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In English, Athenaeus's work usually known by its Latin form Deipnosophistae but is also variously translated as The Deipnosophists,Sophists at Dinner,The Learned Banqueters,The Banquet of the Learned,Philosophers at Dinner, or The Gastronomers.
The Deipnosophistae professes to be an account, given by Athenaeus to his friend Timocrates, of a series of banquets held at the house of Larensius, a scholar and wealthy patron of the arts. It is thus a dialogue within a dialogue, after the manner of Plato, although each conversation is so long that, realistically, it would occupy several days. Among the numerous guests,Masurius, Zoilus, Democritus, Galen, Ulpian and Plutarch are named, but most are probably to be taken as fictitious personages, and the majority take little or no part in the conversation. If Ulpian is identical with the famous jurist, the Deipnosophistae must have been written after his death in 223; but the jurist was murdered by the Praetorian Guard, whereas Ulpian in Athenaeus dies a natural death.
Prosopographical investigation, however, has shown the possibility of identifying several guests with real persons from other sources;
the Ulpian in the dialog has also been linked to the renowned jurist's father.
The work is invaluable for providing fictionalized information about the Hellenistic literary world of the leisured class during the Roman Empire. To the majority of modern readers, even more useful is the wealth of information provided in the Deipnosophistae about earlier Greek literature. In the course of discussing classic authors, the participants make quotations, long and short, from the works of about 700 earlier Greek authors and 2,500 separate writings, many of them otherwise unrecorded. Food and wine, luxury, music, sexual mores, literary gossip and philology are among the major topics of discussion, and the stories behind many artworks such as the Venus Kallipygos are also transmitted in its pages.
In expounding on earlier works, Athenaeus wrote that Aeschylus "very improperly" introduces the Greeks to be "so drunk as to break their vessels about one another's heads":
This is the man who threw so well
The vessel with an evil smell
And miss'd me not, but dash'd to shivers
The pot too full of steaming rivers
Against my head, which now, alas! sir,
Gives other smells besides macassar.
The Deipnosophistae was originally in fifteen books. The work survives in one manuscript from which the whole of books 1 and 2, and some other pages too, disappeared long ago. An Epitome or abridgment (to about 60%) was made in medieval times, and survives complete: from this it is possible to read the missing sections, though in a disjointed form.
Athenæus, a delectable Author, very various, and justly stiled by Casaubon, Græcorum Plinius. There is extant of his, a famous Piece, under the name of Deipnosophista, or Coena Sapientum, containing the Discourse of many learned men, at a Feast provided by Laurentius. It is a laborious Collection out of many Authors, and some whereof are mentioned no where else. It containeth strange and singular relations, not without some spice or sprinkling of all Learning. The Author was probably a better Grammarian then Philosopher, dealing but hardly with Aristotle and Plato, and betrayeth himself much in his Chapter De Curiositate Aristotelis. In brief, he is an Author of excellent use, and may with discretion be read unto great advantage: and hath therefore well deserved the Comments of Casaubon and Dalecampius.
Browne's interest in Athenaeus reflects a revived interest in the Banquet of the Learned amongst scholars following the publication of the Deipnosophistae in 1612 by the Classical scholar Isaac Casaubon. Browne was also the author of a Latin essay on Athenaeus. By the nineteenth century however, the poet James Russell Lowell in 1867 characterized the Deipnosophistae and its author thus:
the somewhat greasy heap of a literary rag-and-bone-picker like Athenaeus is turned to gold by time.
Modern readers[who?] question whether the Deipnosophistae genuinely evokes a literary symposium of learned disquisitions on a range of subjects suitable for such an occasion, or whether it has a satirical edge, rehashing the cultural clichés of the urbane literati of its day.
In 2001, a team of Italian classical scholars lead by Luciano Canfora (then Professor of Classical Philology, now Emeritus, University of Bari) published the first complete Italian translation of the Deipnosophistae, in a luxury edition with extensive introduction and commentary. A digital edition of Kaibel's text, with search tools and cross-references between Kaibel's and Casaubon's texts and digitalized indexes and Dialogi Personae, was put online by Italian philologist Monica Berti and her team, currently working at the Alexander von Humboldt University. In 2001, Eleonora Cavallini (Professor of Greek, University of Bologna) published a translation and commentary on Book 13. In 2010, Gabriele Burzacchini (Professor of Greek, University of Parma) published a translation and commentary of Book 1 found among the unpublished studies of the late Enzo Degani (who was Professor of Greek in the University of Bologna); Burzacchini himself translated and commented Book 5 in more recent years.
In 2006, American classical philologist S. Douglas Olson renewed Loeb's text thanks to a new collation of the manuscripts and the progression of critical studies on Athenaeus and newly translated and commented it; in 2019, the same started a new critical edition for the Bibliotheca Teubneriana inclusive of the Epitome, also edited in parallel volumes.
^ [Athenaeus]. Trans. S. Douglas Olson as The Learned Banqueters. Harvard University Press (Cambridge), 2007.
^Viz. his Symposium. The first words (1.1f-2a) mimic the beginning of Phaedo. See (e.g.) Wentzel(1896). "Athenaios (22)". Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft. Band II, Halbband 4. col. 2028.15ff.
