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date: 24 October 2020

Nonnus, of Panopolis in Egypt, fl. 450–470 CE

Nonnus of Panopolis in Egypt (fl. 450–70 ce), the main surviving exponent of an elaborate, metrically very strict style of Greek epic that evolved in the Imperial period. His huge Dionysiaca is in 48 books, the sum of the books of the Iliad and Odyssey; Nonnus' stated intention is to rival Homer, and to surpass him in the dignity of his divine, not human, subject (25. 253–63). The poem describes at length the antecedents of Dionysus' birth, the birth itself, and the new god's fight for recognition as a member of the pantheon in the face of hostility from Hera; the central section (books 13–40), which describes the war of Dionysus and his Bacchic forces against the Indians and their king Deriades, is Nonnus' equivalent of the Iliad. Nonnus' highly rhetorical and extraordinarily luxuriant style is an attempt to create a new type of formulaic composition, recognizably similar to that of Homer but with greater variety and with far more lexical permutations. In his mythological learning and countless allusions to earlier poetry he is a true successor to Hellenistic writers of the Callimachean school (see callimachus(3)); the episodes that describe Dionysus' love affairs with youths and nymphs are influenced also by the novel.

Nonnus' other extant work is a hexameter version of St John's Gospel. Stylistic analysis suggests that it may be earlier than the Dionysiaca; but the Dionysiaca clearly lacks final revision. These two facts have led scholars to make ingenious conjectures about Nonnus' life, religion, and possible conversions. But there is evidence that amongst intellectuals in the 5th cent. it was not felt contradictory for a Christian to write heavily classicizing verse.


Dionysiaca: Text

R. Keydell, Dionysiaca, 2 vols. (1959).Find this resource:

Nonnus. Dionysiaca. Translated by W. H. D. Rouse. 3 vols. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1940–1942.Find this resource:

F. Vian and others (eds. and trans.), Les Dionysiaques, 19 vols. (Budé, 1976–2006).Find this resource:

D. G. Piccardi and others (eds. and trans.), Le Dionisiache, 4 vols. (BUR, 2003–2004).Find this resource:

Dionysiaca: Criticism

W. Fauth, Eidos poikilon (1981).Find this resource:

J. Lindsay, Leisure and Pleasure in Roman Egypt (1965), 359–95.Find this resource:

P. Chuvin, Mythologie et géographie dionysiaques (1991).Find this resource:

N. Hopkinson (ed.), Studies in the Dionysiaca of Nonnus, Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society Suppl. 17 (1994).Find this resource:

R. Shorrock, The Challenge of Epic , Mnemosyne Supplement 210 (2001).Find this resource:

Paraphrase of St John’s Gospel: Text

Nonnus. Nonni Panopolitani Paraphrasis s. Evangelii Ioanne. Edited by A. Scheindler. Leipzig: Teubner, 1881.Find this resource:

Bk. 1: C. Stefani (ed. and trans.), Nonno di Panopoli : parafrasi del Vangelo di s. Giovanni : canto I (2002).Find this resource:

Bk. 2: E. Livrea (ed. and trans.), Parafrasi del Vangelo di San Giovanni. Canto B (2000).Find this resource:

Bk. 5: G. Agosti (ed. and trans.), Parafrasi del Vangelo di San Giovanni. Canto quinto (2003).Find this resource:

Bk. 13 C. Greco (ed. and trans.), Parafrasi del Vangelo di S. Giovanni : canto tredicesimo (2004).Find this resource:

Bk. 18 E. Livrea (ed. and trans.) Parafrasi del Vangelo di S. Giovanni, Canto XVIII, (1989).Find this resource:

Bk. 20 D. Accorinti (ed. and trans.), Parafrasi del Vangelo di S. Giovanni, Canto XX, (1996).Find this resource:

Paraphrase of St John’s Gospel: Criticism

E. Livrea, Prometheus 1987, 97–124.Find this resource:

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