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Article

Benjamin Fortson

South Picene was the Sabellic language spoken in east-central coastal Italy by a people who called themselves Safinús (Sabines, see Sabini). Examples of the language are found on about two dozen inscriptions, which date mostly from the late 6th centurybce, with a few from the 4th. Almost all are funerary texts for warriors on monumental stelae. The South Picene alphabet was not fully deciphered until the mid-1980s by Anna Marinetti. Her work revealed texts of considerable linguistic and cultural interest. Several are poetic, most famously one that reads, postin viam videtas tetis tokam alies esmen vepses vepeten, meaning approximately “along/behind the road you see the toga/covering of Titus Alis, buried (?) in this tomb.” Its bipartite alliterative phrases and its run of three heptasyllables, each structured 2×2×3, are reminiscent of the Saturnian. Given the paucity and often poor preservation of the remains and difficulties with their interpretation, South Picene morphology and syntax can only be sketched, but it appears to be of the typical Sabellic type; noteworthy is a 3rd person plural, perfect ending in -úh, apparently from *-ont.

Article

epic  

Philip Hardie

At the summit of the ancient hierarchy of genres, epic narrates in hexameter verse the deeds of gods, heroes, and men The authority of Homer, the name given to the composer of the Iliad and the Odyssey, ensures that the forms and conventions of the Homeric poems are determinative for the whole of the Greco-Roman tradition of epic. From an early date, the production and reading of epic poems was accompanied by intensive scholarly and critical activity. Over the centuries, numerous epics were written on both legendary and historical subjects, as the genre responded to changing aesthetic and ideological conditions. In Rome, Virgil’s Aeneid successfully established for itself an authority comparable to that of the Homeric poems, and all later Latin epics place themselves within a Virgilian tradition. Epic in Greek and Latin continues to flourish in late antiquity, when Christian writers appropriate its forms to propagate their own messages and praise their own heroes.

Article

Sebastian Matzner

The term metonymy denotes a literary trope, that is, a specific form of defamiliarized expression, which indirectly refers to what is at issue. Metonymy achieves this by way of exploiting an already existing association between the term (or terms) used metonymically—the metonym—and the term (or terms) implicitly at issue. Metonymy thus differs from metaphor, among other things, in that it does not invoke an underlying analogy or similarity between what is said and what is at issue. In both ancient and modern criticism, metaphor received significantly more attention than metonymy (partly owed to the fact that the poetic effects of metaphor tend to eclipse those of metonymy, partly because of the stronger appeal of the logical dimension at the heart of metaphor). As a result, metonymy—though widely used—is often ill-defined as a critical concept. Today, it features in literary-aesthetic, diachronic-etymological, (post-)structuralist, and cognitive criticism. Ancient literature, both Greek and Latin, is rich in metonymic usages, albeit with varying degrees of poetic intensity; the pattern is one of relatively few intense outcomes, and relatively many less intense ones. Prominent among the general literary-aesthetic effects of metonymy’s semantic shifts are the creation of a poignantly condensed impression of what is at issue; a change in focalization by zooming out onto a higher plane or zooming in on newly foregrounded micro-level aspects; and movement between the concrete-material and the abstract-conceptual dimensions of what is at issue.

Article

Callimachus was a Greek poet and scholar who flourished in the first half of the 3rd century bce in Alexandria, wrote in the context of its Library and Museum, and had close connections to the Ptolemaic court. Apart from six hymns and around sixty epigrams, Callimachus’s texts, both poetry and prose, have survived only in fragments. Chief among his fragmentary works are the Aetia, Iambi, and Hecale: the many papyrus fragments and quotations from these poems give evidence of their lasting impact and popularity in antiquity. Callimachus’s work is highly allusive, refined, learned, and experimental, but also attuned to its political and cultural context and engaged in a poetological discourse with predecessors and colleagues. In his poetry, Callimachus absorbs much of the earlier Greek literary tradition, and his experiments and innovations, while highly original, also reflect trends suggested by the generations preceding him. He in turn exercised great influence on later Roman and Greek poetry, particularly on the poets of Augustan Rome.

