Callimachus’ Victoria Berenices: A Case Study in Elegiac Epyllion
Studies of epyllion have largely been limited to texts in dactylic hexameter. Certain elegiac poems, however, are similar to these epyllia in style and theme. Using Callimachus’ Victoria Berenices as a case study, this paper argues that these elegiac poems have a place in the conclusions and investigations of epyllion. After situating the Victoria Berenices relative to previous epinician poetry, the poem is explored in terms of its relationship to archaic elegiac predecessors that also bear resemblances to modern conceptions of epyllion. The discussion of these elegiac epyllia is then read in the context of several ancient literary critics.
Mots clés :Callimaque, Héraclès, epyllion, Aetia, élégie, épinicie, performance, Pindare, Victoire de Bénénice
Keywords :Callimachus, epyllion, Aetia, elegy, epinician, Herakles, performance, Pindar, Victoria Berenices
Parole Chiave :Callimaco, Eracle, epillio, Aetia, elegia, epinicio, performance, Pindaro, Victoria Berenices
- 1 Ambühl A., “Narrative Hexameter Poetry,” in A Companion to Hellenistic Literature, J. Clauss and M. (...)
- 2 The poem has stood as the opening of Aetia 3 since Parsons P., “Callimachus: Victoria Berenices,” Z (...)
- 3 Fuhrer T., Die Auseinandersetzung mit den Chorlyrikern in den Epinikien des Kallimachos, Schweizeri (...)
- 4 Ambühl A., “Entertaining Theseus and Heracles: The Hecale and the Victoria Berenices as a Diptych,” (...)
- 5 Cf. the editors’ introduction to Baumbach M. and Bӓr S., Brill’s Companion to Greek and Latin Epyll (...)
1In a 2010 article on Hellenistic hexameter poetry, Annemarie Ambühl called for a more thorough discussion on the relationship between hexametric epyllia and elegiac poems that employ similar narrative strategies.1 One strong candidate for a case study to discuss this relationship is Callimachus’ Victoria Berenices, an elegiac epinician of the mid-third century BCE that celebrates Berenice’s chariot victory in the games at Nemea. Although the poem has been placed within one of Callimachus’ larger poetic collections,2 its self-contained narrative provides a good framework to explore the poem independently. Already in 1992, Therese Fuhrer had posited that the Victoria Berenices could be described as an “elegische Epyllion.”3 Ambühl later went a step further in describing the Hecale and Victoria Berenices as a “self-consciously composed diptych” that comprised a “highly innovative experiment with the literary tradition.”4 Half of this diptych, the Hecale, has long enjoyed a position as a definitive epyllion. The Victoria Berenices has been extensively discussed as an epinician, but it deserves more systematic consideration in terms of its relationship as an elegy to the idea of epyllion.5
- 6 Translation adapted from vol. 1 of Harder A., Callimachus. Aetia, Oxford, OUP, 2012 (2 vols.).
2Callimachus begins his poem with an invocation to Zeus and Nemea (SH 254.1–10 + fr. 383 Pfeiffer).6
|Ζηνί τε κα⌊ὶ Νεμέηι τι χαρίσιον ἕδνον ὀφείλω,⌋|
|νύμφα, κα[σιγνή]τ̣ων ἱερὸν αἷμα θεῶν,|
|ἡμ[ε]τ̣ερο.[......].εων ἐπινίκιον ἵππω̣[ν.|
|ἁρμοῖ γὰρ ⌊Δαναοῦ γ⌋ῆς ἀπὸ βουγενέος|
|εἰς Ἑλένη[ς νησῖδ]α̣ καὶ εἰς Παλληνέα μά[ντιν,|
|ποιμένα [φωκάων], χρύσεον ἦλθεν ἔπος,|
|Εὐφητηϊάδ[αο παρ'] ἠρίον οὕ[νεκ'] Ὀφέλτου|
|ρεξαν προ[τέρω]ν̣ οὔτινες ἡνιόχων ἔθ|
|ἄσθματι χλι[....]..πιμιδας, ἀλλὰ θε⌊ό⌋ν̣τ̣⌊ων⌋|
|ὡς ἀνέμων ⌊οὐδεὶς εἶδεν ἁματροχίας⌋|
|To Zeus and Nemea I owe a gift of joy and gratitude,|
|bride, sacred blood of the sibling gods,|
|our victory song…about your horses.|
|For recently there came from the land of Danaus,|
|born from a cow, to Helen’s island and the Pallenean seer,|
|the sealherd, a golden word,|
|that near the tomb of Opheltes, the son of Euphetes,|
|ran by no means heating the shoulders of charioteers.|
3Callimachus explicitly calls his poem an ἐπινίκιον, while also describing the arrival of the news of the victory at Alexandria as a χρύσεον ἔπος. While we should not push the term ἔπος too far as “epic,” we already have within the first few elegiac couplets a reference to victory song and a hymn-like opening. It is fairly clear that, in terms of genre, this is a hard poem to pin down. From the remaining fragments, we can tell that the majority of the poem tells the story of Herakles and his meeting with the rustic Molorchus, emphasizing aspects of xenia reminiscent of Callimachus’ own Hecale as well as the story of Odysseus and Eumaios in the Odyssey. The narration takes a surprising turn, however, when instead of the expected tale of Herakles and the Nemean Lion, Callimachus describes in detail scenes of rustic life and, in particular, Molorchus’ pseudo-epic battle with the invasive mice (fr. 54–59 Pfeiffer). The poem presumably closed by returning to Berenice, though the fragmentary state of the evidence prevents us from making conclusive statements.
