Quintus Smyrnaeus, Greek epic poet, 2nd/3rd century CE
Summary and Keywords
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.
The Posthomerica is commonly dated to the period between the late 2nd and the late 3rd century ce.1 As a terminus post quem, scholars normally assume Oppian’s Halieutica (dated securely between 176 and 180 ce), to which the Posthomerica seems to be intertextually indebted.2 A tentative terminus ante quem is offered by Triphiodorus’s Capture of Troy (dated no later than the early 4th century ce because of POxy. 2946), which may be intertextually indebted to the Posthomerica.3 A further terminus ante quem is sometimes seen in a reference to “Quintus the poet” in the visio Dorothei, the carrier medium of which (PBodm. 29) is dated to the late 4th or early 5th century; however, this is inconclusive evidence, since the identification of this Quintus with the author of the Posthomerica is uncertain.
Name and Provenance of the Author
Hardly anything is known about the name and provenance of the author.4 The name Quintus may possibly point to a Roman origin for the author. A first attestation of the poet may be found in the visio Dorothei, whose author, Dorotheus, refers to Quintus as his father (lines 300, 343). However, the identification of this Quintus with the author of the Posthomerica is uncertain (see “Dating”). The first secure attestations of the name are Byzantine: Johannes Tzetzes, author of the Carmina Iliaca, refers to Quintus as his source (Posthomerica lines 10, 13, 282, 522, 584, 597); Eustathius’s commentaries on the Homeric epics contain references to Quintus (introduction to the Iliad, Α468 [136.4], Β814 [352.2], θ501 [1608.1], λ546 [1698.48], λ592 [1702.11]); and “Quintus the poet” is mentioned in a Homeric scholium (see scholia) of the Geneva manuscript (on Il. 2.219). That the author’s provenance was Smyrna is a hypothesis based on a biographical reading of a sphragis in the Posthomerica (12.306–313), in which the narrator claims to have been divinely inspired when he was tending sheep “in the lands of Smyrna.” However, since Smyrna was regarded as one of the alleged birthplaces of Homer, the narrator seems more likely to refer to this region in order to establish himself as a “second Homer” than to make a biographical statement.
Eustathius (introduction to the Iliad) and the Homeric scholium of the Geneva manuscript (on Il. 2.219) mention Τὰ μετὰ τὸν Ὅμηρον (or Τὰ μεθ᾿ Ὅμηρον, “The [Events] after Homer”) as the title of Quintus’s epic. From Eustathius’s passage, it appears that the title might also have been Οἱ μεθ᾿ Ὅμηρον λόγοι (“The Tales after Homer”). These two options are reconfirmed by the two oldest textual witnesses from the 14th century (see section “Transmission, Rediscovery, and Reception”). However, it cannot be certain whether any of these was the work’s original title. The latinised title Posthomerica has been common since the edition by Thomas Christian Tychsen (1807); before that, editors latinised the title as Derelicta ab Homero.5
Content and Composition
The Posthomerica consists of 14 books (8,786 lines) and covers the narrative lacuna between Homer’s Iliad and the Odyssey; hence it treats the stories that were originally covered by the Epic Cycle (see “Sources and the Latin Question”). It begins as a sequel to the Iliad after the death of Hector and narrates all post-Iliadic events in linear order: the deeds and deaths of the Amazon queen Penthesilea (Book 1) and the Ethiopian king Memnon (Book 2), the death of Achilles (Book 3), the funeral games for Achilles (Book 4), the contest over Achilles’ armour and the madness and suicide of Ajax (Book 5), the arrival of Eurypylus (Book 6) and Neoptolemus (Book 7), the death of Eurypylus (Book 8), the retrieval of Philoctetes from Scyrus (Book 9), the death of Paris and Oenone (Book 10), last unsuccessful attacks against Troy (Book 11), the ruse of the Wooden Horse (Book 12), the capture of Troy (Book 13), and the subsequent return of the Greeks (Book 14). In contrast to the complex narrative techniques of the Homeric epics, the Posthomerica is considerably more episodic and linear, but it does not lack plot coherence and an overarching design.6 The direct continuity from the Iliad is emphasised by the absence of a Muse invocation at the beginning: Quintus thus stages himself as a “second Homer” by insinuating that Homer himself emerges as the Posthomerica’s author. At the same time, by renouncing the epic tradition of calling to the Muses, he also implicitly highlights his independence as an epicist. In turn, the connection to the Odyssey is ascertained through a reference to the proem of the Odyssey towards the end of the last Book (14.630–631).
