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Introduction: The Genres of Ekphrasis

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 July 2014

Jaś Elsner*
Corpus Christi College, Oxford
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1. This definition appears in a series of Progymnasmata from Theon in the first century CE via ‘Hermogenes’ (perhaps second century) to Aphthonius and Nicolaus in the fourth and fifth centuries. Although there are minor changes between one handbook and the next, the texts are substantially the same—each rhetorical topic (such as ekphrasis) lifted largely wholesale from an earlier textbook. One assumes their main function was in elementary stages of the training of students. On the Progymnasmata in general, see Webb (2001) with further bibliography. The sections dealing with ekphrasis are: Theon, AeliusProgymnasmata, ed. M. Patillon (Paris 1997), 118.6–120 (pp.66–69Google Scholar); HermogenesProgymnasmata, ed. H. Rabe (Leipzig 1913), 10.47–50 (pp.22f.Google Scholar): Aphthonius, Progymnasmata, ed. H. Rabe (Leipzig 1926), 12.46–49 (pp.36–41Google Scholar); Nicolaus, Progymnasmata, ed. J. Felten (Leipzig 1913), pp. 67–71Google Scholar. On ekphrasis in the Progymnasmata, see e.g. Bartsch (1989), 7–10; Becker (1995), 24–31; Webb (1999), 11–15; and more generally also Downey (1959) and Pernice and Gross (1969).

2. See esp. Webb (1999); also Zanker (2003), 59f.

3. See Webb (1999), 11.

4. I quote from ‘Hermogenes’ Progymnasmata 10.48f.

5. For some salient reflections on this issue, as well as a superb bibliography, see Fowler (1991).

6. See Webb (1997a and 1997b).

7. There is a large literature on enargeia in particular: see e.g. Graf (1995), Dubel (1997), Webb (1997b).

8. ‘Hermogenes’ Progymnasmata 10.49f.

9. Theon Progymnasmata 118 (p.67) and 119 (p.69).

10. Aphthonius Progymnasmata 12.47–49 (pp.39–41); Nicolaus Progymnasmata, p.69. See Webb (1999), 11.

11. For example Dubois (1982); Fowler (1991); Krieger (1991); Heffernan (1993); Mitchell (1994), 151–82; Scott (1995); Hollander (1995); Wagner (1996); De Armas (1998).

12. The piece is Spitzer (1955), esp. 207, 218, 223. See Webb (1999), 10.

13. See e.g. Becker (1995).

14. See Friedlander (1912), 1–103.

15. On Philostratus see Anderson (1986); Billaut (2000); Bowie and Eisner (forthcoming).

16. This genre was identified and discussed by Bertrand (1881).

17. Becker (1995), 4f. Dällenbach (1989) mainly misses the relevance of ekphrasis to his discussion of mise-en-abîme, but veers close at 96f.

18. An excellent collection of inscribed archaic epigrams is Friedländer and Hoffleit (1948). A famous example is the inscription for Kroisos on the Anavyssos Kouros now in Athens, ibid. no. 82.

19. The standard accounts are Marg (1957), 20–37; Reinhardt (1961), 410f.; Schaderwaldt (1965), 357–74; Taplin (1980); Becker (1990); Edwards (1991), 200–32; Stanley (1993), 3–26; Becker (1995); Scully (2003).

20. See Becker (1995), 47–50, with bibliography. For further reflection of the relation of simile to ekphrasis, in the case of Vergilian epic, see Rogerson in this volume.

21. A good example of the potential of a major ekphrasis to generate ambivalent or multiple meanings in this regard is the rival tendencies among critics in relation to the powerful programmatic description of a cup in Theocritus Id. 1. Some (e.g. Rosenmeyer [1969], 91) have seen it as offering ‘typical scenes of the non-pastoral world’ (i.e. constituting Theocritus’ bucolic other), while others (e.g. Halperin [1983], 175–89) have seen its imagery as typifying the themes of Pastoral generally! See now at length Manakidou (1993), 53–83.

22. On Apollonius, see e.g. Manakidou (1993), 102–73 with bibliography; on Vergil the literature is vast but Putnam (1998) is fundamental; for Ovid, see Barkan (1986), 1–18, 73–78 (on artists); Heffernan (1993), 46–53; Hardie (2002b), 173–78; for Statius, see Harrison (1992) and Lovatt in this volume; for Valerius Flaccus (Arg. 5.433–55), see Hershkowitz (1998) 20–23; on Silius Italicus, see Fowler (1996), 63–74.