- 7 The relationship between Callimachus’ and Pindar’s (and, to an extent, Bacchylides) epinicians is e (...)
- 8 Luz C., “Pindaric Narrative Technique in the Hellenistic Epyllion,” in Brill’s Companion to Greek a (...)
4As an epinician, the Victoria Berenices is presented fairly traditionally, though it has a few twists. The general narrative strategy within this epinician context is largely Pindaric:7 an initial reference to the victor quickly gives way to a mythic narrative, which focuses on characters that are somehow connected genealogically to the laudandus (in this case, Herakles). As Luz has recently recognized and described in detail, the narrative strategies of Theocritean epyllion also bear striking resemblance to those of Pindar.8 Luz’s argument is that epyllia typically structure a story in the way that Pindar does, treating a longer myth with an appropriate exemplum that is aware of its larger context but does not spend as much time or space informing the reader of that context. In some cases (such as [Theocritus] 25), the poet may rely completely on an assumed understanding of the mythological background. This separates the Hellenistic epyllia from the archaic hexameter texts that are sometimes at play in the conversation on epyllion, such as Demodokus’ song in Odyssey 8 or the Homeric Hymns. If Luz is right about Theocritean epyllia on this point, the argument applies to the Victoria Berenices as well. Epinician and epyllion are a comfortable fit.
- 9 Harder A., op. cit., vol. 2, p. 394.
- 10 Harder A., op. cit., vol. 2, p. 394.
5There are, however, some stark differences between the Victoria Berenices and more traditional epinician. Based upon the opening frame of the poem, “the epinician does not transmit information, as it usually does in Pindar, but is accessible only to the reader who know the facts already.”9 For Harder, this represents a decline in social relevance and a move to recherché metapoetics.10 On the other hand, in the context of Luz’s observations, the frame of the Victoria Berenices, by presuming some contextual knowledge of the audience, behaves in the same way that the Herakles narrative will. This may have more to do with socio-political factors than with reducing the poem to an exercise in erudition. By collapsing the stylistic differences between the frame about Berenice’s victory and the narrative about Herakles, Callimachus collapses the distance between recent history and mythology. Within the context of Ptolemaic ruler cult, this is a meaningful change that emphasizes the divinity of Berenice, a victor (in this regard) unlike most of those whom Pindar celebrates.
- 11 See, e.g., Fuhrer T., op. cit., p. 220: “Das ‘Siegerepigramm’ wird zum einleitenden Siegerlob, und (...)
6Another significant change is the meter: elegiac couplets have replaced the various lyric meters of the archaic victory odes of a Pindar or Bacchylides. Callimachus certainly had an interest in Pindar, particularly in the classification of some of his poems (fr. 450 Pfeiffer). He had also classified the victory poems of Simonides (fr. 441 Pfeiffer), and so, despite lacking direct evidence of what these poems looked like, we know that Callimachus was familiar with them. Together with the epinicians of Pindar and Bacchylides, these epinicians represent part of an extensive oeuvre of originally occasional poetry that were available as text to be read by Hellenistic audiences. Epinician epigrams, commonly written in elegiac couplets, are also familiar to the Hellenistic period, and one approach to the elegiac meter of the Victoria Berenices has been to look at the poem, especially its opening introductory formula, within the tradition of epigram.11
7The focus on Pindar and epigram as a comparand for the Victoria Berenices is appropriate to the style of the poem, but it overlooks another literary antecedent that may be just as important. Among the volumes of literature that early Ptolemaic poets collected and consulted at Alexandria, it is possible to identify an already-flourishing tradition of elegiac occasional poems in the Greek world that dates back to the archaic age. This tradition has not generally been taken into account for the Victoria Berenices or (for metrical reasons) epyllion, but it is at this crossroads that our poem finds its place in literary history. Given that epinician and epigram are important for how the Victoria Berenices is conceived, it is worth looking beyond these two influences to consider more fully the implications of archaic elegy, especially those that resemble epyllia, for epyllion and the Victoria Berenices.
- 12 Gutzwiller K., Studies in the Hellenistic Epyllion, Beiträge zur klassischen Philologie 114, Königs (...)
- 13 Gutzwiller K., op. cit., p. 5.
8Two problems have confronted a critical approach to the Victoria Berenices as epyllion: meter and context. In her widely discussed Studies in the Hellenistic Epyllion, K. Gutzwiller states that epyllia are by definition written in dactylic hexameter.12 Nonetheless, following her summary of the previous positions of Crump and Allen, Gutzwiller summarizes:13
The epyllion is epic which is not epic, epic which is at odds with epic, epic which is in contrast with grand epic and old epic values. I do not refer simply to parody, a use of the old, grandiose style to mock itself, but rather a general lightening of the tone of the poetry.