Language and Style
The language and style of the Posthomerica is strongly Homericising: vocabulary, syntax, and the use of formulaic language resembles that of the Homeric epics to a large degree.7 However, the Homericising style is often varied and altered subtly, to the extent that the impression of a close imitation of the Homeric epics is only superficial. Scholars have therefore described Quintus’s language in terms of typically Alexandrian techniques such as imitatio cum variatione, oppositio in imitando, and arte allusiva.8 Inter alia, it can be noted that about 25 percent of the vocabulary of the Posthomerica is constituted by words that are either un-Homeric or Homeric hapax legomena and dis legomena; therefore, a large amount of the diction is, in fact, not derived from standard Homeric language. Furthermore, in contrast to Homer, but in line with Alexandrian epic (see Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica), Quintus rarely uses the same verse more than once.9 The Alexandrian features tie in with the sphragis at 12.306–313 (see “Name and Provenance of the Author”), which contains intertextual references not only to Homer and Hesiod, but also to Callimachus.10
The Intellectual Context
The Posthomerica belongs to the same period as the Second Sophistic and its intellectual setting. Although the Second Sophistic focuses on a revival and glorification of Attic prose and classical rhetoric from the 4th century bce, poetry is not without significance in this period.11 With Scopelianus, a sophist is known who was also an epic poet (Philostr. VS 514–521), and it is conceivable that epic poetry was composed for, and staged during, epideictic performances too. In a wider context, Quintus shares the practice of rewriting and renewing the Homeric epics, which was particularly fashionable at that time. Whereas prose authors and rhetoricians would typically claim that Homer had been lying and that they or someone else was going to reveal the truth (see, e.g., Philostratus’s Heroicus and Dio Chrysostom’s 11th Oration), Quintus confronts this trend by masquerading as Homer and thus implies that Homer was right. Hence, the Posthomerica can be understood as a response to the revisionist tendencies against Homer in the Second Sophistic.12 Simultaneously, the Posthomerica also relates to the topos of Homer as a unifier of the Greeks under the Panhellenic banner. Along different lines (but with a similar attempt to understand Quintus’s epic within its cultural context), some scholars have argued that the Posthomerica is influenced by Stoic thought, for example, in the characterization of heroes and in the increased emphasis on fate. This Stoic influence could be interpreted as an attempt to improve from a philosophical angle on Homeric ethics and values.13
Sources and the Latin Question
Until the end of the 20th century, scholarship on the Posthomerica was for the most part concerned with source criticism. Aside from Homer as the most obvious source, other intertexts include Attic drama and Apollonius of Rhodes’s Argonautica.14 In contrast, it is unclear whether Quintus knew the Epic Cycle: sometimes it is argued that the Posthomerica may have been composed as a replacement for the loss of these poems, whereas other scholars maintain that Quintus’s era still had access to the Epic Cycle and he used it as a source.15 Another question is that of the influence of Latin literature, especially Vergil’s Aeneid, on the Posthomerica. In the 1950s and 1960s, this scholarly dispute was divided between Rudolf Keydell, who argued for a direct dependence of Quintus on Vergil and other Roman authors, and Francis Vian, who explained all similarities between the Posthomerica and Latin texts as a result of their dependence on lost common sources.16 There are several passages in the Posthomerica that closely resemble according passages in the Aeneid, such as the description of the testudo technique (11.358–375; Aen. 9.503–524) and the poppy simile (4.423–429; Aen. 9.434–437). However, there are also striking dissimilarities, such as the design of the Sinon and Laocoon scene (12.218–499; Aen. 2.40–249). The latter may, however, be interpreted as a deliberate deviation in the sense that Quintus purposely rewrites the Vergilian account and thus politically undermines the Roman perspective.17
Transmission, Rediscovery, and Reception
The text of the Posthomerica is transmitted in twenty manuscripts which stem from two lost prototypes (a Subarchetypus (Y) and a Hydruntinus (H), both dated to the 14th century); these are derived from an Archetype (Ω, dated to the 13th or 14th century).18 The Hydruntinus was discovered by Basilius Bessarion in the monastery of San Niccolò di Casoli (Apulia) between 1453 and 1462. In 1496, Constantine Lascaris produced one of the copies that stem from the Hydruntinus, along with a preface that represents the first scholarly reflection on Quintus and his epic. In 1505 Aldine press issued the first print edition; the first Latin translation, produced by Jodocus (Josse) Velaraeus, was published in Antwerp in 1539. The subsequent edition and Latin translation by Lorenz Rhodomann (1604) remained canonical for approximately two centuries. In the 19th century, the most important editions were those by Thomas Christian Tychsen (1807) and Hermann Köchly (1850); the latter also provided the first full-scale commentary. From the Renaissance to the 19th century, Quintus was for the most part appreciated by scholars and editors.19 From the end of the 19th century onwards, negative verdicts prevail that degrade the Posthomerica to a “slavish” and “unoriginal” (in the language of the day) imitation of the Homeric epics with inferior literary quality. More nuanced scholarly discussions of the Posthomerica’s programmatic belatedness and its cultural setting have been prevalent since the turn of the millennium.
