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11 - From Archaic Elegy to Hellenistic Sympotic Epigram? (2007)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 December 2021

Ewen Bowie
Affiliation:
University of Oxford
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Summary

A prominent feature of archaic and classical Greek symposia1 was the singing of songs in elegiac metre, songs that often mentioned and sometimes debated the conventions of their sympotic location of performance and that occasionally declared, bewailed or reflected upon ἔρως ‘sexual desire’. In the poems of the earliest generation of Hellenistic epigrammatists, Asclepiades, Callimachus, Hedylus and Posidippus, erotic and, rather less, sympotic themes are also prominent. Are the poems of the third-century poets lineal and (as it were) Darwinian descendants of elegy as sung between the seventh and the fifth centuries (as, for example, Reitzenstein argued),2 or are they the result of a conscious decision to create a new genre? Whatever answer is given, it can claim only probability, not certainty, since much is still debated about the performance and writing of epigram in the third century BC, and even more remains obscure concerning the performance, writing down and collection of archaic and classical elegy, of which most survives only in fragments and in only a few cases can we be sure we have a complete poem.3

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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