^Kaibel (1890, vol. 3) pp. 561-564 lists twenty-four by name, plus several anonymi.
^Baldwin, Barry (1977). "The Minor Characters in Athenaeus". Acta Classica. 20: 37-48.
^Baldwin, Barry (1976). "Athenaeus and his Work". Acta Classica. 19: 21-42.
^"...for us, one of the most important books from Antiquity". Wentzel(1896) col. 2028.34ff
^? ? ? [Diet of the Ancient Greeks]. ? ? [UNIVERSAL HELLENIC INTELLECTUAL NATION] (in Greek). Athens, Greece. 2003. Archived from the original on 2004-12-11. Retrieved . [Caranos] offered each guest a silver glass and a gold crown. Then arrived silver and bronze platters: Chickens, ducks and roasted geese, goats, hares, pigeons, turtles and partridges. There followed a break for the musicians and the trumpeters to play. The second course began with roast pork atop a silver plate. His belly was filled with roasted thrushes and ortolan, oysters and scallops covered with egg yolks ....
^The Deopnosophists, a literal translation by C.D. Yonge
^Marginal indications in the manuscript may, but need not, reflect an earlier edition in 30 books. See Der neue Pauly Athenaios. col. 198; Kaibel (1887, vol. 1) p. XXII.
^P.E. Bk.1 chapter 8; Daléchamps provided the Latin translation when the Greek text of the recently-rediscovered work established by Casaubon was first published.
^Athenaei Naucratitae Dipnosophistarum libri XV, recensuit Gerogius Kaibel, III voll., Lipsiae in aedibus B. G. Teubneri, MDCCCVVII-MDCCCXC.
^Collection Budé started a new edition in 1956, but only the first volume was published: Athénée, Les Deipnosophistes. Livres I-II, texte établi et traduit par Alexandre-Marie Desrousseaux avec la contribution de Charles Astruc, Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 1956 (Collection des universités de France - Collection Budé. Série grecque, 126).
^Athenaeus, The deipnosophists. Inseven volumes, with an English translation by Charles Burton Gulick, London: Heinemann - Cambridge (MA.): Harvard UP, 1969-1971 (Loeb Classical Library, 204, 208, 224, 235, 274, 327, 345).
^Gulick's edition was, in fact, admittedly based on Kaibel's text, diverging only in selected passaged. See Athenaeus, The deipnosophists, transl. Gulick, vol. I, p. xviii. On its hand, Desousseaux in his Budé edition provided a new critical text and a richer apparatus than Kaibel's, but he only published the first two books of the Deipnosophistae (which actually aren't Athenaeus', but the abridged text).
^Ateneo di Naucrati, I Deipnosofisti - I dotti a banchetto, prima traduzione italiana su progetto di Luciano Canfora, introduzione di Christian Jacob, IV voll., Roma: Salerno Editrice, 2001.
^Ateneo di Naucrati, Il banchetto dei sapienti. Libro XIII - Sulle donne, a cura di Eleonora Cavallini, Bologna: Dupress, 2001 («Nemo. Confrontarsi con l'antico», 1).
^Ateneo di Naucrati, Deipnosofisti (I dotti a banchetto). Epitome dal libro I, introduzione, traduzione e note di Enzo Degani, premessa di Gabriele Burzacchini, Bologna: Pàtron, 2010 («Eikasmos. Quaderni bolognesi di filologia classica - Studi», 17).
^Ateneo di Naucrati, Deipnosofisti (Dotti a banchetto). Libro 5, premessa, traduzione e note di Gabriele Burzacchini, Bologna: Pàtron, 2017 («Eikasmos. Quaderni bolognesi di filologia classica - Studi», 27).
^Athenaeus, The Learned Banqueters, I-VIII, edited and translated by S. Douglas Olson, Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2006-12 (numbering is the same as Gulick's edition which is therefore replaced; Douglas Olson adds vol. VIII which is LCL no. 519).
^Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae, ed. S. Douglas Olson, vol. IV A: Libri XII-XIV - B: Epitome, Berlin - Boston: Walter de Gruyter GmbH, 2019; vol. III A: Libri VIII-XI - B: Epitome, Berlin - Boston: Walter de Gruyter GmbH, 2020; vol. II A: III-VII - B: Epitome, Berlin - Boston: Walter de Gruyter GmbH, 2021 (Bibliotheca scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana).
^Apart from Kaibel's text for bks. I and II, the incipit of bk. III and parts of bk. XI, the Epitome was previously published only by Simon P. Peppink: Athenaei Dipnosophistae, ex recensione S. P. Peppinki, II voll., Lugduni Batavorum apud casam C. T. E. J. Brill, 1936-39, vol. II: Epitome, I-II, ibid. 1937-39. This edition was indeed useful (mainly because it was the first edition of the text), but also had some issues: it lacks the sections already edited by Kaibel (see above) and contains many errors and critically questionable choices due to the fact that Peppink, fallen ill, did not have the time to re-read his own work. See Annalisa Lavoro, Per una nuova edizione critica dell'Epitome di Ateneo, Ph.D. diss., Messina 2016, p. IV. Actually, Peppink did plan to publish a new edition of the entire work, but death came first. See Lavoro, Per una nuova edizione critica, cit., p. 109.