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Pliny the Younger (c. 61—112 ad) Roman statesman and scholar

Greek iambic poetry


Callimachus (fl. c. 280—245 bc)

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Greek composer of iambic mimes. Seven poems survive more or less complete. Herodas was probably active c.250 bc. Poem 2 and probably 4 are set on Cos; poem 1 is set outside Egypt but refers to the glories of Alexandria, and poem 8 very likely refers to the literary squabbles of the Alexandrian Museum; Pliny the Younger names Herodas in the same context as Callimachus 2. Herodas, like Callimachus in his Iambics, claims Hipponax as his model (poem 8), and his iambic mimes are written in a creative, literary approximation to the Ionic of Hipponax. In style and theme, however, Herodas is more indebted to comedy and the mime tradition of Sophron.

Each poem, except 8, has more than one speaking ‘part’; each poem assumes the presence of mute extras. It is disputed whether they were originally composed only to be read, to be performed by a single mime, or by a troupe. Their learned character suggests that Herodas envisaged the possibility of a reading audience.

The very diverse background of the poems shows them to be typical of their age—both modern and archaizing, learned and ‘low’. They are ‘realistic’ in the sense that the characters and what they say have ‘real life’ analogues, but they depend upon an audience which knows how stylized is the view of life presented and can appreciate the productive clash between versification and language on one side and subject‐matter on the other. See mime, greek.

Subjects: Classical Studies.

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