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date: 01 December 2022

Triphiodorus, of Panopolisfree

Triphiodorus, of Panopolisfree

  • Laura Miguélez-Cavero


  • Greek Literature

Updated in this version

Text and bibliography updated. Keywords added.

Triphiodorus, who originated from Egypt and lived in the 3rd century ce, was an epic poet and teacher of grammar whose only extant work is The Sack of Troy (691 lines, narrating the final events of the Trojan War).

Origin, Date, Works

Triphiodorus means “gift of Triphis,” a local deity of Panopolis (modern Akhmim) in Upper Egypt, and was a common name in Panopolis itself and all over Upper Egypt. This and the entry of the Suda (T 1111), calling him an Egyptian, have led to the conclusion that he originated from the area of Panopolis. The Suda actually includes two entries under the same name, the first (T 1111) calling him a poet and grammarian (γραμματικὸς καὶ ποιητὴς ἐπῶν‎) and attributing to him Marathoniaca (Μαραθωνιακά‎, on the battle of Marathon, or more likely on Theseus and the Marathonian bull, as in CallimachusHecale), The Sack of Troy (Ἰλίου ἅλωσις‎), On Hippodamia (τὰ κατὰ Ἱπποδάμειαν‎, either on Pelops and Hippodamia or on the Hippodamia for which Centaurs and Lapiths fought), a Lipogrammatic Odyssey (Ὀδύσσειας λειπογράμματος‎), and many others. The second entry (T 1112) attributes to him several epic poems, a Paraphrase of Homer’s Similes, and many others. The two entries seem to refer to the same individual, who will then have combined the composition of epic poetry and the teaching of grammar. His scholastic activity is also visible in his Lipogrammatic Odyssey (a rewriting of the Odyssey avoiding a letter in each of the books—α‎ in book 1, β‎ in book 2, etc.—or throughout without the sigma, in the manner of Nestor of Laranda’s Lipogrammatic Iliad) and in the Paraphrase of Homer’s Similes, probably a summary of the similes occurring in the Homeric poems, followed by a commentary similar to those now extant in the Homeric scholia.

Triphiodorus’ only extant work is The Sack of Troy.1 The earliest extant copy of this poem is P.Oxy. 41.2946, a papyrus dated to the 3rd century ce, which is also the main element to date the poem.

The Sack of Troy

Triphiodorus invokes the epic Muse Calliope (1–5) and summarises the exhaustion of both armies in the final year of the war (6–39), before narrating how Helenus’ defection to the Greek camp breaks the stalemate (40–56). The Achaeans build the wooden horse (57–107) and launch their final strategy to win the war: they re-embark, while Odysseus and a few others hide in the horse, and Sinon volunteers to intoxicate the Trojans with lies (108–234). The next morning the Trojans immerse themselves in chaotic deliberations on what to do with the horse, and Sinon convinces them to take it to the citadel, for which they break the city walls (235–357). Triphiodorus does not even mention Laocoon, and has Cassandra bear the weight of the opposition to receiving the horse (358–443). During the nocturnal festivities to celebrate the end of the war, Helen tempts the heroes of the horse to expose their hiding place, but is neutralised by Athena (444–505). Helen and Sinon’s torches call the Achaean army back to Troy for the final battle, which takes the rest of the poem, save for a brief narratorial interruption (664–667). At 691 lines, and combining linear narrative progression and a strong descriptive element (both the description of the wooden horse and that of the final battle), The Sack of Troy can be considered an epyllion.2

Homeric and Rhetorical Scholarship

Triphiodorus’ approach to the war and Homer is that of a 3rd-century ad scholar who composes hexameters in the epic tradition using all the philological tools of the age.3 Thus, Triphiodorus’ narrator is, like his Homeric ancestor, anonymous, external, omniscient, and omnipresent, but he combines this “Homeric” frame characteristic of long epic poems with a more “Callimachean” commitment to writing a short poem, concluding as soon as the narrative of the Trojan War is over, both in the proem (1–5) and in the in a marked narratorial intervention within the poem proper (664–667). In a similar way, his speeches combine Homeric intertexts with a rhetorical framework. For instance, Odysseus’ speech (120–151) draws on Odysseus’ harangues in Il. 2 (190–197, 200–206, 284–332), and has a rhetorical structure (exordium, instructions concerning the situation combined with paraenetic motifs and peroratio).

