Posidippus of Pella

Enrico Magnelli

in Classics

ISBN: 9780195389661
Published online December 2009 | | DOI:
Posidippus of Pella

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Though the Greek Anthology has preserved fewer than thirty epigrams ascribed to him, Posidippus of Pella was a relevant figure in the literary scene of the first half of the 3rd century bce. Two inscriptions conferring proxenia (honorary appointments with diplomatic responsibilities) upon him are known, one from Delphi (ca. 276/75), the other from Thermon (264/63), the latter explicitly mentioning “Posidippus of Pella, the epigrammatist”—thus revealing that epigram was the genre that granted fame to this poet. Posidippus shows several affinities with Asclepiades of Samos, and sometimes appears to imitate him; a fragment of commentary on Callimachus's Response to the Telchines (the so-called scholia Florentina) includes both Asclepiades and Posidippus among Callimachus's enemies; and whatever the real extent of the polemic Posidippus was involved in, it took place at the highest level of contemporary poetry. In a fragmentary elegiac text (Suppl. Hell. 705 = 118 Austin–Bastianini), the elderly Posidippus depicts himself as a wealthy and highly respected man of letters. For all this evidence of his success and reputation, modern scholarship has largely neglected him until very recently. Handbooks and literary histories had him live in the shade of Asclepiades, who was reputed to be a far better and more elegant poet, judgments on the quality of Posidippus's epigrams being often unfavorable: just another reminder of how dangerous it is to superimpose our modern taste on that of the ancients. However, Posidippus enjoyed an unexpected surge in popularity recently, when a Milan papyrus (P.Mil.Vogl. VIII 309, published in 2001; see The “New Posidippus”) made available to the public a collection of some 112 new epigrams on various topics, grouped under sections—[Lithi]ka (On Stones), Oionoskopika (On Omens), Anathematika (Dedications), [Greek title missing] (Epitaphs), Andriantopoiika (On Statues), Hippika (On Equestrian Victories), Nauagika (On Shipwrecks), Iamatika (On Cures), Tropoi (Characters), and possibly others—all apparently written by him. The so-called New Posidippus appeared to be quite different from the “Old” one, and even more interesting from several points of view. This forced us to challenge many commonplace notions on the nature of Hellenistic epigram, and it revealed that Posidippus was not just a devoted follower of Asclepiades. Since then there has been a great flow of scholarly publications devoted to this previously underestimated poet. Much has been done on the new texts, but much surely remains to do.

Article.  6158 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Classical Art and Architecture ; Classical History ; Classical Literature ; Classical Philosophy

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