- Anna Tiziana Drago
The collection of fifty fictitious love letters (epistulae amatoriae) subdivided into two books contained in a single Greek manuscript (codex unicus) copied in the south of Italy around 1200 ce and now housed in Vienna (V = Cod. Vindobonensis phil. Graec. 310) has had a curious history. This manuscript identifies its epistolographer as a certain Aristaenetus, but in fact the author’s name is as uncertain as his birthplace and the dates of his career. The corpus might have been composed between the end of the 5th and the beginning of the 6th centuries ce, and its author could be an epistolographer belonging to the literary humanist circles formed in the imperial atmosphere of Constantinople under Justinian I (including Procopius, Agathias, and Paulus Silentiarius). The letters are written from a variety of senders to diverse addressees, including historical or literary figures (often professional epistolographers: Alciphron, Aelian, Philostratus, but also Lucian, Stesichorus, Eratosthenes, Archilochus, and Terpander). Aristaenetus’ epistolary collection has a dominant thematic nucleus: the description, conquest, and defence of love. This thematic nucleus gathers around itself conventional amatory topics: the flame of love; love at first sight; servitium amoris (“love slavery”); love-sickness; the erōtodidaskalos (teacher of love); the paraclausithyron (lover’s lament by a locked door). This justifies the strong presence of citations taken from the best-known loci of Greek erotic literature, especially from the Platonic dialogues, Apollonius Rhodius, and the novel. Scholars’ investigations of the sources have revealed the multiplicity of forms of citation and the complex nature of literary devices in these letters.
- Greek History and Historiography
- Greek Literature