- 14 Gutzillwer K., op. cit., p. 7.
- 15 This is certainly the case for Ovid, though cf. the sound concerns of Cameron A., Callimachus and H (...)
9Regardless of the sustainability of such a general claim (the argument of which I do not confront here), elegiac couplets, at least in the Hellenistic period, are by definition “at odds with” dactylic hexameter. If “transformations of the epic tradition permeate the entire fabric of the poems called epyllia,”14 then a transformation from dactylic to elegiac is as marked as the change can be. If anything, it would be an emphatic marker to set a poem apart from the hexameter tradition completely.15
- 16 Following the analysis and definitions, of Gutzwiller K., op. cit., p. 2–4, where within larger col (...)
- 17 Fuhrer T., op. cit., p. 64; Harder A., op. cit., vol. 2, p. 392.
- 18 See further Morrison A., The Narrator in Archaic Greek and Hellenistic Poetry, Cambridge, CUP, 2007 (...)
10Yet before looking at the issue of meter more closely, which will require briefly tracing the history of what might be called “elegiac epyllia,” another issue merits response. The other obstacle for considering the Victoria Berenices’ as an epyllion is its now traditional placement within the Aetia.16 In order to talk about the poem alongside other poems that are traditionally discussed as epyllia, it is necessary to establish an independent circulation for the poem. As an epinician, the Victoria Berenices has a logical occasion which is clearly stated in the opening lines of the poem. As an occasional poem, it would lose much of its resonance if it were first read in a publication many years after the occasion itself. It was modeled on poems that had precisely such a performance context, though they were known to Callimachus centuries later in written form. According to Therese Fuhrer (whom Annette Harder references on this point in her recent Aetia commentary), even if the poem originally had a performance context and independent circulation, this role is eclipsed by the poem’s inclusion in the Aetia.17 Yet archaic lyric has also been preserved as text, and it is doubtful that serious scholars of that poetry would ever dispense completely with discussions of original performance context. The assumptions of Hellenistic book culture have largely prevented us from asking the more interesting questions we confront in the scholarship on archaic lyric.18
- 19 Harder A., op. cit., vol. 2, p. 394. They do draw attention to Ptolemaic ideology, but this in fact (...)
- 20 On this point, see also Luz C., op. cit.
- 21 Obbink D., “The Genre of Plataea: Generic Unity in the New Simonides,” in The New Simonides: Contex (...)
- 22 These are points for illustration, though the problem remains that the Nemean games did not, at thi (...)
11Discussion of performance of the Victoria Berenices has been undermined by consideration of its opening references as recherché or otherwise too learned. In her new Aetia commentary, Annette Harder states that Callimachus has changed several Pindaric conventions in the Victoria Berenices. Most notably, the “victor’s name, parents and country, and the location and exact nature of the games are…ambiguous,” while they also “draw attention to the Ptolemaic ruler ideology.”19 If this is the case, then the introductory frame of Berenike’s victory and the mythical part concerning Herakles and Molorchus have a similar narrative strategy that presumes some background knowledge.20 Similar strategies were employed by Simonides, who apparently did not mention at all the site of the victory in his epinicians.21 On the other hand, metonymy that might suggest “ambiguity” is also employed by a poet like Pindar: compare, for example, Pythian 11. The introduction of Thebes by way of the Apollo’s Ismenion (P. 11.5–6) is not so unlike denoting Egypt by way of “Helen’s island;” Kirra (P. 11.13) and the “rich fields of Pylades” (ἐν ἀφνεαῖς ἀρούραισι Πυλάδα, P. 11.15) for Delphi is not so unlike the “tomb of Opheltes” (especially with “Nemea” named in the opening line of the poem).22
- 23 Harder A., op. cit., vol. 1, p. 200–1, and vol. 2, p. 413–20.
- 24 Harder A., op. cit., vol. 2, p. 420, with reference to Pindar, O. 8.57, P. 5.108 and 9.51 for the l (...)
12There is also a significant piece of new evidence for a performance context for the Victoria Berenices and, therefore, an existence outside of the Aetia. We have, as of the middle of the last decade, a new fragment for the Victoria Berenices, which Annette Harder has published in her edition as fragment 54a.23 At 54a.16, where the word αὔριον appears, we are still within the local introductory framework and the Herakles story has not started. Since we are not yet in the narrative, the αὔριον is most likely to be taken literally and refer to an event that is going to take place on the day following the original performance of the Victoria Berenices. Even Harder, who hesitates on the question of a performance context, is here suggestive of the possibility of at least the imitation of a performance context.24
- 25 As did, possibly, the Acontius and Cydippe, for which see Cameron A., op. cit., p. 437–53. If we co (...)
- 26 See Acosta-Hughes B., “Aesthetics and Recall: Callimachus frs. 226-9 Pf. Reconsidered,” CQ 53.2, 20 (...)
