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31 - Cultic Contexts for Elegiac Performance? (2016)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 December 2021

Ewen Bowie
Affiliation:
University of Oxford
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Summary

A scattering of testimonia in Greek texts, mainly of the Hellenistic and imperial period, had always made it clear that elegy was used in the archaic and early classical eras for substantial narrative poems.1 That evidence was not given much attention until I argued in the 1980s for the existence of a body of such elegiac poetry which constituted an important genre or form distinct from that of the shorter elegiac songs composed for and transmitted by performance in symposia.2 The publication in 1992 of papyrus fragments of elegiac poems by Simonides on the battles of Plataea and Artemisium seemed to some extent to support this claim, though a poem on a single battle, even if a poem of several hundred lines, is rather different from what I had proposed as the nature of Mimnermus’ Smyrneis, Tyrtaeus’ Eunomia or Xenophanes’ two thousand lines on the Foundation of Colophon and Emigration to Elea in Italy …’.3 One of many questions raised by the fragments of Simonides’ Plataea poem was the context and location of its first performance. That question must also be asked of Archilochus’ recently published elegiac narrative of Telephus’ rout of the Achaeans.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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