BMCR 2020.10.05

Lirica, epigramma, e critica letteraria

, Lirica, epigramma, e critica letteraria. Seminari, 3. Pisa; Roma: Fabrizio Serra Editore, 2019. 122 p. ISBN 9788833151823 €38,00 (pb).

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

The volume under review resulted from a workshop held at the Università degli Studi di Roma “La Sapienza” on 30 November 2018.[1] As the title indicates, its eight papers deal with various topics relating to lyric poetry, epigrams and literary criticism. The contributions on lyric include discussions of Pindar’s (Nobili and Raffaele) and Bacchylides’ epinicia (Nobili and De Sanctis), Ariphron’s paean (Recchia) and Theocritus’ allusions to lyric poetry via dialect use (Batisti). Two papers focus on epigrams: one examines Hedylus’ place in the epigrammatic genre (Floridi), and the other analyses Phrygian inscriptions (Merisio). The only paper on literary criticism investigates the citation of lyric poets in rhetorical treatises (Lulli). Although the volume as a whole does not have a common thread, the individual contributions are very much worth reading on their own.

Cecilia Nobili opens the volume with a persuasive discussion of intervisual references to specific types of athletic statues in Pindar’s and Bacchylides’ descriptions of athletes or mythological heroes. The poets, she argues, seem to trust the audience’s ability to recognize the iconographic references present in their songs. Consider, for instance, Pindar Pythians 4.78–85: in these lines, Jason is described in a way that is reminiscent of early statues dedicated to athletic victors. The image of his long bright hair falling down his back, for example, evokes the hairstyle typical of kouroi. In listening to or reading this passage, the audience, familiar with such visual representations, would picture Jason with a kouros’ splendor. According to Nobili, the way that poets, those who commissioned their work, and the audience viewed reality was influenced by the visual images all around them, which facilitated their recognition of references to statues in epinician poetry.

The second paper, by Dino De Sanctis, explores how implicit and explicit references to Hesiod found in Bacchylides’ epinicia operate on a programmatic level. His discussion focuses on the final portion of Bacchylides’ fifth epinikion (v. 191-200). Four lines before the passage itself, we are told that, for the sake of aletheia, praise must be given to mortals who succeed in their deeds and phthonos must be pushed away with both hands. In the passage, Bacchylides refers to Hesiod and quotes him explicitly: ‘‘Hesiod, a Boeotian man and server of the Muses said ‘He whom the gods honor also has fame among men’”, and the final praise to Hieron, the laudandus, is given. The quotation of Hesiod serves as an argument of authority supporting the divine connection between Hieron and the gods as well as the poet’s praise, elements used to build eternal encomium. According to De Sanctis, such quotes suggest Bacchylides’ alignment with Hesiod’s ethical principles.

Marco Recchia analyses Ariphron of Sicyon’s paean in honor of Hygieia by confronting its various testimonia, namely, the citation in Athenaeus’ Deipnosophists, the Lapis Cassellensis, the Lapis Epidaurensis and the codex Ottobonianus Graecus 59. The author presents information on each of these sources in order to establish the relationship between them. He criticizes modern editors of the text who choose variations from different sources in an arbitrary way and thus turn the resulting edition into a hybrid of sorts. Through careful analysis of the sources, Recchia concludes that Athenaeus’ version is closest to the original. The other three, he argues, are different paeans whose variations are not mistakes “but […] bear traces of the changes that the paean has undergone during the mnemonic transition, passed by the continuous reperformance in the most varied contexts” (p.47).

The fourth paper, by Roberto Batisti, addresses the use of the Aeolic dialect as well as Sapphic/Alcaic meters in Theocritus’ Idylls. Through close linguistic analysis, he demonstrates that Theocritus used the same rigor in his choice of words as he did in his choice of dialect. Examples include certain forms of words whose purpose it is to ‘sound Aeolic’. Although the resulting language is artificial (as commonly understood by scholars), Theocritus imitated a literary language in constant dialogue with his Aeolic models.

Laura Raffaele attempts to expand the understanding of the figure of Pindar in the pseudo-Plutarchean De Musica. Although the author of the treatise at times seems incapable of organizing his sources in a coherent way, that is not the case with his use of Pindar and Stesichorus, the lyric poets he mentions most frequently. According to Raffaele, there are two well-defined roles played by Pindar in the treatise. First, citations from Pindar serve as a source of information about musical and literary tradition insofar as Pindar comments on other poets’ activities and inventions in his own work. Secondly, Pindar, as a representative of the elite of ancient music, constitutes a paradigmatic model of style in opposition to representatives of the ‘new music’, which the treatise regards as degenerate.

