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25 - Unnatural Selection: Expurgation of Greek Melic, Elegiac and Iambic Poetry (2012)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 December 2021

Ewen Bowie
Affiliation:
University of Oxford
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Summary

Much archaic and classical Greek melic, elegiac and iambic poetry was initially composed for male audiences, and chiefly for male singers or reciters, to be performed in symposia. To judge from vase paintings and from the erotic ballet at the end of Xenophon’s dialogue Symposium, the sympotic atmosphere could be highly sexualised, no holds barred (as it were), and some surviving poetry shows that sexual relations could be the subjects of more or less explicit talk, song and propositions. The poetry that has come down to us has rather less of such material than one might expect from the vase painting, and I suspect that one reason is the filtering out of raunchier elements at various stages in transmission. This paper will indeed eventually reach twentieth-century expurgation or other modes of cleansing Greek melic, elegiac and iambic poetry, but it will begin with some sondages in earlier stages in transmission because they put the lyric corpus in a quite different category from, say, Attic Old Comedy.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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