13Several parallels in the Callimachean corpus take the Victoria Berenices’ independent circulation from possibility to good possibility. The other prominent epinician (the Victoria Sosibii) and the other prominent poem about Berenice (Coma Berenice) both enjoyed independent circulation, as attested by POxy. 2258.25 Fragment 228 Pfeiffer, on the apotheosis of Arsinoe, also has the markings that we would expect of an occasional poem, and in several ways that bear striking similarity to narrative strategies of the Victoria Berenices.26 The Victoria Berenices, then, has both internal characteristics that point to an original performance (and thus a context independent of the Aetia) and the external support of the existence of other Callimachean occasional poems, which suggest a vibrant performance context rather than reclusive erudition.
14These considerations allows for more flexibility between the boundaries of performance and reading. The Hellenistic world also knew archaic lyric as text and performance: the function of the text of a poet like Pindar was precisely to be the means of preserving the performance. For Callimachus, the Victoria Berenices could have existed first as an independently circulated and performed poem at a victory festival for Berenice II, and later was included in the publication of the Aetia not as a way to publicly gift the poem, but rather as a way—for the poetry that Alexandria had collected from the Greek world, the way—to preserve it.
- 27 Bowie E., “Early Greek Elegy, Symposium and Public Festival,” JHS 106, 1986 (p. 13–35), p. 27 and, (...)
- 28 Murray J., “Hellenistic Elegy: Out from Under the Shadow of Callimachus,” in A Companion to Helleni (...)
- 29 Bowie E., 1986, op. cit., p. 33.
- 30 Hunter R., “The Reputation of Callimachus,” in Culture in Pieces: Essays on Ancient Texts in Honour (...)
15With the background of an independent existence for the Victoria Berenices so established, we can look at the other aspect of the poem that has prevented it from being considered with other epyllia: its elegiac meter. The narrow view that elegy was either strictly sympotic or for laments has hopefully been put to rest. In a seminal 1986 article (and a 2001 article that revisits many of the same issues), E. Bowie showed that a “genre of narrative elegy” on a larger scale than these limited usages was current in the archaic period.27 The poetic form is old, and there were certainly “elegies resembling long hexameter poems on mythical and ‘historical’ themes” continuously from Archaic through Classical times, such as those by Mimnermus, Tyrtaeus, Xenophanes, and Panyassis.28 According to Bowie, the length of these poems was often “appropriate to competitive performance at a public festival.”29 More specifically in the context of their reception in Alexandria, we have internal evidence that Posidippus and Callimachus looked to Archilochus (SH 705.18: Παρ<ί>ηι δὸς ἀηδόνι) and Mimnermus (Aetia fr. 1.11: Μίμνερμος…γλυκύς), as not only models, but as founders of the elegiac mode itself.30 It should be no surprise if these poets become important figures in Callimachus’ poetry.
- 31 West M., “Simonides Redivivus,” ZPE 98, 1993 (p. 1–14), p. 5.
- 32 West M., op. cit., p. 4.
- 33 Obbink D., “A New Archilochus Poem,” ZPE 156, 2006, p. 1–9.
- 34 Obbink D., 2001, op. cit.
16Our impressions of archaic elegy have been revised in just the past few decades and continue to be revised today. Reading the Victoria Berenices against the so-called “new” Simonides and Archilochus can shed interesting light on our perception of its occasional flavor and its place in literary history. Already in 1993, M. L. West referred to the New Simonides as a “mini-epic in elegiacs” or of the type “elegiac epyllia.”31 It is also useful to recall Ibycus’ “use of divine myth in contemporary context,”32 which is similar in many ways to the relationship of the frame and narrative of the Victoria Berenices (or, for that matter, most epinician poetry). More recently, the so-called “New Archilochus” has been described by Dirk Obbink as a “consolatio in epic diction and elegiac meter.”33 Despite their fragmentary nature, these elegies, with their episodic plots and focus on a single feat of a particular hero, suggest narrative structures that resemble epyllia. As with Hesiod and the Homeric Hymns, which sometimes fall under the purview of discussion of epyllion, it has been argued that Simonides’ elegies had a proemial function to a larger song.34 If Callimachus is writing an “elegiac epyllion,” the idea may not be so new.
- 35 Murray J., op. cit., p. 110.
- 36 Barbantani S., “Callimachus and the Contemporary Historical ‘Epic’”, Hermathena 173/4, 2002/3 (p. 2 (...)
- 37 Barbantani S., op. cit., p. 31–2.
17In fact, the elegiac mode may have had an impact on the way that the poem was received by its audience. As Murray has recently posited, our “scant evidence” suggests that hexameter narratives were primarily concerned with the distant mythological past, while elegiac ones could describe more recent history.35 In particular, the historical nature of Mimnermus’ Smyrneis stands out.36 If this is an ancient concern and Callimachus is sensitive to it, the choice of elegy colors the meaning of the poem. Given that the Ptolemies claimed descent from Herakles, an elegiac story about that particular hero (and Berenice) would provide a way of making the relationship historical rather than mythological. This sort of encomiastic relationship would be appreciated by a Hellenistic court.37 It would seem, then, that Callimachus’ choice of elegiacs may be grounded in a positive sense of what elegy evokes—history and monumentalization—rather than a negative reaction to hexameter.