Philological filters are also applied to Homeric vocabulary. For instance, Triph. 85 ἄπτερον‎ ... ἐπὶ δρόμον‎ is to be understood as “into a swift race,” because ancient commentators read the Homeric ἄπτερος‎ ...μῦθος‎ as “swift word” (Schol. in Od. 17.57), and not “into a wingless race.” Indeed, 80 percent of Triphiodorus’ vocabulary is Homeric, but Homeric substantives become adjectives (192 κυβιστητῆρι κυδοιμῷ‎), and Homeric adjectives become substantives (621 λιθάκεσσι‎). Homeric epithets are transferred to different substantives (Il. 2.516 etc., γλαφυραὶ νέες‎, in The Sack of Troy for the wooden horse, hinting at its resemblance to a ship: 65, 198, 533), non-Homeric vocabulary is incorporated, especially compound adjectives, and Triphiodorus creates his own neologisms.4

Contemporary Aesthetic Trends

At the same time, Triphiodorus incorporates narrative trends also visible in imperial and late antique poems, such as the juxtaposition of episodes without transitional elements (e.g., the narratives of construction of the horse, the assembly of the kings, and the catalogue of heroes hiding in the horse follow seamlessly, without explanatory sutures), as in Pseudo-Oppian’s Cynegetica, QuintusPosthomerica and NonnusDionysiaca. He follows the trend towards fewer but longer speeches relative to Homer, and toward a reduction in the number of interchanged speeches in favour of long, set speeches directed at silent interlocutors: the eight speeches (120–251 Odysseus, 265–282 Sinon, 284–290 Priam, 292–303 Sinon, 376–416 Cassandra, 420–438 Priam, 457–462 Aphrodite, and 491–496 Athena) make nearly 20 percent of the poem (135 out of 691 lines), a frequency far greater than the Homeric and closer to later percentages. Only the episodes of Sinon (258–303) and Cassandra (358–443) reflect the tone of “Homeric conversation,” with contrasting speeches.5

Literary Influences

Homer is not Triphiodorus’ sole literary reference. He alludes to Hesiod (his horse has much in common with Hesiod’s Pandora), Pindar (640–643: Neoptolemus’ death in Delphi echoes Pi. N. 7.42), classical tragedy (Cassandra is portrayed after AeschylusAgamemnon and EuripidesTrojan Women), Apollonius Rhodius (for nautical scenes), Callimachus (657–659, Theano’s hospitality recalls Hecale’s), Dionysius Periegetes (e.g., Triph. 218 = DP 515), Oppian (e.g., Triph. 352–355 after Opp. H. 1.620–627), and Pseudo Oppian (Triph. 534b-6, after Ps.Opp. C. 4.271–272). Triphiodorus and Quintus of Smyrna are close in some passages (the construction of the wooden horse in Triph. 57–107 and QS 12.104–156; Odysseus’ speech in Triph. 120–151 and QS 12.220–242; the catalogue of Achaean heroes hidden in the horse in Triph. 152b-83 and QS 12.314–335; the episodes of Cassandra in Triph. 376–453 and QS 12.525–585), but there is no way of ascertaining the priority of one over the other.

Triphiodorus has been frequently scrutinised for his possible awareness of Virgil, especially of A. 2, in which Aeneas narrates the last days of Troy. They are particularly close in their treatment of Sinon (e.g. in both cases he mentions Palamedes: A. 2.81–,96 and Triph. 292), but Triphiodorus’ Sinon is a hero, and Virgil’s is the epitome of the treacherous Greek. Gennaro D’Ippolito remains the most prolific defender of Virgilian influence, despite frequent scholarly opposition to the view. The third option is to read Triphiodorus taking into account the notion of the “cultural autarchy” of the Greeks—how they preferred and protected their own literature as the cultural expression of their identity, while accommodating Roman political and economic domination. Thus Triph. (651–655) mentions the usual propaganda, which presents the Roman empire as a spin-off of Troy but does not glory in Roman domination, invalidates Virgil’s Romanisation of Aeneas (he is hardly mentioned, and does nothing to deserve his survival: 651–655), and dignifies the role of Sinon, now a double of the resourceful Odysseus (like the Homeric Odysseus, he is πολυμήχανος ἥρως‎ [a resourceful hero] at Triph. 291).6


Triphiodorus’ metrics are mid-way between the innovations of Callimachus and Nonnus: he shows a preference for the feminine caesura (feminine caesura 77.8 percent, masculine 22.1 percent), hexameters are often built as sense units, he uses 17 of the 32 possible combinations of dactyl and spondee in the first five feet (Nonnus uses only nine), and spondees are rare (25.47 percent of the lines are holodactylic), especially in the third and fifth feet (only 4.92 percent have a spondaic fifth foot). Word end is generally avoided between the two shorts of the fourth biceps (Hermann’s Bridge) and after a spondaic second foot (Hillberg’s bridge). Word end occurs after a contracted fourth biceps (Naeke’s law) in several lines. Triphiodorus avoids hiatus, but admits epic correption. He has elisions in positions unacceptable in Nonnian metrics and is unconcerned with accent regulations.