23. For Aspis. see Van Groningen (1958), 109–23; Lamberton (1988), 141–44; Becker (1995), 31–38; Vernant (1996), 390–92. On Catullus 64, see e.g. Klingner (1956), 31–66, on the ekphrasis; Fitzgerald (1995), 140–68; Theodorakopoulos (2000).

24. On Theocritus, see Manakidou (1993), 51–101, and Goldhill (1994), 216–23. For Vergil’s Eclogues (esp. 3.36–42), see e.g. Faber (2000) with bibliography.

25. Generally on ekphrasis in prose literature, see Rousselle (2001), 382–84. For ekphrasis in Longus see e.g. Hunter (1983), 38–51, and Zeitlin (1990); for Apuleius e.g. Laird (1997); Slater (1998); Egelhaaf-Geiser (2000), 116–45; for Achilles Tatius and Heliodorus, the standard account remains Bartsch (1989), but see also Morales (forthcoming).

26. For biography, see Philostratus VA 2.20 (the bronze tablets at Taxila) with Fowler (1996), 58–60, and Rousselle (2001), 391–99 (which examines some other Philostratean instances too), and Eusebius VC 3.25–53 (Constantine’s churches, mainly in Palestine), 4.58–60 (the Mausoleum in Constantinople). Both these works might be said to be biographies on an epic scale, and to be using ekphrasis to heighten their appeal to grandeur. For history, see e.g. Polybius 4.59.3–11 (Seleucia), 10.9.8–10.13 (New Carthage in Spain), 10.27.1–13 (Ecbatana in Media); Josephus Jewish Antiquities 8.63–98 (Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem), 15.410–20 (Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem); Ammianus Marcellinus Res Gestae 16.10.13–15. Snodgrass (2001), 127f., suggests that the Chest of Cypselus in Pausanias 5.17.1–19.10 is one of several Pausanian attempts at ekphrasis within the periegetic genre in which he was writing.

27. The relevant passages are Aen. 1.453–93, 1.640–42, 5.250–57, 6.20–37, 7.789–92, 8.630–728, 10.495–505. On materials, see Simon (1982). I find Putnam’s insistence on there being six ekphraseis in the Aeneid in Putnam (1998), 23, followed e.g. by Hardie (2002b), 177, somewhat artificial.

28. See Hardie (2002b), 173–78, on the roles of art in Ovid’s Met. and Whitmarsh in this volume on Heliodorus. The ekphraseis of the Aeneid are usually read separately, even in Putnam’s fine book of 1998 which collects his various individual essays on the theme. But I would argue that they have a deliberate and incremental relationship that in part governs the unfolding of the entire narrative. See Eisner (forthcoming a).

29. On the strange interrelation between ekphrasis and epyllion (in connection with largely lost works of Callimachus and their Latin imitations), see Thomas (1999), 93–100.

30. E.g. Dubois (1982), 13–18, 19–21; Becker (1995), 48, 88–92, 96–98.

31. The emphasis on the artist’s making is incrementally repeated at 18.478, 483, 490, 541, 550, 561, 573, 587, 607.

32. Aspis 1 opens with the words (‘or like her’) which are characteristic of the catalogue poems.

33. For sound in ekphrasis, see Laird (1993), 20–24.

34. The general literature on ekphrasis in tragedy is strikingly thin. But see Philipp (1968), 26f., 31–34. On shields (echoing the epic tradition) see Harrison (2001), 77–81, with bibliography.

35. So Zeitlin (1994), 142f.

36. See Zeitlin (1994), 147.

37. Cf Araott(1996), 114f.; Rutherford (1998), 138–41; Zacharia (2003), 14–20.

38. (190); (193); (194); (201); (205); (206); (208); (209); (211); (214).

39. See Zeitlin (1994), 148–52.

40. As Zeitlin (1994), 153, puts it. On this passage see Goff (1988); Zeitlin (1989), 166–77; Zeitlin (1994), 152–56; Zacharia (forthcoming 2003), 31–39, with full bibliography.

41. So (rightly) Zacharia (forthcoming 2003), 31.

42. Cf Zeitlin (1989), 174.

43. So explicitly Zacharia (2003), 11.

44. Cf Gutzwiller (1991), 90–94, on Theocritus’ (Id. 1.27–56), esp. 91 on the uses of epic and the dependence of this account on dialogue and reaction, as initiated in dramatic ekphrasis. Also Burton (1995), 93–122, on the development of multiplicities of reaction, varied interpretations and viewings in the Hellenistic ekphraseis of Theocritus and Herondas following Euripides’ Ion, and Manakidou (1993), 9 and 10–17, who emphasises ‘subjective’ elements in Hellenistic ekphrasis and derives its dramatic nature from Menander. Her book systematically discusses ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ elements in Hellenistic ekphrasis.