- 38 See Hunter R., op. cit., on this passage viewed from a different approach regarding Callimachus’ re (...)
18To move forward one generation in literary history, Callimachus’ student Eratosthenes seems to take up many of the ideas of “elegiac epyllion” in his Erigone. Although we know little about the poem itself, it is often compared on the basis of the surviving fragments to the Hecale. We can infer that Callimachus took the idea of epyllion seriously and that it was a lasting part of his legacy. At some later date, [Longinus] opposes Eratosthenes’ Erigone with the poetry of Archilochus (33.5):38
Ἐρατοσθένης ἐν τῇ Ἠριγόνῃ (διὰ πάντων γὰρ ἀμώμητον τὸ ποιημάτιον) Ἀρχιλόχου πολλὰ καὶ ἀνοικονόμητα παρασύροντος, κἀκείνης τῆς ἐκβολῆς τοῦ δαιμονίου πνεύματος ἣν ὑπὸ νόμον τάξαι δύσκολον, ἆρα δὴ μείζων ποιητής;
Does Eratosthenes in the Erigone (a little poem which is altogether free from flaw) show himself a greater poet than Archilochus, who sweeps along with the rich and disorderly abundance, and whose projection of divine spirit is difficult to contain under the rules of law?
- 39 See discussion, references, and bibliography in Bowie E., 2001, op. cit., p. 51.
- 40 Translation adapted from Crosby H., Dio Chrysostom. IV, Discourses XXXVII–LX, The Loeb Classical Li (...)
19Immediately prior, [Longinus] juxtaposes Theocritus, Apollonius, and Homer in the realm of ἔπος. As seems to be the case from the point of view of the other examples provided in this section by [Longinus], what Archilochus and Eratosthenes’ Erigone share here is elegiac meter. What Archilochean narrative elegy could [Longinus] mean for us to compare with the Erigone? Since we have several testimonia for the existence of a Herakles-Nessus story,39 it is logical to think that the narrative elegy that is being compared here is at least of that type. Here is Dio Chrysostom’s brief analysis of the Archilochean version, which he compares with the version of Sophocles (Orationes 60.1):40
Ἔχεις μοι λῦσαι ταύτην τὴν ἀπορίαν, πότερον δικαίως ἐγκαλοῦσιν οἱ μὲν τῷ Ἀρχιλόχῳ, οἱ δὲ τῷ Σοφοκλεῖ περὶ τῶν κατὰ τὸν Νέσσον καὶ τὴν Δηιάνειραν ἢ οὔ; φασὶ γὰρ οἱ μὲν τὸν Ἀρχίλοχον ληρεῖν, ποιοῦντα τὴν Δηιάνειραν ἐν τῷ βιάζεσθαι ὑπὸ τοῦ Κενταύρου πρὸς τὸν Ἡρακλέα ῥαψῳδοῦσαν, ἀναμιμνῄσκουσαν τῆς τοῦ Ἀχελῴου μνηστείας καὶ τῶν τότε γενομένων.
Can you solve me this problem—whether or not people are warranted in finding fault now with Archilochus and now with Sophocles in their treatment of the story of Nessus and Deïaneira? For some say Archilochus makes nonsense when he represents Deïaneira as chanting a long story to Heracles while an attack upon her honour is being made by the Centaur, thereby reminding him of the love-making of Acheloüs—and of the events which took place on that occasion.
- 41 For the recurrence of Herakles in Hellenistic epyllia, see Acosta-Hughes B., “Miniaturizing the Hug (...)
20Several things can be said about this testimonium in light of elegy’s place in the history of epyllion. First, the story involves Herakles, a common figure in Hellenistic epyllia.41 Second, the story involves a long speech, for which Archilochus is here criticized, but is also a feature commonly cited for later epyllia. Third, the plot seems episodic: here we have a focus on one exploit of Herakles, and we know that story did not emphasize the action, but an inset narrative tale. This is not meant to be exhaustive, but rather illustrative: a poem like the Victoria Berenices had elegiac precedents, and even in the archaic period this elegy shared traits with epyllion.
- 42 This passage is briefly mentioned by Cameron A., op. cit., p. 449. The translation is from Edmonds (...)
21A final piece of evidence between elegy and epyllion in the Hellenistic period takes us to Rome. Parthenius prefaces his collection of erotic plots, addressed to Gallus, as follows:42
Μάλιστα σοὶ δοκῶν ἁρμόττειν, Κορνήλιε Γάλλε, τὴν ἄθροισιν τῶν ἐρωτικῶν παθημάτων
ἀναλεξάμενος ὡς ὅτι πλεῖστα ἐν βραχυτάτοις ἀπέσταλκα. τὰ γὰρ παρά τισι τῶν ποιητῶν
κείμενα τούτων, μὴ αὐτοτελῶς λελεγμένα, κατανοήσεις ἐκ τῶνδε τὰ πλεῖστα· αὐτῷ τέ σοι
παρέσται εἰς ἔπη καὶ ἐλεγείας ἀνάγειν τὰ μάλιστα ἐξ αὐτῶν ἁρμόδια. <μηδὲ> διὰ τὸ μὴ παρεῖναι
τὸ περιττὸν αὐτοῖς, ὃ δὴ σὺ μετέρχῃ, χεῖρον περὶ αὐτῶν ἐννοηθῇς· οἱονεὶ γὰρ ὑπομνηματίων τρόπον
αὐτὰ συνελεξάμεθα, καὶ σοὶ νυνὶ τὴν χρῆσιν ὁμοίαν, ὡς ἔοικε,παρέξεται.