Bär, Silvio, ed., tr., comm. Quintus Smyrnaeus. “Posthomerica” 1: Die Wiedergeburt des Epos aus dem Geiste der Amazonomachie. Mit einem Kommentar zu den Versen 1–219. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck and Rupprecht, 2009.Find this resource:
Campbell, Malcolm, comm. A Commentary on Quintus Smyrnaeus Posthomerica XII. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1981.Find this resource:
Ferreccio, Alessia, ed., tr., comm. Commento al libro II dei Posthomerica di Quinto Smirneo. Rome: Edizioni di storia e letteratura, 2010.Find this resource:
Gärtner, Ursula, ed., tr., comm. Quintus von Smyrna: Der Untergang Trojas. 2 vols. Darmstadt, Germany: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2010.Find this resource:
James, Alan W., tr., comm. Quintus of Smyrna: The Trojan Epic. Posthomerica. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004.Find this resource:
James, Alan W., and Kevin Lee, comm. A Commentary on Quintus of Smyrna, Posthomerica V. Leiden, The Netherlands, Boston, and Cologne: Brill, 2000.Find this resource:
Köchly, Hermann, ed., comm. Κοΐντου τὰ μεθ᾿ ῞Ομηρον. Quinti Smyrnaei Posthomericorum libri XIV […]. Leipzig: Weidmann, 1850 (reprint Amsterdam: Grüner, 1968).Find this resource:
Lelli, Emanuele et al., eds., tr., comm. Quinto di Smirne: Il seguito dell’Iliade. Milan: Bompiani, 2013.Find this resource:
Pompella, Giuseppe, ed. Quinti Smyrnaei Posthomerica. Hildesheim, Zurich, and New York: Georg Olms, 2002.Find this resource:
Vian, Francis, ed., tr., comm. Quintus de Smyrne: La Suite d’Homère. 3 vols. Paris: Budé, 1963, 1966, 1969.Find this resource:
Zimmermann, Albert, ed. Κοΐντου τῶν μεθ᾿ ῞Ομηρον λόγοι. Quinti Smyrnaei Posthomericorum libri XIV. Leipzig: Teubner, 1891.Find this resource:
Appel, Włodzimierz. Die homerischen hapax legomena in den Posthomerica des Quintus Smyrnaeus. Torún, Poland: Zakład Poligrafii, 1994.Find this resource:
Bär, Silvio. “Quintus of Smyrna and the Second Sophistic.” Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 105 (2010): 287–316.Find this resource:
Baumbach, Manuel, and Silvio Bär, eds. Quintus Smyrnaeus: Transforming Homer in Second Sophistic Epic. Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2007.Find this resource:
Gärtner, Ursula. Quintus Smyrnaeus und die Aeneis: Zur Nachwirkung Vergils in der griechischen Literatur der Kaiserzeit. Munich: C. H. Beck, 2005.Find this resource:
Gärtner, Ursula. “Schicksal und Entscheidungsfreiheit bei Quintus Smyrnaeus.” Philologus 58 (2014): 97–129.Find this resource:
Keydell, Rudolf. “Quintus von Smyrna.” Paulys Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft 24.1 (1963): 1271–1296.Find this resource:
Maciver, Calum A. “Reading Helen’s Excuses in Quintus Smyrnaeus’ Posthomerica.” The Classical Quarterly 61 (2011): 690–703.Find this resource:
Maciver, Calum A.Quintus Smyrnaeus’ Posthomerica: Engaging Homer in Late Antiquity. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2012.Find this resource:
Maciver, Calum A. “Representative Bees in Quintus Smyrnaeus’ Posthomerica.” Classical Philology 107 (2012): 53–69.Find this resource:
Maciver, Calum A. “Flyte of Odysseus: Allusion and the Hoplōn Krisis in Quintus Smyrnaeus Posthomerica 5.” The American Journal of Philology 133 (2012): 601–628.Find this resource:
Schenk, Peter. “Handlungsstruktur und Komposition in den Posthomerica des Quintus Smyrnaeus.” Rheinisches Museum für Philologie 140 (1997): 363–385.Find this resource:
