Aphobos I & II, which are the very first of Demosthenes’ works, and Against Meidias tell the story of Demosthenes as a private man as well as a public figure until right before the “false” embassy of 346, which puts an end to the alliance between the orator and those who are more accommodating toward Philip of Macedonia.
This book contains a revised and annotated Greek text; a new French translation; and a detailed commentary, which demonstrates Demosthenes’ brio and strives to explain all the issues brought to light by those three speeches, starting with the mystery that mars the speech Against Meidias since ancient times: did Demosthenes actually sue Meidias, or did he accept a bribe to forget about the trial?
« À propos de Démosthène, Sur les forfaitures de l’ambassade, § 35 : Où l’on découvre qu’une conséquence peut en cacher une autre. », Revue des Études Grecques, tome 132, 2019/1, p. 37-54.
Editors and translators of Demosthenes’ On the False Embassy treat the consecutive clause in §35 as an independent sentence: there is a period before it, the conjunction ὥστε is translated as a coordinating conjunction (and is written Ὥστε with a capital letter by French editors), and the mood used in the translations is the indicative, denoting an actual result at a specific time. However, in the manuscripts, in that consecutive clause, ὥστε is used with the infinitive and the negative particle μή, so that that clause should be included in the preceding sentence instead of being separated from it by a period and that it should be translated as conveying a logical result rather than a real one. Those issues deserve more scrutiny, in order to determine whether the Greek text and its translation should be corrected.
« L’infinitif †εὐθενεῖσθαι† au § 231 du discours Sur les forfaitures de l’ambassade de Démosthène : proposition de correction. », Revue des Études Grecques, tome 132, 2019/2, p. 341-65.
In his edition of Demosthenes’ On the False Embassy, Henri Weil notes that at § 231, the infinitive εὐθενεῖσθαι, though it is found in the best manuscripts, does not produce the correct meaning, because the whole clause is built upon the strong opposition between Aeschines and his co-conspirators on the one hand, and Demosthenes on the other, which the corrupt officials’ disappearance from the expression “the city was prosperous” brings to an end. However, the consequences of that analysis were not felt directly in the printed text of the speech until S.H. Butcher obelized the verb in his own edition. Neither K. Fuhr nor G. Mathieu followed his lead, but the two most recent editors of Demosthenes, D.M. MacDowell and M.R. Dilts do not hesitate any longer to condemn the transmitted text. Yet, until today, none of the suggested corrections allow for both Weil’s objections to be answered and the corruption of the text, which produced the form †εὐθενεῖσθαι† instead, to be explained convincingly. The aim of this article is to solve that problem by offering a solution paleographically, morphologically and semantically satisfying.
‘Herodotus 1.66 and Demosthenes 19.231: The case against εὐθηνέομαι/εὐθενέομαι’, Classical Quarterly, tome 70, 2020, p. 1-10 (DOI:10.1017/S0009838820000269).
In Herodotus’ Histories, at 1.66, one reads the passive aorist indicative εὐθηνήθησαν (Ionic), or εὐθενήθησαν (Attic), depending on the spelling preferred by the editors. And in Dem. 19.231, one reads the now obelized middle or passive present infinitive †εὐθενεῖσθαι†. Because the verb εὐθηνέω/εὐθενέω, ‘to be flourishing’, which is very rare, is similar to many other stative contract verbs in εω compounded with εὖ, such as εὐδαιμονέω, εὐδοκιμέω, εὐσεβέω or εὐτυχέω, which all denote a state of being, are used absolutely or intransitively, and almost exclusively in the active voice, it seems very unlikely that it would have been used twice in the most unusual middle or passive voice instead of the expected and normal active voice. Moreover, in Dem. 19.231, the infinitive †εὐθενεῖσθαι† has been condemned by Weil and was obelized by Butcher more than a century ago, a decision recently confirmed by both MacDowell and Dilts in their respective editions of the speech On the False Embassy. Consequently, the aim of this article is to make the case against the use of mediopassive forms of the verb εὐθηνέω/εὐθενέω in both Hdt. 1.66 and Dem. 19.231 because they are, in fact, barbarisms, and to suggest palaeographically, morphologically and semantically sound emendations that make both texts consistent and correct.
« Une paix sans nom ? (Démosthène, Sur les forfaitures de l’ambassade, § 204) », Revue des Études Grecques, tome 133, 2020/1, p. 23-37
In Demosthenes’ speech On the False Embassy (oration 19), at §204, the peace, τὴν εἰρήνην, is said to be ἀνώμοτον: “not sworn to”, which is the only instance of this adjective being used in a passive sense: everywhere else, including in the rest of Demosthenes’ speeches, it always means “not under oath”. Moreover, here, the word is difficult to interpret: at §158 and 278, Demosthenes explains that the oaths were indeed sworn by Philip and his allies in 346; and he does not mention anywhere in his speech the amendment of the peace-terms proposed in 344-3 and rejected by Philip; so that this allusion to the “unsworn” peace is not clear at all. However, correcting the transmitted text is not an easy task, because ἀνώμοτον is the reading of all the manuscripts; and, until now, no conjecture has been entirely satisfactory. So we must study in detail the use of this adjective in this context in order to determine whether it should be emended, or at least obelized, and if so, which correction could prove convincing.
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