I thought, my dear Cornelius Gallus, that to you above all men there would be something particularly agreeable in this collection of romances of love, and I have put them together and set them out in the shortest possible form. The stories, as they are found in the poets who treat this class of subject, are not usually related with sufficient simplicity; I hope that, in the way I have treated them, you will have the summary of each: and you will thus have at hand a storehouse from which to draw material, as may seem best to you, for either epic or elegiac verse. I am sure that you will not think the worse of them because they have not that polish of which you are yourself such a master: I have only put them together as aids to memory, and that is the sole purpose for which they are meant to be of service to you.
- 43 Although the word is generally translated as “reminders” (referring to Parthenius’ summaries, not G (...)
22The plots that follow are of the episodic type we would expect to see in epyllion. The fact that Parthenius is reacting to a poetic style that has generally adorned these stories with extraneous details underscores the point. It is crucial to note, however, that Parthenius makes no distinction here between between ἔπος (in this context, presumably dactylic hexameter) and elegy, though there is perhaps a hint at the scope of the projects in the rare diminutive ὑπομνηματίων.43 This Greek letter addressed to a Roman author fond of Hellenistic poetry betrays an ambivalent tradition: the fact that elegy is a perfectly acceptable alternative for these plots suggests elegiac forebears, of which the Victoria Berenices is a prime exemplar.
- 44 See Tilg S., “On the Origins of the Modern Term ‘Epyllion,’” in Brill’s Companion to Greek and Lati (...)
23The Victoria Berenices shares a place in the intertwined histories of epinician, elegy, and epyllion. If the original purveyors of the word “epyllion” in the nineteenth century (or later scholars like Crump) had had access to the elegiac materials of Callimachus, Archilochus, or Simonides, perhaps the metrically restrictive conceptual legacy of the term would not have been what it is today.44 In reviewing the evidence of cases where individual episodes in the Aetia have an independent circulation, I hope to have further opened the door for a discussion about the relationship between these episodic elegiac poems in the context of epyllion. Beyond Callimachus and the archaic elegiac epyllia, individual elegies of Propertius and Ovid should be considered as well. In fairness to the material as the ancients understood it, we should not have any reservations in extending the profitable and rich discourse on hexameter epyllion to elegiac epyllion.
1 Ambühl A., “Narrative Hexameter Poetry,” in A Companion to Hellenistic Literature, J. Clauss and M. Cuypers (eds.), Chichester and Malden, Wiley-Blackwell, 2010, p. 151–65 (p. 156).
2 The poem has stood as the opening of Aetia 3 since Parsons P., “Callimachus: Victoria Berenices,” ZPE 25, 1977, p. 1–50, with subsequent support deduced from its influence on Roman poets by, e.g., Thomas R., “Callimachus, the Victoria Berenices, and Roman Poetry,” CQ 33, 1983, p. 92–113. Here I am interested in the Victoria Berenices in its original context as a work independent of the Aetia. This approach is discussed more thoroughly below.
3 Fuhrer T., Die Auseinandersetzung mit den Chorlyrikern in den Epinikien des Kallimachos, Schweizerische Beiträge zur Altertumswissenschaft 23, Basel, F. Reinhardt, 1992, p. 106–7 and 220.
4 Ambühl A., “Entertaining Theseus and Heracles: The Hecale and the Victoria Berenices as a Diptych,” in Callimachus. II, M. Harder, R. Regtuit and G. Wakker (eds), Hellenistica Groningana 7, Leuven, Peeters, 2002, p. 26–47.
5 Cf. the editors’ introduction to Baumbach M. and Bӓr S., Brill’s Companion to Greek and Latin Epyllion and Its Reception, Leiden, Brill, 2012, p. xi: “most scholars agree on the hexametrical form as a condicio sine qua non for considering a poem an ‘epyllion.’” For some opposition, see bibliography ad loc., most notably Fantuzzi M., “Epyllion,” DNP 4, 1998, p. 31–3, and Fantuzzi M. and Hunter R., Tradition and Innovation in Hellenistic Poetry, Cambridge, CUP, 2004, p. 191–3. Even if one does not accept the categorical association of epyllion and shorter, episodic elegies, the evidence surveyed here would at least suggest a parallel development in elegy roughly coterminous with epyllion.
