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Steven D. Smith

Aelian (Claudius Aelianus, 161/77–230/8 CE), an influential writer of miscellaneous works in Rome during the reign of the Severan emperors, helped shape the literary landscape of the so-called Second Sophistic. There are two sources for his life, one a contemporary notice by Philostratus in his Lives of the Sophists, and the other a brief entry in the 10th-centurySuda lexicon. According to the former, Aelian ‘was a Roman, but he spoke and wrote Attic Greek’ (VS 624). A student of the sophist Pausanias of Caesarea and an admirer of Herodes Atticus, Aelian himself declined to declaim in public and instead committed himself to writing and composition. He died without any children, and he claimed never to have travelled outside of Italy. The Suda supplies additional information: Aelian was born in Praeneste (modern Palestrina) near Rome and he was a high priest (ἀρχιερεύς), though the Byzantine source is silent about what god Aelian served.


S. Douglas Olson

The Deipnosophistai (“Learned Banqueters”) of Athenaeus of Naucratis (fl. c. 200 ce)—nominally an account of a great dinner party or series of dinner parties in Rome—preserves an enormous number of fragments of otherwise lost Greek literature. On a superficial level, the text is concerned with luxury, and it accordingly offers rich anecdotal treatments of banqueting customs, fish, cakes, cups, sexuality, and the like, along with a wealth of detailed philological observations. Its larger interest is in recalling the extraordinary wealth of the Greek literary and cultural tradition, and in using that tradition to discuss contemporary intellectual, literary, and social issues. The text is preserved in a single manuscript whose gaps can be partially filled from an ancient epitome.Athenaeus was the author of the Deipnosophistai (“Dinner-sophists,” i.e. “Learned Banqueters”), a massive compendium of ancient Greek literature in the guise of a report of events at a great dinner party or series of dinner parties. His .


Quintus Smyrnaeus was a poet of the late 2nd or 3rd century ce, the author of the epic poem the Posthomerica (14 books, 8,786 lines), which covers the narrative lacuna between Homer’s Iliad and the Odyssey and thus treats stories that were originally covered by the Epic Cycle. The narrative technique is more episodic and linear than that of the Homeric epics, but it does not lack plot coherence and an overarching design. The language and style is strongly Homericising: vocabulary, syntax, and the use of formulaic phrases resemble that of the Homeric epics to a large degree. At the same time, Quintus’s language is also characterised by Alexandrian traits. In a wider cultural context, Quintus belongs to the same period as the Second Sophistic, and the Posthomerica can be understood as a response to revisionist tendencies against Homer. Scholars debate the question as to whether Quintus still had access to the Epic Cycle and whether he was influenced by Roman authors, especially by Vergil’s Aeneid.



Melissa Funke

Phryne, a Boeotian hetaira, was active in Athens in the mid-to-late 4th century bce. Said to have been born in Thespiae (Ath. 13.591c) and originally named Mnesarete, she took the name Phryne from a nickname given due to her sallow complexion (Plut. De Pyth. or. 401b). Along with several other famous hetairai of the time, she is mentioned in several comedies produced at Athens during her lifetime (Anaxilas Nottis fr. 22; Timocles Orestautocleides fr. 27, and Neaira fr. 25). Narratives about her life associating her with prominent artists and philosophers from 4th-century Athens first became popular in Hellenistic collections of anecdotes influenced by Middle and New Comedy and then featured prominently in Imperial Greek literature. While most scholars acknowledge that Phryne was a real woman living in 4th-century Athens, the majority of the sources on her are Hellenistic and Imperial Greek, casting doubt on the historicity of the biographical details they preserve.