Dionysios gehört zu den interessantesten Problemen der griechischen Literaturgeschichte.
Knaack (1905) 916.34f.
Within the general context of increasing interest in Greek literature in the Roman period, interest in Dionysius the Periegete is certainly on the rise. Our knowledge of his extensive textual tradition is still expanding, and further editions are under way; the ideologies that structure his work have been explored in a series of publications by Christian Jacob (1990, 1991); and the welcome increase in the volume of publications over the last five years or so includes a collection of essays which is especially geared to one of my themes in this essay, Dionysius' relations with Hellenistic poetry and poets. Yet there are some basic aspects of his poetics that remain un-, or under-, studied. At the heart of the matter, I suggest, are two major backgrounds that need to be explored further.
The first is the reception of Hellenistic poetry in the imperial period. Dionysius is a neo-Hellenistic poet. Indeed, he is so convincing a neo-Hellenistic poet that a critic as astute as Tycho Mommsen placed him in the first century BCE on the basis of a whole array of stylistic and metrical and other sorts of linguistic criteria. Dionysius' true date has been known for a century and a quarter; but we are really none the wiser about what it was that gave rise to this extraordinarily competent and convincing Hellenistic imitation. It is not only that he imitates Apollonius, Callimachus, Nicander, Aratus and others in purple passages of his own, but that so many of his techniques of composition and allusion, and—as this paper will demonstrate—his formal evocation of certain styles of writing, are thoroughly Hellenistic. So the first thing that is needed is an exploration of the various ways in which imperial writers respond to the masters of the high Hellenistic period, and their successors: is Dionysius a representative of a special and distinctive strain in imperial poetics, or is he a particular instance of something more multiform and complex?