The sixth paper, by Laura Lulli, features preliminary results of her research on the effect of citations from lyric poetry within the argumentative framework of critical-rhetorical works. She investigates three main questions: 1) How were lyric poets cited? 2) What function do allusions or verbatim citations have within a treatise? 3) Which tools do rhetoricians and critics have to go beyond the citations? Exploring some allusions to and citations of Anacreon, Archilochus and Sappho in On the Sublime, Lulli detects different strategies followed by the author of the treatise, which reveal his ability to work with a wide range of texts and his awareness of other authors’ works. Lulli also concludes that lyric poets who are alluded to and cited do not work as idealized models simply to be followed for their excellence but rather are used as pedagogical tools.

Elisa Nuria Merisio tries to fill a gap in the study of Phrygian inscriptions. Whereas these texts have thus far generally been contemplated from a historical, social and religious point of view, it is her aim to analyze them from a literary and linguistic perspective. Her paper deals with three inscribed funerary epigrams written in Greek and originally from Phrygia (II and V A.D). The author explores the texts, providing evidence about the incorporation of Greek literary features into the local culture. The first epigram analyzed illustrates the use of Greek literary models. It displays a classical topos of funerary epigraphy, namely, the lament for the premature death of a young couple, which is here developed with a number of expressions found in the Iliad and Odyssey. The second epigram, in turn, reveals how new meanings can be given to poetic Greek language when used within a Christian context. The last epigram is a particularly interesting case in that it is a very traditional Greek inscription with a curse in Neo-Phrygian.

Lucia Floridi discusses Hedylus’ place within the history of Greek epigram. The paper presents a prelude to her recently published edition and commentary on the poet.[2] Her observations show that Hedylus seems to have been a multifaceted and complex poet. Despite problems in the attribution of individual epigrams and the small number of poems that have survived, it is evident that Hedylus deserves his Meleagrean position beside Posidippus and Asclepiades as one of the founders of the epigrammatic genre (A.P. 6.1.45–46). By closely analyzing the sources of Hedylus’ epigrams, Floridi gives a clear idea of Hedylus’ poetic personality and his thematic interests. For example, Hedylus’ epigrams preserved in Athenaeus’ Deipnosophists have convergent points with those found in the Anthologia Palatina, despite their different themes. Hedylus’ epigrams from the AP are erotic, symposiastic, anathematic and scoptic, whereas those found in Deipnosophists are symposiastic with scoptic traces. Floridi concludes that “Hedylus was a symposiastic poet with a marked scoptic vein” (p. 120).

I highly recommend Lirica, epigramma, e critica letteraria; it offers insightful discussions not only about canonical texts but also about underexplored ones, which I believe is the greatest asset of the book. One minor point of criticism is that the book is inconsistent in providing translations of the Greek passages that would have made it more accessible to readers, such as students, with less experience in the ancient languages. This criticism aside, the volume is a welcome contribution to the scholarship of its three major themes and advances the discussion with high quality and up-to-date bibliography.

Authors and titles

Cecilia Nobili, Il poeta e lo scultore. Atleti e statue negli epinici di Pindaro e Bacchilide
Dino de Sanctis, Il profilo do Esiodo in Bacchilide (Ep. V 191-200)
Marco Recchia, Il peana di Arifrone tra simposio e liturgia. Storia di um ‘testo aperto’
Roberto Batisti, L’eolico di Teocrito fra lirica arcaica e imitazione alessandrina
Laura Raffaele, La figura di Pindaro nel De Musica pseudo-plutarcheo
Laura Lulli, Citare i lirici, adattare i lirici. Effetti retorici e spunti di critica letteraria
Elisa Nuria Merisio, Declinazioni provinciali della poesia greca in età imperiale. Le iscrizioni metriche della Frigia
Lucia Floridi, Edilo nella storia dell’epigramma greco


[1] This volume is the third in the series Consulta Universitaria del Greco.

[2] Floridi, L. (2020). Edilo, Epigrammi. Introduzioni, testo critico, traduzione e comento. Berlin and Boston: De Gruyter.