BMCR 2003.06.27

Un Poeta Ritrovato, Posidippo di Pella. Giornata di studio. Milano 23 novembre 2001

, Un poeta ritrovato : Posidippo di Pella : giornata di studio, Milano, 23 novembre 2001.. Colloquium. Milan: LED, 2002. 78 pages : color illustrations ; 21 cm.. ISBN 8879161997 EUR 8.00.

In 2001, Guido Bastianini and Claudio Gallazzi, in collaboration with Colin Austin, published a remarkable text they had reconstructed from disassembled mummy cartonnage: an extensive and largely continuous piece of papyrus roll dating from the late 3rd c. or early 2nd c. BCE and containing over one hundred epigrams that the editors ascribed to the early 3rd-c. poet Posidippus of Pella. This identification rests on two considerations: first, the epigrams were separated from one another only by paragraphoi without any indication of the authorship for individual poems; and second, two poems on the papyrus were previously known, and both of these epigrams are attributed in their sources to Posidippus. The papyrus thus provides extraordinary direct evidence for early Hellenistic poetry collections, as well as for the practices of early epigrammatists in general and Posidippus in particular. During the decade between the initial announcement of the discovery in 1993 and the appearance of the editio princeps, the existence of the papyrus had provoked considerable scholarly excitement and anticipation, and it is hardly surprising that appearance of the sumptuously produced edition should have promptly generated a spate of international conferences, of which the proceedings are just now beginning to see the light of day.1 This short pamphlet contains the proceedings of the first formal, international gathering on the papyrus, a one-day colloquium held in Milan in November, 2001. Most of these papers do not appear to have been extensively revised or expanded since their oral delivery, but even in a relatively preliminary state, they nonetheless point out some of the interesting issues raised by a text that surely ranks among the most exciting papyrological discoveries of any time.

The volume opens with short papers by Bastianini (“I pezzi di un puzzle”), who provides a brief account of the reconstruction of the roll from the pieces of disassembled cartonnage that were acquired by the University of Milan with support from a local bank (a fuller account of the papyrus and its reconstruction may be found in the editio princeps), and by Duilio Bertani (“Indagine ad alta definizione del papiro di Posidippo”), who describes the techniques used to produce the high-resolution printed and digitized images that accompany and enhance the editio princeps. Colin Austin’s paper (“Paralipomena Posidippea”) offers a baker’s dozen corrections and supplements, most of which also appear in brief form in ZPE 136 (2001) 22.

Luigi Lehnus (“Posidippo nel tempo”) contributes a short account of the modern editions of Posidippus’ previously known poetry, concluding with a discussion of the role played by Diels and Wilamowitz in inspiring P. Schott’s 1905 Berlin dissertation Posidippi epigrammata collecta et illustrata. (For further treatment of modern criticism of Posidippus, cf. the author’s remarks at ZPE 138 (2002) 12-13.)

Bärbel Kramer (“Il rotolo di Milano e l’ epigramma ellenistico”) offers a survey of some characteristically “Hellenistic” features of the new poems, including an interest in matters of scholarly discussion and a focus on unheroic and “ordinary” individuals. Kramer also briefly considers two of the most intriguing features of the poetry collection contained on the roll: its organization into generic categories, each with its own label ( οἰωνοσκοπικά, ἱππικά, etc.); and the absence of amatory epigrams (of the sort preserved under Posidippus’ name in the Greek Anthology) from the preserved sections of the papyrus.

Jean Bingen’s paper (“Posidippe: le poète e les princes”) ranks among the most thoroughly documented in the volume and is also likely to be of the greatest lasting significance and influence. Bingen surveys the manifest interest that the poetry collection shows in several generations of Ptolemies and their achievements, especially those on the racecourse. Bingen points out that several epigrams underscore the Macedonian origin of the Ptolemaic house, and argues that these references serve the ideological purpose of underscoring the “Greek” origins of the ruling dynasty. This paper will be read with profit in conjunction with Marco Fantuzzi’s forthcoming essay on the encomiastic strategies of the poems celebrating the horseracing accomplishments of the Ptolemies.2

The essay by Dario del Corno (“Posidippo e il mestiere del poeta”) points out that the new papyrus reveals Posidippus to be have been more versatile as an epigrammatist than the “substantial thematic homogeneity” of the poems selected by Meleager for his Garland —and thus included in the Greek Anthology —would suggest (though it is worth pointing out that poems preserved in other sources already provided a hint of the poet’s range), and he briefly discusses the thematic variety even within individual sections before considering the ways in which the poet combines narration and description to artful effect.

Fabrizio Conca (“In margine agli epigrammi funerari”) offers a small handful of textual and interpretive comments on the funerary epigrams in the section to which the editors have plausibly assigned the label ἐπιτύμβια.

Giuseppe Zanetto (“Posidippo e i miracoli di Asclepio”) discusses the seven poems that the papyrus includes under the generic label ἰαματικά. He points out the similarity of some of the narratives contained in these poems to the chronicles of cures from the sanctuary of Asclepius at Epidaurus,3 and offers several interesting supplements for an epigram recounting the healing of a certain Archutas’ long-standing wound (P.Mil.Vogl. VIII 309 XV 7-10 = 98 Austin-Bastianini).

Given how soon they were delivered after the publication of the papyrus, it is hardly surprising that the papers in the pamphlet are not exhaustive treatments of individual poems or sections of the papyrus. The papers nonetheless make a useful contribution to our understanding of the papyrus — Bingen’s essay in particular lays a solid foundation for future work on ideological content of the collection — and the volume as a whole, memorializing as it does what must have been an exciting gathering for those in attendance, comes as a welcome addition to the burgeoning bibliography on Posidippus and the new poetry collection attributed to him.


1. G. Bastianini and A. Casanova, eds., Il papiro di Posidippo un anno dopo (Florence 2002) has only just been printed; B. Acosta-Hughes, M. Baumbach, and E. Kosmetatou, eds., Labored in Papyrus Leaves: Perspectives on an Epigram Collection Attributed to Posidippus (P. Mil. Vogl. VIII 309) and K. Gutzwiller, ed., The New Posidippus: A Hellenistic Poetry Book (Oxford), are scheduled to appear within the next year or so. The poems contained on the papyrus have now been printed together with the previously known epigrams of Posidippus in an editio minor by Austin and Bastianini ( Posidippi Pellaei quae supersunt omnia [Milan 2002]).

2. In K. Gutzwiller (above, n. 1), forthcoming.

3. A forthcoming paper by Peter Bing (in Acosta-Hughes, et al. [above, n. 1]) treats the issue more fully.