Primary Texts

  • Campbell, Malcolm. Lexicon in Triphiodorum. Hildesheim, Germany: Olms, 1985.
  • Dubielzig, Uwe. Triphiodor, Die Einnahme Ilions. Tübingen, Germany: Narr, 1996.
  • Gerlaud, Bernard. Triphiodore, La Prise d’Ilion. Paris, France: Les Belles Lettres, 1982.
  • Livrea, Enrico. Triphiodorus, Ilii excidium. Leipzig, Germany: Teubner, 1982.
  • Mair, Alexander W. Oppian, Colluthus, Tryphiodorus. London, UK: Heinemann, 1928.
  • Miguélez-Cavero, Laura. Triphiodorus: The Sack of Troy: A General Study and a Commentary. Berlin, Germany: De Gruyter, 2013.


  • Cameron, Alan. Claudian: Poetry and Propaganda at the Court of Honorius. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1970.
  • De Stefani, Claudio, and Enrico Magnelli. “Callimachus and Later Greek Poetry.” In Brill’s Companion to Callimachus. Edited by Benjamin Acosta-Hughes, Luigi Lehnus, and Susan Stephens, 534–565. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2011.
  • D’Ippolito, Gennaro. Trifiodoro e Virgilio. Palermo, Italy: Università di Palermo, 1976.
  • Miguélez-Cavero, Laura. “With a Little Help from My (Divine) Friends: Gods at War in Triphiodorus’ Sack of Troy.” In The Gods of Greek Hexameter Poetry. From the Archaic Age to Late Antiquity and Beyond. Edited by James J. Clauss, Martine Cuypers, and Ahuvia Kahane, Stuttgart, Germany: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2016.
  • Monaco, Davide. “Il lessico di Trifiodoro.” Glotta83 (2007): 127–191.
  • Paschalis, Michael. “Pandora and the Wooden Horse: A Reading of Triphiodorus’ Ἅλωσις Ἰλίου‎.” In Roman and Greek Imperial Epic. Edited by Michael Paschalis, 91–116. Herakleion, Greece: Crete University Press, 2005.
  • Tomasso, Vincent. “The Fast and the Furious: Triphiodorus’ Reception of Homer.” In Brill’s Companion to the Greek and Latin Epyllion and Its Reception. Edited by Manuel Baumbach and Silvio Bär, 371–410. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2012.
  • Verhelst, Berenice. Direct Speech in Nonnus’ Dionysiaca: Narrative and Rhetorical Functions of the Characters’ “Varied” and “Many Faceted” Words. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2017.
  • Vian, Francis. “Echoes and Imitations of Apollonius Rhodius in Late Greek Epic.” In Brill’s Companion to Apollonius Rhodius. 2nd ed. Edited by Theodore D. Papanghelis and Antonios Rengakos, 387–412. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2008.
  • Whitby, Mary. “From Moschus to Nonnus: The Evolution of the Nonnian Style.” In Studies in the Dionysiaca of Nonnus. Edited by Neil Hopkinson. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
  • Wifstrand, Albert. Von Kallimachos zu Nonnos. Metrisch-stilistische Untersuchungen zur späteren griechischen Epik und zu verwandten Gedichtgattungen. Lund, Sweden: Ohlsons, 1933.
  • Ypsilanti, Maria. “Triphiodorus Homericus. People in the Ἰλίου Ἅλωσις‎ and Their Forebears in the Iliad and Odyssey.” Wiener Studien 120 (2007): 93–114.


  • 1. Standard edition: Bernard Gerlaud, Triphiodore, La Prise d’Ilion (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1982); Translation: Alexander W. Mair, Oppian, Colluthus, Tryphiodorus (London: Heineman, 1928); General study and commentary: Laura Miguélez-Cavero, Triphiodorus: The Sack of Troy (Berlin: W. De Gruyter, 2013).

  • 2. Vincent Tomasso, “The Fast and the Furious: Triphiodorus’ Reception of Homer,” in Brill’s Companion to the Greek and Latin Epyllion and Its Reception, ed. Manuel Baumbach and Silvio Bär (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2012), 371–410.

  • 3. Laura Miguélez-Cavero, Triphiodorus: The Sack of Troy (Berlin: W. De Gruyter, 2013), 27–51; Laura Miguélez-Cavero, “With a Little Help from My (Divine) Friends: Gods at War in Triphiodorus’ Sack of Troy,” in The Gods of Greek Hexameter Poetry, ed. James J. Clauss, Martine Cuypers, and Ahuvia Kahane (Stuttgart, Germany: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2016), 237–248.

  • 4. Davide Monaco, “Il lessico di Trifiodoro,” Glotta 83 (2007): 127–181.

  • 5. Berenice Verhelst, Direct Speech in Nonnus’ Dionysiaca (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2017).

  • 6. In favour: Gennaro D’Ippolito, Trifiodoro e Virgilio (Palermo, Italy: Università di Palermo, 1976); Contra: Bernard Gerlaud, Triphiodore, La Prise d’Ilion (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1982), 46–47 and Uwe Dubielzig, Triphiodor, Die Einnahme Ilions (Tübingen, Germany: Narr, 1996), 26; Third option: Laura Miguélez-Cavero, Triphiodorus: The Sack of Troy (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2013), 64–70.