45. Iliad. 18.473; Aspis 123, 244, 297, 313, 319; Apollonius Rhodius Arg. 1.721; Vergil Aen. 8.370–453—where the account of the artist is interestingly separated from that of the shield.

46. I am thinking of the following texts: Theocritus Id. 5.104f. re Praxiteles; Vergil, Aen. 6.20–37 re Daedalus; Lucian Herodotus 4 re Aetion (painter of the ‘Marriage of Roxana and Alexander’), Zeuxis 3, 5, 7–8, 11 re Zeuxis and Calumny 2–6 re Apelles. The reference to real artists is virtually ubiquitous in ekphrastic epigram—most immediately one thinks of Myron (Greek Anthology 9.713–42, 793–98) and the Posidippan corpus (with Austin and Bastianini [2002a]): 62, 65, 142 (Lysippus); 63 (Hecataeus); 64 (Cresilas); 66, 69 (Myron); 67 (Theodoras); 68 (Chares and Myron); 70 (Polyclitus and Lysippus).

47. Classic cases within the Hellenistic canon include Apollonius Arg. 1.721–67 (with Shapiro [1980]; Hunter [1993], 52–59; Manakidou [1993], 101–42) and Theocritus Id. 15.79 (on ) with Burton (1995), 102–04, and Manakidou (1993), 40–47.

48. On Catullus’ Ariadne, see Fitzgerald (1995), 146–49. On Moschus Rape of Europa 37–62, see Manakidou (1993), 174–211. For gendered ekphrasis and viewing, esp. in Hellenistic writing including epigrams, see Skinner (2001), 201–04 and 206–11.

49. Such frontispieces include several prolaliae by Lucian (Heracles, De Domo, Herodotus, Zeuxis—on which see esp. Maffei [1994], xv-lxxi), the Tabula of Cebes and the openings of the novels of Longus and Achilles Tatius. The motif was first analysed by Schissel von Fleschenberg (1913).

50. A classic instance is the way this is staged in the first ekphrasis of the Aeneid at Aen. 1.453–93, with e.g. Boyd (1995), 78–80. But proleptic ekphrasis in general is an example of this, with Harrison (2001).

51. The fundamental discussion is Schissel von Fleschenberg (1913), 103–05; see also Rousselle (2001), 384–89. On the Tabula, see Eisner (1995), 40–46; Trapp (1997); Rousselle (2001), 389–91. For Lucian’s Calumny, see Rousselle (2001), 392f. For a satirical inversion of this exegetic motif, see Petronius Sat. 83–90, with Eisner (1993), 35f.

52. Generally on the ekphrastic epigram, see Friedländer (1912), 55–60; Rossi (2001), 15–27, esp. 19–21 on epigraphic origins and 65–73 for epigrams as captions to works of art; for the Posidippan contribution, see Gutzwiller (2002a) and Zanker (forthcoming 2003). See also Stevens (1983) on the Latin tradition.

53. On Phrasikleia and her inscription, see Svenbro (1993), 8–25; Sourvinou-Inwood (1995), 249f.; Steiner (2001), 13f., 258f. For the find, Mastrokostas (1972).

54. On this meaning of ekphrasis, see Steiner (2001), 299, but see Webb (1999), 7, for varieties of etymological derivations. For the Second Sophistic staging of statues talking back within the generic frame of epistolary fiction, see Rosenmeyer (2001).

55. See Green (1991), 380, and Kay (2001), 79f., for commentary. For the inception of the self-standing ekphrasis in the Latin epigrammatic tradition (especially in Statius’ Silvae) see Newlands (2002), 38–43, 49f., 74 (also on Martial 9.43 and 44) and for Martial see Nauta (2002), 102–04.

56. I read , Ewen Bowie’s emendation of the papyrus reading of , with Austin and Bastianini (2002b: addenda and corrigenda to poem 52); contra Bastianini, Gallazzi and Austin (2001), 172f., and Austin and Bastianini (2002a), 74.

57. See Bastianini, Gallazzi and Austin (2001), 172–74; Austin and Bastianini (2002a), 74f.

58. See Austin and Bastianini (2002b) on poem 52.

59. See Green (1991), 284f.; Kay (2001), 97–103, with further references.

60. See Austin and Bastianini (2002a), 180f.

61. On the object see for instance Pollitt (1986), 53f.; Stewart (1990), 187f.; Smith (1991), 66. Note also Callistratus Ekphraseis 6 and Himerius Eclogues 14.1.

