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date: 23 November 2020

Musaeus(3), locked

Greek poet, 5th cent. ce
  • Silvia Montiglio

Extract

Musaeus (5th or early 6th centuryce; Colluthus and Agathias know his poem1) is the author of Hero and Leander, an epyllion of 343 lines. The attribution to him of a fragment of an epic poem dedicated to the welcoming of Alpheus by Arethusa (AP 9. 362) is generally contested.2 The earliest extant manuscript of the epyllion, the Bodleian Baroccianus 50, was produced in the 10th century, probably in the region of Otranto.3 According to several manuscripts, Musaeus was a grammatikos (a scholar of literature and a secondary school teacher). He imitates Nonnus’s meter and style.4 He might have been a Christian, though the arguments adduced are inconclusive.5 In his version of the tragic love story, Hero and Leander meet at the festival of Aphrodite and Adonis in Sestos. Hero is a priestess of Aphrodite and lives secluded in a tower, while Leander lives in Abydos. Since they are barred from marriage by Hero’s parents, they arrange secret rendezvous. Each night Leander swims across the Hellespont, guided by the light of Hero’s torch, and in the morning he swims back. But one night a storm extinguishes both the light and Leander. Hero throws herself from her tower.

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