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date: 18 April 2024

Dionysius Periegeteslocked

Dionysius Periegeteslocked

  • J. L. Lightfoot


Dionysius Periegetes is the Alexandrian author of a poem in 1,186 hexameters entitled “Periegesis of the Known World” (Οἰκουμένης Περιήγησις). Answering to Aratus’s Phaenomena as a specimen of cosmographically themed didactic epic, and conceived on a similar scale (Aratus’s poem has 1,154 lines), it describes the approximate layout of the seas and landmasses as they were understood at the time of the poem’s composition during the reign of Hadrian. It is the only work on its subject to survive in hexameters. In light of the loss of geographical poems by “Alexander” (presumably of Ephesus) and Varro of Atax, its closest relatives are the partially preserved iambic poems by ps.-Scymnus and Dionysius son of Calliphon. But the poet’s scrupulous metre and sophisticated use of allusion constructs a lineage across archaic, classical, and Hellenistic poets to place him among the most refined writers of the Second Sophistic movement. The packaging of dense informational content with user-friendly readability and adept poetics proved a winning combination, and Dionysius’s poem remained on school syllabuses for a good millennium and a half after its composition.


  • Greek Literature

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