62. On which see Bastianini, Gallazzi and Austin (2001); Austin and Bastianini (2002a).

63. On the issue of grouping epigrams into books, see esp. Gutzwiller (1998), 15–114, 227–332; Gutzwiller (2002b); and now Parsons (2002), esp. 115–18 on the Milan papyrus.

64. Poems 16–20 give us a further set of stones, but not carved by gem-carvers so far as we can trust their descriptions. On some aspects of the lithika, see Hutchinson (2002), 1–3; Bing (2002); and Kosmetatou (forthcoming 2003), who cites several forthcoming articles.

65. See Bassett (1996), 495–97, with bibliography.

66. For Myron’s Cow see Greek Anthology 9.713–42, 793–98, to which Posidippus 66 must now be added. Simon Goldhill has an as yet unpublished discussion on these poems; I am grateful to him for letting me see it.

67. If we trust all the restorations! Ruby; poem 3; grey-stone: poem 4; lapis lazuli: poem 5; beryl: poem 6; carnelian: poem 8; mother-of-pearl: poem 11; shell, emerald and bezel: poem 12; jasper: poem 14.

68. Grey: poem 4; blue: poem 5; yellow/honey-coloured: poem 7; dark: poem 14; ‘thickly streaked with white’: poem 15.

69. India: poems 1, 2; Persia: poems 4, 5, 8 (a gem inscribed with the emblem of Darius which defeats Indian rubies but is, one presumes, defeated by its own inscription into Greek verse), 11, 13; Arabia: poems 7, 10.

70. A drinking horn: poem 2; a bowl carved from ruby (unless this means an image of a bowl on a small gem): poem 3; a bracelet: poem 4; a pendant for a necklace: poem 6; an inlaid necklace: poem 7; a gem on a chain (apparently not a necklace or a finger-ring): poem 8; a seal: poem 9; some kind of cylinder: poem 10; two composite pieces involving shell: poems 11 and 12.

71. Key discussions include Goldhill (1994) and Gutzwiller (2001).

72. For parallels between Philostratus’ Imagines and collections of poetry, see Eisner (2000b), 253–66.

73. For places, see e.g. Philostratus Imag. 1.9 (a marsh), 1.12f. (the Bosphorus), 2.14 (Thessaly), 2.17 (islands), 2.33 (Dodona); for times, seasons and festivals, see 1.2 (night), 1.25 (the Andrians), 2.1 (singers celebrating Aphrodite), 2.6 and 2.32 (athletic festivals); for battles, see 1.1, 1.7, 2.7, 2.10 (episodes from the Trojan War), 1.4, 2.29, 2.30 (episodes from the Theban War), 2.9, 2.31 (‘historical’ scenes from the Persian Wars).

74. For pastoral, see e.g. 2.20–23, 2.11; for Homeric epic, see 1.1, 1.7, 2.7; for tragedy, see 1.18, 2.4, 2.10.

75. E.g. 1.1.2 (where, we are told, it all comes from Homer) with Il. 16.100, 21.333, 337f., 343; or 1.2.5 quoting Eur. Bacch, 836, 852. See discussions in Schönberger and Kalinka (1968) ad. loc.

76. See at length McCombie in this volume.

77. Another highly creative appropriation of the ekphrastic tradition to inform the structural arrangement of lengthy panegyric is Procopius De Aedificiis, with Webb (2000). Procopius, focussing on the architectural tradition of ekphrasis (reaching back to the descriptions of the Jerusalem temples in Josephus Jewish Antiquities 8.63–98 and 15.410–20 and Eusbius VC 3.27–53, and explicitly celebrated in Aphthonius’ fourth century model description of the temple at Alexandria in his Progymnasmata 12.47–49), is succeeded by the accounts of such as Paul the Silentiary (with Friedländer [1912]).

78. Cf Eisner (1995), 28f.

79. I mean Photius’ inaugural homily for the apse mosaic of St Sophia in 867 CE: see Cormack (1985), 146–58; James and Webb (1991), 4 and 12f.; Nelson (2000), 143–52. Procopius’ account of St Sophia in De Aed. 1.1.23–78, as well as the ekphraseis of the church by Paul the Silentiary and others were clearly written in the expectation that the assumed readership (in Constantinople at any rate) could compare the description with its exemplar.

80. See also Goldhill (2001), 160–67.

81. There are of course exceptions—for instance James and Webb (1991) or Eisner (2000b).

82. See esp. Goldhill (1994); Goldhill (2001); Eisner (1995), 21–48.

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