Schmidt, Ernst Günther. “Quintus von Smyrna—der schlechteste Dichter des Altertums?” Phasis 1 (1999): 139–150.Find this resource:
Vian, Francis. Recherches sur les Posthomerica de Quintus de Smyrne. Paris: Klincksieck, 1959.Find this resource:
Vian, Francis. Histoire de la tradition manuscrite de Quintus de Smyrne. Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1959.Find this resource:
(1.) See Alan W. James and Kevin Lee, A Commentary on Quintus of Smyrna, Posthomerica V (Leiden, The Netherlands, Boston, and Cologne: Brill, 2000), 5–9; Manuel Baumbach and Silvio Bär, “An Introduction to Quintus Smyrnaeus’ Posthomerica,” in Quintus Smyrnaeus: Transforming Homer in Second Sophistic Epic, eds. Manuel Baumbach and Silvio Bär (Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2007), 1–26, at 1–8; and Silvio Bär, ed., tr., comm., Quintus Smyrnaeus. Posthomerica 1: Die Wiedergeburt des Epos aus dem Geiste der Amazonomachie. Mit einem Kommentar zu den Versen 1–219 (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck and Rupprecht, 2009), 14–23.
(2.) See Francis Vian, “Les comparaisons de Quintus de Smyrne,” Revue de philologie, de littérature et d’histoire ancienne 28 (1954): 30–51, at 50–51; and Emily Kneebone, “Fish in Battle? Quintus of Smyrna and the Halieutica of Oppian,” in Quintus Smyrnaeus…, eds. Baumbach and Bär (Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2007), 285–305.
(3.) However, the question of priority is disputed. See Ursula Gärtner, Quintus Smyrnaeus und die Aeneis: Zur Nachwirkung Vergils in der griechischen Literatur der Kaiserzeit (Munich: C. H. Beck, 2005), 25, n. 16.
(4.) See Francis Vian, ed., tr., comm., Quintus de Smyrne: La Suite d’Homère, vol. 1 (Paris: Budé, 1963), vii–xiii; James and Lee, A Commentary on Quintus of Smyrna, 3–4; Baumbach and Bär, “An Introduction,” 1–2; Silvio Bär, “Quintus Smyrnaeus und die Tradition des epischen Musenanrufs,” in Quintus Smyrnaeus, 29–64, at 52–61; and Bär, Quintus Smyrnaeus, 11–14.
(5.) See Vian, Quintus de Smyrne: La Suite d’Homère, vol. 1, vii–viii; and Włodzimierz Appel, “Grundsätzliche Bemerkungen zu den Posthomerica und Quintus Smyrnaeus,” Prometheus 20 (1994): 1–13, at 3–5.
(6.) On the episodic structure, see especially Appel, “Grundsätzliche Bemerkungen.” On plot coherence and the overarching design, see Ernst Günther Schmidt, “Quintus von Smyrna—der schlechteste Dichter des Altertums?,” Phasis 1 (1999): 139–150, at 146–150; Peter Schenk, “Handlungsstruktur und Komposition in den Posthomerica des Quintus Smyrnaeus,” Rheinisches Museum für Philologie 140 (1997): 363–385; and Tine Scheijnen, “Facing Achilles in Two Lessons: Heroic characterization in Quintus of Smyrna, Posthomerica 1 and 2,” Les Études classiques 84 (2016): 81–104.
(7.) See Włodzimierz Appel, Die homerischen hapax legomena in den Posthomerica des Quintus Smyrnaeus (Torún, Poland: Zakład Poligrafii, 1994); James and Lee, A Commentary on Quintus of Smyrna, 21–30; Bär, Quintus Smyrnaeus, 36–69 and 558–580; Alessia Ferreccio, ed., tr., comm., Commento al libro II dei Posthomerica di Quinto Smirneo (Rome: Edizioni di storia e letteratura, 2010), xx–xxxvii.
(8.) See Gerasimos Chrysafis, “Pedantry and Elegance in Quintus Smyrnaeus, Posthomerica,” Corolla Londiniensis 4 (1984): 17–42; Giuseppe Giangrande, “Osservazioni sul testo e sulla lingua di Quinto Smirneo,” Siculorum Gymnasium 39 (1986): 41–50; Bär, Quintus Smyrnaeus, 61–69; and Ferreccio, Commento, xx–xxxi.
