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date: 23 January 2021


  • Deborah Roberts


Sphragis, literally seal or signet, a motif in which an author names or otherwise identifies himself or herself, especially at the beginning or end of a poem or collection of poems. This modern critical usage of the term looks back to two possibly related metaphorical uses in antiquity, both incompletely understood: *Theognis (1) (19–23) speaks of setting his seal (sphrēgis) on his verses, to protect them from tampering (see plagiarism), and the sphragis that was one of the concluding sections of the nome (see nomos(2); Pollux 4. 66) may on the evidence of *Timotheus (1)'s Persians have named the author. Such self-identification, sometimes programmatic, is to be found as early as Hesiod's Theogony; its initial function may in part have been to identify a work or body of work with its author in a period of poetic fluidity. But the use of the sphragis, especially to end a collection of poems, continues into Hellenistic and Roman literature; see e.

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