Article

Richard Hunter

Greek discussion of unified organic form, as both a biological principle and a literary virtue, has been very influential in Western criticism. What survives before late antiquity of that Greek tradition as applied to literature is, however, relatively sparse; crucial above all are the Homeric poems and ancient discussion of them, together with some passages of Plato and Aristotle. The fact that the bulk of later surviving criticism derives from rhetorical teaching, heavily indebted to the Isocratean tradition, means that much greater prominence is given to the closely related ideas of variety (poikilia) and the avoidance of monotony over the course of a long work, and to the arrangement and ordering (taxis) of narrative than to “unity”; there is no standard term for “unity” in Greek criticism.Homer announces the subject of the Iliad as the wrath of Achilles, which wrought terrible destruction upon the Greeks, but, however dominant the story of the wrath and its consequences, the scope of the poem is clearly not limited to that subject. Reflection upon the Iliad stands at the beginning and the heart of ancient discussion of unity, and it is the Iliad that shows why “unity” and “variety” are entirely compatible in ancient criticism.

Article

The influence of Hellenistic Greek poetry on Roman poetry can hardly be overestimated. Latin poetry is from its beginnings based on scholarly appreciation of the literary production of the Greeks, and it was from the perspective of the literary and scholarly activity of the Hellenistic period that the Romans viewed Greek literature as a whole. The fragmentary nature of early Latin poetry means that the first stages of the *reception of Hellenistic poetry at Rome remain obscure. It is possible that *Livius Andronicus employed the work of Hellenistic commentators on Homer in translating the Odyssey and that *Naevius and *Accius knew and imitated the Argonautica of Apollonius. The Annales of *Ennius provides better evidence. When he proclaims his originality, presents himself as dicti studiosus (“a student of language”) proud of his stylistic superiority over his predecessors, and describes his poetic initiation, he has in mind *Callimachus(3)'s Aetia, although the exact nature and extent of his debt remain unclear.

Article

John North and Fay Glinister

Pompeius Festus was a man of whom nothing is known except that he produced a shortened version (epitome) of the Lexicon of Verrius Flaccus, a massive dictionary of Latin as it was in the time of Augustus Caesar. Festus probably wrote in the 2nd century ce, and his epitome survives only in part, even the extant part being damaged. A still briefer version (an epitome of the epitome) was produced in the time of Charlemagne by Paul the Deacon; that version does survive in full. The single damaged manuscript was discovered in the 15th century, first published early in the 16th, and subsequently worked on by a succession of first-rate scholars. Its contents are mostly rare or poetic words rather than everyday ones; but Festus illustrates his entries with quotations from the Latin of the middle republican period, thus preserving texts, etymologies, religious and political antiquities and much other valuable information. The words are arranged alphabetically, but unlike a modern dictionary, the alphabetization only reaches to the second letter, so that looking words up as we do today must have been a long and painful job.

Article

Philodemus (c. 110 Gadara, Syria–c. 35 bce Naples?) was an Epicurean philosopher. Philodemus eventually settled in Italy, where he was mentioned by Cicero as a companion of the Roman politician L. Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, a composer of elegant verse and a good explainer of Epicurean doctrine, along with Siro, with whom he had a school of Epicureans in Naples that included a number of Roman poets in the circle of Vergil and Horace. Some of Philodemus’ epigrams were anthologized in the Garland of Philipp and became known to early modern scholars in the Palatine Anthology. His philosophical writings were unknown until they were found, in the 18th century, to be the vast majority of the book-rolls discovered in excavations of the “Villa of the Papyri” in Herculaneum.

The philosophical books of Philodemus so far known cover a wide variety of topics and show a particular interest in theology and religious observance; arts such as rhetoric, poetics, music; vices such as flattery, anger, greed, arrogance, and the character types of those who suffer from them; the history of other philosophical schools, such as the Platonic Academy and the Stoa, as seen in short biographies of their leading figures; longer, almost hagiographical accounts of the lives of the early Epicureans, and letters indicating their relations with one another. In these books Philodemus is frequently seen defending the interpretations of Epicurean doctrine by his own revered teacher Zeno of Sidon. He also stresses the manner in which an Epicurean school should be conducted, with a culture of “frank criticism” among junior and senior members and an understanding that, when one initially feels that a wise teacher is being unfair, overly critical, or even angry, it is the result of pedagogical strategy.