(9.) See Bär, Quintus Smyrnaeus, 56–59.
(10.) See Bär, “Quintus Smyrnaeus und die Tradition des epischen Musenanrufs,” 47–51; and Calum A. Maciver, Quintus Smyrnaeus’ Posthomerica: Engaging Homer in Late Antiquity (Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2012), 33–38.
(11.) See, e.g., Ewen Bowie, “Greek Sophistis and Greek Poetry in the Second Sophistic,” Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt II.33.1 (1989): 209–258.
(12.) See Baumbach and Bär, “An Introduction,” 8–15; Bär, Quintus Smyrnaeus, 85–91; and Silvio Bär, “Quintus of Smyrna and the Second Sophistic,” Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 105 (2010): 287–316. This view has been challenged by Calum A. Maciver, “Flyte of Odysseus: Allusion and the Hoplōn Krisis in Quintus Smyrnaeus Posthomerica 5,” The American Journal of Philology 133 (2012): 601–628; and Maciver, Quintus Smyrnaeus’ Posthomerica, 17–18.
(13.) See Maria Henderson Wenglinsky, The Representation of the Divine in the Posthomerica of Quintus of Smyrna (unpublished diss., New York, 2002); Calum A. Maciver, “Returning to the Mountain of Arete: Reading Ecphrasis, Constructing Ethics in Quintus Smyrnaeus’ Posthomerica,” in Quintus Smyrnaeus, 259–284; Maciver, Quintus Smyrnaeus’ Posthomerica, 101–123. For a sceptical position, see Ursula Gärtner, “Schicksal und Entscheidungsfreiheit bei Quintus Smyrnaeus,” Philologus 58 (2014): 97–129. For a more balanced view, see Elena Langella, “L’eroe stoico e le similitudini in Quinto Smirneo,” Koinonia 40 (2016): 555–581.
(14.) See, e.g., Marialuisa Mondino, Su alcune fonti di Quinto Smirneo: saggio critico (Turin: Temporelli, 1958); and Vian, Quintus de Smyrne: La Suite d’Homère, vol. 1, xxviii–xxxv.
(15.) See Silvio Bär and Manuel Baumbach, “The Epic Cycle and Imperial Greek Epic,” in The Greek Epic Cycle and Its Ancient Reception: A Companion, eds. Marco Fantuzzi and Christos Tsagalis (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 604–622, at 606–614 (with further references).
(16.) See Rudolf Keydell, “Seneca und Cicero bei Quintus von Smyrna,” Würzburger Jahrbücher 4 (1949–1950): 81–88; Rudolf Keydell, “Quintus von Smyrna und Vergil,” Hermes 82 (1954): 254–256; Francis Vian, Recherches sur les Posthomerica de Quintus de Smyrne (Paris: Klincksieck, 1959), 95–101; Rudolf Keydell, review of Vian, Recherches, 1959, in Gnomon 33 (1961): 278–284, at 279–282; and Vian, Quintus de Smyrne: La Suite d’Homère, vol. 1, xxxii–xxxv. For a more recent evaluation of the Latin question, see Gärtner, Quintus Smyrnaeus und die Aeneis; and Alan W. James, “Quintus of Smyrna and Virgil—A Matter of Prejudice,” in Quintus Smyrnaeus, eds. Baumbach and Bär, 145–157.
(17.) See Martijn P. Cuypers, review of James and Lee, A Commentary on Quintus of Smyrna, Mnemosyne 58 (2005): 605–613, at 607.
(18.) On the transmission and rediscovery of the Posthomerica, see Francis Vian, Histoire de la tradition manuscrite de Quintus de Smyrne (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1959); Vian, Quintus de Smyrne: La Suite d’Homère, vol. 1, xlv–lv; James and Lee, A Commentary on Quintus of Smyrna, 1–4; Baumbach and Bär, “An Introduction,” 15–17; Bär, Quintus Smyrnaeus, 24–28; and Guillermo Galán Vioque, “Joseph Scaliger’s Notes on Quintus of Smyrna’s Posthomerica,” Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 55 (2015): 946–968.
(19.) On the reception of the Posthomerica, see Schmidt, “Quintus von Smyrna—der schlechteste Dichter des Altertums?,” 139–142; Manuel Baumbach and Silvio Bär, “Quintus von Smyrna,” in Der Neue Pauly, suppl. vol. 7: Die Rezeption der antiken Literatur: Kulturhistorisches Werklexikon, ed. Christine Walde (Stuttgart and Weimar, Germany: J. B. Metzler, 2010), 783–790.