ï~~Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 44 (2007) 223-228
Tomas Higg and Bo Utas, The Virgin and Her Lover: Fragments of an
Ancient Greek Novel and a Persian Epic Poem. Brill Studies in Middle
Eastern Literatures 30. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2003. xii + 278 pages
+ 6 plates. ISBN 90-04-13260-0.
In this impressive volume, Tomas Higg, a Classical philologist (University
of Bergen), and Bo Utas, a specialist in Iranian literature (University of Uppsala), propose the sort of research most Classicists can only dream about. A
scholar who masters Greek literature and an Oriental literature influenced by
it (e.g., Coptic, Persian, Syriac, Arabic, or Ethiopian) might discover literary
works derived from Greek originals, including texts now lost. The Metiochus
and Parthenope Romance (hereafter M&P), dated no later than Lucian, and
perhaps, as Dihle suggested,' as early as the first century BCE, is an early quasihistorical romance, of which only ca. 140 often incomplete lines survive in four
fragments, three papyri and an ostracon, in addition to the literary testimonia
and the mosaics from Daphne-Harbie and Zeugma-Belkis (ca. 200 CE). But
M&P has had an extraordinary Nachleben in oriental literatures, and oriental
texts can help reconstruct the original M&P and provide insight into how
Greek works were transmitted and altered in the Orient. Most notably, in the
eleventh century some adaptation of M&P furnished major plot elements for
the Persian verse epic Vamiq u Adhra (hereafter V&A) by the Persian court
poet 'Unsuri (died ca. 1040 CE).
This volume's primary objective (p. 2) is to provide a complete critical edition, with a text, translation and commentary, on the surviving texts of M&P
and V&A. Included are 151 isolated double verses of 'Unsuri's in the same
meter as V&A, which have been preserved in Persian lexical treatises. The
authors also seek to locate supplementary material pertaining to M&P/V&A
and their characters and to better delineate the afterlife of M&P, as well as to
understand the process by which V&A and later works derived from M&P.
The authors attempt a reconstruction of M&P based on surviving Greek fragments, the Persian material and other supplementary material. This volume is
designed to be accessible to a wide variety of scholarly audiences, and thus the
authors have striven for (and, in this reviewer's opinion, succeeded) in providing details that are copious but not unduly speculative or specialized.
Chapter One ("Introduction"), after summarizing the volume's content
and goals, details the discovery of the fragments of M&P and the subsequent
scholarship on them. including Higg's proposal that the Martyrdom of St.
A. Dihle, "Zur Datierung des Metiochos-Romans," Wirzburger Jahrbicher fir die
Altertumswissenschaft, N.F. 4 (1978) 54-55.