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Lycophron


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The name of Lycophron is associated with two writers of the Hellenistic age, the identity of whom is open to much debate. They are here distinguished as (a) Lycophron and (b) ps.-Lycophron.(a) Lycophron, a native of Chalcis, of the early 3rd cent. bc, active in Alexandria, a member of the tragic Pleiad (canonical grouping of the city's eight or more tragic poets), author of a number of tragedies and satyr-plays, and also a grammarian and glossographer of the comic poets, of whom a few glosses survive. The titles of some of the plays are conventional, of others topical (including one on his friend Menedemus of Eretria and one called the Cassandreis, the theme of which is unknown). Only a few fragments survive.(b) Ps.-Lycophron, author of the ‘monodrama’ Alexandra, written in the immediate aftermath of the victory of Flamininus at Cynoscephalae over Philip V of Macedon in 197/6 bc. The author, whose true name and place of origin are probably concealed beneath the impenetrably enigmatic biographical tradition concerning Lycophron, probably used the name, and some of the literary substance, of Lycophron (a), not in emulation, but as an ironic reminiscence of the earlier writer, who had combined the practice of tragedy and the elucidation of comedy. Only on this assumption of a deliberate pseudepigraphon can the full irony of his work be appreciated. His poem, cast in the form of a prophetic recitation by Cassandra in iambic trimeters, called in the title of the poem Alexandra, has acquired notoriety on account of its obscure and laboured style and vocabulary, in which individual episodes and persons are alike concealed in memorable metaphorical terms, which defy indisputable rationalization. The poem is nevertheless a powerful, indeed brilliant performance, in which tragic intensity, grim irony, and recondite learning combine to create a memorable tour de force.

(a) Lycophron and (b) ps.-Lycophron.

(a) Lycophron, a native of Chalcis, of the early 3rd cent. bc, active in Alexandria, a member of the tragic Pleiad (canonical grouping of the city's eight or more tragic poets), author of a number of tragedies and satyr-plays, and also a grammarian and glossographer of the comic poets, of whom a few glosses survive. The titles of some of the plays are conventional, of others topical (including one on his friend Menedemus of Eretria and one called the Cassandreis, the theme of which is unknown). Only a few fragments survive.

(b) Ps.-Lycophron, author of the ‘monodrama’ Alexandra, written in the immediate aftermath of the victory of Flamininus at Cynoscephalae over Philip V of Macedon in 197/6 bc. The author, whose true name and place of origin are probably concealed beneath the impenetrably enigmatic biographical tradition concerning Lycophron, probably used the name, and some of the literary substance, of Lycophron (a), not in emulation, but as an ironic reminiscence of the earlier writer, who had combined the practice of tragedy and the elucidation of comedy. Only on this assumption of a deliberate pseudepigraphon can the full irony of his work be appreciated. His poem, cast in the form of a prophetic recitation by Cassandra in iambic trimeters, called in the title of the poem Alexandra, has acquired notoriety on account of its obscure and laboured style and vocabulary, in which individual episodes and persons are alike concealed in memorable metaphorical terms, which defy indisputable rationalization. The poem is nevertheless a powerful, indeed brilliant performance, in which tragic intensity, grim irony, and recondite learning combine to create a memorable tour de force.

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Subjects: Classical Studies.


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