6 Translation adapted from vol. 1 of Harder A., Callimachus. Aetia, Oxford, OUP, 2012 (2 vols.).
7 The relationship between Callimachus’ and Pindar’s (and, to an extent, Bacchylides) epinicians is explored most thoroughly by Fuhrer T., op. cit., elsewhere in footnotes and the recent critical editions and commentaries of the Aetia (e.g. Harder A., op. cit., and Massimilla G., Callimaco. Aitia. Libri terzo e quarto, Biblioteca di studi antichi 92, Pisa and Rome, Fabrizio Serra, 2010, index s.v. “Pindar”).
8 Luz C., “Pindaric Narrative Technique in the Hellenistic Epyllion,” in Brill’s Companion to Greek and Latin Epyllion and Its Reception, M. Baumbach and S. Bӓr (eds.), op. cit., p. 201–19.
9 Harder A., op. cit., vol. 2, p. 394.
10 Harder A., op. cit., vol. 2, p. 394.
11 See, e.g., Fuhrer T., op. cit., p. 220: “Das ‘Siegerepigramm’ wird zum einleitenden Siegerlob, und das ‘Epyllion’ erhält durch den Bezug zum gefeierten Ereignis am Schluss des erhaltenen Texts die für das Epinikion wichtige enkomiastische Funktion.” See also the epinician epigrams of Posidippus AB 71–88, some of which are similar to how Callimachus seems to have opened the Victoria Berenices, e.g. genealogy (78) or a description of the race itself (79, which could be connected closely with the former).
12 Gutzwiller K., Studies in the Hellenistic Epyllion, Beiträge zur klassischen Philologie 114, Königstein/Ts, A. Hain, 1981, p. 3–4.
13 Gutzwiller K., op. cit., p. 5.
14 Gutzillwer K., op. cit., p. 7.
15 This is certainly the case for Ovid, though cf. the sound concerns of Cameron A., Callimachus and His Critics, Princeton, Princeton UP, 1995, that we should not project Roman reception of Hellenistic poetry back onto the original creation. In the archaic period, our best evidence for the distinction is Theognis (Scroll 1: 14–18) with the hexameter marked as an ἔπος by the pentameters that surround it (translation adapted from Edmonds J., Greek Elegy and Iambus, vol. 1, The Loeb Classical Library, 1931):
|Μοῦσαι καὶ Χάριτες, κοῦραι Διός, αἵ ποτε Κάδμου|
|ἐς γάμον ἐλθοῦσαι καλὸν είσατ᾽ ἔπος·|
|“ὅττι καλὸν φίλον ἐστί, τὸ δ’οὐ καλὸν οὐ φίλον ἐστί”·|
|τοῦτ᾽ ἔπος θανάτων ἦλθε διὰ στομάτων.|
|Muses and Graces, Daughters of Zeus, who once came to the wedding|
|of Cadmus and sang so fair an epos,|
|“What is fair is dear, and not dear what is not fair”|
|—such was the epos that passed your immortal lips.|
16 Following the analysis and definitions, of Gutzwiller K., op. cit., p. 2–4, where within larger collections we often find individual “epyllionlike” episodes, such as in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. These, however, cannot fully participate in the jeweled effect of epyllion: although they have independent story lines, they get most of their actual meaning from participating together in a much larger work.
17 Fuhrer T., op. cit., p. 64; Harder A., op. cit., vol. 2, p. 392.
18 See further Morrison A., The Narrator in Archaic Greek and Hellenistic Poetry, Cambridge, CUP, 2007, p. 37–41 and 110–1. His observations throughout on mimesis, “pseudo-intimacy,” and re-performance continually emphasize “the dangers of asserting that we should explain the differences between Archaic and Hellenistic poetry mainly in terms of a shift from songs to books” (111).
19 Harder A., op. cit., vol. 2, p. 394. They do draw attention to Ptolemaic ideology, but this in fact removes the very ambiguity that Harder would like to see in the poem.
20 On this point, see also Luz C., op. cit.
21 Obbink D., “The Genre of Plataea: Generic Unity in the New Simonides,” in The New Simonides: Contexts of Praise and Desire, D. Boedeker and D. Sider (eds.), Oxford, OUP, 2001 (p. 65–86), p. 75 n. 40.
22 These are points for illustration, though the problem remains that the Nemean games did not, at this time, actually take place near the “tomb of Opheltes,” but were in fact held in Argos. On this point, see further Fuhrer T., “Callimachus’ Epinician Poems,” in Callimachus, M. Harder, R. Regtuit and G. Wakker (eds), Hellenistica Groningana 1, Groningen, E. Forsten, 1993 (p. 79–97), p. 81. Yet from the point of view of Alexandria, Nemea and Argos are not so distant from one another, and Callimachus is, moreover, trying to place Berenice’s victory within an epinician trajectory and authorize the Nemean story of Herakles and Molorchos, two points that supersede strict geographical accuracy.
23 Harder A., op. cit., vol. 1, p. 200–1, and vol. 2, p. 413–20.
24 Harder A., op. cit., vol. 2, p. 420, with reference to Pindar, O. 8.57, P. 5.108 and 9.51 for the language of the preceding line. It is worth noting that both Pythian poems are for Cyrenean victors. Callimachus not only recalls these earlier epinicians by Pindar in a literary sense, but also places Berenice’s achievement in the context of earlier North African victors.
