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Pyramus and Thisbe  

Stephen J. Harrison

Pyramus and Thisbe are the hero and heroine of a love story mainly known from Ovid, Met., 4. 55–165. They were next-door neighbours in Babylon, and, as their parents would not let them marry, they talked with each other through a crack in the party wall between the houses. Finally, they arranged to meet at Ninus’s tomb. There Thisbe was frightened by a lion coming from its kill; she dropped her cloak as she ran and the lion mauled it. Pyramus, finding the bloodstained cloak and supposing Thisbe dead, killed himself; she returned, found his body, and followed his example. Their blood stained a mulberry tree, whose fruit has ever since been black when ripe, in sign of mourning for them. The story is likely to be derived to some degree from Hellenistic sources, according to which the two lovers may have been transformed into a river and a stream, and can be linked with the eastern Mediterranean and the river Pyramus in Cilicia. Ovid’s narrative, told by the daughters of Minyas who show stereotypically ‘feminine’ romantic interests in Roman terms, may draw on a lost Greek novelistic source, as well as taking elements from the plots of new comedy (young neighbours in love). Ovid’s narrative is highly popular in art, especially in Pompeian wall paintings; it is notably picked up by Shakespeare in the 1590s, in comic form as the subject of the parodic play of the rude mechanicals in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and in tragic form in its adaptation in the suicides of the protagonists in Romeo and Juliet.


careers, poetic, Latin  

Joseph Farrell

The idea that a writer’s works form the record of a clearly defined career is a familiar but relatively understudied aspect of ancient literary history. In Greek literature, relevant motifs appear already in Homer (in the Iliad, Achilles’ self-referential singing of klea andron (9.189) in combination with Telemachus’s defense of Phemius’s novel, post-Iliadic theme in the Odyssey (1.345–352), and Hesiod (initiated by the Muses at Theogony 22–34 and at Works and Days 650–662 previously victorious—with Theogony?—in a singing contest at the funeral games of Amphidamas). But thinkers of the archaic and classical periods generally considered a poet’s work in a single genre as an expression of his immanent character, and not as the result of a career choice. Beginning with Thucydides and Xenophon, however, retired military men and politicians establish a normative career pattern in the genre of history. But in the Hellenistic period, as poets cultivate expertise in many genres (polyeideia), the career motif begins to come in to view.


parody, Latin  

Peta G. Fowler and Don P. Fowler

No Latin *genre gives as central a place to literary parody as does Greek Old Comedy (see comedy (greek), old), and traditionally parody has been seen as playing a more restricted role in Latin, the concept being reserved for instances such as the broader para-tragedy of *Plautus and *Terence,1 and self-standing poems such as the parody of *Catullus (1) 4 (to a ship), in Catalepton 10 (to a magistrate), and the parodies of *Virgil, Ecl. 1 and 3 by Numitorius (Courtney, FLP, Obtrectatores Vergili 1–2). Increased attention given to intertextuality in general, however (see literary theory and classical studies), with perhaps some influence from those modern theories which offer broad definitions of parody,2 has led to the concept being employed more widely. In general, any intertextuality with a “higher” genre in a lower may be read as parody, and hence parody has been seen especially in genres like *satire (e.


Vibius Sequester  

David Paniagua

Vibius Sequester is the author of the De fluminibus, fontibus, lacubus, nemoribus, paludibus, montibus, gentibus per litteras, a short repertoire of geographical names mentioned by Virgil, Silius, Lucan and Ovid. The text, written at the end of the 4th or in the 5th century ce for the author’s son, Vergilianus, was likely intended to be used at school as an instrument providing basic information about the collected toponyms and ethnonyms. Despite the occasional mistakes in the text, Sequester’s repertoire represent a fine instance of school culture in Western Late Antiquity. The work was much appreciated by Italian humanists, which explains that it was copied in nearly 50 recentiores manuscripts; all of them, however, descend from a second-half of the 9th century manuscript (Vat. Lat. 4929).Vibius Sequester was the author of a short alphabetic repertoire of geographical names mentioned in Latin poetry, probably compiled at the end of the 4th or in the 5th century .