25 As did, possibly, the Acontius and Cydippe, for which see Cameron A., op. cit., p. 437–53. If we continue down this path, the justification for POxy. 2258 being said to contain some occasional poems followed by Aetia 3 and 4 in their entirety, as opposed to an assorted collection of Callimachean elegies, will quickly slip away. Cf. Hollis A., “The Composition of Callimachus’ Aetia in the Light of P. Oxy. 2258,” CQ 36, 1986, p. 467–71.
26 See Acosta-Hughes B., “Aesthetics and Recall: Callimachus frs. 226-9 Pf. Reconsidered,” CQ 53.2, 2003 (p. 478–89), p. 483–4. Note especially fragment 228.54–5 Pfeiffer, where the λόγος comes to the beach of Pharos (much like the χρύσεον ἔπος of the Victoria Berenices).
27 Bowie E., “Early Greek Elegy, Symposium and Public Festival,” JHS 106, 1986 (p. 13–35), p. 27 and, in general, Bowie E., “Ancestors of Historiography in Early Greek Elegiac and Iambic Poetry?,” in The Historian’s Craft in the Age of Herodotus, N. Luraghi (ed.), Oxford, OUP, 2001, p. 45–66.
28 Murray J., “Hellenistic Elegy: Out from Under the Shadow of Callimachus,” in A Companion to Hellenistic Literature, J. Clauss and M. Cuypers (eds.), op. cit. (p. 106–16), p. 107, and Bowie E., 1986, op. cit., p. 33.
29 Bowie E., 1986, op. cit., p. 33.
30 Hunter R., “The Reputation of Callimachus,” in Culture in Pieces: Essays on Ancient Texts in Honour of Peter Parsons, D. Obbink and R. Rutherford (eds.), Oxford, OUP, 2011 (p. 220–38), p. 235–6. See also on this point Harder A., op. cit., vol. 2, p. 34, where the opposition is between Philitas and Antimachus as imitations of Mimnermus, and “Philitas improved on Antimachus’ revival of archaic elegy.”
31 West M., “Simonides Redivivus,” ZPE 98, 1993 (p. 1–14), p. 5.
32 West M., op. cit., p. 4.
33 Obbink D., “A New Archilochus Poem,” ZPE 156, 2006, p. 1–9.
34 Obbink D., 2001, op. cit.
35 Murray J., op. cit., p. 110.
36 Barbantani S., “Callimachus and the Contemporary Historical ‘Epic’”, Hermathena 173/4, 2002/3 (p. 29–47), p. 30. It is important to recall that Mimnermus is explicitly mentioned by Callimachus in the Aetia prologue.
37 Barbantani S., op. cit., p. 31–2.
38 See Hunter R., op. cit., on this passage viewed from a different approach regarding Callimachus’ reputation, with bibliography and a fuller discussion. Translation adapted from Roberts R. (ed.), Longinus on the Sublime, Cambridge, CUP, 1899.
39 See discussion, references, and bibliography in Bowie E., 2001, op. cit., p. 51.
40 Translation adapted from Crosby H., Dio Chrysostom. IV, Discourses XXXVII–LX, The Loeb Classical Library 376, 1946.
41 For the recurrence of Herakles in Hellenistic epyllia, see Acosta-Hughes B., “Miniaturizing the Huge: Hercules on a Small Scale (Theocritus Idylls 13 and 24),” in Brill’s Companion to Greek and Latin Epyllion and Its Reception, M. Baumbach and S. Bär (eds.), op. cit., p. 245–58.
42 This passage is briefly mentioned by Cameron A., op. cit., p. 449. The translation is from Edmonds J. and Gaselee S., Longus. Daphnis and Chloe; Parthenius. Love Romances and Others Fragments, The Loeb Classical Library 69, 1916.
43 Although the word is generally translated as “reminders” (referring to Parthenius’ summaries, not Gallus’ intended projects) in this context, LSJ s.v. “ὑπόμνημα” reveals a much greater semantic range: “reminder” first, but also “mention” (in a speech) or philosophical, geographical, and historical “treatises.” In other words, it is similar to the Latin word mentio, which is what Servius, in discussing the lemma lucos Molorchi at Georgics 3.19, uses to describe the story of Molorchus in the Aetia. Perhaps, in mentio and ὑπομνημάτιον, we get close to an ancient term for our modern concept of epyllion.
44 See Tilg S., “On the Origins of the Modern Term ‘Epyllion,’” in Brill’s Companion to Greek and Latin Epyllion and Its Reception, M. Baumbach and S. Bӓr (eds.), op. cit., p. 29–54 for an up-to-date discussion of the origin of the term “epyllion.”Top of page
Aaron Palmore, « Callimachus’ Victoria Berenices: A Case Study in Elegiac Epyllion », Aitia [Online], 6 | 2016, Online since 16 June 2016, connection on 24 April 2017. URL : http://aitia.revues.org/1438 ; DOI : 10.4000/aitia.1438Top of page
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